(B) Confession and Belief Are Essential to Salvation
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 [eis] justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is [eis] saved. (Rom. 10.9-10)
The apostle Paul is continuing an argument affirming that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10.4), an argument which began in Romans 1.16-17.
In this latter passage, it is the Gospel that reveals the righteousness of God, because it is the power of God to save humanity from their plight with sin (Rom. 3.23, 6.23). The Gospel message, then, is for those who will life by faith (1.17); or, as Paul says, those who live according to the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1.5, 16.26).
In Romans 10, Paul stresses the failure of the unbelieving Jew to obtain -despite their zealous disposition towards God- ”the righteousness that comes from God” (i.e. through the Gospel). Their problem was that they attempted to seek Him contrary to the revelation of righteousness (i.e. knowledge 10.2) found in Jesus Christ (10.4). This righteousness which is based on a faith stemming from the proclaimed word (10.6, 8, cf. 10.14-17), involves the ”word” being “in your mouth and in your heart.”
This latter phrase is a biblical idiom suggesting that Divine instruction is accessible to the believing person for application (cf. Deut. 30.14 quoted here by Paul).
Richard B. Hays summarizes, “the commandments of God are neither esoteric nor impossible to obey, for they have been graciously given to Israel in ‘in this book of the Law’”.
After hearing the Gospel message, and being moved by it to act, Paul says salvation is granted in the future (Grk. sozo) through the confession of, and the belief in, the redemptive working of God demonstrated by the resurrection from the dead of Jesus (10.9).
This is set in a “if A happens, then B will happen” type of argument; technically, this particular “if-then” sentence structure is known as a “third class conditional” sentence. This means that the action(s) in the “if” part (i.e. belief and confession) are done in anticipation of the future condition, blessing or goal (i.e. “you will be saved” 10.9).
Justification comes from belief, and salvation comes from confession (Rom. 10.10). Both, confession and belief are integral parts in the salvation process, for as Paul has said elsewhere (in principle) the salvation process is the same as the justification process, the sanctification process, the cleansing process (1 Cor. 6.9-11).
At this juncture, we must pose a question: which one of the two activated salvation? Should we place belief at odds with confession? Of course not, for we acknowledge that they complement one another.
The fundamental truth is that both confession and belief are actions which move a penitent person into the realm of obtaining, or being granted, redemption and righteousness.
Daniel B. Wallace, to the contrary, argues that “it is not necessary” to treat confession and belief “as bearing the same relationship to ‘you will be saved’”. Essentially, Wallace argues that Paul’s reasoning could be as follows: salvation is based upon the evidence of a confession with the mouth, but it is not the cause; instead, the cause to effect salvation is to believe in the heart.
We strongly and respectfully disagree with Wallace at this point, since it is unnecessary to make such a sharp distinction in this “if-then” argument. Regardless of natural order that “faith” would logically precede “confession”, confession and belief are “joined at the hip” of the two distinct primitive beliefs of Gospel proclamation:
- Jesus as Lord.
- The historical resurrection of Jesus through the power of God.
Accepting both is fundamental to enjoying salvation, and yet, they are complimentary propositions that must be embraced on their own merits.
Wallace’s observation seems pointless at best, if not theologically prejudiced at worst. Instead, we are compelled to argree with the words of James Denney, who made the following observation more than a century ago:
To separate the two clauses, and look for an independent meaning in each, is a mistake; a heart believing unto righteousness, and a mouth making confession unto salvation, are not really two things, but two sides of the same thing.
A.T. Robertson likewise points to the grammatical emphasis made by Paul, as heart and mouth are in “instrument case”; meaning, that the hear and mouth are the tools of the faithful providing access to salvation. This is manifestly clear in verse 10: belief in the heart, and a confession in the risen Christ are essential complimentary components in the redemptive scheme found in the pages of the New Testament.
- Richard B. Hays, 1989, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven, Ct.: Yale University Press), 1.
- Daniel B. Wallace, 1996, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan), 686.
- Archibald T. Robertson, 1931, The Epistles of Paul, volume 4 in Word Pictures of the New Testament (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman), 389.
- James Denney in volume 2 of The Expositor’s Greek Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll (New York, N. Y.: Doran, 1901), 671.
- Robertson, 1931, The Epistles of Paul, 4:389.