Thursday, May 15, 2008

"The Roman Road"

"If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. "
-Romans 10:9-10

Paul Washer explains the historical context of this commonly misused passage.

Part 1


Part 2

6 comments:

dangoldfinch said...

(This may be duplicated. I'm sorry if it is. I had a little trouble with the scissors. --Charlie Brown)

Friend,

Two questions. One comment about context.

1) In what way is this verse 'commonly misused'? Honestly, it seems rather straightforward to me. I have never heard, or read in any commentary, Washer's version of how these verses are twisted (about 6:00 or so). Is he suggesting that a person who doesn't confess with his mouth and believe in his heart can be saved or that this only applies in cases of martyrdom? Because if so, then all of us are lost because none of us are faced daily with having to choose between Jesus and Caesar (in the sense of his illustration in video clip two).

2) In the clip, Washer said that 'all we can do is throw ourselves upon him.' It was about 1:40 (and 2:20 where he corrects himself and uses 'falling'; he must have realized what he was saying) or so. I'm wondering, doesn't the very nature of the phrase 'throwing OURSELVES' imply we are, in fact, doing something?

I know exactly what you/he are driving at here--after all, it is reformed voices you seem to be using--but just how can that statement be justified? A better way of saying it would be something like, "Do nothing until God decides to come to you. Stand around and don't even hope God comes after you because that hope might be a work too. After all, if you throw yourself on him you have done a work and thus nullified faith." I am not being facetious nor am I trying to antagonize you. I am asking a genuine, serious question which will make more sense after you read below.

I don't think I could disagree more with the scenario he paints in the second clip; that's not what the apostle is talking about at all in Romans 10. That's not what Paul is talking about in Romans for that matter. There is nothing at all in the context that would suggest this is Paul's meaning especially when you read in verses 14ff that he is talking about missionary/evangelistic activity NOT confessing Christians/martyrs activity. "How can they call on the one they have NOT believed in? And how can they believe in the one they have NOT heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless someone is sent?" Well, that seems rather evangelistic to me and not at all about martyrs.

I'm sorry my friend, but there is nothing here that suggests Paul is talking about 80 year old martyrs having to decided between Jesus and Caesar. He is talking here about people who hear the Gospel from the mouth of the evangelist. I think Mr Washer, for all his passion and burden, needs a little more context for his thoughts and it is not in Romans. "All who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved." ALL. I know you want to make this reflect a reformed theology, but it doesn't.

Believe in the heart in the Resurrection. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. This is just as true for us in our context as it was for the Christians in Rome.

jerry

Philip@ReformedVoices said...

Hi Dan,

1) This verse is commonly misused as a 'formula' as part of the sinner's prayer. "Do a,b, and c and you're now a Christian." As if it were a flu shot or fire insurance. This is what Paul Washer is against.

It gets into the descriptive/prescriptive nature of the text. Modern evangelists use this as a prescriptive (this is how to become a Christian) rather than a descriptive (this is a sign of or this describes a Christian).

I do not see how you can conclude that Washer is teaching "that a person who doesn't confess with his mouth and believe in his heart can be saved" from the audio in this clip or that martyrdom is a prerequisite to salvation. You seemed to have read way too much out of the message.

Regarding your question 2)
Paul would be quick to point out that the very fact that someone is desiring to fall upon Christ and give up is not because of something in him, but rather evidence that God is doing a work in Him in giving faith and repentance. So I think your attempt at making it look like we still have to "do a work" in order to be saved doesn't hold up to Paul's and the reformed view of what happens in salvation.

The context that I was referring to is the historical context of those at Paul's time who would read the letter rather than whether the passage was evangelistic or not.

Do you think the Apostle Paul is endorsing a 'formula' for becoming a Christian (or) is he describing the reality of saving faith revealed in the Christ follower and the testimony he carries regarding Christ throughout his life?

Washer is primarily attacking the use of this passage as a formula for preachers to get attendants to 'make their decision' for Christ during an altar call.

Philip@ReformedVoices said...

Sorry, Jerry (not Dan)

dangoldfinch said...

Friend,

On the contrary, I have never looked at this passage as a 'formula' for anything. But Washer specifically talks about it being a 'formula' for matyrdom and seems to be suggesting that these verses are, as you say, more about identifying what is already done and not necessarily about what might be. These verses have nothing necessarily or primarily to do with martyrs and I think Washer too narrowly defines this text when using it exclusively as descriptive in nature.

Now that said, I'm neither suggesting it has anything, necessarily, to do with 'altar calls'. (I have been preaching for 13 years and I'm still not certain what an altar call even is.) However, when someone has decided they wish to be baptized by my hands I have no problem asking them if they believe in their hearts if God raised Him from the dead and I have no further problem asking them if they will confess Jesus as Lord. How this makes for heresy I fail to see. Why would I baptize someone who doesn't believe in the Resurrection or is unwilling to confess Jesus as Lord? That hardly makes sense. So why not ask them? And why not ask them to do so publicly? Here is a good use then of the prescriptive nature of the text.

You wrote: "I do not see how you can conclude that Washer is teaching "that a person who doesn't confess with his mouth and believe in his heart can be saved" from the audio in this clip or that martyrdom is a prerequisite to salvation. You seemed to have read way too much out of the message."

This is not what I said at all, but I'm not going to take time to explain it. I think the point is that Washer is so anxious to find 'reformed' theology in this passage that he is failing to see that it has nothing to do with the scenario he put forward. Reformed theologians are famous for their exercise in 'what is the plain meaning of the text' mantra. The plain meaning here is one of evangelism, not martyrdom. Martyrdom is not precluded or excluded, but neither is it the main topic (the main idea here is grace!). He suggested, not me, that it had more do with martyrs than evangelism. I'm suggesting, after looking at the context, that it has more to with evangelism than he is willing to admit. That's all.

I think the problem here is that Washer, and I suppose by extension yourself, are reading this passage not in its context but rather through the lenses of a theology you have already adopted. Washer wants to see this as a 'reformed' passage when it is nothing of the sort. Look carefully at the context: Paul is talking about grace (10:4). These things he is talking about have to do with grace, not law, so confession and belief cannot be works in the sense of trying to earn something; those sort of works are excluded. But even if these things are not done at an 'altar call' (whatever that is) neither can they be excluded as conditions because they are conditional statements in the text: "If." He does not say anywhere in this text: "These are things that will accompany those who have already been saved." Or, "Here are the things that mark a true believer in Christ." He says, "IF..." and "Everyone who..." and "Anyone who trusts...". He's talking about faith that comes by hearing the word and believing the word of those who preach it. "Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (10:17) This is the condition for having faith: hearing. If there is no message proclaimed, there is no faith and can be no faith.

This is the plain meaning of the text and I don't see how you can get around that. (Although, based on your reformed paradigm, I'm sure you will :) )

'If' is conditional. 'If' you do this, if you confess that, you will be saved; 'anyone' who calls on the Name will be saved. It does not say, "Anyone whom the Lord calls." It says "Anyone who calls." Huge difference there even if God does call us through the preached Word and enable us to respond through His grace.

Do you think a person can be saved apart from 'calling on the name of the Lord'? (10:13) Paul is talking here about those who are sent as missionaries to preach the good news: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news." (10:15) But they must be sent! (10:14) But even though some are sent, there are those who have rejected the message: "All Day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (10:21)

I guess we will have to disagree on this one but I think the roots of our disagreement are much deeper than whether Paul here is talking about those already converted or those who might be through preaching of the Word. I think the plain meaning here is that Paul is referring to those who receive the proclaimed Gospel from those who are sent. Some confess. Others are disobedient.

IN short, I don't think Paul is endorsing a formula per se. I do believe Paul is stating what will necessarily happen when a person a) hears the word of Christ b) calls on the name of the Lord and is c) saved. There will necessarily be confession and belief in the Resurrection. But I don't think either of these things will happen until someone has done the work of evangelism. The verses are both prescriptive and descriptive and should not be viewed otherwise.

I don't think you can make a definitive statement about whether or not this is prescriptive or descriptive especially in light of Paul's conditional statements.

Thanks for your time,
jerry

ps--It's a little late. I can clarify my thoughts if they are jumbled. Nonetheless, I appreciate a good debate. I'm not necessarily trying to change your mind. I just enjoy a good theological discussion of the text. I appreciate the conversation.

Philip@ReformedVoices said...

Hi Jerry,

If you do not view this passage as an evangelistic formula, then perhaps Washer's criticism is not directed towards you. It is important to know Washer's intended audience because a lot of folks misunderstand his messages.

you said
"I think the point is that Washer is so anxious to find 'reformed' theology in this passage that he is failing to see that it has nothing to do with the scenario he put forward."

I would argue that the focus of this message has little to do with reformed theology distinctively. For instance, arminians of the past such as Paris Reidhead, A.W. Tozer, and Leonard Ravenhill would all agree that this verse is not suggesting a 'formula' as it has been turned into in much of today's Christianity.

You're right, Washer is not carefully exegeting this passage line by line, but that is not his intent. Washer is however seeking to paint a picture of the ramifications of making a confession and belief in Jesus as Lord in the historical context of the 1st century, a context far different from saying yes after a pastor and agreeing to a set of facts.

you said...
"'If' is conditional. 'If' you do this, if you confess that, you will be saved; 'anyone' who calls on the Name will be saved. It does not say, "Anyone whom the Lord calls." It says "Anyone who calls." Huge difference there even if God does call us through the preached Word and enable us to respond through His grace."

I have no problem with this, as I said, this message from Paul is not directed at you or your practice. It is directed to the easy-believism which simply seeks to get folks to make a mental assent to facts and then declares them saved because they jumped through the hoops you gave them and answered all the questions right. This usually comes after a toned down and incomplete gospel presentation is made void of man's sin, God's holiness, His justice, His right to judge, etc.

Is the Apostle Paul talking about a one time verbal confession and a momentary assent to a set of facts in this verse? What if someone makes their confession and statement of belief and then abandons the faith? Was it genuine?

Does everyone that has ever made a confession and mental assent secure a spot in heaven despite the fruit of their lives thereafter?

1 John 2:19
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Or just look at the rocky seed hearer of Matthew 13:20-21, he "hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away."

Will he be saved? If not, does it make a purely prescriptive reading of Romans 10 as a one time act incorrect?

Philip@ReformedVoices said...

I adjusted my description in the original post to "historical context" to avoid misunderstanding and for clarification.

Thank you for the discussion Jerry.