Semantics and the Gospel, Part 3 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #5)

The Bible says in Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

In these verses Paul stated the content of that message concerning faith. Confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord is mentioned first to conform to the order of the quotation from Deuteronomy 30:14 in Romans 10:8. The confession is an acknowledgement that God has been incarnated in Jesus, that Jesus Christ is God. Also essential is heart-faith that God raised Him from the dead. The result is salvation. The true order is given in verse 10: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. Yet these are not two separate steps to salvation. They are chronologically together. Salvation comes through acknowledging to God that Christ is God and believing in Him.

Today’s quote is from Catherine Booth. She said: “The Gospel represents Jesus Christ, not as a system of truth to be received into the mind, as I should receive a system of philosophy or astronomy, but it represents Him as a real, living, mighty Savior, able to save me now.”

Our topic today is titled “Semantics and the Gospel (Part 3)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

In our last episode, we went through 16 statements that are commonly used in presentations of the Gospel. Notice the different key words in those statements:

Repent.
Confess.
Deny.
Lord and Master.
Come forward.
Baptism.
Pray through.
Commit.
Turn from all sin.
Surrender.

Some words stand out as poor, even wrong, choices for stating the Gospel. Many would agree that coupling the word “baptism” with the Gospel results in a wrong expression of the Gospel message. But others disagree with this. To them water baptism is a necessary requirement for salvation. For many, faith and works cannot be linked as requirements for salvation. For others, works are involved in becoming a child of God. Whether baptism or works is required in order to be saved is a matter of semantics that in turn becomes a matter of a true or false Gospel.

Most of you will probably agree that “baptism” and “works” are words that should not be used in the Gospel message simply because they mean something that is not a part of the Gospel message. That seems clear enough. But what about the meaning of a word like “repentance”? That does not seem so clear. Is it part of the Gospel message? Is it a requirement to be saved? Is it only a matter of indifference whether one uses the word or not in presenting the Gospel? Or what about the word “Lord”? What does it mean if it is made a part of the Gospel message? What about Messiah? God? Master?

Or what about the word “give,” as in “Give your heart to Christ”? Is that actually what has to be done if one is going to be saved? Is “give” another way of saying “trust”? And if it is, then is it true that in order to be saved, I must “trust” my heart to Christ? Or should I say, “Give my life to Christ”?

These are important semantic differences because they give different meanings to the Gospel message. Some give a wrong message; others, an unclear one. But we must strive to use the words that give a clear witness to the grace of God. It is not that God cannot use an unclear message; doubtless He does this more often than He would prefer to. But why should He have to? Why don’t we sharpen our understanding of what the Gospel is about so that we can present it as clearly as possible, using the right words to herald the Good News correctly?

Words are crucial. How terribly important they are in statements like these in 1 Corinthians 15:3: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and…He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Or like these in John 20:31: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”

We shall discuss some of the crucial words in our upcoming broadcasts with the goal that this will clarify our thinking and then our presentation of God’s good news.

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