Thesis:The "salvation" promise is directly tied to "confession with the mouth".
Introduction:In our study last week we focused our attention upon Paul's use of Moses' words in Deuteronomy 30:14 -- "the word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart." We have taken Paul to mean, by these words, that "the word of faith which he preached" was, first, a "proclamation" that was "near" in the sense that it was "heard" so that it could, if attended by the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5), actually get into the "heart" so that that "heart" could sponsor a response of the "mouth". Paul's "word of faith" is a concept wherein God takes the initiative on every level but the final one: He took every action required to make salvation possible (from Incarnation to Resurrection); He sponsors the proclamation that brings the message of the record of His actions to the ears of hearers; He circumcises the heart so that the message can actually enter through the ears into the heart; and then He waits for what Paul calls "the confession of the mouth".
Even though we did address this "confession of the mouth" issue briefly last week, it is my intention to return to this concept this evening to flesh out some of the details that surround it.
I. "Salvation" is the Promised Consequence of "Confession".
A. This makes "confession with the mouth" an extremely critical concept: too much hangs upon it to ignore it, or distort it.
1. On the "ignore it" side of the problem are those who seek to make "salvation" a kind of "don't worry about it, God is too merciful to be a stickler for details" thoughtlessness.
2. On the "distort it" side of the problem are a great host of manipulators.
a. Manipulators are people who are fundamentally dissatisfied with what God does and does not do so that they attempt, in the name of God, to "force" others into a type of "mode of behavior" that suits them [Charles Finney, et. al.].
b. Generally, this "force" takes the form of some kind of "demand theology" that adds something to the Gospel.
c. Occasionally, this "force" takes the form of some kind of "reduced demand theology" that takes something away from the Gospel ["Confessional theology"].
d. In every case, however, the pride of man who is dissatisfied with what God is willing to do is driving the issue.
B. This makes understanding of Paul's meaning crucial.
1. In the first place, "confession with the mouth" is actually a figure of speech.
a. It does not "require" the "mouth" as the typical instrument of speech as vocal verbalizing of words (speech actually begins in the lungs and without the throat it is impossible).
b. Nor does it "require" some form of overt "verbalizing" -- though there is a certain benefit involved in "acting out" what is in the heart.
c. What is required is the most fundamental element(s) involved in the purpose of "speech".
1) A most fundamental element involved in what is intended by speech is the communication of a personal thought to another person.
2) In conjunction with that element is a more fundamental one: the desire to interact with another.
3) And beneath that element is the most basic intention: to have some "flow of interaction" between persons so that neither remains unaffected (this is the area of greatest danger in "intention" -- whose interests are really being pushed?).
d. Thus, as a figure of speech, what Paul was dealing with is one issue: some kind of actual inter-personal expression of desire by one person to another.
1) This means that "salvation" is promised to those who actively initiate some form of expression to "the Lord" that actually communicates a desire to be in a harmonious relationship with Him.
2) This also means that manipulators are fundamentally barred from this region and it is a matter of tremendous arrogance to attempt to force the way in.
2. In the second place, "confession with the mouth" is a "true" expression.
a. Paul used the word translated "confess" because it points directly to the issue of a harmony between reality and speech.
b. People are masters of dissembling because of their unwillingness to permit God to dominate their lives.
c. Obviously, this does not work with God.
3. In the third place, the content of the confession is absolutely critical.
a. The relatively recent theological conflict over "free grace" and "lordship salvation" is an example of just how crucial is the content.
1) Both sides of this "debate" could see relatively clearly the "flaws" in the other side's arguments.
2) But neither side could see the flaws in their own arguments because of those subterranean motivations.
b. Paul's "content of confession" is a correction to both sides.
1) The "content" is not what the ASV and the NASB attempt to make it.
a) There is a basic reversal of the word order that is unjustified.
i. The word order makes a difference in meaning.
ii. Paul's meaning was deliberately "Jesus" intense: the Lord is Jesus; this is exactly the opposite to Jesus is Lord (the predicate nominative is the standard; the subject is applied to it).
iii. Paul's point is that one's "confession" needs to line up with the reality that "Lord" is being defined by "Jesus" (of Nazareth) and not the other way around (Jesus was the manifestation of the reality, "Lord" is rather ambiguous without that manifestation).
b) The fact is that Paul's claim that a "confession" that the Lord is defined by the Jesus of Nazareth makes the issue not one of human "behavior", but of the human focus upon the "Who?".
2) Whereas both sides of the "debate" wanted to "load up" the human "action" issue (making "faith" a human production), Paul simply declares that his "confession" is that the divine concept of "Lord" is given its most concrete definition in Jesus of Nazareth.