Turn with me now in your Bibles to the tenth chapter of the letter of Paul to the Romans, Romans 10, beginning to read at verse 1. Being reminded before we read that we believe the Bible to be the word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice. We believe that this is His holy word. There are other rules; there are other guides; this is the only infallible rule for faith and practice. Romans 10 beginning at verse 1:
1 Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. 2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) 7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) 8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
May the Lord bless to our understanding and to our obedience this that we have read from His word.
Father, all across our county and other counties in the state and perhaps in other places, Father, there are those that are suffering, those that have had to make other arrangements about living, those that have left all that they have, all they've counted dear in order that they might be rescued. As we bow our heads before Thee today, our Father, we would acknowledge that Thou art God. And Father it's hard for us to understand what's going on. We can shrug our shoulders and just say, “Well, that's life,” and yet Lord that doesn't satisfy. The Christian realizes that all things are working together for good to those that love Thee, to those who are called according to Thy purpose, and when he submits himself to Thee we realize, O Lord, that that's totally different than the stoic who would say that that's just life. We believe, our Father, that Thou art at work in our community and in our midst, and I pray that we who are followers of Thee might be able to be the communicators of Thy word at a very strategic and important time. We know our God that there are those today who are very sad. There are those in this congregation, Father, right now who are in the process of moving. There are those who have been up long hours during the night helping friends and family to move. Lord, it's hard and we don't really know…I don't know how to pray as I ought. I remember the disciples who asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Lord, if they needed that instruction surely I do and I pray today that Thou wouldst teach me how to pray, especially how to pray Lord for this devastating thing that has come to our community. O God, I pray that out of it we will learn lessons that will be profitable. I pray that we might be better men and woman, better Christians as a result of this. And, Father, I pray that we might be able to look beyond things to be able to see Jesus Christ. Lord, while hearts are aching and while they’re breaking, I pray that we might be the instruments of comfort and strength that they would need. And I ask, O Lord, that as this congregation, as individuals in the church we might respond. Father, we pray today for people all over the world that are hurting. I think of Christians in Yugoslavia today and I think of the Christians in Albania. These two nations, our Father, that have undergone an earthquake and there are so pitifully few Christians in either one of those countries. O God, I pray today that Thou wouldst minister to them. And I think of the Christians in Uganda and I pray, O Lord, that Thou wouldst keep Thy people. And may there not be a vindictive spirit on their part but, O God, may there be a prayer offered for their nation. We pray that Thou wouldst restore peace to that land and, Father, I pray that we will continue to pray for peace in our time. We ask for our church and its ministry, Lord God. Help us, I pray. Just minister through us to a hurting world. We pray for those of our own number who are sick, those, our God, who are in need of physical help, who are physically hurting. Speak to them. Now, Lord, we wait upon Thee for the blessings that Thou wouldst have for us. We look to Thee in Jesus' name. Amen.
Some people say of the minister that he always speaks in superlatives. It's always “the greatest,” “the biggest,” “the best,” “the most unusual,” “the worst.” All of these are words frequently you will hear come from the pulpit. Maybe most of those accusations are correct. Maybe we do speak in superlatives. Maybe we try to use the ultimate too much.
I think that it goes without saying that the greatest word in the Christian vocabulary is that word salvation, for included in that word are things like love and happiness and holiness and power and immortality and resurrection and forgiveness of sins and life. All of these things are wrapped up in that one word salvation. And I know of no better way to proclaim that word than on Easter Sunday. Now every Sunday is Easter for the believer in Jesus Christ, but there is this day that is set aside, perhaps by the world more so than by the church, as a day that is something special. The day reminds us of the Resurrection of Christ and it seems to me to be appropriate to talk about salvation on such a day as this, how salvation is all that is synonymous with the question, What shall I do to be saved? The question that the Philippian jailer asked, or the question that the rich young ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Salvation is synonymous with those questions. The things of salvation then are made very plain and very clear in Scripture, which deals with the ultimate salvation from the penalty and the power and presence of sin. Salvation is the deliverance from sin and its consequences, and it embraces the plan of God and the word of the Redeemer and the application of that work by the Holy Spirit. It's accompanied by a satisfying peace and the rest of which we frequently will speak. Someone has said that Easter is the birthday of hope and that's a good way to put it. It's the birthday of hope. The Apostle Paul put it a little differently and I would paraphrase it this morning by simply saying that without the Easter fact, we are dead in our sins. Without the Resurrection we are reduced to the despair of the heathen. We have no more hope, no more encouragement than do the heathen people in the world who've never heard of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it's because of this that we emphasize this theme this morning.
I've been impressed with the beauty of spring. I cannot help but say it again: I think that probably our azaleas this year are prettier than they've ever been before. I said that last year. I've said it on other years. I'm just absolutely without words to describe the beauty around us in our city as we see the dogwoods and as we see the azaleas in their various colors and then to see the trees almost overnight budding and leafing out. And even as I make mention of these things, I know that these things are only temporary. I know that there is going to be another rain. I hope that it doesn't come for another week or so, but there's going to be a rain that's going to come and it's going to beat all of those azaleas down and all of the blooms are going to go. I know that that's temporary. I know that my grass that has turned so green and beautiful right now is only temporary.
You know I have mixed emotions about that. I know that spring in all of its beauty is only a temporary kind of thing, but I mention it now as I move on my way to talk about eternal things. And I believe that we have here as we talk about the Resurrection, we have the difference between the Christian and the Unitarian. Some of you have Unitarian friends. Here's the difference, basically between the Christian and the Unitarian and the Muslim: For all those others, Jesus is still in the tomb and there's no joy, no joy of salvation for the Unitarian or the Muslim. Now Paul felt that for his brethren and it was his heart's desire that his brethren should be saved. That's what he says in the first part of the tenth chapter of Romans. “My heart desire is that Israel should be saved.” These are people who believed in God but they had rejected Jesus Christ, and Paul states that they are under condemnation and the key, the key to their conversion is in this doctrine of the Resurrection. This morning I want to speak along three different lines. I'm going to speak for awhile on the possession of saving faith. I want to speak then on the confession of faith unto salvation. And then I want to speak for a few moments on the preaching of saving faith.
The Possession of Saving Faith
The word that we read a moment ago, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ…believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead and thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness”–it would appear to me that in that phrase is wrapped up what I'm trying to think of or what I'm trying to say as I would think on the subject on the possession of saving faith. What is it that we are asked to believe in order to be saved? What is it that God is asking of me, that He's asking of you? That you would believe this in order that you might be saved.
The Resurrection may mean different things to different people. I have tried it out this week and I've found that that's true. The Resurrection means different things to different people. But what is it that the gospel tells us? After all, that's the thing that's important. It's not so important what I believe or what you think about it, but what is it that the gospel tells us? The gospel tells us that is the man Jesus who lived in Nazareth, who was human enough to suffer physical pains, who performed miracles, who died on a cross and was buried, and that that same Jesus rose from the dead. The Resurrection means that Jesus without external help conquered death and Jesus lives today in a transformed body. He has gone on to glory and there He rules over His spiritual kingdom. The Resurrection gives meaning to the Cross.
You see, there are lots of people who have died on crosses and we could list Jesus as just another one of those victims, but the Resurrection gives meaning to it. Faith in the Resurrection makes possible faith in the Cross. It is with this truth of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that the believer, the unbeliever begins to stumble. Now there are many arguments that we could use, principles, truths, consequences, as we look for help to faith in the Resurrection. There are lots of arguments, lots of things, lots of things to which we could point, but just one or two things now: we could argue from the fact of the love of God.
Can you think of an infinite, omnipotent God creating a universe and putting people on that universe, permitting sin to enter in and allowing these human beings to continue in that sin with the results of it in suffering and in justice and death? Can you think of a God like that: a God that would make us and place us in such circumstances and doesn't appear to me to be worthy of the name God? But the Bible declares that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, he should not perish but have everlasting life.” You see, God's word is saying that God has sent His Son in order that He might live and die and rise again that you and I might be justified. Now that's a demonstration of the love of God, and we use that as an argument for the position of saving faith.
Well, I think of the argument from the kind of life that Jesus lived. We could never expect death to conquer Him after looking carefully at His ministry and at His life. You look at the life of the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll understand why, why it's so important. The death of the Lord Jesus absolutely shattered the faith of his disciples. Why? Why is it that His disciples were shattered? Simply because they were expecting a different quality of life. What power could death have over One who had raised other people from the dead? What power could death have over One who rebuked the elements? What power could death have over One who exorcised demons or who healed all kinds of diseases?
The Resurrection, you see, was unnatural for the kind of person that could do all of these things and the disciples were expecting that. Now you and I could go on and we could use the argument of the message of the gospel or we could talk about the influence of Jesus in history. It's the Resurrection message, you see, that draws millions of people out on a day like today. It's the Resurrection message that draws millions of people into a house like this that they might worship the risen, living Lord Jesus Christ.
I mentioned in my prayer a moment ago, Albania and Yugoslavia. The news this morning was of an earthquake. As far as I know, as far as the statistics that come across my desk, there is no church, no Christian church in the country of Albania, the only country that I know of where there is no body of believers. There are believers in Albania; they just can't worship like you and I worship. Last night Jeanne and I were reading about Russia and the Christian church in Russia. Do you know that there's a group of Reformed Baptists in Russia that absolutely refuse to be recognized by the government because if they are recognized by the government then they have to live by a certain rule, and that means that nobody under 18 can come into the house of God and worship? That means that there can be no proselytizing. That means that there can be no trying to influence a person to become a Christian. And so this little group of Reformed Baptists have said, “We’re not going to do that,” so they've gone underground. Now what is it, what is it that causes a group of people to say “no” to the government and go underground? What is it? It's this message of the Resurrection that I speak of, the message of the Resurrection that will draw millions of people, Russians included, Albanians included, to worship on a day like this. And all of those argument help us to believe.
The Confession of Saving Faith
Moving quickly then from the possession of saving faith to the confession of saving faith, Paul says here that a confession is necessary, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, thou shalt be saved.” To confess Jesus as Lord is to identify a historical person with the eternal God.
Now I want you to understand what that means. When you’re confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, you’re taking a person out of history, a historical individual and you are associating that individual with the eternal God. That becomes a creed to you so that you say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. He descended into Hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead.” That's your creed, you see, when you say, “We believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.” It was the worship of Jesus as Lord that caused Saul of Tarsus to persecute those Jews, and he was saying that they were guilty of blasphemy. It was because Jesus made that claim that he demanded their death, and yet it was that same message that Paul carried all over the world. This same Saul of Tarsus carried that same message all over the Roman world, that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God and to confess that Jesus is Lord is to confess that He's the Lord of history. “He's my God. He's my Sovereign.”
A man must commit himself to Christ in order to be saved…and I'm not talking here about an intellectual assent. I'm talking about a personal commitment. I'm talking about a confession with willing lips. I'm talking about a confession with a changed life. Some of us want to have the one without the other, but the gospel is a message, beloved, that Jesus came into the world and that He died for our sins on the Cross and that He was buried and that He rose again. That's the message, a message that must be communicated. There are those who would say, “Well, I’ll communicate my message by my wife.” Wonderful, but it's a message that has to be confessed with willing lips. Belief must be followed by confession. We must tell what He did. Now that belief ought to compel action, should it not? Confession must compel character, character which is a carryover of the faith that we declare.
I thought it was very appropriate that this particular song would be mentioned today. I've been under pressure ever since I saw yesterday how serious this thing is that is going on in our community and I thought, “You know, that's one of the greatest ways that the church of Jesus Christ can express its faith.” And how grateful I am that many of you have said, “I've been up all night. I was up ‘til 3:00 o’clock. I've been up all day trying to help people move,” one man said. “I have muscles today that I didn't know I had.” Beloved, that's a practical way of speaking of Jesus Christ and the Resurrection. Confession with my willing lips and with my changed life.
The Preaching of Saving Faith
Then now, finally, the preaching of that saving faith. Paul declares to us, “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” And an offer of salvation is universally suited; it is universally adaptable. Men in every nation need it, people in every class, people in ever state of education. You know this is one of the glorious things about Christianity. I don't care who the person is. I don't care what color the skin may be. I don't care what kind of language. I don't care how well educated he is or poorly educated he is. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the thing that saves.
One of the things that has astounded me down in Ecuador, that beautiful mountainous country, radio HCJB has been proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ for 25 years. I was riding along in a car up in the Chicago area several years ago with the radio station president. And he said, “Don, what is the PCA going to do down in Ecuador?” I said, “I don't know. Why?” He said, “Let me tell you something. Missionaries have come down by the hundreds down into Ecuador. And they’re all working with people who are uneducated, ignorant Ecuadorians, Indians; and there's nobody, nobody that's reaching the upper-class of Ecuador. And we're getting hundreds of letters in response to our broadcast that go out all over the country and we don't have anyone to whom we can refer those letters. Would you not send us Presbyterian missionaries to Ecuador?” What glorious things. Wonderful to know that David Hamilton is down there. Great to know that. Pretty soon there will be others that will be there. Some are working now on the staff of HCJB in the hospital. Praise God for that. Isn't it great that the same gospel message that can reach an ignorant Indian can reach an intelligent Ecuadorian? The message: All of us are sinners.
I care not who you are. I don't care how high born you are. I don't care how highly educated you are, or how poorly educated you are. All of us are born sinners, and all of us have come short of the glory of God, and all may find the riches of grace. God doesn't mock men with the offer of salvation. If they respond, they’re going to be saved. And the key, the key in this is the human will. That's the promise of God. Here no man, no man will come unless the Spirit of God energized him. I understand that. God will give him strength and power to be saved. Of course, the order of salvation is to be accepted. It must be carried to the people. Did you catch what Paul said?
Ah, you've read the tenth chapter of Romans so many times I didn't read that part for you. They must hear it and know it. The gospel must be preached, and that's the Resurrection command of Jesus. That's the burden of the Resurrection command. And Paul outlines for us the mission of the church. I put it backwards as I thought together how I ought to put it to you. I put it backwards. Paul has the man saying, or God saying, “How shall they preach except they be sent,” and I put that first. Send, preach, hear, believe, call, SAVE! And if the chain is broken, if the chain is broken at any point, the results are not obtained. You’re sent to preach and we must send others to preach.
Now Paul says that not all obey the gospel and I don't change that a bit. Not everybody has obeyed. The church hasn't obeyed. My experience is that some people hearing the gospel will accept and some hearing it will reject it. There are some that will be saved and some that will be lost. The preaching of the Cross, the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, always produces division. Some do; some don't: that's the way the Cross is. I wish that everybody believed but they don't. Obedience is the acceptance of the gospel and the yielding of the life and the commitment to Jesus Christ.
Beloved, the arms of God, the arms of God are stretched forth to receive you and me. They’re the arms of mercy and of justice, the arms of love the arms of immortality, the arms of peace and truth. But God's not going to compel you and God's not going to compel me, but He does invite you. He does invite me. He does exhort you. He does exhort me. He persuades you and He persuades me. This morning the Scripture says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That's the message of the Resurrection. Let's bow our heads in prayer.
Our heavenly Father, this morning, we want to thank Thee for the message of the Resurrection, and we would thank Thee that on this day we can be reminded of a living, risen Lord Jesus Christ. And, Father, I pray that every one of us in this building would be able to say, “I do know Jesus. I do confess Him as Lord. I do see the importance of preaching that word around the world.” Lord God, today I pray that as a mighty army the First Presbyterian Church of Jackson would move out and we would share the good news of salvation in our Savior. For we pray this in His name. Amen.
And now may grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit be with you and abide with each one of you who loves Christ sincerely. Amen.
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