Can a person be saved without a public demonstration, such as walking down an aisle, raising their hand, standing, kneeling at an altar, or signing a commitment card? Romans 10:9–10 is often used to indicate that a "public profession" is essential to salvation. Having a clear understanding of these verses is vital.
As in all serious Bible study there are three things we always want to do:
- Study the contents of the passage. To do this, we ask, "What is in the verse or verses under consideration?" We want to be careful not to overlook anything.
- Study the context of the passage. What is the setting of the verse or verses I am studying? What is the subject? What has the writer been discussing? To whom is he speaking?
- Study all other related passages. This involves a study of the topic under consideration as it is discussed throughout the Bible.
If we are serious about knowing what the Bible teaches, we dare not be in a hurry. Rushing to a conclusion without the careful and prayerful study of the Scriptures nearly always proves to be disastrous. Folks tend to resort to hurry-up methods when preparing for a Bible class or in "working up" a sermon. Whenever we approach the Bible in that way, we are trivializing it, and will one day give an account before God for such a slipshod treatment of His holy Word. Now let's discuss Romans 10:9-10.
Considering the Contents
I have concluded that the key word in Romans 10:9 is "and".
The word "and" in this verse is a translation of the Greek word kai. Depending on the context and the author's purpose, kai may be variously translated. It has more than one use and more than one meaning in the New Testament.
Kai is usually translated "and" when it is used as a simple connective word. For instance:
All four occurrences of kai in this verse are used to connect each thought. This is the common way we use "and" in English.
Kai is also used to indicate contrast. We see it used this way in John 16:13:
A third use is seen when the intention of a passage is to emphasize something. This emphatic use is clear in 2 Corinthians 11:1:
Finally, it is important to note that kai is used at times when the Holy Spirit wants to give some additional explanation to what has just been said. When used in this way kai is generally translated "even", as in 1 Corinthians 2:10: "For the Spirit searches all things, even [kai] the deep things of God." In this instance "all things" particularly includes "the deep things of God."
Now, how does all of this apply to our verse? Simply this: I believe kai in Romans 10:9 should be translated "even" — so that it would read: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, even believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Applying this usage, "confess with your mouth" is further explained to mean "even believe in your heart."
What has brought me to this conclusion? Two things primarily (other than the actual contents of the verse): context and the testimony of all other Scripture on the same subject of salvation. I'll illustrate.
Considering the Context
The emphasis in Romans 10 is twofold: righteousness by faith in contrast to righteousness by works (especially the works of the Law), and the recognition of Jesus as Lord, that is, His deity.
Righteousness by faith
The Lordship (deity) of Christ
These were the very two things the Jews refused to do: yield to a by-faith righteousness provided by God through Messiah Jesus (see Romans 9:30–33), and recognize the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Also, in the context it is essential to notice that in Romans 10:9 Paul places confession with the mouth before believing in the heart which follows the order stated in verse 8.
But in verses 10 and following Paul gives the order of actual experience, and we see that believing comes before confession. This is verified in verses 13–15:
The "confession" in verses 9 and 10 is the "calling" in verses 13 and 14. Notice the order as we work our way backwards from verse 15 to verse 13:
How shall they preach unless they are sent? Which comes first, the preaching or the sending? The sending.
How shall they hear without a preacher? Which comes first, the hearing or the preaching? The preaching; otherwise, there is nothing to hear.
And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Which comes first, the believing or the hearing? The hearing comes first, as stated in verse 17. Without the hearing there is nothing to believe.
How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Which comes first, the calling or the believing? The believing. The mouth confesses what the heart has already believed. So, the call of verse 13 is a call to the Lord (not necessarily to people) springing from a heart that already believes.
Considering the Testimony of All Scripture
The united testimony of Scripture on salvation is that God offers salvation to the lost on one condition and only one condition — belief in Christ.
To be justified we must have God's righteousness credited to our account:
In the first five chapters of Romans, God carefully explains that salvation is by faith in Christ, plus nothing else. This agrees with 160 New Testament verses. After giving the most detailed explanation of salvation by faith found in the Bible, Paul would not then teach there is something more that must be done for one to be saved; namely, verbal confession.
There is also the further testimony of those who were genuinely saved but who did not publicly declare their faith. They were, at least for a time, secret believers.
Nicodemus is described as he who "came to Jesus by night" in all references to him in the Scriptures (John 3:1–2, 7:50, 19:39). He did not demonstrate that he had already believed in Christ until after Christ's crucifixion when he brought spices for Jesus' burial.
Joseph of Arimathea, "being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38). We must accept this testimony of God's Word as being valid.
The "many" in John 12:42:
Some declare these were not genuine believers, but who shall we believe, men or God? The verse says they "believed in Him."
So confession of Christ, though expected by God and normal for the believer, is not a condition for receiving eternal life, nor is it really the subject of Romans 10:9–10.