“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.” – Romans 10:9
Have you ever heard an evangelist towards the end of his altar call say something such as, “if you want to be saved tonight, repeat after me…”. At this point, they enter a prayer where depending on the denomination, they may confess sins, lay hands on you, pray for an anointing, or bind you to a covenant. If you are lucky they will present the gospel of grace, but why must someone repeat words?
Romans 10:9-10 is why most evangelists are so adamant about having listeners say a prayer out loud.
Billy Graham would explain why he asked people to come forward during his revivals. It was because of the “public confession” in Romans 10:9-10 and Matt 10:32.
Other churches who are oriented around water baptism will explain that water baptism is actually the confession required in these two passages.
The problem with all of this is that no amount of confession can bring you to salvation today in God’s dispensation of grace whether it be a prayer, walking before a crowd of people, or water baptism.
Confession Required for Israel
If an Israelite refused water baptism in Luke 7:29-30 or Mark 1:4, then they did not get remission of sins. It was required. It was not the only requirement.
Jesus declared, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 10:32-33). The consequences of not confessing was denial before God.
When Jesus asked his disciples “Whom say ye that I am?” he was addressing the crucial question of confession. If they did not confess him as the Son of God then they could not enter the kingdom. Peter answered correctly and was rewarded (Mat 16:17-19).
Other Israelites did not confess after they believed. They would not receive the blessings of the kingdom even though they believed, because of a lack of confession.
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:” – John 12:42-43
However, why is Paul, the dispenser of grace, talking about confession in the book of Romans? The answer is in the context.
One thing is clear. Confession is not an afterthought in this passage. The next verse says clearly that “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom 10:10).
He is talking about the same confession Jesus required during his earthly ministry to Israel. In fact, if we read the previous chapter and even as early as Romans 10:1-2 we can see that Paul is speaking to the same people Jesus was: his kinsmen in the flesh, Israel.
It is in the three chapters of Romans 9, 10, and 11 that Paul explains the dispensational fall of the nation Israel and who will receive the promises. In chapter 10 he is explaining why Israel “dropped the ball” and what they needed to be accepted of God.
His answer is that they should “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus”, much like Peter did in Matthew 16, and believe that God raised him from the dead, as the disciples learned in John 20.
What is conspicuously absent from the message to Israel which is here repeated by Paul is the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.
The meaning of the death and resurrection is not present and there are attached requirements. It is evidently clear from Paul’s explanation 5 chapters earlier that it is to “him that worketh not” that justification and salvation (Romans 5:9-10) are granted.
The message of salvation is made clear from God today. Spoken prayers, water baptisms, public confessions will not earn you one step closer to salvation. Instead salvation rests upon the work of Christ on the cross on your behalf as they have been confessed by the divine inspiration of Paul’s pen.
Stop trusting your display of confession and start solely trusting in the words of God’s grace towards you in Christ, the hope of glory (Rom 4:24-25, 1 Cor 15:1-4).