May 04, 2004

The Gospel and the Call for Help: Rom. 9:30-10:13

Continuing with sermon outlines on Romans 9-11 from our Sunday morning service.

The sermon began with a brief recap of the story of Michael Lineau, a filmmaker who went with a team to Mt. St. Helens following its eruption in 1981. It was supposed to be a three-hour, ground-level shoot of the devastation caused by the volcano. But once they got there, magnetic elements in the ash caused their compasses to malfunction, and of course their topographic maps of the region were suddenly obsolete. So a three-hour shoot turned into a three-day fight for survival. What finally saved them? According to Lineau, it was a desperate cry for help.

Similarly, because of sin, our own moral compass is askew and we are hopelessly lost. But we can be saved if we call for help.

  1. Calling on the Lord for salvation is your response to the sovereign call.

    Our call to God is an echo of his call to us. In recent weeks we have heard about God's call (e.g. 8:30, 9:23-24) - that is, God calls some people to himself. However, in this week's passage we learn that there is a call we have to make ourselves (10:12). So which of these is the call that makes the difference?

    The answer is that both of them are essential in salvation. Here is where some Calvinists and Arminians get off track; the Calvinists emphasize God's call, while the Arminians emphasize the human response. Perhaps the best way to reconcile these two extremes is a middle ground of the kind articulated by the 18th century preacher Charles Simeon, who argued that the contradiciton is only apparent:

    When I come to a text which speaks of election, I delight myself in the doctrine of election. Which the apostles exhort me to repentance an obedience, and indicate my freedom of choice and action, I give myself up to that side of the question. . . .

    As wheels in a complicated machine may move in opposite directions and yet subserve a common end, so may truths apparently opposite be perfectly reconcilable with each other, and equally subserve the purposes of God in the accomplishment of man's salvation.

    [Normally my sermon notes contain nothing by way of editorial comment, as I seek to preserve as faithful a synopsis of what was said rather than what I thought about it. I interject here to remark that perhaps the pastor is operating under a confusion of terms. I am a Calvinist, and I accept this "middle ground"  both divine sovereignty in election and human responsibility to exercise faith are taught clearly in Scripture. It is hyper-Calvinists that emphasize God's sovereignty to the point where they must depreciate duty-faith. I believe that prominent Calvinist teachers, such as J. I. Packer or Charles Spurgeon would side with me here. However, the terms are frequently confused by those who claim to hold neither position, and I am in general agreement with the content of this sermon. Outline resumes.]

  2. Calling on the Lord for salvation means you can't save yourself.

    For many people this is a hard admission to make.

    And this is where many of Paul's fellow countrymen went wrong. They thought they could attain their own salvation through the Law. They had all kinds of dedication, but the wrong motivation (10:2). This runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that "sincerity" gets you favour with God. However, it is possible to be both sincere and sincerely wrong  and the Jews were dead wrong. They missed that Christ was the end of the Law; its purpose was accomplished (10:4). Paul is not angry with the Jews; rather, he can empathize with them precisely because he used to be just like them! In fact it was his devotion to the Law that showed him he was wrong (cf. Rom. 7).

    What does it mean to call upon the Lord?

  3. Calling on the Lord for salvation combines personal faith and public confession (10:9ff)

    Paul's argument parallels Deut. 30:12-14. He is saying you don't have to "go" anywhere to be saved, because the word is right there in your mouth and heart.

    The call God is looking for combines:

    1. personal faith in your heart: Believe that Jesus died for sin and was raised from the dead. (The Christian message all hinges on a historical death and resurrection.) One who believes this will be justified (10:10).
    2. Public confession in your mouth: What is in your heart needs to come out your mouth. "Jesus is Lord" is an admission that Jesus rules our lives. One of the ways in which this confession is made is through baptism, which is not a means of salvation, but confession.

    Michael Lineau made a desperate cry for help on Mt. St. Helens. But it wasn't to the rescuers. It was to God. He said, "Lord, if you will save me, I will give you the rest of my life." Shortly thereafter the helicopters came and took them away. That night was a turning point in his life, and 25 years later, he is still following Christ. And on the basis of God's word, I can make this certain promise: anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.