WHAT ABOUT ROMANS 10:9-10? MUST I AUDIBLY CONFESS “JESUS IS LORD” TO BE SAVED?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10: “ 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.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” For salvation, must one audibly confess that Jesus is Lord? Are Fundamentalists and Evangelicals correct in using this passage as a “profession of faith” proof text? Should we as Bible believers use Romans 10:9-10 in our Gospel tracts and our Gospel messages today? Let us search the Scriptures for the answers!
Undoubtedly, this study will make religious people very angry, but so what! As Romans 3:4 says, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” We are not interested in advancing church doctrine. The Bible is right, no matter whom it contradicts! Let us not grow angry with God’s Word. Let us grow angry with the religious system that deceived us about Romans 10:9-10! (I was once deceived myself about it.)
CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT!
Beloved, the most basic principle of Bible hermeneutics (interpretation) is context. From time immemorial, people have been grabbing appealing Bible verses without paying attention to the context. Cults and denominations are notorious for this. They even partially quote verses: all that is quoted is verses or phrases that fit theological systems. Verses and Bible phrases that challenge the theological system are disregarded and (hopefully) no one will study the Bible for himself or herself, to find those ignored words, and thus learn how religious tradition shafted him or her! Nothing is more tragic than misquoted Bible verses that complicate and thus hide a pure Gospel message from an unsaved audience. Many souls in hell today were “church-going people.” They heard a few verses here or there, some more than others. However, many of them heard a watered-down Gospel message. They heard salvation verses that belonged to other people in the Bible, but those verses did not belong to them in the Dispensation of Grace. One case in point is Romans 10:9-10.
Before we grab Romans 10:9-10 and apply it to ourselves, we had better first grab verse 1. Verse 1 is the context. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” What is the purpose of Romans chapter 10? Is it Gentile salvation? Certainly not (if words mean anything, of course). Romans 10:9-10, while often used as a “Gospel invitation” today, is actually not speaking to or about us at all. According to Paul, he is discussing Israel’s salvation! (Will we believe the Apostle Paul writing by the power of the Holy Ghost, or will we believe some fallible preacher?) Romans chapter 10 is actually the heart of a three-chapter passage, Romans chapters 9-11. These three chapters are the Apostle Paul’s discussion of the nation Israel—past, present, and future. (If you want Gentile salvation, Paul already talked about it in the first five chapters of Romans. Romans chapter 10 is Israeli salvation! Friend, understand that Gentile salvation was already settled in the previous chapters.)
In order to understand Romans 10:9-10, it is better if we begin reading in verse 1: “ Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  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.  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.
When the Holy Ghost moved the Apostle Paul to write the book of Romans during the Acts period, unbelieving Israel was still operating her Temple according to the Law of Moses (cf. Hebrews 8:4). Jerusalem’s Temple would not be destroyed until A.D. 70. Israel was still offering the animal sacrifices and still ignoring Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself at Calvary. Israel was still attempting to keep the Mosaic Law in her own strength. They were ignoring the 1,500-year testimony that their ancestors were unable to do it. Lost Jews were not interested in God’s righteousness (demonstrated at Calvary’s cross). Like religionists today, they were interested in proving themselves to be righteous (via the Mosaic Law, complete with the rites, rituals, and ceremonies of Judaism). They were zealous, quite passionate, but totally ignorant of what really mattered. They could not understand the Law and all of its obligations predicted and typified Jesus Christ!
Prior to Romans 10:1, Paul closed chapter 9 with these verses: “ What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.  But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.  Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;  As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”
Israel stumbled over Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry. They could not see Him through the eyes of faith. They did not believe He was God’s Son, the long-promised Messiah of the Old Testament. They were too busy focused on their own works in religion, too overwhelmed with working to establish their own righteousness. Their unbelief reached its pinnacle at Calvary, when they denied Jesus as their Messiah-King and demanded His crucifixion (John 19:15). However, Gentiles recognized who Jesus was, and through Paul’s ministry, Gentiles came to believe on Jesus as their personal Saviour and thus gain righteousness before God. Lost Jews still refused Jesus Christ, their only way to be justified (declared right) before God. Paul, in chapter 10, is trying to convert those lost Jews. (“… that I might save some of them;” Romans 11:14).
Jesus Christ “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (verse 4). Now that Jesus Christ demonstrated He alone could (and did) keep God’s laws perfectly, and that He pleased Father God at Calvary, there was no more reason for Israel to deceive herself into thinking she could merit God’s favor with her Law-keeping. The believing Gentiles understood it in Paul’s ministry. The believing Gentiles believed it in Paul’s ministry. Now, if only Paul could have the unbelieving Jews understand and believe it! (“… that I might save some of them;” Romans 11:14).
Continuing in Romans chapter 10:
“ For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.  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:)  Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)  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;”
In verse 5, Paul writes, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (quoting Leviticus 18:5; cf. Nehemiah 9:29; Ezekiel 20:11,13,21). This is the righteousness which is of the Law. A man who keeps the Law is righteous, justified before God. But, here is the important question—Does any man keep 100 percent of the law 100 percent of the time? Not at all. Friend, that is what sin is! Romans 3:19-20: “ Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
Unbelieving Israel, like so many church members today, ignored the above truth—the Law is the knowledge of sin, it shows you and I to be sinners! They still did their best in works-religion to make themselves right before and accepted of God. Paul was telling them in Romans chapter 10 that they had not submitted themselves to God’s righteousness in the Person of Jesus Christ. When one realizes that righteousness comes by Jesus Christ alone, and that righteousness is imputed (applied) to one’s account by faith in Christ alone, then that individual will no longer seek to establish his or her own righteousness by keeping the Law of Moses. This is what Paul is exhorting unbelieving Israel to understand during the Acts period! “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
Now, in verse 6 and following, we move on to “the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise [in this manner]….” In verses 6-8 of Romans chapter 10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy chapter 30. Moses’ original writing read as follow: “ 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.  For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.  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?  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?  But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”
Notice how Paul interpreted that Mosaic passage for us in verses 6-8 (Paul’s commentary is in parentheses): “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:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)”
When JEHOVAH God delivered the Mosaic Law to Israel through Moses back in Exodus, Israel was without excuse. Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:14, “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” The nation Israel knew exactly what God demanded of her. God did not leave her to wonder what He wanted her to do. As Paul commented, furthermore, 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 was Jesus Christ, His earthly ministry and resurrection (“that is, to bring Christ down from above… that is, to bring Christ again from the dead”).
Moses had been sent to instruct Israel, but they refused to listen to him. Father God had sent Jesus Christ, but Israel rejected His words as well (Matthew through John). Jesus Christ had 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 during the Acts period was just as guilty of unbelief as she was when Moses ministered to her and when Jesus Christ ministered to her. Israel during the Acts transitional period could not say God had not sent anybody to them. Paul was God’s spokesman to lost Israel during Acts, and the only way lost Jews could be saved from God’s wrath was to listen to and believe Paul’s Gospel and join the Body of Christ.
The “word” (message) was “nigh” (near to) Israel; the Old Testament’s prophecies were known in the head but not believed in the heart. The Jews could recite their Old Testament verses from memory, just like lost people today can quote all sorts of verses and yet they do not believe them. Every Sabbath day, the scrolls Law of Moses and/or the Psalms and/or the Prophets would be read in the Jewish synagogues (Luke 4:16-17; Acts 13:27; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:14). These Old Testament passages were talking about Jesus Christ. They testified of Him. Let us look at a few passages now to establish that fact.
Luke 24:44: “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.” And Acts 3:18: “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” And Acts 13:27: “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.” One more example, Jesus’ words in John chapter 5: “ Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.  For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.”
Again, the Old Testament passages were a prophetic view of Jesus Christ. However, the Jews were so preoccupied with their religious activities and their self-righteousness that they could not see that their Scriptures validated Jesus as Messiah/Christ. Israel did not have heart faith in those Scriptures.
The believing Jew would not say in his heart, “I do not know what God wants me to believe.” A believing Jew would understand exactly and believe what God expected him, whether in Moses’ day, or Christ’s earthly ministry, or Paul’s Acts ministry. The heart of faith would not object and say he or she did not know what to believe concerning God’s Word or God’s will. The heart of faith would know that Jesus Christ did come down (Matthew through John), but that Israel refused to hear. Also, the heart of faith would see that Jesus Christ did reveal to the Apostle Paul (Acts chapter 9 onward) what information all unsaved Jewish and Gentile people had to believe so as to escape Satan’s captivity. This is all Paul writing to lost Jews during Acts to make them realize just how lost they really are!
Now, with all of the above as background, we reach the controversial verses: “ 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.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Before we even comment, just re-reading the “hot topic” passage with background in mind makes it a little clearer, yes? Again, Israel could recite her Old Testament Scriptures, they could verbalize them, but there was no belief in the heart. There was nothing but unbelief and disobedience. The heart can talk—“say not in thine heart…” (verse 6). When Romans 10:9 says to confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, this is not the physical mouth. It is something done inside, said in the heart. This “heart” is not the literal physical heart that pumps blood, but rather the soul, the part of us that can believe. A muscle does not have the capacity to believe God’s Word. The “heart” of Romans 10:9 is what we use to trust God’s Word. It is the soul (cf. Romans 1:21).
Likewise, the “mouth” of Romans 10:9 is not the literal, physical, visible opening near the bottom of our literal, physical, fleshly faces. The “mouth” there is the mouth of the soul. Luke 16:19-31 says how Abraham and the rich man, both physically dead, were still talking with one another (this is the mouth of their souls). 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 and a tongue (verse 24), and memory (verses 25,28). A verbal confession is that which is believed and said in the heart first. Anyone can mindlessly parrot some words audibly without meaning what they say. God is more interested in the heart (soul) talking than the physical lips! After all, He can see down into the soul, beyond mere spoken words, to see what the person really believes instead of simply what he or she says/professes.
When the Bible says that the lost Jew during Acts is to confess the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:9), this goes back to the Old Testament, that Israel confess the name of JEHOVAH. As King Solomon was dedicating Israel’s Temple over 900 years B.C., he prayed this prayer, quoted in part (1 Kings 8:33-35): “ When thy people Israel be smitten down before the enemy, because they have sinned against thee, and shall turn again to thee, and confess thy name, and pray, and make supplication unto thee in this house:  Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again unto the land which thou gavest unto their fathers.  When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them:” (cf. 2 Chronicles 6:24-26).
Unbelieving Jews, those who found themselves facing God’s judgment, scattered amongst the nations, were to confess JEHOVAH’S name. Lost Jews had indeed experienced God’s wrath during the Acts period, the fall of their nation (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). The seven-year Tribulation and wrath at Jesus’ Second Coming were impending as well (Acts 2:15-21,33-40; Acts 3:19-23; et cetera). In relationship to Paul’s Acts transitional ministry, confessing JEHOVAH’S name meant admitting that Jesus was not a fraud or imposter (as Israel accused Jesus of being when they demanded His crucifixion). They were to admit Jesus was Messiah, or in other words, Jesus was and is JEHOVAH.
So, let us review thus far. Paul is teaching in Romans chapter 10 that if a Jew wanted to be saved during the Acts period (which was when Romans was written), then he or she had to first recognize Jesus as Messiah/Christ, the Lord, the Son of God, instead of rejecting Him as an imposter. Then, that Jew had to believe in Jesus Christ’s resurrection, which was another hang-up for the unbelieving Jews. Remember, there was a rumor that Jesus Christ had not resurrected, but rather His disciples had stolen His corpse and hidden it elsewhere (Matthew 28:11-15). Whether in Peter’s ministry or Paul’s ministry, a Jew had to believe in Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Hence, there is no burial of Christ referenced in Romans 10:9. Jesus’ burial was not controversial with Israel—it was His literal, physical, bodily resurrection!! (Now you know why the burial is mysteriously absent in this verse!)
Re-read Romans 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.” Notice Jesus’ “Messiahship” and His resurrection. This is what Paul preached to Jews in the synagogues during the Acts period (cf. Acts 13:33,37; Acts 17:3; Acts 18:5; et cetera). These two acknowledgments were key in leading a Jew to Christ during Acts.
Now to the “salvation” of Romans 10:9-10: “ 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.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
The “salvation” here is not being saved from sins and hell. We know this because “believeth unto righteousness” (justification) is a reference to being saved from sins and hell. To “confess” and “believe” unto “salvation” is actually deliverance from Israel’s apostasy and unbelief. A Jew who recognized Jesus as Lord/Messiah/JEHOVAH, who recognized that He rose from the dead, this Jew can then believe Paul’s Gospel (“Christ died for my sins, He was buried, and He was raised again” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]) and that Jew will be justified, thus being saved from Israel’s apostasy and spiritual blindness. Israel in unbelief rejected and killed Messiah Jesus years earlier. However, through Paul’s ministry and message, Israel can escape that spiritual blindness and satanic captivity. Paul is urging lost Jews to listen to Jesus Christ speaking through him now during Acts. Years earlier, they ignored Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry. They are now not to disregard Jesus speaking through Paul.
Friends, we have a few more loose ends to tie together, and then we are finished:
“ For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.  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.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?”
Verse 11 is a free quotation of Isaiah 28:16 (cf. 1 Peter 2:6), all of which are a reference to Jesus Christ. For brevity’s sake, we will forgo further commentary here.
As verse 12 says, in the Dispensation of Grace, there is no difference between Jew and Greek (Gentile). It is not saying that Gentiles are to behave like Jews (a common misconception). No, in our dispensation, a Jew is saved the same way a Gentile is. Lost Jews are to behave like Gentiles. “Even the righteousness of God which by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference” (Romans 3:22). The unbelieving Jews have to enter into God’s program via the Church the Body of Christ, just as Gentiles. Paul’s ministry during Acts was to provoke lost Jews to emulation. He wanted them to behave the same way as the Gentiles—believe Paul’s Gospel, thereby joining the Church the Body of Christ.
Romans 11:11-14 is Paul’s commentary on his ministry during the Acts period: “ I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?  For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:  If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
Paul did various strange things in Acts to provoke lost Jews to salvation into the Body of Christ. For example, he water baptized converts, he raised the dead, he cast out devils, he healed the sick, he went to the Temple to offer sacrifices, he circumcised Timothy, et cetera. You can read more about this in our study, “Could you explain Paul’s ‘Acts’ ministry?,” linked at the end of this study. Unfortunately, time and space do not permit us to comment any further here.
When Romans chapter 10 says, “ For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?,” this is really simple. Calling on the name of the Lord to be saved, Romans 10:13, is a quote from Joel 2:32, which is what a Jew is to do in Israel’s program in order to be saved from apostate Israel. Any unbelieving Jews during Paul’s ministry are to call upon the Lord; that is, seek rescue from the nation that is so wrapped up in false religion that God’s wrath is coming upon it (the Second Coming of Christ). Once a Jew believed Paul’s Gospel during Paul’s Gospel, he was to call upon the name of the Lord (notice the order in verse 14).
Friends, Romans 10:9-10 was a formula for lost Jews to be saved from Israel’s apostasy during the Acts period. Paul wrote it with Jewish salvation in mind during the transitional period. He did it to provoke lost Israelis to understand and address their spiritual dilemma. Romans 10:9-10 has nothing to do with us Gentiles or members of the Body of Christ. There are religious people who do not like that previous sentence, but that is fine. I would rather believe my Bible than them or their denomination any day! You, friend?
Why does it matter that we have a firm, dispensational understanding of Romans 10:9-10? It is because people (although sincere) have used it and are using it to mislead the lost when it comes to salvation from their sins. Faith needs an adequate basis to rest on, and Romans 10:9-10 does not make reference to Christ dying for anyone’s sins. This is why 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 should be used instead of Romans 10:9-10. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day.” That is a clear Gospel message, a message without theological gibberish, shallowness, and gospel clichés.
Unfortunately, Romans 10:9-10 is also used to pressure new Christians to get up before a congregation to make a “profession of faith,” lest they not “complete their salvation.” This too is a gross mistreatment of the passage. Unfortunately, Matthew 10:31-32 is abused likewise. “Come walk the aisle, shake the preacher’s hand, and make your profession of faith in Jesus! You do not want God to deny you in heaven one day, do you?” This is certainly not what Romans 10:9-10 is saying. That is shallow religious tradition parading as Bible doctrine. That is coercion, bullying, intimidation, not the Spirit of God but the flesh of men!
SUPPLEMENTAL: MODERN ENGLISH VERSIONS AND THEIR RESULTANT OBFUSCATION
Unfortunately, modern English “bibles” add to the confusion by re-translating Romans 10:9 so that it reads:
- AMERICAN STANDARD VERSION – “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord….”
- AMPLIFIED BIBLE – “Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord….”
- CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH VERSION – “So you will be saved, if you honestly say, “Jesus is Lord,”…”
- ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION – “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…”
- GOOD NEWS BIBLE – “If you confess that Jesus is Lord…”
- HOLMAN CHRISTIAN STANDARD BIBLE – “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”…”
- LIVING BIBLE – “For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord….”
- THE MESSAGE – “Say the welcoming word to God—”Jesus is my Master”….”
- NEW AMERICAN (CATHOLIC) BIBLE – “for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…”
- NEW AMERICAN STANDARD – “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, ….”
- NEW LIVING TRANSLATION – “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord….”
- NEW REVISED STANDARD VERSION – “because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord….”
- REVISED STANDARD VERSION – “because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord….”
Also observe how the Living Bible says, “If you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus is your Lord” (beside the Message, this is an extreme version of dynamic, or interpretative, translation). The translator has assumed the role of the teacher—this is spiritually dangerous! Notice how the Amplified Bible says, “Because if you acknowledge and confess with your lips….” “Lips” being inserted only confuses the verses. Evidently, the translators of all of the versions quoted above are also under the impression that this verse is talking about confessing with our physical lips and our physical mouths. (They may not be correct in that interpretation, but all we have is their interpretation, and not the pure Word of God with which to compare!)
In actuality, they have polluted God’s Word to teach Lordship Salvation, the damnable heresy of Calvinism, that people have to submit to Jesus’ Lordship over every detail of their lives before they can be saved unto eternal life. This is works-religion. This is not Christianity. Whenever someone says, “The modern versions still contain ‘the Gospel!,’” they evidently do not know what the Gospel is and/or they do not know what Romans 10:9-10 is talking about! No lost person can give his or her life to Christ—lost people are dead spiritually. Only a Christian gave his or her life to Christ!