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Welcome to part three of our “Re-Examined Series,” in which we are taking a closer look at some familiar passages, discovering why they may not mean what you thought they meant. Today we will examine Romans 10:10, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” This passage is often used as a prooftext for salvation being guaranteed to those who simply say a prayer of confession. Is that what Paul meant? Let’s take a closer look.

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When I hear someone talk about “confessing sin,” the first thought that comes to mind is someone – who has committed some major indiscretion – responding publicly at the end of a sermon. There is a time and place for that type of confession. However, what is even more important is the ordinary, day-to-day, informal confession of sin to one another. Sadly, I’m afraid this is almost non-existent in the lives of many Christians. And the fact that many are not confessing sin to one another should concern us in the church.

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Romans 10:9-10 Confession with the MouthRomans 10:9-10 says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (English Standard Version).

The question before us today is, are these verses to be used (as many have tried to do) as “stand-alone verses” concerning the issue of salvation? When considering this passage should the seeker of truth come to the conclusion that nothing more is required of man than belief and confession? What then shall we do with verses concerning baptism? Does this passage make all of those passages obsolete?

Let us consider some important facts:

1. All of God’s word is truth (John 17:17) and it is all “breathed out” by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, when considering a subject such as salvation we must consider what all of Scripture says about it and not one isolated verse. Consider what these verses also have to say about salvation:

Mark 16:16 (ESV) Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 16:31, 33 (ESV) And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household”…And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

1 Peter 3:21 (ESV) Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

What shall we do then? Should we throw out the passages that link salvation and baptism in favor of those which link salvation with belief? Or instead, should we accept them all and see the harmony of God’s word? I believe it is easy to see, when one takes into account the entire New Testament, that baptism is a part of what it means to come to Christ in faith.

2. Verses cannot be removed from their context within a chapter, nor can they be removed from the context within a book. The word “Law” is found over 50 times in the book of Romans, and the subject matter of the book can be summed up by passages such as Romans 3:28 (ESV), “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”

The overall context of Romans is saying that man is justified by putting his faith in Christ, not by obedience to the Old Covenant (the Law). One cannot read Romans 10:9-10 thinking that Paul is discussing, in context, whether or not someone should be baptized in order to saved. Paul is talking about whether or not man can be saved without putting his faith in Christ and confessing Christ as Lord.

Furthermore, when those in Romewere reading chapter 10 (not that it was divided into chapters at the time), we must assume that they read chapter 6 first; which says in part, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4, ESV).

3. We must see the “Big Picture” of the New Testament! The big picture of the New Testament is that salvation is in Christ! One cannot be saved without coming to Christ in faith, trusting in the efficacy of His blood, proudly proclaiming a belief in Him, turning in shame from past sins, and appealing to Him for a clean conscience by being baptized in water (1 Peter 3:21) and having His blood wash away your sins (Acts 22:16).

Every passage of Scripture within the New Testament fits within that “big picture”. Passages dealing with salvation and baptism are not contradictory to those dealing with faith, trust, and belief. And in the same way, passages dealing with faith, trust, and belief are not contradictory to passages about baptism.

I hope this has helped you in your study of this passage. Remember, I love you. God loves you. I pray God blesses you! Have a wonderful day!

In Him,

Wes McAdams