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Salvation:  Must one “confess Christ” audibly for it?

Gary Googe Jan 30

People can certainly quote Scripture that surely seems to say that such is required of us today for salvation.

Romans 10:9-10

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. [Emphasis added]

Context is always important, isn’t it? But this passage is often used to justify getting people to walk down an aisle in a “church service” as a part of the process for gaining salvation.  But is salvation a process or something that happens in an instant of time? Even when you ask some people if they’re saved, they’ll tell you when they “went forward,” meaning they went forward in a “church service” to make what is sometimes called “a public profession of faith.” Was such a walk forward necessary or essential for their salvation? Was that specifically necessary for them to gain salvation? I can see why people would think as so many do reading the Romans 10 passage.

As we approach this, that can be a sensitive subject for some people. As we take a close look at this passage, I think we need to first begin with some comments about the importance of context.  Is that important? Surely, we can all agree that it is. I know I don’t like it when people take something I say out of the context in which it was stated, and I’m sure you don’t like it when people do that to you.  But this sort of thing has happened to us all.  And some people certainly do the same thing with Scripture.  Does this Romans 10 passage have a context? It surely does! Some might want to say, “But aren’t these the words of the apostle Paul, and isn’t he our apostle?” Isn’t he the author of the whole book of Romans? He surely is!

Romans 1:1

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, [Emphasis added]

But let’s also look at specifically who Paul is talking about in this section of the letter.

Romans 10:1-4

1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.

Please note what I’ve underlined.  It is a key to understanding all this.

2 For I bear them [Israel] record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Such is certainly the case today in many circles.

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.

God doesn’t grade on the curve.  People must have His perfect righteousness credited to them by faith in the work of Christ for entrance into Heaven.

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. [Emphasis added]

Is Paul talking about Gentile salvation today in this passage? He is not! In this passage he is talking about salvation of the people of Israel in a time that is now past.  At the time of Paul’s writing of this letter there were Jews still alive who had believed the gospel of the kingdom [also called the gospel of the circumcision—Galatians 2:7] for their salvation. That was prior to the revelation given to the apostle Paul and the gospel message that was given to him for us today.  I hope you realize that the gospel of the kingdom was a different gospel from what God gave Paul for us today.  If you’re not familiar with it or haven’t read my articles about this, please do.  Here are the names of two of them.  Just put a few key words in the search box and tap your enter key.

Gospels:  Did Peter and Paul preach the same gospel?

Salvation:  How were The Twelve Apostles saved?

In Romans 9-11 we have three chapters where Paul is presenting things we should know about, but that pertain to Israel.  It contains things pertaining to their past and their future.  When the Holy Spirit influenced Paul to write this epistle, Jews were still using the Jerusalem temple.  That wouldn’t end until God let the Roman army destroy it a few years later.  History indicates that happened in 70 A.D.  Israel was still even offering animal sacrifices prescribed by the Mosaic Law and still ignoring Jesus Christ’s once for all sacrifice of Himself at Calvary.  Like so many people today, they were still trying to establish their own righteousness apart from God’s provision as the way to gain it.

Romans 10:3 again

3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. [Emphasis added]

The perfect righteousness of God is only applied to us freely now by personal faith in the work Jesus Christ did to provide it.

Romans 3:24

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [Emphasis added]

So many people have such a hard time believing that.  It is truly sad to see.  So many want to go about this their own way and/or add something to the perfect work God has already accomplished for them through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.  They only need to accept this marvelous work of His to be saved forever.  Scripture tells us even Israel could not gain this righteousness by their pursuit of it through trying to observe the commands of the Mosaic Law.  Please note Paul’s comments and his frustration with them about this.

Romans 9:30-33

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

 33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. [Emphasis added]

Israel refused to accept this Jesus as God’s Son and promised Messiah, even though He provided them with an abundance of proof that He was exactly who He claimed to be.  Such was true again after His resurrection when He presented Himself as being miraculously alive after the agony of His crucifixion.

Acts 1:3

3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: [Emphasis added]

The promise of an earthly kingdom was still being extended to them.  All they had to do was accept Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah Who had been promised to them.

Acts 2:36-38

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.

37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent [change your mind about who Jesus is], and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. [Emphasis added]

If they had repented [changed their mind] and accepted Him, He would have returned [speaking of His Second Coming] and established that earthly kingdom that had been promised.

Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when [HOPOS = so that] the times of refreshing shall come [speaking of the promised millennial kingdom] from the presence of the Lord.

20 And he shall send Jesus Christ [a reference to what we typically speak of as His Second Coming], which before was preached unto you:

21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things [another reference to the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20)], which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. [Emphasis added]

But this was not our gospel, the one revealed to and given later to us by the apostle Paul.  Like so many people today, it wasn’t that they couldn’t believe in Him or didn’t have good reason to believe in Him, they simply didn’t want to believe in Him. They continually resisted His authority over them, thinking they could establish their own righteousness by which to please God and enter into His promised kingdom on Earth.  Nevertheless, Paul continued in making his presentations and appeals just as we should, believing he could have a hand in saving some.

Romans 11:14

14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation [ZELOS = jealousy] them which are my flesh [speaking of fellow Israelites], and might save some of them. [Emphasis added]

When someone finally realizes that it is futile to try to establish a righteousness that is acceptable to God, they need to put their faith in Christ for it.  It will only be then that they’ll come to an end of trying to establish it their way.

Romans 10:4 again

4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. [Emphasis added]

Until a person comes to this “end,” there will be no salvation for them.  No personal works of righteousness will attain it.  Any works of righteousness man produces are simply not good enough because they are not perfect.  It is this divine righteousness that comes by faith that must be gained for salvation.

Romans 10:6

6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) [Emphasis added]

We’re not looking for another Savior, another Messiah, to come and be provided from Heaven.  We already have one in this Jesus of Nazareth.  The Jews rejected the teachings of Moses, the teachings of Jesus, then the teachings of Paul.  The people of Israel were given multiple opportunities to come forth with faith but refused, much like so many people do today.  I’m afraid most people don’t realize the severe consequences of such.  Here in this passage Paul first quotes the words of Moses from Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 30:10-14

10 If thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which are written in this book of the law, and if thou turn unto the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul.

11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.

12 It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?

13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?

14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. [Emphasis added]

All this adds up to the fact that these people were without excuse, just as it is today.  That verse fourteen says it all.  God never left Israel with anything to wonder about on this.  He was clear in what He required of them.  As Paul said centuries after Moses, a Man did come down from heaven and did come up from the grave to tell Israel everything that God expected of them at that time. That Man, of course, was Jesus of Nazareth.  The record of their rejection of Him during His earthly ministry is found throughout the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Jesus Christ then sent Paul to Israel during the Acts period, but they did not want to hear Paul either. This is the context of Romans chapter 10 [see verses 14-21, which is Paul describing how lost Israel refuses his preaching the Gospel of the Grace of God during the Acts period]. Israel was just as guilty of unbelief during the period of the book of Acts as she was when Moses ministered to her and when Jesus Christ Himself personally ministered to her. During the transitional period of the book of Acts, Israel could not say God had not sent anybody to them. Paul was God’s main spokesman to Israel during the Acts period, and the only way lost Jews could be saved from God’s wrath was to listen to and believe Paul’s Gospel resulting in their entrance into this which is spoken of as the Body of Christ.

Now, with all the above as background, we reach our two controversial verses.

Romans 10:9-10 again

9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Now, here’s an important question for you.  Is our gospel in those verses? Does it speak of Jesus as the God/man? Yes! Does it speak of Christ’s resurrection? Yes! But wasn’t all that known before the salvation and revelation provided for us through the apostle Paul? Yes, it was! So, what’s missing? What about the cross and what this Jesus of Nazareth accomplished there? Is there anything at all about that in Romans 10:9-10? Not one word! So, is this OUR gospel today? No, it is not! Can anyone be saved today by believing only what is mentioned in these two verses? They cannot! They must hear and believe Paul’s gospel, the rest of the story.

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Then we see in verse three the heart of our gospel.

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

This is in the writings of the prophets, but it is so veiled that no one understood it until it was later revealed and explained through the apostle Paul.  Even the twelve apostles who were closest to Him in that period were completely shocked when He was crucified.  By no means did they see His crucifixion as good news.

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]

Then we have a fuller explanation of what happened at the cross in this next passage we’ll note.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21

18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he [God the Father] hath made him [Jesus Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

Was believing this seen or known prior to Paul’s writings as what had to be believed to gain the righteousness of God for justification and resultant salvation? It was not! Even someone like the apostle Peter had to learn this from Paul.  Please note Peter’s last recorded words that need to be heeded but, for the most part, have not.

2 Peter 3:15-16

15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;

16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [STREBLOO = twist], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. [Emphasis added]

The “wresting” or twisting of this message goes on to this day.  There’s perversion everywhere you turn.

The Jews could recite their Old Testament verses from memory, just like lost “religious” people today can quote verses and yet they do not work at understanding and then believing much of what they’ve read.  It is not that important to them.  In Israel every Sabbath day, the Law of Moses and/or the Psalms and/or the Prophets would be read in the Jewish synagogues [Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14-15]. These passages are all talking about Jesus of Nazareth and Israel’s rejection of Him. They all provide testimony about Him. Let’s now look at a few passages to establish this fact.

Luke 24:44

44 And he [Jesus] said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. [Emphasis added]

Jesus told them the truth and warned them time and time again.

John 5:38-42

38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

41 I receive not honour from men.

42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. [Emphasis added]

Acts 3:18

18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. [Emphasis added]

Acts 13:27

27 For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. [Emphasis added]

Their continuous rejection of Him is sad and amazing.  Like many churchgoers today, they could quote Scripture, but knew so little of what it all meant.  And even when the truth is clearly given to them, they refuse to believe it.  Things are very much that way now in America. We have so many church buildings on prime real estate, but so little taught and explained from the Bible, particularly the Pauline epistles.

Much as it is with some in America today, Israel could recite her Old Testament Scriptures [which today includes Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John], they could verbalize them, but there was no belief in the heart. There was primarily only unbelief and disobedience.  They were “religious”, but remained unregenerate.  Things are much as noted in our Romans passage.

Romans 10:6-8

6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; [Emphasis added]

They had all the information they needed, they just needed to believe it.  They just needed to take it to heart as something believed and cherished, as we might say today.  Doesn’t the heart talk? Haven’t you ever talked to yourself in your heart about something? Sure, you have! Everyone has! And that’s what this passage is talking about.  This isn’t about “the pumper,” the literal heart that pumps blood.  This is talking about our mental heart, where we do our learning and our believing. It is speaking of our soul.  Many people do exactly what is stated in another Romans passage.

Romans 1:21

21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [Emphasis added]

This goes on in the heart of every unbeliever and even at times in believers when they should be learning for the purpose of maturing as believers.  They, too, can reject the teaching.

Likewise, the “mouth” mentioned in Romans 10:9 isn’t talking about the literal physical mouth.  The “mouth” mentioned here is the mouth of one’s soul.

Romans 10:9

9 That if thou shalt confess [or acknowledge] with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [Emphasis added]

We have an example of this sort of situation in the story of the rich man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31].  Both the rich man and Abraham had died long before, but we find them talking in this passage.  Their physical bodies are in the ground, but their souls are in the heart of the earth, and yet they have conversations [verses 24-31]. The Bible also says that the human soul, even when separated from the physical body, has ears, eyes [verse 23], fingers, a tongue [verse 24], and memory [verses 25, 28].

When it comes to salvation and more, God is far more interested in the believing of one’s heart than He is the words of one’s mouth.  It isn’t talk that saves.  It is belief in the gospel that saves!  A verbal confession is to be that which is in the heart first.  In the transitional period of the book of Acts, confession of Christ was the admission that He was not a fraud.  It was an admission that He was exactly Who He claimed to be.  We see an example of this during the earthly ministry of Christ when Peter made his verbal profession.

Matthew 16:15-17

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [Emphasis added]

Yes, this Jesus of Nazareth was far more than another prophet, let alone a false prophet.  He was the Son of God, the long-promised Messiah.  Later, Paul would explain to us what else He had provided through His death, burial, and resurrection.

Conclusion—

It was the messiahship and the resurrection of this Jesus of Nazareth that Paul preached to Israel.  This is what Peter and the eleven also preached.  They all had to accept these facts to be saved. This was even what Paul preached to Jews in the synagogues during the Acts period [Acts 13:33,37; Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5]. These two acknowledgments were key in leading a Jew to salvation during the timeframe of the book of Acts.  Of course, even now they must believe these things to be saved, but they also now must believe what Christ accomplished for all on the cross.  It was Paul’s commission to explain these things to all of us.

2 Corinthians 5:19-21 again

19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us [speaking of our commission today] the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]

But, again, please notice that there’s nothing in Romans 10:9-10 about that which was accomplished ON the cross.  Our gospel of today remained unknown to Peter and all Israel until it was revealed to and explained by the teachings of the apostle Paul.  He is here urging lost Jews to listen to Jesus Christ speaking through him now during the Acts timeframe. Years earlier, they had ignored Jesus in His earthly ministry. They are now not to disregard this same resurrected Jesus speaking to them about what He accomplished on the cross through Paul.  As our passage in Romans 10 later says, there is now no difference between a Jew or a Gentile in gaining salvation.  They now both gain it in the exact same way.

Romans 10:11-13

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  [Emphasis added]

This was mentioned earlier in this same epistle.

Romans 3:22

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [Emphasis added]

Today both Jews and Gentiles gain salvation and enter the Body of Christ the same way.  As the passage we noted says, there is no difference.

Always realize that the book of Acts is what we speak of as a transitional book.  By that I mean that there are things that went on then that are not a part of things now.  It is mainly because of all the confusion about this that we have denominationalism today.  Such will continue as long as people fail to rightly understand and apply the principle of right division.  That’s why we’re commanded to diligently pursue a clear understanding of it.

2 Timothy 2:15

15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]

Why does it matter that we have a firm, dispensational understanding of Romans 10:9-10? It is because people, although they may be sincere, have used it and are using it to mislead the lost when it comes to the means to their salvation.  The major problem with Romans 10:9-10 is that it does not mention Christ dying for our sins, which, as we noted earlier in this article, is an essential part of our gospel message. This is why passages like 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 should be used instead of Romans 10:9-10.  Still another problem is that Romans 10:9-10 is used to pressure people to get up before a congregation to make a “public profession of faith.” Such is totally unnecessary.  God knows one’s thinking completely.  The issue in gaining salvation is believing or accepting by faith what God has done to provide a way for it.  It is not in walking an aisle or making a public profession of one’s faith.  That is not taught in this passage or in any other one in the Bible.  Such is coercion, intimidation, and even bullying, but not the work of the Spirit of God.  One can be saved flat on one’s back as a deaf mute in a hospital bed or anywhere else.  The sole issue is to accept what God did through Christ to provide a way for it.  It couldn’t be simpler.  If you haven’t done that, I highly encourage you to do it now.

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