One of the most abused texts in Scripture must be Romans 10:13 – “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Today, it’s generally taken out of context to try to help people receive Christ, teaching that those who ask God to save them are guaranteed eternal life.
But the context indicates we must already believe in God in order to rightly call upon Him, (Ro 10:14a), and that those who thus believe are already saved. (Ro 10:10a) Salvation occurs as we first believe in God (Ga 3:6), as our basis of trust changes from ourselves to Christ, not when we ask to be saved.
This exposes a basic contradiction inherent in the typical evangelical gospel message: when we ask Christ to save us we’re admitting we aren’t saved, and if we aren’t saved then it follows that we don’t yet rightly believe on Christ. (Jn 3:18)
So, asking Christ to save us can’t be an expression of faith; it’s an admission of our unbelief. Teaching that one can be saved like this, by rote prayer as they continue in unbelief, is in fact another gospel (Ga 1:6), a false, perverted one, offering a lie for eternal life.
What’s missing from this mechanical gospel is faith: supernatural assurance that Christ’s atonement has already secured our salvation. Apprehending the true nature of Christ’s work produces solid assurance of eternal life (1Th 1:5); without it we’re still lost, dead in our sin. (Ep 2:1)
Trying to mechanize the gospel takes God Himself out of the equation: yet He must enable us to believe unto salvation (Jn_6:29), bringing us to life as He gives us faith in Christ. (Ep 2:5) Until we’ve experienced this supernatural work, we must continue to seek the Lord.
It doesn’t matter how many times we’ve called upon the Lord if we haven’t believed on Him. Do we believe? That’s the question. It’s about who we’re trusting in: Christ our ourselves.
One way to tell whether we’re grounded in Christ is to notice were we look for assurance of our salvation. Do we look to Christ, and to the work He’s done? Do we look first to the cross, and see the efficacy and completeness of His work, how God has made Christ to be sin on our behalf? Or do we look to something we’ve done, to some act of receiving Christ? It makes all the difference in the world.
To corrupt the Gospel by twisting such concepts is to miss the narrow gate. (Mt 7:14) Strive to enter; give diligence to make your calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), and be established in your faith as God intended. (Col 2:7)