I was observing Morning Prayer, earlier, and the Reading from Romans 10 really jumped out at me:
… if you confess with your moth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (Rom. 10: 9-10 – I’m using the NASB here.)
This is the verse that my ex- tossed at me, so nonchalantly, nearly fifteen years ago, when he had finally come out of the closet and admitted to our daughters (and through them, to me) that he’s homosexual. “So it doesn’t matter what I do,” he concluded.
It bothered me then. It bothers me now. Spouting off platitudes does NOT save souls.
Paul is addressing Roman (Gentile – pagan) converts to Christianity. These are men and women who had made a radical decision to abandon the numerous Roman deities (most notably Caesar, himself) in favor of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through Jesus Christ, Whom they recognized and embraced as the Son of that God.
Conversion to Christianity wasn’t a popular cultural event in Rome. Martyrdom of the Christians had already begun (remember the stoning of Stephen? and how that precipitated the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Christ?). These people were putting their lives on the line, here. They were defying the State religion, the accepted culture – standing out like sore thumbs by adopting this wholly countercultural religious identity with a wholly different set of morals and ethics. No more banquets, complete with trips to the vomitorium. No more orgies. No more acknowledgments of the state deities…
Such bizarre behaviors placed one in suspicion of the authorities. “Hey, you there! we haven’t seen you at the established feasts and altars. We’re told you’ve become one of those dangerous Christians, and your behavior certainly looks that way. Come along now and do your duty! Prove yourself a loyal Roman!”
“Well, see, I can’t sacrifice to the gods. I am a Christian – ”
See? this is what this form of Confession (declaration) does – it verifies and confirms what one’s character and behavior have already demonstrated to the world.
This Confession that Jesus is Lord is subsequent to conduct that has already led to the accusation.
Take someone living wholly in the world, living a regular old licentious lifestyle, no one is going to come persecuting them for being Christian – their lifestyle defies such a ludicrous accusation!
So – once again – lifestyle counts. Morals count. Ethics count. If you will, works count. They give an irrefutable testimony of what we believe, what we value, what we love.
Matt used to say, “Let’s give them the evidence to convict us now.” He’s right. Our words and our actions must coincide. And the words, the Confession, is subsequent to our conversion of heart and values.