How is public confession related to salvation (Romans 10:9-10)?
Romans 10:9-10 states, "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." Does this mean a person must make a public confession in order to be saved?
While it may appear this is the case by only looking at these two verses, other places in the New Testament make it clear salvation is by faith, not by public confession. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." A person is saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ apart from any works, whether confession, baptism, or other good deeds.
That stated, public confession is an important part of the Christian faith. A person who confesses Jesus is Lord and believes affirms he or she is saved. Both the external action of confession and the internal belief are important for the true believer. In other words, a person can confess Jesus is Lord and not truly believe in his or her heart; but if a person both confesses publically and believes inwardly, it shows that person is truly saved.
In the early church and still today, baptism is associated with a public confession of faith. Before a person is baptized, he or she publicly declares faith in Jesus as Lord and is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. A person follows baptism with growing in the teachings of Christ and taking His message to others (Matthew 28:18-20).
In addition, Romans 10:10 notes that it is "with the heart one believes and is justified." In other words, faith or belief is what is necessary for salvation. A person then publicly confesses or gives thanks for this salvation. Verse 14 affirms this perspective when it speaks of reaching other people with the gospel: "How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?" A person comes to Christ through believing. Confession is important in sharing or communicating this good news with others so they, too, can experience new life in Christ.
Public confession of Christ as Lord was not an easy decision in the time Romans was written (and often is not today). Those who did so often faced much persecution. Jewish Christians were frequently excluded from the synagogue. The apostle Paul was beaten, arrested, and even put to death for his faith. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, lost his life as the result of his public confession of Jesus among the Jewish leaders (Acts 7:52-60). Still today, confessing Christ as Lord can evoke persecution from others. However, those who believe are called to confess Christ as Lord, knowing that the sufferings of this world do not compare to the glories that await in the next life (Philippians 3:12-16).
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