Today we read in Romans 10, the famous verse that sometimes is used to support the idea that ALL one has to do is, “accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” and have faith and you will be saved.
9 … because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
As a Catholic, I would of course agree that one must believe that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, but let us also look at the verse more closely.
First, one cannot read any verse of scripture as being a “trump card” that somehow negates multiple other verses. Therefore, while we can and probably should consider this verse as a sort of indispensable minimum for salvation it is not the only thing one must do. In fact, Paul just got through saying in Chapter 8 that we must, “suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Second, we must consider what Paul means by “confess with your lips.” Does he mean only one time? Nothing in the verse suggests that is the case. In fact, the context of the verse suggests that by “confess with your lips” Paul means, at least in part, continuous evangelization. In Chapter 9, Paul described at length how the Jews, despite being the chosen people and having the best opportunity, missed the messiah because they heard but did not listen. In the beginning of Chapter 10, Paul is saying that Israel must be called out of ignorance.
1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them [Israel] is that they may be saved. 2 I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law [end as is ‘Purpose of’ or ‘means to an end’], that everyone who has faith may be justified. 5 …
…The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); 9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Read closely, we can see that what Paul is saying is that Israel did not understand that the purpose of the law was to establish them in the right disposition to accept the Christ. FOR SOME, who the word is near (on their lips and in their hearts) the law is successful allowing them to hear and accept the Gospel. Those people have an obligation to evangelize or “confess with their lips” to bring about the conversion of those remaining in ignorance.
But notice, Paul does not elevate evangelization with preaching! All are obligated to evangelize, to spread the Gospel through personal relationships but only those who are sent can preach…
14 But how are men to call upon 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 a preacher? 15 And how can men preach unless they are sent?
And who can send someone to preach? As Paul has told us previously, the Church, which is the Body of Christ and speaks for him, has the authority to send preachers.
Finally, a word on predestination. In Chapter 8, Paul wrote:
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Predestination is one of the most difficult topics and I certainly won’t be able to do it justice here (for that matter I don’t know that I am enough of a student of philosophy to ever do it justice). However, with the context of Romans 10 we can make some attempt at understanding the passage.
First, there are 2 kinds of predestination, single and double. In their simplest form single predestination means that God knows the final outcome. Thus, while the outcome is still the product of your free choices, it is still already decided, inevitable and can’t be changed b/c in effect everything has already happened. Double predestination is that God not only knows but causes the outcomes he wants and in fact all outcomes. In effect, God chooses some people in the world to receive enough of his grace to manifest his presence in the world. Since these people have his grace they are saved. The rest of the others … aren’t so lucky … double predestination also teaches that those people never had a chance. From the moment of their creation God caused them to be destined for hell.
So is Paul preaching single or double predestination?
It is clear that he is preaching single predestination. Why? Because in Chapter 10 he is calling on the converts to evangelize the Israelites who remain in ignorance. What would be the point of that unless the outcome is set by the product of the choices of our free will? In fact, what would be the point of ever evangelizing anyone if the outcome was willed by God (as opposed to God knowing the outcome). Furthermore, Paul in Chapter 8, just before he introduces the topic or predestination, Paul talks of “setting your mind” on the spiritual, a phrase with clear implications in favor of free will.
But we can also see that for some, “…The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.” In other words, for some people God does call (or predestines) them to spread the Gospel. If the person whom God calls, responds to that call, they will, “confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”. Such a person, “will be saved” and thus those God calls, “whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
In the end what we can say is this – ALL Christians are called to some level of evangelization. We must respond to this call by as Paul says, “set our minds” to the spirit. If we respond to the call, we will be “predestined” to be saved b/c evangelization NECESSARILY ENTAILS knowing and learning the Gospel and sharing by word of mouth and by living Christian lives – i.e., doing good works. Thus, eternal salvation is a choice and God already knows who has chosen for him.