Salvation: Calling on the Name of the Lord
Romans 6:15-23 October 10, 2021
Death permeates existence. Whether we want to avoid it or not, we have to deal with the reality of death. Friends die. Family members die. Wars take more lives than we can imagine. Historians estimate that WWII took the lives of 53 million people. And during our lifetimes, millions more have died in conflicts. Death is heavy and weighs hard on us. In the dark, sleepless nights we too realize that one day we will face death.
The apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Rome a short definitive statement about the relationship between sin and death. He writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” Even though sometimes we think sin is profitable, in the end sin pays off with death. It does not matter whether the sin is a group of Islamic terrorists flying a passenger plane into a skyscraper in New York or telling what some call “a little white lie.” Sin reveals it’s consequence as death—both spiritual and physical. Some would say that death is good and natural. However, death is the enemy of God. Death comes in a fallen world—a world estranged from God.
One of the key characteristics of the Lord God is that he is the Creator, not the destroyer. God is about life, not death. God is about love, not sin. God is about salvation, not destruction. The Psalmist writes, “Restore us, O God; make your face to shine upon us that we may be saved (Psalm 80:3).” The Psalmist places his confidence in the Lord and praises his restorative, saving ways. With confidence, he says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1).” The answer to the Psalmist’s question is that we don’t need to fear anything as we come under the protection of the Lord who saves us. The Lord is loving and saving.
The zenith of God’s loving and saving nature is revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. John 3:16 is so familiar to us that we don’t hear its powerful proclamation of God’s nature and plan for the problem of sin and our estrangement from him. John writes, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17).” When I officiate at funerals, I often feel a holy excitement when I begin the service with the words, “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and I am life.’ John 11:21a).” How can we sit quietly and passively when God gives us such hope? When one’s favorite team scores a basket or touchdown, the fans stand up and cheer. Compared with God’s promises in Christ Jesus, baskets and touchdowns are insignificant.
Salvation comes through Christ Jesus. It does not come from any other source. Education will not save you from sin and death. A big stock portfolio will not save you from sin and death. Good health will not save you from death. The Federal Government will not save you. Nothing will save you except Jesus. Paul wrote the evangelist Timothy about this: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners… (1Timothy 1:15a).” The purpose of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was to restore all humanity to God. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are God’s solution to the alienation and death brought by sin. The writer of the Book of Acts, Luke, is clear about this: "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”
God sent Jesus to be the remedy for sin and end our estrangement from him. Does this mean that everyone is saved? Does it mean that everyone is reconciled? One of the popular deceptions in our culture is universalism. It is a teaching that says that everyone will be saved regardless. According to this notion, even those who are passive or indifferent or hostile to God will be saved. The truth is that God placed us in the world and gave us free will. We are not robots. He does not impose salvation on us. The truth is that we must make a conscious decision to receive the gift of salvation and then live out God’s will for us. The Bible is clear that salvation comes only as we believe in the Lord Jesus and no other god, teacher or system of belief. However, everyone is not open to receiving the gift of salvation. Many are unwilling to receive it.
The lives and decisions of those who will not be saved speak to many different things which get in the way of receiving salvation. In order to be saved, one must recognize one’s need for salvation. Some buy into the self-sufficiency notion. They believe they can save themselves. Others believe the cultural lies which say that good people don’t have to worry. Still others want to be in control of their lives completely. Salvation means relinquishing one’s control of life to the Lord and seeking to do his will, not our will. People can also delude themselves by saying they are good enough and do not need a Savior. They believe that their good works and following a rigid religious life will save them. It may surprise you but religion is a significant barrier to salvation. Religion killed Jesus. The very people who were faithful to the religious system of Israel were the ones who sent him to the cross. Salvation is about receiving a free gift from the Lord. Salvation does not come from our righteousness but from recognizing that regardless of what we do we cannot save ourselves and need a Savior, Christ Jesus. Don’t let religion get in the way of your salvation. The only way to be saved is through a living and vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many barriers people create blocking salvation and they come from believing some sort of lie rather than the truth of God.
Who will be saved? Of course, those who recognize their need for a Savior and reach out to Jesus will be saved. The Pharisees of the First Century were the super-religious. However, they were critical of Jesus’ reaching out to the problem people of society, to tax collectors, to the demonized, to the sexually immoral, and to people no respectable rabbi would even talk too. Jesus told them that he came to save sinners. He came to heal the sick, deliver the demonized, to forgive the sexually immoral, to restore the outcasts. Who will be saved? Those who recognize their life is out of control and turn to the Lord will be saved.
Those who recognize their spiritual impoverishment will be saved. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he speaks about many blessings. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).” That beatitude can also be translated from Greek to English as, “Blessed are those who know their spiritual poverty, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The ones who turn to God to receive the gift of salvation are the ones who realize their spiritual poverty. They realize they live in a dark world and want the light of Christ to shine in their lives. They realize their lost condition and want to be found in Christ Jesus. They realize they hunger and thirst for righteousness and that only Jesus can satisfy. They realize they are lacking significant things in their lives and know that those things can only be found in relationship with the loving Lord. Those who recognize their spiritual poverty and turn to the Lord will find salvation.
Salvation is for those who want the very best God has for them. Most in our culture define the very best in material terms. The very best means a big house, a big car, plenty of clothes in the closet, a big pay check, a big bank account, big this, big that. The trick of materialism is that we are deluded into thinking we have no real need for the things of God. Who needs God when one has everything? There are some real dangers in a materialistic culture. We run the risk of thinking we have everything we need and don’t need God. Salvation is for those who realize material possessions don’t bring salvation.
The Bible tells us how to obtain the gift of salvation. It does not come through religious passivity. It comes through calling on the name and power of God. The prophet Joel wrote, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32).” On the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, they recalled the words of the prophet Joel. In the same way, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman Christians that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:3).” Salvation comes to those who call to the Lord, who confess their sins, who recognize their spiritual poverty, and who reach out for the gift of grace.
The apostle Paul writes more specifically: “That if you confess 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 confess and are saved (Romans 10:9-10).” If you have not received the gift of salvation, it is not a difficult process. Recognize your sinfulness, confess your sin, receive God’s forgiveness and begin to live for Jesus. You can have God’s assurance of your salvation as you call out to the Lord and receive everything he has for you. Salvation comes through Christ Jesus alone. In our culture, as in ancient times, there are many gods, goddesses, religions and beliefs that want to control and dominate you but there is only one Lord who seeks to save you and give you eternal life. And he is Christ Jesus.
CH (COL) Michael W. Malone, USA RET
Veterans Memorial Chapel