The Word is Near You (Romans 10:8b-13)

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Everyone here knows that those things too near to us are in constant danger of being taken for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt as the old saying goes. The same holds true for the Holy Scriptures. Sunday Bible Study, and services, mid-week devotions and personal reading can quickly leave you feeling like you’ve heard it all before. That familiarity can lull a person into zoning out whenever the Bible is read. The Word too near is a word in danger of being taken for granted.

And that is a shame because God’s Word in your heart directs your thoughts and actions. It gives a set of values that separates you as a believer from the world around you. God’s Word in your mouth controls your speech, governing all you say and think and do. God’s Word needs to be near to us, and dear to us. And so it is that even as Paul declares these important truths in our Epistle reading He puts his words into action. In these few short verses Paul appeals to the Old Testament no less than three times! He begins by quoting Deut 30:14

8bThe word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, 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. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

This is a most powerful word that leads to salvation. In these short verses we have here a confirmation of the Lutheran teaching of the means of grace: Christ is in the word offering Himself and His righteousness. God’s Word is clear: All is done, no efforts of ours are needed. When Paul declares that Jesus is ‘Lord’ he concentrates into one term all that the Christ is as the exalted Saviour, and the divine Mediator, whom we trust, worship, and obey.

From beginning to end every part of God’s Holy Word proclaims this one central truth. We are justified by faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Faith is a gift from God that receives gladly all that Jesus has done on our behalf to make our lives right with God according to His Holy Word. The voice of righteousness by faith says not ‘Do’ but ‘It is done.’ God’s justifying deed is there, available to each of us, in the Word which comes to us.

8bThe word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, 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. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

And yet, it is a Word that calls for a Response. This Word is near him, creating faith in his heart and evoking a confession from his lips. The confession of the mouth is a fruit and work of faith. Confession follows of necessity from faith. This confession of the mouth is proof that faith lives in the heart. Only the faith of the heart justifies and saves man. But justifying and saving faith always goes on to proves its power in sanctification. For where the news is so great and the gift so wondrous, how could we not share this joy with the world around us?

And that brings us to the last point Paul is trying to make. This is word that is near to us to be believed and confessed is a Word that is intended for One and for All. 11For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.

Here Paul goes back into the Word himself citing Isaiah 28:16. However, Paul takes pains to make abundantly clear that this promise of old is truly not just for Israel but for all who God calls to Himself through the Word made flesh. Isaiah’s ‘he who believes’ becomes for Paul ‘every one who believes’ This universality is suggested in the original, though it is not stated explicitly. No distinctions, no shame. God in Christ is Lord of all. Jew or Gentile, Man or woman, the young and the old alike. Bestowing His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation through faith empowered by His Word.

13For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” And so Paul ends with one last homage to that life-changing Word when He closes this passage with a quotation from Joel 2:32 “To call upon the name of the Lord,” means the same as “to believe in the Lord.” Faith is not merely one way to salvation; it is the only way. This truth applies to all people of all time. The same Jesus is Lord of all things. He is rich in grace, and His willingness to give His grace goes out to all that call upon Him, that is, to all those that acknowledge Him as their Saviour and in true faith call on Him for aid.

During the Lenten season the Word is indeed near to us, perhaps nearer than in any other season of the church year. Churches that don’t normally have mid-week services and Christians who don’t normally get out to them find the time to do so in Lent. While Epiphany showed us who Jesus is, during Lent we focus on what He did for our salvation. We marvel not just at His passion, but at everything He did that led up to Holy Week: triumphing over satan’s temptations, lamenting over rebellious Jerusalem and teaching with many parables. But it all comes to a climax on the cross. Today at the beginning of our Lenten season Paul reminds us again that the cross and its message of salvation are important to all people.

Let these Words be near you over the coming weeks – in your mouth and in your heart … Let them direct your thoughts and actions. Let them govern all you say and think and do. Never take them for granted again: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!”

AMEN.

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About kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.
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