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Epistle: Romans 10:8b-13

8b“The word is near you,   on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because 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. 10For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

The following is from a commentary on this passage by Audrey West.

The opening verses of [this] passage comprise the closing lines of Paul’s line-by-line interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:12-14 (found in Romans 10:6-9), in which Paul takes a passage that was originally about the Law and applies it to his own proclamation. Fully half of the six verses in the assigned pericope contain OT quotes; in addition to the one just mentioned, Paul quotes Isaiah 28:16 (Romans 10:11) and Joel 2:32 (Romans 10:13).

Whether in his own words or in words he has borrowed, Paul affirms promise upon promise: The word is near you…you will be saved…no one who believes in him will be put to shame (kataischuno = be disappointed; cf. Romans 5:5 “hope does not disappoint us”) … there is no distinction…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Everyone.

Several verbal threads (that is, repetition of words) run through the passage. It may be a fruitful exercise for preachers to play with two of these words: stoma (mouth/lips) and kardia (heart). For example, note their internal (heart) and external (mouth) character, or consider how the words that people speak do or do not conform to their innermost thoughts and beliefs.

Paul seems to expect that God’s good news (“the word of faith which we preach”) actually gets inside of people. It is not simply something to be spoken (although, to be sure, it is also a spoken word), but it is a power that changes hearts and lives. Recall that in Paul’s day, the heart is the seat of physical, intellectual and spiritual life, including the will, emotions, and desires, while the mouth gives expression (or denies) what is in the heart. (Compare, for example, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, “’Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”)

Along these lines, note the Gospel passage appointed for [Sunday] (the temptation of Jesus according to Luke), in which Jesus and the devil engage in a verbal sparring match. Each of them quotes scripture, but only Jesus speaks with the integrity that connects lips and heart.

Another verbal thread in our pericope is pisteuo (believe) and its cognate noun pistis (faith). For many people today, words like believing and faith suggest cognitive assent to something -- whether or not the object of one’s belief is demonstrably true (such as “blind faith”). As noted above, however, Paul’s assertion is that the good news actually changes people. For one thing, it brings Gentiles and Jews together into the family of God. To “believe” in that assertion is something other than intellectual assent; rather, it is to be changed into a reality in which the long-time distinctions no longer apply.

Recall that pistis/pisteuo may also be translated by words such as trust, confidence, reliability, fidelity, etc. Substitute the word “trust” everywhere you read the word “believe” in the passage and you may hear Paul’s words sounding a slightly different tune. What might it look like actually to trust that God raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 10:9), and not simply to believe it? Or to trust in God and not only to believe about God?

As we know from Paul’s other letters, the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church was not always an easy one, given differences in culture, values, belief-systems, etc. Nonetheless, Paul insists that the word of the gospel brings both groups into the family of God: Jews by virtue of the covenant, Gentiles by virtue of Christ, all by virtue of God’s promises.

Few congregations today face the precise questions that challenged Paul’s churches. Even so, there remain significant issues that divide believers from one another. Paul’s words may speak the gospel to those situations: “The same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him, for ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved’” (Romans 10:12). From where you sit, what does it look like to trust that word?

Let us pray: We call on your name, O God, knowing and trusting that you hear our prayer. Lead us and guide us in your way. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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