The Skin that Matters
Read Romans 10:5-13 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.
“As a Catholic priest and Franciscan friar, Maximilian Kolbe was well aware of the eternal stakes of our existence. So when the Nazis occupied Kolbe's native Poland in 1939, he did what he could to resist in the here and now. Refusing the status offered to him as an ethnic German, Kolbe helped to hide thousands of Jewish refugees in his friary. These efforts eventually caught up with him, and in 1941 he was sent to Auschwitz.
“When ten prisoners were selected for execution by starvation in retaliation for an escape attempt, Kolbe volunteered to take one of their places. He led the other prisoners in prayer and hymns as they faced slow and agonizing death. When only Kolbe and a few of his cellmates remained, a guard executed them with an injection of carbolic acid. Present at Kolbe’s 1983 canonization was the man whose life he saved.” (Excerpted from the Align Newsletter for Men, Issue No. 36, October 25, 2022.)
I offer this true account of the supreme sacrifice of Maximilian Kolbe as an example of a follower of Jesus ignoring the distinctions of ethnicity to do a wonderful thing. As the article states, Rev. Kolbe could’ve turned a blind eye to the horrors being perpetrated on the Jews by the Nazis. It’s safe to say most people did that very thing.
Instead, he took an active role in saving lives. He hid Jews as they awaited a chance to escape the Nazis and when he could no longer do that, offered his life in exchange for one of theirs. He is an example of Christ-like love. Jesus unites what the world divides.
CONTEXT = Romans is Paul’s lengthy answer to the question, “How can I be saved?” In chapters 9-11, he is asking how his people, the Jews, are to be saved in the New Covenant instituted by Jesus Christ. Part of the answer is found in these verses: being saved erases the ethnic distinction of Jew versus Gentile and truthfully, all ethnic differences become meaningless. We are all people in relationship with God.
1. A contrast between the Law and faith. (5-10)
The Law made one righteous by means of obedience. Moses himself made this in Leviticus 18:5. The Law was given to deal with the problem of sin by means of blood sacrifice.
The Jews of Paul’s day continued attempting to obey the letter of the Law. Paul, in 10:2, called it MISDIRECTED ZEAL. This would be called “salvation by works” because it depends heavily on our performing God’s will as the means of achieving salvation.
Faith makes one righteous by confession trust in God. (See Habakkuk 2:4.) Through this somewhat convoluted figure of speech, Paul’s point is that salvation by faith is not something we have to chase after, going up to heaven or down to the abyss. Instead, it is right at hand, immediately available to those who are willing to receive it in their hearts and speak it into being.
Verses six through eight remind us that salvation is available at God’s initiative. That is why it is not unreachable but is right at hand.
Paul presented a contrast between salvation by works which is legalism and salvation by faith which is love. This truth is at the core of the Gospel Paul preached.
Our lips are the most important skin we possess as Paul emphasizes the necessity of confession to accompany belief. OPENLY DECLARING our FAITH is our salvation. Our hearts represent the deepest aspects of who we are, our most firmly held convictions. Believing makes us RIGHT WITH GOD.
There are two truths at the center of a saving faith. First, JESUS IS LORD. He rules over all creation, the victorious King of Kings. In the history of the Church, this is the earliest statement of faith (Acts 2:36; 1 Corinthians 12:3).
Second, GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD. Jesus’ resurrection is the means of His victory.
This is the faith that Paul DECLARED to them; it is the basis of the Gospel. It is this same faith they are to DECLARE to others with their mouths.
2. Our faith unites all those who possess it. (11-13)
Verse eleven promises ANYONE who trusts in God WILL NEVER BE DISGRACED. This means they will not be embarrassed to have put their faith in God; He will vindicate their faith by keeping His promises. This is the second time in as many chapters that Paul has quoted Isaiah 28:16, establishing faith as the basis for our confidence in our salvation.
Verse twelve makes Jew and Gentile out to be the SAME in terms of salvation. We have THE SAME LORD. He is GENEROUS to ALL who call on Him. This is our key verse for today as it demonstrates that God saves people of all ethnicities. Who your mother is and what color your skin may be are of no consequence; salvation is offered to all people.
Verse thirteen quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel’s promise that EVERYONE who CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED. In Joel 2:32, THE LORD referred to Yahweh. In Hebrews 10:13, it refers to the name Jesus Christ. There is no difference; both are God.
There are many things in this that make us individuals. In people, as in all other parts of creation, God has shown His creativity by means of variety. However, none of those things matter a bit where our salvation is concerned. God has expressed His love for all people and His desire that we all be saved.
Jesus unites what the world divides.
Our point today is that God’s gracious offer of salvation is made to all people. Ethnicity is no barrier to fellowship with God and it must be no barrier to our fellowship with each other.
This passage repeatedly mentions our mouths in reference to our confessing our faith in God. That’s why the title of this message identifies our lips as the skin that really matters. To put it another way, we cannot just pay lip service to God.
Let me conclude with an illustration: A young man was sent to Spain to work in a new plant. He accepted the position because it paid better, enabling him to make enough money to marry his fiancé. As the lonely weeks of separation drug on, the woman began to worry about his faithfulness to her. After all, those Spanish ladies are known to be beautiful and romantic. Every time they talked, the young man reassured her that he was keeping himself entirely for her.
One day, a package from home arrived. It contained a note from his fiancé and a harmonica. The note read, “I’m sending this to you, so you have something to take your mind off those Spanish women.”
Finally, his time abroad was over, and the young man returned to find his girl waiting for him at the airport. When he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up a restraining hand, she said firmly, “Hold on. First, I want to hear you play your harmonica!”
Not an unreasonable request. It’s ironic that God is not impressed by our lip service, but He wants to hear us speak aloud His praises. He wants us to use our lips to witness to others about the salvation we have received and is also available to all who will hear Him and believe.
Align Newsletter for Men, Issue No. 36, October 25, 2022, from https://7uvp0.r.a.d.sendibm1.com/mk/mr/P00ddXaV9sLbiOc30GymdTTCeBVHSm3HhkUHNhqsFvHec2w58IFtffTXVvhjgn3IrjHc2W5BSioqb9zGqgRVKJsqncMtA- auK0kxDz8yAGJl4yNCkEbcjOoNrj1VUrk3m-QD8zH3Tg retrieved on 25 October 22.
Zondervan Bible Commentary, One-Volume Illustrated Edition, 2008, Romans, Leslie C. Allen.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, 1976, Romans, Everett F. Harrison.
The Other Half of the Rainbow, LaVonn Brown.