In Romans 10:13 Paul boldly states that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It’s an amazing promise, because what Paul means by “saved” in context here is being made righteous (as we’ll see). And what Paul means by being “righteous” is “fully meeting the requirements of the law” (Romans 8:4), which is the ability to love God and love neighbour, and what better human experience is there than that, than being “at rights” rather than “at odds” with God, our spouse, our relatives, and all our neighbours, near and far? It’s wonderful knowing you’re “at rights” with the world and with God, freeing your life of tension and conflict, and regrets at bad mistakes made that are hard to correct.
And the Israelites were given that same message in their Old Testament scriptures too, about loving God (Deuteronomy 6:5) and loving neighbour (Leviticus 19:18). They also knew in their Old Testament scriptures how God had made such righteousness, or love for God and neighbour, possible, because that same verse in Romans 10:13 was quoted word for word in Joel 2:32.
But what the Israelites never fully understood all through their history was how to attain such righteousness. It wasn’t for lack of trying, though. They “pursued a law of righteousness,” Romans 9:31, and they had always been “zealous for God,” Romans 10:2, just as Jews are today. But for all their efforts and zeal they have never experienced “God’s righteousness” (10:3).
Why not? Because they never “called on the Lord” for it. And that, to Paul, was the great tragedy of Israel’s history, because it was always in their power to call on the Lord. It was always in their “mouth” and “heart,” as Paul phrases it in 10:8, to confess their need for God and go to him when in need. The salvation they sought, the righteousness they so desperately wanted, and the love for God and neighbour that was so easily available, were all theirs for the asking, but instead of calling on the Lord and “knowing (or experiencing) the righteousness that comes from God,” verse 3, “they sought to establish their own righteousness,” by their own efforts at obeying God’s law (verse 3).
It was pride that did that, believing they could “attain righteousness” by themselves, which gave them the right, they believed, to God “richly blessing” them (verse 12) in their daily lives, because in their minds they’d earned it.
We dummy Gentiles, meanwhile, knew we hadn’t got a foot to stand on with God, because in our lives we’d never had a zeal for him or any interest in his law. The gospel hit us with great relief, therefore, when we heard that God would put us at rights with him, and with our neighbours, based on Jesus’ zeal for God and his fully meeting the requirements of God’s law. And all we had to do was call on him for such righteousness and it was ours because we trusted him for it, not our own efforts. We pursued it by faith in him providing it for us, in other words, which Paul called “a righteousness that is by faith” (9:30 and 10:6).
This is why “Christ is the end of the law” (verse 4), because in him attaining the righteousness we so desperately need, there’s no need for us to try and get it by our own efforts at obeying the law instead.
And we don’t need to drag Christ down from heaven or up “from the deep” to be here in person to tell us all this either (verses 6-7), because it’s all been made clear already in “the word of faith,” the gospel message that has always been in Scripture (verse 8) – Old and New Testament – which Paul is simply bringing up to date in Romans 10, to make it real in the here and now as well.
With all this in mind, then, the promise in Romans 10:13 is as real for us now as Paul wished it to be real for his fellow Israelites (verse 1). We can now discover for ourselves too, therefore, that if we believe all this is true and we call on God to make it true for us personally, he will “save” us, by enabling us to fully meet the requirements of his law. And “richly bless” us too (verse 12), never letting us down, because he also promised in the Old Testament, “Everyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16, quoted in Romans 10:11). We’ll never have reason to be embarrassed by admitting our need to trust him and not ourselves.
We are left with the question, then, “Will we trust him?” – or better put, perhaps, “Do we believe we can actually trust him that much?” Do we believe God truly has set things up through his Son so that we can constantly call on him to provide the love for God and neighbour that “saves” us from so much pain and emptiness in our relationship with God and people?
Because it’s in trusting him that we get to experience the supernatural constantly, because when is there ever a time in each day when we don’t need him to give us his righteousness, and his love for God and neighbour, knowing from Israel’s sad history that we cannot attain that love for God, neighbour, spouse, child, grandchild, difficult neighbour and outright enemy by ourselves, no matter how hard we try?