Have you ever been so sure of something that it didn’t matter how your certainty became your reality, as far as you were concerned, it would stand the test of time and you were willing to defend it to the death? As I have rolled this question around in my mind recently I am discovering that most, if not all of us, have such certainties that we want to hold and defend no matter what. I have had to ask myself additional questions, however, that in essence challenges my certainties. And I confess to you that my theological deconstruction journey is compelling me to ask, “where did these certainties originate from in the first place?”.
I suppose what is driving this particular reflection has to do with the struggle I have had as it relates to the reading and the understanding of various scripture passages. Allow me to give you an example. There is a running theme in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans that indicates mankind’s inclusion in the death of Jesus. Because of our inclusion in his death we are also included in his resurrection. As I write these words I am reminded that all of this inclusion stuff was and is God’s idea. In other words, its not about God turning a blind eye to humanity’s sin problem but rather God’s victorious act in Christ to cancel our guilt and to break sin’s spell and dominion over us. Believe me when I say, that was a task that mankind could never devise or complete.
When I was a college student I was introduced to a Bible tract entitled “The Roman Road to Salvation.” Someone had pulled certain scriptures out of Paul’s letter to the Romans creating a way of thinking that would present a step by step process for what they believed needed to be done in order for that person to be saved. I haven’t read that tract in a long time but I do recall Romans 10: 9-10 were present as a kind of apex to bring the one being presented this “plan of salvation” to a point of decision. The passage in the KJV reads like this, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For it is with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
It is interesting to me that just recently I have either heard or read various understandings of this particular passage as the quintessential ingredient for salvation to occur within a person. The word most talked about is “confession.” In other words unless someone confesses Christ they are out of luck! Because this is a reflection it is important that the reader understand that I am simply sharing the struggles I am encountering and perhaps within my struggles something will be presented that may shed light where no light may be shining. As I have pondered this particular passage it occurred to me that all of the passages within this “Roman Road to Salvation” tract were pulled out of context in order to drive home the writer’s point of view.
If you were to place these two verses back into the context with the eight verses that precede them it may surprise you. The word hermeneutics is a fancy word that describes things people should consider as they read scripture. One of those thoughts has to do with the audience for whom the Apostle Paul was writing. He was talking about his desire for his own countrymen to come to realize their salvation. Did you hear that? “Their salvation.” It was already theirs in Christ. Paul compares them to his own journey realizing that he too used to try to justify himself by doing the works of the law when the truth of the matter is they were already justified in Christ Jesus and so are we.
Salvation is an awakening to that which is already present within us! To confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus means that our awakening has already occurred and we are simply bearing witness to a reality that already exists. To take Romans 10:9-10 out of context is to say that we must confess the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. That puts salvation back into the realm of something we must do in order to realize its reality. Confessing Christ with our mouths will naturally occur once we awaken to the reality that already exists within each and everyone of us. We don’t confess Christ in order to obtain! We confess Christ when we realize that our lives are bathed in the reality of His resurrection.