Paying Attention to Scripture
By Pauline Daniel
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:13
What does it mean to “call on the name of the Lord”? Isn’t that what the Jews had always done since Old Testament times? Then why did Paul have to pray for their salvation (Rom 10:1)?
In fact, Paul himself testifies that the Jews were zealous for God (Rom 10:2). They were proud of being a people chosen by God. They placed great importance on observing the law because that was given to them as a marker of being God’s people. But Paul says that their zeal was not based on knowledge (Rom 10:2). They were out of sync with what God was doing in the world around them. They thought that salvation was meant only for the Jews and that being a Jew was enough to be saved. Even those that did become Christians were resistant to the idea that Gentiles could be saved without becoming Jews first. Paul says that they were establishing their own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness (Rom 10:3).
The funny thing is that if they had really known their own Scriptures, they should have recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah. Instead, they rejected him because he didn’t fit their preconceived idea of what the Messiah should be like. They wanted a king like David, despite Isaiah’s prophecies that the Messiah would suffer. They wanted exclusivity despite prophecies that Gentiles would be included in God’s kingdom. They expected to retain their status as God’s chosen despite being warned by Moses himself that rebellion against God would cause them to lose that status.
It may seem laughable to us that they could miss out on so many pointers to Jesus in their scriptures, but do we really pay attention to scripture ourselves? We are told that we will be forgiven only if we forgive (Matt 18:21-35), but do we still hold on to grudges thereby risking our entry into God’s kingdom? We are told that following Jesus means denying ourselves (Matt 16:24), but do we pursue our own ambitions and still claim to be following him? We are told that the gate is narrow (Matt 7:13-14), but do we try to widen it by making church more like the world outside to attract more people? Anytime that we think that something is too impractical or too idealistic or too impossible to obey and therefore can be safely ignored, we are guilty of trying to establish our own righteousness instead of submitting to God’s righteousness.
It’s very easy to gloss over parts of scripture that are not comfortable for us thinking that God is merciful and will not fault us for going our own way in this one area. But truly calling on the name of the Lord means submitting to God as Lord in all areas of our life. As Jesus said in Matt 7:21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
Is our faith theoretical? Or something that we live out every day?