Romans 10 – Death Bed Conversions

This is the message of faith that we proclaim: if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. With the heart one believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, No one who believes on Him will be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
-Romans 10:9-13

When I read this I think of the argument against Christianity that I’ve heard often on the basis that Christianity doesn’t expect enough from those who have done great sins and then turned to faith to escape punishment, like a child who throws rocks then cries for forgiveness when his mother catches him to avoid a spanking.

I hear this complaint most times concerning death row confessions or death bed confessions. “Can a man live his life however he wanted and then right before he dies say a prayer to God and be saved?” I’m asked, like I’m sure you have been as well. Let’s clear this up: Yes and No.

Yes, a man who is on his death bed who genuinely comes to believe and accept Christ’s sacrifice and atonement for our sins will be saved. Consider the same chapter in Romans a little further on:

And Isaiah says boldly:

I was found by those who were not looking for Me;

I revealed Myself to those who were not asking for Me.

-Romans 10:20

So the man who lived his life however he wanted was clearly not looking for God but if he finds Him then it is God’s will, and that sinner’s salvation is complete even on his death bed because he has come to believe.

However, No, a sinner who sins on purpose through his life and says a token prayer near the end, or really at any time – which should make us pause in introspection, will not be saved. Paul says that the person who is saved confesses and believes. But if the prayer for salvation is about merely escaping Hell or making himself feel better about his impending doom, then the man, no matter what he says with his mouth is not an actual believer and is not saved.

Salvation is not a magic incantation.

But words backed up by a heart change and a genuine belief that Jesus died for us can and does save. Whether we’ve lived the life we should have or not, and no matter how long we’ve had to live that life.


Romans 9 – Fear & Gratefulness

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses,

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Ex 33:19)

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”(Ex 9:16).

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”(Is 29:16). Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory. –Romans 9:14-23 (NIV)

One of the most contentious issues in Christianity is that of predestination. It is so easy to become mired in this – and this is important and true – unknowable argument. There is no way for you or I to know what the right answer is with predestination. We can say we think it is that way or this way, but to know for sure requires more processing power than our minds possess.

Let us suppose, though, that predestination in its most Calvinist form is true and that only predestination is true – that we play no part in our salvation, not choosing God or reaching back to Him and so on. Let us take this passage from Romans 9 on its own. If we do we have one of two overpowering responses: fear or gratefulness.

Fear: If only predestination is true then God, in His sovereignty, determined some of His creation for glory and salvation and others for damnation all before there was an opportunity for any other choice and prior to any sinful act. Some were created only for destruction, or as Paul describes above, to “make his power known” to those He had chosen to save. What if that vessel, chosen for damnation, is you? What if it is me? What if we have no choice?

Here is where it gets tricky: remember from my last post that those controlled with a sinful mind would not ever want or even be capable of pleasing God. So here is where the fear ends for those of us worried about pleasing God, right? If we are worried about pleasing God we are trying to, or desirous of, pleasing Him so we cannot be, at the same time, a vessel made for destruction. On the other hand, Jesus says in the horrific parable of the sheep and goats that some will go to their damnation after living lives that they thought were for God.

So which is it? I don’t know, but I do have a better understanding of the proverb that Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom (Pr 1:7). God is worthy of our fear indeed!

Gratefulness: The alternative response to fear is to be grateful. If only predestination is true and somehow we find ourselves on the road to Heaven and glory then we have nothing but gratefulness to show to the Lord because this result would be only by His mercy and grace because He chose us. It would have nothing to do with our actions (so none of us could boast, so to speak.)

If we believed that predestination is true and that we are saved by God’s grace it seems very likely that our gratitude would lead us to a full out, 100% on-fire life for the Lord. It would be the only appropriate response.

For the purpose of this post, we have imagined that predestination is true, but let me assert that since it is in the Bible it is undeniably true. Believers have no option but to believe that. So regardless of which side of the argument you are on, there can be no doubt that at the least predestination is also true and at the most it is solely true.

Since that is the case, even for those of us who are Arminian and believe that we are saved based upon our choice to follow Jesus or not to follow Him, we are also, at the same time, predestined to choose God or reject Him based upon His mercy and determination before creation began. Our only response should be fear or gratefulness, regardless of whether or not we believe we chose God or not.

What do you think?