Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Paul referred to the Jewish people, his beloved kinsmen, but he was also talking to the gentiles and Christians of the day, and us today. The more you try to be righteous, the farther from God’s righteousness you will become. You can become quite passionate about doing good, a ministry, or certain aspects of Christianity. But zeal for Christianity is not the same as zeal for Christ. You cannot save yourself, salvation does not come from being good, going to church or obeying the Ten Commandments. You will not be saved by going to church, tithing, doing the Lord’s Supper, or being baptized. Just like Israel was not saved because they kept the Mosaic Law. Moses was not saved by leading Israel to the Promised Land. Solomon was not saved because He built the Temple. Mother Teresa was not saved because she gave her life to care for India’s poor. No matter how righteous we may behave, no matter what great things we may do, we are not saved by works or working; we are saved by God’s work and our faith in His work.
In fact, enthusiasm for trying to be righteous is us taking God from His throne, sitting in His place, and trying to create our own salvation rather than submit to Jesus as our Lord. The righteousness of men is not the same as the righteousness of God. If we are striving towards the righteousness of men, instead of God’s righteousness we are headed away from God and not towards Him. The righteousness of the law is a self-righteousness, we decide we can good and in doing so compare ourselves to everyone else. We think, “He’s good, she’s not,” “That man is definitely not saved”, and “that girl is most-certainly saved.” Seeking this law-based or earthly righteousness, we have to compare ourselves to others because others are our measuring stick. We put someone, usually Jesus on one end and someone like Hitler on the other and we figure that the mark of salvation or goodness fits somewhere in between. Everyone to the right of the mark is saved and all to the left are headed to Hell. Paul said it this way in verses 6-7,
For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).
If we look around and judge the righteousness of ourselves and others we are saying Jesus is not who He says He is, we are taking away His divinity and counting His work on the Cross as null and void. We are seeking to save ourselves rather than declare, proclaim, and affirm that Jesus is Lord.
We understand then that earthly righteousness, doing the right thing, being good, and following the rules will not and cannot save us. So, then where does God’s righteousness come from? How do we attain His righteousness if we can’t earn it? Verses 8-13 reads,
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Faith is demonstrated two ways, without this demonstration, faith means nothing. It is in our mouths and in our hearts. So, we must confess or agree, make it known that Jesus is our Lord. And believe or commit our trust with our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. The word here kardia means the base of one’s physical life, the cardiac muscle. Believing with the heart, then is more than a feeling of belief, like believing a candidate can do a job or Santa Claus will bring good boys and girls toys, it is a trust so deep that it is lived. I want to take a moment to define the word Lord. The word kurioj means “supreme in authority, controller; Master a title for God, Lord, master Sir.” Accordingly, to agree that Jesus is Lord means that we submit to Him as supreme in authority, Master, and God. It is more than lip-service, this confession is proven by our obedience and surrender to Jesus as our master. That double edged faith (of mouth and heart), that new righteousness will not disappoint us or put us to shame. Trusting in God, changes us and we become conformed to Jesus’ righteousness.
It does not matter if we are Jewish and have followed every single one of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) or if we are gentiles and disobeyed every single solitary one of them, God is still God. He will save whoever calls on His name, granting them His righteousness, His mercy, grace and wealth of blessings regardless of what works they have or have not done.
Isn’t that awesome! Isn’t God awesome! Salvation is really that simple. But so many do not know, so many have not heard the Gospel. Even those who have can’t believe it because they don’t see it lived out. They hear us tell them the Gospel, but they also see us adding the “buts,” “ands,” and “therefores.” We say one thing with our mouths, but our lives proclaim our disbelief. The result of salvation is sanctification or being made into the image of Christ; part of that is that our will becomes whatever it is that God wills. He wills for all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Paul wanted this, he wanted it so badly he was willing to give up his freedom, his life and even his salvation for all people to know Jesus. He went to prison so that Caesar might hear the Gospel, he was stoned and beaten for preaching the truth, and as we read in Romans 9 that if it were possible for his fellow Jews to be saved by his damnation, he was willing. Verses 14-17 read,
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Salvation is not a momentary result of a magical prayer where the person repeats phrases. Salvation is an active confession of the mouth and faith of the heart. This is how people will hear the word of Christ! We preach the good news with the perpetual proclamation that Jesus is Lord and the constant proof of the faith that Jesus is raised from the dead and so are we, alive, new creations who are justified (declared righteous). Romans 6:4-7 says,
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.
Because Jesus died and resurrected, we are righteous. Because God has declared us righteous, we are righteous. We believe that with our hearts and confess it with our mouths and we become the ambassadors, that is the emissaries, messengers, and representatives of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 in The Message reads,
16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
That last verse, verse 21 in the ESV says,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
He did all the work! He sacrificed everything for our sake, all so we could be united with Him and achieve true righteousness, His righteousness. Let that thought just soak over you for a few minutes.
Will everyone hear you as you speak out God’s message, the Gospel? Will everyone who hears confess and believe? No, but that doesn’t stop God from offering salvation to everyone, so that every one of His creation might become His own Treasured Possession, Cherished Child, and Bride. He has not withdrawn the invitation, neither do we. Verses 18-21 read,
But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
Confess with your mouth, believe with your heart, Righteous Child of God. God’s word is never empty, it is never futile to speak and live the Gospel; God’s word will accomplish what He means for it accomplish (Isaiah 55:11). When the majority of Israel didn’t believe, many gentiles did. When many gentiles did, many of the Jews became jealous, some believed, and some got angry, resulting in persecution which dispersed the Christians and made the way for the Gospel to be preached all over the world. The one you preach to may not believe, but someone will.