First Sunday in Lent – Epistle

by Crossings

Calling on The Lord
Romans 10:8b-13
First Sunday in Lent
Analysis by Michael Hoy

8 “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.”

Introduction: Paul contrasts two types of soteriology in the words immediately preceding this text (10:5-8a). The first soteriology — that of the law (“the person who does these things will live by them,” 10:5)–bases its case on Leviticus 18:5. The other soteriology–that of faith (10:6)–is present in this Sunday’s text, and recognizes that we cannot ascend into heaven nor descend into the depths of the abyss to attain our righteousness (10:6-8a; cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-14).

DIAGNOSIS: The Call of Moses: “Do the Right Thing”

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Keeping Statutes and Ordinances
How appropriate on this First Sunday in Lent, when people are already in their legalistic Lenten disciplines (“You must do this.” “You must give up that.”), that we should happen upon this epistle from Paul. Many Christians will practice all kinds of faulty religious disciplines that prohibit certain behaviors for these forty days (only to resume them again after Easter). But our deeper problem is with how we understand the daily statutes and ordinances by which we weigh (way) our whole lives: “Do this, and you will live” (10:5).

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Doing as Righteousness
The problem with equating “doing” and “living” is that it not only becomes a way of life, but a way of righteousness. If we do not do, then woe to us. We must repent and do rightly. Sometimes we are so intent on doing the law that we reduce the promises of Christ into a “second chance” to keep the law (which is not really repentance at all). Our hearts and lives are governed by the same kind of righteousness: “My accomplishments are the basis of my salvation.” That sort of “confession” is our undoing.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Put to Shame
This drive to “do in order to live” ends with the discovery that we do not get to live for all our doings. God, who holds the final court, weighs our deeds and accomplishments, and finds they fall short of the prize of life. We are “put to shame” (10:11)–and that is not simply a verdict about our lives under the law (which we have chosen as the measure of our lives). Being “put to shame” means that our whole lives are in shambles and shameful.

PROGNOSIS: The Call of Christ: “The Right Thing Has Been Done”

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – Shame Put to Death
Lent leads to the cross … not where we “doers” did something grand, but where our Lord Jesus Christ did something grand for us. He was “put to shame,” so that the shame that stigmatizes our lives might be put to death in his own death. His “doing” becomes the final verdict about our lives.

Step 5: Advanced Prognosis (Internal Solution) – Believing as Righteousness
Through Christ, we are called the children of God; we are reclaimed in the promise. Through the cross our lives–even our lips–are reclaimed by God. And, in turn, those lips claim Christ as the one enduring prize of our life. And as we confess Jesus as Lord and believe with our hearts (10:10), we “re-claim” the truth: that our righteousness is not our doing, but Christ’s doing for us. Now to believe is to live. To confess Christ is to live. We, who have gone in the wrong direction with the law, can walk in the Way of Christ. The Way is as near as our lips and our hearts to our very beings. It is in us, by faith, here and now for our daily walk of life. It is so near that we may call on Christ each and every day, with full confidence that he is the one true source of our hope and salvation.

Step 6: Final Prognosis (External Solution) – Our Righteous Calling
When we confess Christ to “all” (10:12), we extend the generous mercy of Jesus beyond ourselves. (It’s no accident that Paul confesses Christ to his own kinfolk–those who are near and dear to him–but who are desperate since their misguided journeys into the law have terminated in dead-ends.) So we, like Paul, shamelessly share what Christ has done for all our kind and kin, trusting that as we call on the name of the Lord many will be saved by his generous mercy.


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