One of the most relied upon passages for evangelism is Romans 10:9.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Declaring for all to hear what is truly in your heart is a mark of sincere faith. But this concept goes back over 1000 years before Jesus was born.
Old Testament Gospel
Consider Moses. He gave an interesting sermon to the Israelites shortly before he died. He spoke at length of the ways of God and that all they needed to do was follow those ways in order to prosper as God’s people in their new land. The interesting part comes when he spoke of how they could know God’s ways in their own lives.
It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (Deuteronomy 30:12-14.)
This was radical thinking for people used to religions with gods who kept their distance. Moses said that God’s word was given to them not only in their mouths so they could repeat it as if it were a memorized school lesson, but also in their hearts as if it were a sustainer of life. And in a very real way it is, since the word of God is produced by the Word himself, Jesus.
Moses’ sermon led to the letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, the one that contains that line above about believing and declaring.
But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:6-11.)
Paul told the people in Rome that Moses was speaking of more than merely following the laws God gave the ancient Israelites. Moses was speaking of relationship with God for everyone, whether Jewish and under the Mosaic covenant or non-Jewish and not under the laws Israel was required to follow in order to receive blessings as the earthly nation of God’s people.
The New Testament Gospel for Jews and Non-Jews Alike
In essence, Paul said to those who came from Jewish homes and those who were not Jewish that this promise of God’s word and righteousness living in them was for both of them, and receiving God’s blessing was not dependent on following the laws God gave the Israelites. Paul concluded this passage with the assurance:
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13.)
What does this lack of difference mean? It means that Jews and Gentiles both come to Christ the same way, through Jesus’ righteousness. This is clearly seen if you back up in Romans 10 a bit. Paul begins this passage by pointing out the mistake of continuing to try to have a relationship with God by following the laws given to Moses and the nation of Israel.
Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4.)
When Paul said “Christ is the culmination of the law” he left no room for anyone to say “Yes, but I still need to follow the Jewish laws because I was born Jewish” or “Yes, but I still have to follow some of the Old Testament laws now that I’m a Christian.” Rather:
- Righteousness is found in Jesus and this righteousness belongs to everyone who believes in him.
- Salvation is not found in Old Testament laws but in Jesus.
Paul’s point in referring to Moses’ sermon is to show that this is nothing new. Rather, Moses told the Israelites long ago that righteousness is a gift God gives them in their hearts that they can declare with their mouths. And this is the way for non-Jews as well. Whether Jew or Gentile, believing in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead and declaring with words that Jesus is Lord is the sign of Jesus’ righteousness in you, that you belong to Jesus and have received his salvation.
Moses sure could preach the gospel of Christ, couldn’t he?