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Why Confess Christ? The Use and Abuse of Romans 10:9-10

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This article was printed in 1995 issue of Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society.
It is used with permission. Their website is www.faithalone.org.

I. Introduction

While it may not be in scholarly vogue, let me begin this rather theological article with a hypothetical story. Bob, a middle-aged salesman, was on a business trip in another state. Things have not been working well with his marriage. In fact, to his utter shock his wife had informed him a few hours before his flight that she was filing for divorce and leaving. The papers were in the process of being finalized. To make matters worse, after Bob arrived at his destination he discovered that his most substantial client had not responded to his business calls as expected. Bob was on the verge of losing this highly significant account.

In his motel room that evening, in a state of extreme despair, Bob remembered how his Christian friend had spoken of the unusual change that Christ had worked in his life when all else seemed hopeless. Just as Bob had suspected from the numerous times he had spent in a motel, a Gideon Bible was neatly tucked away in the drawer of his motel lampstand. Cautiously pulling it out, he searched for help from his despair. Some notes in the inside cover suggested he read the Gospel of John, chapter three.

He knew about the death and resurrection of Jesus from attending church as a young boy. He was even able to find the Book of John without great difficulty. After reading and rereading the story of Nicodemus, he placed his trust in Christ’s death and resurrection for his eternal destiny and fell asleep knowing that he had eternal life. But the stress and pressure of the emotional events of the last twenty-four hours had taken their toll. Bob suffered a massive heart attack and died in his sleep in his motel room.

In light of the often-used verses in Rom 10:9-10, this hypothetical but nevertheless real-to-life situation provokes several pragmatic questions. What seems clear is that Bob “believed in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead” (Rom 10:9 b). But, on the other hand, did he really “confess with his mouth Jesus as Lord” (Rom 10:9 a)? In fact, we must face the down-to-earth inquiry as to whether at his death Bob went to heaven.

I. Prevailing Interpretations of Romans 10:9-10

There are numerous options given to us by commentators and theologians for the Rom 10:9-10 passage to help explain what might have happened in Bob’s experience. 1) In order for salvation to be complete, the sinner must publicly confess Christ as Savior and Lord. “Believing with the heart” is insufficient in itself for eternal life.1 2) “Believing with the heart” is more-or-less synonymous with “confessing Jesus as Lord.” When the sinner believes in Christ, he is at the same moment confessing that Jesus is his Savior and Lord. To believe in Christ is to confess Christ.2 3) When one truly “believes with the heart,” he or she will eventually “confess Jesus as Lord.” This will be the evidence that genuine faith has been exercised. What takes place in the heart in faith eventually reaches the lips. True Christians publicly identify with Christ.3 In Bob’s case, only God knows whether the faith in his heart was real. If it were, Bob would have confessed Christ publicly had he not died.

Identifying the exact position of commentators is rather problematic.4 For some commentators and theologians, there is an indistinguishable blending of the options above without perspicuous logic. Many other writers vacillate between speaking of two conditions (confessing and believing) but also insist that the righteousness/justification and the salvation of 10:9-10 are interchangeable.5 Option 3 or combinations of 3 with 1 or 2 above are associated with a traditional Lordship Salvation approach to justification and new birth.6 John MacArthur argues that Rom 10:9-10 with its emphasis on the lordship of Christ is one of the “two clearest statements on the way of salvation in all of Scripture.”7 For this reason, responses given to any one of the options below may likely apply to one or both of the other two viewpoints as well.

A. Two Conditions for Eternal Life

None of these interpretations escapes serious difficulties. The first option above is rather honest with the clear-cut statement of the text. On the surface, Paul does seem to be presenting two conditions for salvation (faith and confession) and not just one. In verse 9, Paul directly states that believing and confessing are both essential for salvation. In verse 10, while believing and confessing are now set apart into two separate clauses, confession is still declared to result in salvation. The Greek word homologeo„ (“confess”) in the NT is most naturally used of public confession.8 Confession in this context cannot be as easily explained as that which takes place in the heart as a private act before God as might be implied by interpretive option 2 above. In using the term “mouth,” Paul must imply a public confession. God does not need one to “confess with the mouth” for his benefit. He can see into the heart to discern our faith, and grant us justification at the very moment of faith.

Yet the vast majority of NT passages mention faith (or believing) as the only condition for eternal life. It is a well-known fact that the Gospel of John alone uses pisteuo„ (“believe”) approximately 98 times, most to describe the response of the heart that brings eternal life. “Confessing that Jesus is Lord”9 is never mentioned in the NT as a means of gaining eternal life unless one appeals to the statement by Christ in Matt 10:32 (par Luke 12:8): “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.”10

Regarding the Matthean verse, several brief observations can be made. First, if the verse speaks of justification, new birth, or eternal life (all basically synonymous terms in the NT), Christ (and/or Matthew) is certainly unclear in his language. What Christ actually confesses when He says, “him I will also confess before My Father,” is not distinctly specified. From the text as it stands, it is just as likely that Christ will confess us to be faithful believers as it is that He will confess us to be eligible for heaven.11 Second, the Christian does not have to wait for some confession before the Father in the future to discover he or she is bound for heaven. Eternal life is a present reality able to be known firmly when we place our faith in Christ alone (1 John 5:11-13). However, in the Matthean record Christ’s confession awaits the future world. Third, the climax of Jesus’ teachings to the disciples in Matthew 10 confirms that future rewards have been in view, not eternal life (Matt 10:41-42).12

Fourth, Carson reasons that one’s eternal fate is determined by Christ’s confession before the Father. He states, “In view is his [Christ’s] special filial relationship with the Father, by which the final destiny of all humanity depends solely on his word…”13 The difficulty with this reasoning is that the parallel found in Luke 12:8-9 has Christ making the confession and denial before the angels. Yet, they have no part in determining our final destiny. Fifth, except for Judas, the disciples already possess eternal life14 and are the ones addressed in both the Matthean (10:1, 5, 16) and Lukan (12:1) passages.15 This discipleship outline was a training process involving time (cf. the reference to the pupil becoming like his teacher, vv 24-25). Serious persecution was certain (10:16-17, 22-23) and martyrdom was possible (vv 21-22, 28). Those who endured with a firm faith to the end of life will be “saved” (v 22).16 But this “salvation” must be joined with v 39 where Jesus alludes to the “saving of the life.” (Matt 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; cf. Luke 17:33; John 12:25)—a concept related to future rewards and not the gift of eternal life.17

Finally, the similarity both verbally and structurally with 2 Tim 2:11-12 must be given full weight.18 Contextually, believers are addressed, and Paul includes himself in the potential denial, “if we deny Him” (v 12b). Structurally, vv 11-12 form a chiasmus, as shown in the following outline:

A For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. (v 11b)

B If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. (v 12a)

B1 If we deny Him, He also will deny us. (v 12b)

A1 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (v 13)19

In the chiasm, A1 parallels A and B1 parallels B. Each line must be interpreted in conjunction with its counterpart. With this in mind, denying Christ is regarded as the converse of enduring (=to the end, cf. Matt 10:22).20 Carrying the parallelism farther, since the reward for endurance is reigning with Christ, then the penalty for denying Christ must be the loss of reigning together with Him. The loss of reigning with Christ, however, cannot be identical with eternal punishment for several reasons. Any thought of losing eternal life for the one who has died with Christ contradicts the promise in v 11b: one who has died with Christ will live with Him both now and in future resurrection.21

But additionally, the believer’s death with Christ (v 11b) is explicit Pauline teaching about our Spirit baptism into the body of Christ (Rom 6:1-14).22 As previously noted, A1 (v 13) is the complement to A (v 11b) in the chiasm: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (v 13). Like its counterpart in v 11b, v 13 declares the inviolability of Christ’s promise to us of eternal life. But Paul’s thought may go deeper. Since we have been joined to the very body of Christ through Spirit baptism into his death and resurrection (A), it is impossible for us to think that Christ would be unfaithful to His own body (A1)—and we are His body! He cannot and will not dismember a part of His own body. While there is a promise of our eternal protection in 2 Tim 2:11-12, there is no promise of our temporal perseverance. Eternal life is certain for the believer; discipleship and endurance are not.23

B. Faith and Confession Are Synonymous

Regarding the second interpretation that faith and confession are rather synonymous terms for the same response, nothing in the text directly implies that to “believe with the heart” is essentially the same as “confessing with the mouth that Jesus is Lord.” Those holding this view are forced to depreciate Paul’s mention of confession. Several Free Grace advocates seem to blend the two conditions of the passage by insisting that these verses merely suggest that one must come to recognize by faith that Jesus is God (deity).24

One apparent support for this interpretation could be the parallelism of verse 10.25 The statement that “with the heart one believes unto righteousness” appears to exist in parallelism with the clause “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”26 But if words mean anything, then the apostle has carefully chosen “heart” as the location of faith, but “mouth” as the place of confession. It is exegetically unwise to blur such distinctions. Since one does not believe “with the mouth,” why should we reconstruct the passage to read as if the confessing takes place “with [in] the heart”? If then, the heart and mouth are distinguishable, so is the belief and confession, and the righteousness and salvation.

Further, the two verses of Romans 10 are chiastic.27

A that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (10:9a),

B and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (10:9b).

B1 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness (10:10a),

A1 and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (10:10b).

Since this is the case, the confession of A is best paralleled with confession of A1, not with faith/belief.

C. Confession Is the Evidence and Outcome of True Faith

The third interpretive option also does not present much of a solution to the dilemmas already suggested. There are no hints in the passage that one who places faith in Christ’s resurrection will eventually confess Him as Lord.28 If such an idea is theologically correct, it must be brought from another passage to Rom 10:9-10 as a theological aid to exegesis. Paul certainly does not state such an idea in the two verses under investigation. Like the second interpretation, this exegesis subtly reverses the text to say, “if you are saved, you will confess that Jesus is Lord.” Instead Paul declares, “if you confess that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.” Hodges correctly observes, “Not only does this verse not say that confession is the result of salvation, it states instead that ‘salvation’ results from confession, while righteousness results from faith!” (italics original).29 We must honestly and directly face Paul’s assertion as it is rather than adjust it to meet our preconceptions.

What is more, the Gospel of John, written for the precise purpose of clarifying the condition for receiving eternal life (20:30-31), nowhere states that one’s eternal destiny is determined by “confessing with the mouth.” In fact, John writes the very opposite—that one can trust Christ for eternal life (and actually receive it),30 but fail to confess the Lord publicly. He writes, “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess [homologeo„] Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue…” (12:42).31 John knows of those who did not openly identify with Christ for fear of persecution and rejection, yet they had come to faith that brings eternal life.

III. An Alternative Approach to Interpretation

A. Justification by Faith in Romans

To find Paul’s meaning in Rom 10:9-10, a further investigation of the book itself is needed. In Romans, it is undeniable that Paul’s favorite term for redemption is the heavily theological word, “justification” (dikaiosune„). It is well agreed that justification for Paul is a legal or forensic term referring to the imputed righteousness the believer receives at the moment of faith. Paul has discussed justification in great detail in 3:21–5:11, climaxing his treatise with a discussion of a few of its marvelous blessings (5:1-11). Paul’s thorough treatment of justification has been completed in chapters long before he arrives at the Rom 10:9-10 argument.

In the 3:21–5:11 unit, Paul makes absolutely no mention of “confessing Jesus as Lord” in order to receive justification. In these early chapters, the apostle has repeatedly stressed the need for faith alone, just as the Reformers had discovered. It seems rather strange that in chapter 10 Paul would add to justification by faith the need for “confession” —a concept he completely excluded in the early chapters of his epistle. In fact, Paul never mentions confession as a requirement for justification in any of his other epistles.32

Practically speaking but theologically accurate, justification means “to be declared as righteous as Christ is righteous.” If one is as righteous as Christ, it might be asked what more is needed for eternal life? The answer should be evident: nothing more is needed to get to heaven than to be justified in the sight of God (Rom 3:20; 4:2). This is why Paul combines the two concepts in his phrase, “justification of life” in 5:18.33 For Paul and his epistle to the Romans, there is nothing more needed to get to heaven than to be justified by faith in Christ alone. But nothing in Rom 10:9-10 contradicts this. Romans 10:10a reads, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified…” (italics added, NIV).34 In chapter 10, Paul is in perfect harmony with his own teaching in the other parts of his epistle.

As already implied, objections may be raised against forming a strict identity between “justification” and “salvation” in 10:9-10. But this identity is neither necessary nor ideal. What is transparent from the passage is that faith and confession take place in different locations. With a two-fold repetition (vv 9-10), Paul confirms that confession is with (in) the mouth, but belief is with (in) the heart. Just as the mouth and the heart are two separate locations that should not be identified, belief and confession are also two separate responses that should not be confused.

B. “Salvation” in the Book of Romans

Solutions for understanding Rom 10:9-10 may be found by reassessing various assumptions brought to the text. These assumptions are compounded by the over familiarity of the verses. The first assumption that needs to be set aside is the identification of “salvation” with justification in Romans. A study of the term “salvation” (so„te„ria) and “save” (so„zo„) in Romans corroborates the impression that Paul does not necessarily equate the two.35 One only needs to read Rom 13:11 where the apostle comments, “for now our salvation [so„te„ria] is nearer than when we first believed.” According to this verse, Paul can speak of a “salvation” that does not come to us at the moment of faith, i.e., when we are justified. In one sense, then, it is fully appropriate in Romans (at least in 13:11) to say that a believer is justified in Christ, but not yet “saved.” So then, Paul is certainly capable of using the Greek words so„te„ria (“salvation”) and so„zo„ (“save”) of something other than justification. Evangelical Christians recognize this “salvation” by the term “glorification.”

It is common in many Christian circles to speak of the “tenses” of salvation as a way of helping us to understand three uses of the terms “salvation” and “save” in Scripture. The “past tense” of salvation speaks of our deliverance from the penalty of sin. The “present tense” of salvation is our deliverance from the power of sin. And the “future tense” of salvation is our deliverance from the presence of sin. Romans 13:11 can be easily identified as the future tense of salvation.36 From the perspective of Romans, it may be beneficial to conceive of salvation in each context as a victory over the power of sin. Sometimes it refers to a positional victory over its enslavement, sometimes a present experience of victory over sin’s power, and finally the complete victory over every aspect of its power at the resurrection.

1. Romans 1:16

The first use of “salvation” (so„te„ria) in Romans appears in 1:16 in what is generally agreed to be the first of two thematic verses for the book (vv 16-17).37 Once again, our familiarity with the verse colors our objectivity. The apostle declares that he does not shy away from publicly proclaiming the gospel because he knows that it is God’s power for deliverance (“salvation”) for those who have faith.38 What is that deliverance? Since “salvation” in 1:16 is juxtaposed to the “wrath of God” in 1:18, it is fully appropriate to view the deliverance of v 16 as a deliverance from the divine wrath of v 18. On closer inspection, however, we discover that the wrath of 1:18 is not eternal damnation or hell, but a contemporary wrath being revealed (or inflicted) at the present time.39 Paul intentionally uses a progressive present tense when he states, “The wrath of God is being revealed” (italics added, NIV) on those who “suppress the truth.” Three times in the following context (1:24, 26, 28) he defines the wrath with the phrase, “God gave them up” (paradidomi)40 i.e., He no longer restrained them from deeper and deeper enslavement to sin.41

By using the term “gospel” in Rom 1:16, Paul is not limiting his thoughts to those central truths by which a person is given eternal life. For Paul, his gospel included such matters as justification by faith (3-5), sanctification through the Spirit (6-8), and God’s future for Israel (9-11). In fact, the gospel gathers together all the truths that are found in Romans.42 Therefore, we can conclude that in Rom 1:16, Paul is expressing his confidence that the truths of justification, sanctification, and even glorification provide God’s power to deliver us from enslavement and bondage to sin.

2. Romans 5:10-11

After Rom 1:16, Paul does not refer to “salvation” again until 5:10-11. An observation that is rarely detected is that Paul has deliberately avoided using “salvation” (so„te„ria) and “save” (so„zo„) in his entire discussion about justification by faith in 3:21–4:25! At the climax of his discussion on the wonderful benefits of justification (5:1-11), Paul again refers to “salvation,” distinguishing it from justification. “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” While justification is a past event for the believer, Paul places salvation into the future.43 We should note that this salvation is stated to be a salvation from wrath (5:9). Bringing forward the meaning of wrath in 1:18, the “saved from wrath” 44 in 5:10 is best interpreted to be a deliverance from God’s earthly displeasure against sin and the resulting human bondage to sin.45 One should carefully note Paul’s wording, for he affirms that our justification requires the death of Christ, but our deliverance from slavery to sin requires the resurrected life of Christ.46

3. Romans 8:24

As chapters 6-8 unfold, Paul reveals that our baptism by the Spirit has joined us with the death and resurrection of Christ (6:2-5). God’s design was that we should no longer be slaves to sin (6:6). Christians are promised a bodily resurrection (5:2; 6:8; 8:23, 30). But when 6:4 uses a subjunctive verb in its statement, “even so we also should walk in newness of life” (italics added), the challenge is set before us to exercise faith and live out a “resurrection” now! For this to become reality, the power of Christ’s resurrected life must work through us. He is the powerful Son of God by virtue of His resurrection from the dead, a resurrection that was according to the Spirit whose character is holiness (1:4).47 His gospel is also powerful through the same Spirit to work this freedom in our lives (1:16). But for freedom to be experienced, it is crucial that we consider ourselves as dead to sin, but also spiritually resurrected and alive to God (6:11).48

The problem in experiencing this freedom arises from the fact that we live in a dead, mortal body that drags us into sin. While we are new on the inside, we are old on the outside. But in faith, we believe in a God of resurrection who can bring life to a dead body in the future resurrection. But if we believe that, we can also believe Him to produce the qualities of (eternal) life in our dead bodies in the present (4:17, 19-21; 6:12-13; 7:24). The law is powerless to work this life and freedom in me (8:2-3),49 but the Spirit can (8:4). Reality for the believer is that “the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (8:10). Paul continues in 8:11 by using a double reference to the power of God available through the resurrection of Christ. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

Of course, deliverance from bondage to sin is available for the believer positionally at the moment of justification. But as we walk by the power of the Spirit (8:1, MajT; 8:4) or “live according to the Spirit” (8:5), a victorious freedom is reached rather than sin and condemnation (8:1). Total freedom from bondage to sin can never be reached in this life (i.e., sinlessness). Our complete deliverance awaits the time when even the creation itself is released from its bondage to corruption (8:21-22). Like the creation groans over its bondage, we too groan while we wait for a resurrected body that will replace this mortal, sinful one (8:23).

At this point (8:24), Paul reintroduces the word “saved” again. It appears here in the aorist tense for the first and only time.50 But the word is combined with a prepositional phrase and reads, “we were saved in this hope.” Adding the phrase, “in this hope,” throws the thought into the future again. Given the focus of the context on our future resurrection, it seems safe to conclude that Paul is thinking of our positional deliverance from bondage to sin (cf. 6:7) in this mortal body made possible by Spirit baptism. Although it is conceivable to think of the word “saved” in 8:24 as justification, there is nothing that forces that on us from the verse.

4. Romans 9–11

Romans 9–11 comprises a well-known unit focusing on Israel’s present and future relationship to the Lord. The final references to “salvation” in Romans occur in these chapters. Most of these references have the deliverance of Israel in view (9:27; 10:1; 11:14, 26). Besides Rom 10:9, 10, 13 (which are universal in scope according to 10:11-12), only Rom 11:11 speaks of the salvation of the Gentiles. In the case of 11:11, one could legitimately reason that Paul thinks of the justification by faith that has come to the Gentiles. On the other hand, justification without sanctification would not provoke Israel to jealousy (“to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles” v 11b).51 Gentile Christians have escaped the wrath of God on them as delineated in Rom 1:18-32. Through obedience to the Spirit, “the righteous requirements of the law” are now being fulfilled in Gentiles (Rom 8:4).

The first and last of these references in Romans 9–11 (9:27; 11:26) are contained within OT quotes. In each case, Israel’s deliverance from its enemies and its preservation as a nation are the primary meanings of “salvation.” Beyond this, since each quotation has the Second Coming of Christ as its background, one needs to keep in mind that the introduction of the millennial kingdom will bring a reign of righteousness by Jesus Christ’s personal presence as King. Satan will be bound so that his deceptions will not prevent the reign of righteousness (Rev 20:2-3). All rebels will be purged from the nation (Ezek 20:37-38; Matt 25:1-30; Mal 3:2-3, 5), which the Messiah will accomplish when He comes out of Zion (cf. Isa 59:20-21; Matt 23:37-39; Acts 15:16). This means that there will be no Jewish unbelievers in the millennial kingdom.52“The Second Coming of Christ referred to in Rom 11:26 confirms the OT predictions that Christ will deliver Israel from her persecutors and bring great spiritual revival to His ancient people.”53 For Walvoord, this includes “deliverance from persecution and threatened martyrdom.”54 When “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26), not only will sins be forgiven but the “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (italics added, 11:26). All idolatry will cease (Isa 30:21-22), and Jews will readily claim in public Yahweh as their God (Isa 44:4-5) because the Spirit will be poured out in a unique way (Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28-32). Devotion to the Lord will be consistent and extensive (Jer 24:7; 50:19-20; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:25-27; Hos 4:4-8; Zeph 3:9-13). This revival of Israel is nothing short of a “resurrection” since Israel’s future acceptance with God will be considered to be “life from the dead” (11:15). Again, Paul implies that salvation stretches beyond justification in its range of meaning for Romans.

III. Salvation in Romans 10:9-10

Contextually, the salvation in Rom 10:9-10 is picked up in the word “save” (so„zo„) in v 13 where a quotation from Joel 2:32 is given: “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” It is important to note that in verse 10b to confess with one’s mouth brings salvation, but in verse 13 to call on the name of the Lord brings salvation. The logical conclusion is that a similarity or equation exists between confessing with the mouth and calling on the name of the Lord. A closer look at the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” may yield more insights into the nature of confession in this context.

A. Calling on the Lord in Romans 10

Certain parameters can be established by examining Paul’s use of “calling on the name of the Lord” in Romans 10. Romans 10:14a is the most helpful controlling verse: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?” It is surprising how often this text is ignored or left unexamined. The remaining three questions (10:14b-15a) all demand a negative answer:55 1) “And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (v 14b); 2) “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (v 14c); 3) “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (v 15). In each case, the implied answer is, “They cannot!” Therefore, Paul’s answer to his first question is simple. A person cannot call on the name of the One in whom he has not yet believed. For Paul, calling on the name of the Lord can only be done by one who is already justified by faith in Christ.56 So the order working backward is as follows: a preacher is sent, then the preaching takes place; people hear and some believe. Those who believe can then call on the name of the Lord.57

B. Calling on the Lord in the Old Testament

The term “calling on the name of the Lord,” is a frequent OT phrase.58 There appears to be no uses of the term by those who are not already OT believers. The first use of the term confirms this fact, since at the birth of Enosh “men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Gen 4:26). This was not, of course, the initial point in the OT at which people were able to receive justification by faith. Abel, for example, sacrificed in faith according to Heb 11:4. But it was at the birth of Enosh that believers began to invoke God’s help in open worship. This element of worship is all the more evident in the life of Abraham when he built an altar so that he could call on the name of the Lord (Gen 12:8; 13:4; 26:25). Similarly, Elijah defied the false prophets at Mt. Carmel. “Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD…” (1 Kgs 18:24a; cf. 18:25-27). They “called on the name of Baal” to no avail. Elijah appealed to God for help against his enemies and God answered.

The Psalms are also replete with the concept of calling on the Lord (Ps 14:4; 18:3; 31:17; 50:15; 53:4; 79:6; 138:3; 141:1; 145:18). Frequently, the phrase appears in the context of salvation from troubles and from enemies.59 The psalmist in Ps 80:18 implies that God must first revive the heart before calling on God’s name is possible.60 In a similar fashion, once God had bestowed his blessings on the OT believer, calling on the Lord was a natural response (Ps 116:2).61 Worship is also a part of the concept in Psalms (in context, Ps 99:6, 105:1; 116:17, etc.) as was the case with Abraham and Enosh.62 The prophets also speak of Israel calling on Yahweh in despair and need (Is 55:6; 64:7; Jer 29:12). Prophetically, Zephaniah predicts in the end times, Israel will be revived by Yahweh. At that time, they will call on the name of the Lord.63 So too, Zechariah sees Israel calling on the Lord as a result of their future spiritual refinement.64

B. Calling on the Lord in the New Testament

Hodges65 and Dillow66 have reviewed the NT references to “calling on the name of the Lord” quite adequately, and their research does not need to be duplicated here. A summary of their findings will be sufficient. 1) To call on the name of the Lord in the NT implies a request for divine aid in a time of need.67 2) The Greek word for “call on” (epikaleo„) is often used in legal settings, and comes to mean in those contexts, “to appeal to” (Acts 25:11-12, 21, 25). Paul used the identical term in Acts 25:11 when he replied to Festus, “I appeal to Caesar.”68 The impression of all these references is that the Christian has the legal right to appeal to his resurrected and ascended Lord to come to his aid, just as Paul appealed to Caesar as his earthly legal “lord.” 3) The phrase is regularly employed of those who gathered in public worship of the Savior (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tim 2:22).69 4) The disciples who gathered together in the Book of Acts are designated as those who “call on the name of the Lord.” Saul traveled to Damascus for the very purpose of destroying those who publicly declared Jesus as Lord (Acts 9:13-14, 21).70 5) In summary, as believers gathered together for public worship and by faith invoked God’s help in their trials, they were “calling on the name of the Lord” and thereby confessing Christ’s Lordship.

B. The “Salvation” of Romans 10:9-10

1. The Preceding Context

In Rom 10:1, Paul mentions his desire for Israel’s “salvation.” To limit Paul’s purview to justification by faith of individual Jews is to neglect Paul’s introduction of the OT doctrine of the remnant in the immediately preceding verses (Isa 28:16 cited in Rom 9:27-29), and to overlook the corporate nature of Paul’s concern for their national deliverance (Rom 11:26-27). The mention of salvation in Rom 10:1 also recalls the thematic statement of 1:16.71 Dillow writes concerning 10:1, “The salvation in view is not deliverance from hell but the fulfillment of the promise to Israel that she would one day be restored to Palestine.”72 Later, he writes, “We conclude then that being ‘saved’ in v. 1 refers to God’s promise of divine aid to His people in time. It is His provision for victory over their enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.”73

The Jews had a zeal for God, but a misdirected zeal (10:2-3). They sought to establish a righteousness that had its source in outward works of the law rather than a righteousness that starts and proceeds from faith (1:17). Israel’s great mistake was to make sanctifying righteousness (produced by the works of the law arising from faith) into justifying righteousness done by works (or by works and faith). They transformed the law that was intended for their sanctification into the means of their justification. Sanctifying righteousness (relative righteousness) can never be produced unless one first receives the gift of God’s justifying righteousness (absolute righteousness).74 Since Israel would not submit to God’s justification righteousness that comes by faith, they failed to attain either justification or sanctification righteousness. This line of thought lends helpful understanding to Paul’s theme in Romans 10.

The law never was a means of righteousness for justification. Paul made that abundantly clear in Romans 4 and his treatment of Abraham. Israel was under the law for sanctification with the assumption that first God’s justifying righteousness would be obtained by faith.75 Moses promised “life” for “doing” the law (10:5).76 Works were essential to this blessing. But God had always intended for His commandments to be done by faith with His divine help! With the coming of Christ, He Himself “is the end [telos] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4).77 Now through faith in Him, the law has come to an end for any form of righteousness. The NT believer is no longer under the Mosaic Law (6:14; 7:4, 6, 8; 2 Cor 3:6-7) even for sanctification.78 By setting aside the law for sanctification (its original purpose), God has struck a final blow to the Jewish misconception that the law could be a means of justification.

2. The Use of Deuteronomy 30

In contrast to the works of the law for any kind of righteousness, Paul demonstrates in 10:6-8 by a quotation from Deuteronomy 3079 how Israel should have listened to the exhortation of Scripture that pointed her to the need for divine help issuing from faith. 80 Romans 10:9-10 is in reality a further interpretation of the truth Paul finds in Deut 30:12-14, namely that the righteousness that comes from faith is available to all, and so is the divine help (salvation) that can follow justification. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 reads,

For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious [difficult, NASV, NIV] for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.

The context of the Deuteronomy passage is the speech Moses gave to Israel as they were about to enter the land of Canaan. Moses warned the people against rebellion and predicted that in their disobedience they would be scattered far beyond their own borders and relocated in many nations as a result of God’s judgment of them. But one day (at the Second Coming of Christ) God would bring them back to Himself, circumcise their hearts to be fully devoted to Him (the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31), restore them from their captivity, and bring them into the land to possess it (30:1-11).81 Nevertheless, Israel at the present time should not complain that God’s revelation was so difficult it could not be obeyed or so unclear that more revelation was needed before it could be believed.82 They must not think that someone should go up to heaven or cross to the other side of the sea to bring back divine truth and make the people able to obey it. Revealed truth was not distant, but as close as faith in the heart. That which was not revealed belonged to God alone, but what was revealed was given to be believed and obeyed.83 Divine help was also ready at hand. If Israel would only turn to their Lord for help He would assist them in obedience. This help was as near as calling on the Lord, invoking His help with their mouth. In Paul’s interpretation of Deuteronomy, Christ is God’s present revealed truth given to all people in the gospel. Justification through faith in the heart and divine help for obedience to Christ (sanctification) are readily available to all, not just the Jew. Gentiles too can believe in the Lord Jesus and call on Him for help of all kinds. After all, Christ is rich to all that call on Him for deliverance. But first, one must believe in Him before he can call on Him.

One should observe that three times, once in each verse of Deut 30:12-14, the passage adds that Israel must “do” the requirements of the revealed will of God in the law. Paul does not include this phrase in his citation of Deuteronomy 30 but this must be in his thinking.84 Otherwise, Paul has taken an OT passage that distinctly speaks of obedience to the law and finds in it a principle of faith alone, apart from obedience to the law. This would involve a gross aberration of the original context of Deuteronomy 30. What Paul finds in Deuteronomy 30 is that faith for justification is the supreme prerequisite of calling on the name of the Lord and must precede any confession with the mouth.85 Calling on the name of the Lord can be done only by one who has first experienced the righteousness that comes from faith (10:6). So faith is the first and foremost response to God’s revealed truth. Therefore, Paul can also summarize both faith in the heart and confession with the mouth with the phrase, “the word [Greek, rhe„ma]86 of faith which we preach” (10:8).87

The “word is near” in the sense that when the listener expresses faith in Christ in his heart, Christ will draw near in giving him righteousness (i.e., justification). Once a person is justified before God, Christ can also be near to them for deliverance when they publicly confess He is Lord and call on His name. This is the meaning of the phrase, “The word is near you, in your mouth.” The author of Deuteronomy has led the way to this impression with the only other reference in the Book to the nearness of God: “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?” (italics added; Deut 4:7, NASB).88

3. The Meaning of Romans 10:9-10

The “saved” in 10:9-10 is directed to those who are already justified believers.89 If this is the case, what then is the salvation? To begin with, one should understand that exegetically the nature of the deliverance is not to be found in the related Greek words (so„te„ria and so„zo„) themselves. A vast number of scholars assume these words speak of a final deliverance from hell.90 However, the nature of the “deliverance” must be discovered from the immediate context and/or the thematic development of the book.

In the Romans 10 context, Hodges feels the salvation under discussion is a broad concept, embracing God’s generous provisions and aid for the believer in any and every circumstance of daily life. The Lord is defender, provider, sustainer, and savior in all the problems and difficulties of life. Hodges finds support for a broad perspective of the “salvation” of Rom 10:9-10 in the statement of v 12 that the Lord “is rich to all who call upon Him.” Any believer who will invoke the help of the Lord will find a wealth of succor in store.91 It encompasses “the whole range of spiritual and personal deliverance which a risen Lord is able to bestow on those who call upon Him for it.”92 In other words, the “salvation” of Rom 10:9-10 borders on what we generally call sanctification rather than what we identify as justification.93 So then, the confession in 10:9-10 cannot be an isolated admission.94

“It follows from this that the confession Paul calls for here is not merely telling my neighbor or close friend about my conversion. It is much more than that. It is my public identification as a member of that circle of people who “call on the name of the Lord.” Indeed, to call on Him like this in public prayer is nothing less than a confession with my mouth that “Jesus is Lord.” My whole experience of Christian victory and deliverance depends on my willingness to do this.”95

4. Application to Israel

Paul is accomplishing several purposes in Romans 10. First, he is continuing to explain why Israel has failed to come to faith in Christ and gain the salvation that is available to them according to OT promises. Second, Paul is defending his gospel and the motive for preaching it particularly against the background of Jewish rejection of the gospel. Paul’s message is applicable to Gentiles as well as Jews, since even the OT sanctioned faith for justification and the subsequent confession of Christ, the New Revelation of God. After the proofs of the universality of the gospel for both Jew and Gentile, Paul defends his missionary policy. If the gospel is available to all without distinction (vv 11-13), then it must be preached to all without distinction (14-17). Part of Paul’s purpose in citing Deut 30:12-14 is to show that God’s help is not restricted to Israel in the same way that righteousness by faith is not restricted to Israel either. Romans 10:9-10 are transitional with vv 11-13 as a climax to this perspective.96

While Paul argues that his gospel opens the door for Gentiles, it is evident that Paul still has Israel in mind. His regular citations from the OT show this to be true. According to 1:18, the wrath of God is being revealed against all those “who suppress the truth” in their ungodliness. While Paul directly applies this concept to the Gentiles in chapter one, he also charges the moralist and Jew with practicing the very same things (2:1). The Jews, perhaps more than any other group, have continued to “suppress the truth” about the Lordship of Jesus. As a result, a spiritual hardening or unresponsiveness has come on the nation during the church age (11:7, 25). For the Lord to return and rescue them at his Second Coming, the Jews will need not only to place their faith in Jesus as Messiah. They will also need to “call on the Lord” for this deliverance (salvation). Jesus had told the Jews, “you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’” (Matt 23:39, italics added). In Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the Jews had in unbelief shouted out this messianic text from Psalm 118 (Matt 21:9). Now Christ demanded that for His return, Israel will need to confess it out of faith so that He might return to deliver them from their enemies and restore them to the land (cf. Deut 30:1-10).

IV. Conclusion

For many Christians Rom 10:9-10 is a favorite series of verses for evangelism. Generally, these verses are cited in order to emphasize the need for faith. Often, the statements about confessing Christ for salvation have been slighted or neglected when the verses have been used in an evangelistic presentation. This may be because Christians have been confused about the meaning of confession for salvation in the passage. Yet God has been pleased to use these verses in evangelism precisely because they help clarify the truth that justification is by faith alone. After all, Rom 10:10a states, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified” (NIV). But whenever Christians have stressed the need for an unbeliever to confess Christ publicly in order to get to heaven, the truth of the free gift of eternal life has been abused.

The practical lesson of this passage is this: Publicly identifying with Christ has a cleansing and sanctifying effect on our lives. If nothing else, openly confessing Christ makes the Christian conscious of his lifestyle. He now knows that non-Christians will quickly respond to his inconsistencies and compromises with, ‘I thought you said you were a Christian?” Inevitably, the vocal Christian becomes careful to live godly because he or she never wants a non-Christian friend to confront him with hypocrisy. The world is certainly watching Christians. But it is watching Christians who can be identified as such. I can be a secret Christian, but I can never be a victorious, secret Christian. One vital principle for victorious Christian living is the public, vocal, regular identification with the Lordship of Jesus.


1 “The two requisites for salvation mentioned in this verse are confession and faith.” Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1947), 341. “That is, in order to salvation [sic], we must not only secretly believe, but also openly acknowledge that Jesus is our prophet, priest, and king.” Ibid., 343. Sanday and Headlam link confession to baptism, so their perspective seems best taken as favoring two actions for salvation. “What is demanded of a Christian is the outward confession and the inward belief in Him, and these sum up the conditions necessary for salvation.” William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1902), 290. Seemingly in agreement, William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, revised ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), 139. “This second part goes with the first, so that (in one sense) it is as necessary to confess Christ as Lord and Savior as it is to believe on him.” James Montgomery Boice, Romans 9–11 (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993), 3:1209. “These are the two conditions of salvation.” F. Godet, Commentary to the Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1956), 383.

2 Ironside holds this interpretation: “The confession here is not, of course, the same thing as where our Lord says, ‘Whoever shall confess Me before men…’ This is rather the soul’s confession to God Himself that he takes Jesus as Lord” (italics added). H. A. Ironside, Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc., 1928), 131. Others come close to this viewpoint. “To confess Christ as Lord and to believe in his resurrection are not two different things; they are basically one and the same.” Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1949), 383. Cf. also Moo: “Paul’s rhetorical purpose at this point should make us cautious about finding great significance in the reference to confession here, as if Paul were making oral confession a second requirement for salvation. Belief in the heart is clearly the crucial requirement, as Paul makes clear even in this context (9:30; 10:4, 11).” Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996), 657.

3John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), 55-57; William B. T. Shedd, A Critical and Doctrinal Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans (Minneapolis: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1978), 318-19; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998), 609.

4 Those authors listed as holding to a particular view above may be placed under another option, depending on which statement from their commentary is stressed.

5 Cf. James D.G. Dunn, Romans 9–16, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 38b: 609.

6 “One passage of Scripture used probably more than any other in support of lordship salvation is Romans 10:9.” Livingston Blauvelt Jr., “Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?” Bibliotheca Sacra, 143 (Jan 1986): 39. At Rom 10:9-10, Boice (Romans 9–11, 3:1197–1204) takes eight pages to discuss what he calls the “Dallas doctrine” (which is given this label because of the prominence of a Free Grace teaching at Dallas Seminary, beginning with Lewis Sperry Chafer, its founder).

7 John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says, ‘Follow Me’? revised and expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 34. Given MacArthur’s viewpoint on Rom 10:9-10, it is hard to understand why so little exegetical discussion is devoted to these verses. Even in his sequel to The Gospel According to Jesus (Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles [Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993]), which treats Romans at length (much of pp 87–138), the verses are only mentioned in passing (25, 206, 210).

8 The words homologeo„ and exomologeo„ commonly imply public expression. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, ed. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida(New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), §33.221, 274, 275. Several verses using homologeo„ confirm that a public viewpoint is mostly in mind: 1 Tim 6:12, “…and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses”; Acts 23:8 “For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection…; but the Pharisees confess both”; Matt. 10:32 “‘Therefore whoever confesses Me before men…’” [All italics added]. 1 John 1:9 appears to be one exception, since the confession of our sins is directed to God. Most commentators affirm a public confession in Rom 10:9-10: Dunn, Romans 9–16, 607; Sanday and Headlam, Romans, 290; Moo, Romans, 657; Schreiner, Romans, 607.

9 According to Wallace, the Greek structure favors a definite use of the anarthrous kurios meaning, “Jesus is the Lord.” That is, Jesus is the Yahweh of the OT as is evident from the quotations Paul cites, such as Rom 10:13, “For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD (Gk., kurios) shall be saved.’” Wallace also concludes that the grammar points to an object-complement construction for the double accusative (“confess that Jesus is the Lord”) rather than a single object with “Lord” being in apposition to “Jesus” (NKJV, KJV, “confess…the Lord Jesus.”). This is attested by similar constructions in confession passages (1 Cor 8:5; 12:3; Phil 2:11). Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 188.

10 Only a very few references could even be made to imply that confessing Christ publicly was essential to the reception of eternal life (John 12:42; 1 Tim 6:12; 1 John 2:23; 4:2-3, 15; 2 John 1:7). John 12:42 will be discussed below. The word itself is only used 23 times in the NT.

11 Cf. R. Larry Moyer, Free and Clear: Understanding and Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997), 267, who suggests several possible ways in which the Son confesses us before the Father for future reward: 1) He may grant us honor in the kingdom (John 12:26); 2) He may grant us a position of service or responsibility in the kingdom (Luke 19:17, 19).

12 These verses contain three of Matthew’s ten uses of the word misthos (“reward”), a NT word for “wage, pay,” implying works. This cannot be the free gift of eternal life. Note this obvious nuance of the word in Matt 20:8.

13 D. A. Carson, “Matthew,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 8:490. Cf. also Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1993), 33a: 289.

14 According to John 2:11, the disciples had believed in Christ. For the Gospel of John, eternal life is the immediate possession of all who believe in Jesus (3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 20:31). One needs to remember that the incident of the wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11) was one of the earliest events in the ministry of Christ.

15 It is true that the word “whoever” broadens the application of the warning by Jesus as Hagner (Matthew 1–13, 289) suggests. Nevertheless the warning must first be understood in light of the original hearers.

16 Dillow is accurate to interpret this “salvation” (in the parallel verse, Matt 24:13) as the privilege of joining the Messiah in his messianic reign. Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of Servant Kings: A Study of Eternal Security and the Final Significance of Man (Hayesville, NC: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992), 127, 384.

17 For further study on this phrase besides Dillow (previous note), see Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1985), 28-33.

18 Structurally, Matt 10:32-33 has an ABAB (Carson, “Matthew,” 255) pattern while 2 Tim 2:11-12 is chiastic (ABBA pattern). Hagner relates Matt 10:32 with both 2 Tim 2:11-12 and Rom 10:9-10. Hagner, Matthew 1–13, 288.

19 A chiastic structure seems all the more relevant in light of the fact that the unit is one of the “faithful sayings” in the pastoral epistles (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim 2:11; Titus 3:8) as well as the fact that each line begins with a condition “if.”

20 There is absolutely nothing to suggest that anyone but believers are in view when Paul speaks of denying Christ. Briefly, 1) Paul includes himself: “If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (italics added). 2) Peter, as a believer, denied Christ. 3) First Timothy 5:8 is a touchstone: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” One cannot be an unbeliever and be worse than an unbeliever at the same time! Cf. Knight, without exegetical warrant, finds professing believers who deny Christ in 12b, and slightly unfaithful believers to whom Jesus is faithful in v 13. George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 405.

21 Some needlessly restrict the thought of living with Christ to the present rather than the present and future. Ralph Earle, “2 Timothy,” 1, 2 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus, Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 175; Knight, Pastoral Epistles, 404. To “live with Christ” is a function of eternal life. Although including our present experience the phrase, “live with Christ,” cannot be limited to the present (cf. 1 Thess 5:10). If only the present was in view, one might expect verbs that are both aorist, rather than an aorist and a future. In English, this would read: “If we have died with Him, then we have come to life (not, will live) with Him.”

22 Note in particular Rom 6:8 and its similarity to 2 Tim 2:12: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”

23 A valuable study of the passage in more depth can be found in Brad McCoy, “Secure Yet Scrutinized—2 Timothy 2:11-13,” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 1 (Autumn 1988): 21-33.

24 Blauvelt Jr., “Does the Bible Teach Lordship Salvation?” 39-41; Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1989), 70-73; Everett F. Harrison, “Matthew,” Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), 112;J. Ronald Blue, “Go, Missions,” Bibliotheca Sacra 141 (October–December 1984): 347-49.

25 Nygren, Romans, 384; Rudolf Bultmann, TDNT, 6:209.

26 “No special point should be made in verse 10 over the dual use of ‘heart…righteousness,’ with ‘mouth…salvation.’ Alan F. Johnson, The Freedom Letter (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 151. To the contrary, Godet writes, “Paul, in expressing himself thus, is not swayed as DeWitte believes, by the love of parallelism. There is in his eyes a real distinction to be made between being justified and being saved” (italics original). Godet, Romans, 383.

27 James R. Edwards, Romans. New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1992), 254.

28 Everyone who takes this position must also admit that the confession in Rom 10:9-10 is therefore done by a believer, not an unbeliever. This is exactly what will be stressed in the following pages of this article.

29 Zane C. Hodges, Absolutely Free: A Biblical Reply to Lordship Salvation (Dallas: Redención Viva, 1989), 197.

30Despite some theologies that are forced to find in John’s comment a reference to “false faith” (e.g., Boice, Romans 9–11, 1208), John’s Gospel knows nothing of this. If “false faith” is no faith at all, then it seems incongruous that John would use the word “believe” to mean both faith and non-faith. John would then be using the same word to mean within the same book two concepts that are diametrically opposed. Instead, John 12:42 uses John’s characteristic expression (pisteuo„ eis) for faith found 34 times in his book, including many passages where no one debates its salvific meaning (1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; 6:35, 40). Contextually, this phrase is used of true faith in 12:44, 44. For further help on this verse, see Robert N. Wilkin, Confident in Christ: Living by Faith Really Works (Irving, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 1999), 31-36.

31 The NIV has, “they would not confess their faith” (NRSV has a similar phrase).

32 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 107. Cf. the epistle to the Galatians and its articulation of justification by faith alone; cf. also such classic passages as Eph 2:8–9; Phil 3:9; Titus 3:5. Paul uses homologeo„, homologia, and exomologeo„ only seven times outside Rom 10:9-10. None of these uses seems to be concerned with the requirement(s) of receiving eternal life. The translation of the NRSV (and NIV) of 1 Tim 6:12b comes closest to implying that eternal life is based on confession: “take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” [italics added]. But the very next verse (6:13) refers to the good confession that Christ Himself made before Pilate—a confession that was certainly not to obtain His salvation. Other translations separate calling and confession, with the obvious potential that confession in 1 Tim 6:12 is a subsequent event to the calling: “take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (NASB). It is also highly likely that the phrase “take hold of eternal life” is not identical to a command to be born again. Timothy is called a “true son in the faith” (1:2) and it is beyond reason to think that Paul was bidding Timothy in 6:12 to become a Christian. For further help, see Dillow, Reign of Servant Kings, 136-37.

33 That justification and eternal life are mutually inclusive terms is evident elsewhere in Romans (1:17; 5:17, 21; 6:23; 8:10).

34 RSV, NRSV, and NJB all use the word “justified.” KJV, NKJV, NASB all use the word “righteousness.”

35 “Salvation” (so„te„ria) is used five times in Romans, and “save”(so„zo„)is used eight times. A surprising observation is that the verb is used only one of the eight times (Rom 8:24) in the aorist tense. The other seven uses are future. This is not what we would expect if the salvation of Romans is equivalent to justification. The verb “justify” (dikaioo„) is used fifteen times, with three occasions using the future (Rom 2:5; 3:20, 30). With the possible exception of 2:13, none of these references are genuine futures to the time of faith, i.e., referring to the future time of resurrection/judgment. Justification is a reality to be rejected or received in this life. So the past tenses predominate (six aorist, one perfect, five present with four of the five as participles). The four present participles (Rom 3:24, 26; 4:5; 8:33) all appear to be gnomic participles, setting out a universal principle of God’s activity, not some process (progressive present). For further help on the gnomic present tense, see Wallace, Greek Grammar, 523-24.

36 Cf. for example, Boice, Romans 9–11, 1214.

37 Moo, Romans, 64-65; James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 38a: 36, 46; Schreiner, Romans, 59.

38 Note that the language reflects a confession. Paul is “prepared to confess the gospel publicly and bear witness to its saving power” (Schreiner, Romans, 60). Paul himself is confessing and will “confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Rom 10:9-10). He will not be put to shame, but will experience victory/salvation (Rom 10:11)!

39 Hodges argues that “there is not a single NT example of this word [Greek, orge„] where it refers unambiguously to the experience of eternal punishment. Every NT instance of God’s orge„ can be understood as a reference to the temporal display of God’s displeasure with human sin” (italics original). Zane C. Hodges, “The Message of Romans,” The Kerugma Message 6 (February 1997): 1.

40 Similarly, KJV, ASV, RSV, NRSV; “God gave them over” NASB; “God has given them over,” TEV; “God abandoned them” NJB, NLT (1:26, 28), “God let them go ahead and do” NLT (1:24).

41 The Greek word, paradidomi, suggests being delivered over to the power or custody of someone or something, such as being handed over to court or to prison for confinement. Cf. BAGD, s.v. paradidomi,” 615.

42 Romans 16:25 demonstrates that sanctification truth (Romans 6–8) was part of Paul’s “gospel”: “Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel…” (italics added). In Romans, Paul is defending the gospel he preached. While the apostle preached “the gospel of His [God’s] Son” (1:9), the “gospel of God” (1:1; 15:16), and the “gospel of Christ” (1:16, MajT; 15:19), Paul also found it necessary to use the phrase “my gospel” (Rom 2:16; 16:25). Paul’s use of the term “gospel” is very broad, including all the truths about Christ in the OT and the NT. The gospel (1:1) concerned OT revelation about Christ (1:2), his Davidic lineage (1:3), the Holy Spirit’s role in the resurrection (1:4), and Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles (1:5). It is highly unlikely that all these truths are essential knowledge for eternal life. It is more adequate to see Paul as using the term “gospel” in a wider scope than popular notions of the word.

43 Since there is no future judgment to evaluate the eternal destiny of believers, there can be no thought that the justified person will yet stand before God to await heaven. This form of judgment has been escaped entirely by justification (John 3:18). Besides, what need is there for God to take all believers who at death have gone to heaven and bring them before the Father only to determine whether they should ultimately go to heaven? Does God make mistakes? Despite this logic, most commentators do not conceive of any other “salvation” in 5:9-10 but an eschatological judgment that finalizes our justification. Moo, Romans, 310-12; Schreiner, Romans, 263; Murray, Romans, 171.

The Greek future tense behind the words in vv 9 and 10, “we shall be saved” (so„the„sometha) does not need to be a genuine temporal future, speaking of the final day of judgment. It may be a relative or “logical” future. The salvation would then be future to the previously stated action of justification and reconciliation. Zane C. Hodges, “The Message of Romans,” The Kerugma Message 5 (July 1996): 6.

44 The Greek text simply states that we will be delivered “from the wrath” (apo te„s orge„s). Some modern translations add the fact that this is God’s wrath for clarification. The Greek article naturally points back to a previous mention of this wrath. Romans 1:18 is the first time wrath (orge„) is mentioned. The Greek article is the article of previous reference (or anaphoric article). Cf. A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934), 755, 762; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 217-20.

45 Could 5:9-10 have implications for the rapture of the church, since 1 Thess 5:9 speaks of the rapture as a salvation from wrath? Moyer reasons, “The answer is that, unlike passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:9, these words in Romans are not set in a context of future eschatological events.” Moyer, Free and Clear, 266, n 4. On the other hand, Rom 2:5 mentions a wrath (Greek, orge„) that reflects the tribulation when it uses the phrase, “you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” The following verses (2:8b-9a) add, “and indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish.” In other words, for Pauline theology God has provided all we need to escape His current disapproval of sin (sanctification), and has promised by rapture/resurrection (glorification) a complete and sure escape from the Day of Wrath (or the Day of the Lord, 1 Thess 5:1-10).

46 The penalty for sin was completely paid for by Christ’s death. He Himself confirmed this when he cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Romans 4:25 also proves the point by stating that He “was delivered up because of [dia] our offenses, and was raised because of [dia] our justification.” The resurrection proved our justification, but it did not provide for our justification. The life of Christ provides for our victory over sin, and for the resurrection of the body. The NIV seems less precise in translating 4:25b “and was raised to life for our justification” (italics added).

47 Romans 1:4 does not designate how Christ was declared to be the Son of God (“was declared with power to be the Son of God,” NIV; “he was shown with great power to be the Son of God,” TEV), or how He was raised (“was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead,” NLT). Instead, the best interpretation is a declaration as to who Jesus is by means of the resurrection (declared to be the “Son of God with power,” NKJV, NASB, NRSV; “Son of God in power,” NJB). Favoring this view is Moo, Romans, 48-49.

48 Considering ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God is a command that inevitably involves submission to Christ’s Lordship. Those from a Lordship Salvation theology, who insist on commitment and surrender as essential to faith for justification, must find the command of Rom 6:11-13 confusing. They themselves wholeheartedly teach that the unbeliever is dead spiritually (Eph 2:1-3). Since this is so, how can a non-Christian consider himself or herself to be dead to sin and alive to God? Does it not appear reasonable that one must first be crucified and raised up with Christ by faith at justification before this command for surrender can be obeyed! The verse supports a careful distinction between justification and sanctification truth.

49 Paul uses the Greek word adunatos, “weak, without power,” as a purposeful contrast to 1:16 and the “power,” dunamis, of the gospel. The roots of the two words are related.

50 Most English translations of Rom 11:11 assist the noun “salvation” with a past tense verb: “salvation has come to the Gentiles” (italics added). There is no verb in the Greek text. Yet to supply the English past tense is appropriate. This verse may also speak of a positional deliverance from bondage to sin.

51 “Salvation” in 11:11 in a broad sense may be confirmed by the use of the plural “riches,” i.e., many blessings that have come to the Gentiles (v 12).

52 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah: A Study of the Sequence of Prophetic Events (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1983), 288.

53 John F. Walvoord, “The Future Work of Christ, Part III: Christ’s Coming to Reign,” Bibliotheca Sacra 123 (July 66): 198.

54 Ibid., “The Olivet Discourse on Time of End, Part II: Prophecies Fulfilled in Present Age,” Bibliotheca Sacra 128 (July 1971): 213.

55 Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, translated and ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1980), 293.

56 Dillow, The Reign of Servant Kings, 124; Hodges, Absolutely Free, 195-96.

57 Surprisingly, Edwards finds believing as the final element in the chain-syllogism. Edwards, Romans, 256.

58 The comparison is with the equivalent phrase in the LXX. The exact phrase, epikaleo„ + to onoma kuriou, appears five times in the LXX. English references (hereafter also) include Gen 4:26; 26:25; Joel 2:32 (quoted in Rom 10:13), and in the pseudoepigraphal work Psalms of Solomon 6:1; 15:1. Both of the latter texts also use the word so„zo„ (“save”). Psalm of Solomon 15:1 says, “In my trouble, I called on the name of the Lord for help. I hoped in the God of Jacob, and I was saved, because you, O God, are a hope and refuge for the poor” (author’s translation). The phrase “to call on the Lord” (epikaleo„ + ton kurion) is used ten times (1 Kgs 17:21 Esth 4:8; Ps 18:6; 99:6; 118:5; 2 Mac 8:2; 13:10; Sir 46:16; 48:20; Pss Sol 9:6). Other combinations impact the concept such as “call on My name,” “call on His name,” etc.

59 “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies,” Cf. also 55:16; 81:7; 86:7; 91:15; 116:4, 13; 118:5.

60 “Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.”

61 “Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.”

62 The phrase, “call on the name of the Lord,” is regularly translated (e.g., Gen 4:6; Zeph 3:9) in the NLT as “worshipped the Lord,” and in the NJB by “invoke the name of Yahweh.”

63 “For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph 3:9).

64 “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’” (Zech 13:9).

65 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 193-94.

66 Dillow, Reign of Servant Kings, 124-25. Cf. also Moyer, Free and Clear, 266, n 7.

67 The Greek word epikaleo„ when directed to God means “to call upon someone to do something, normally implying an appeal for aid — ‘to call upon, to appeal to, to ask for help.’” Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, ed. Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida(New York: United Bible Societies, 1989), §33.176.

68 This phrase means, “to claim one’s legal right to have a case reviewed by a higher tribunal — ‘to appeal one’s case, to appeal to a higher court.’” Ibid., §56.15.

69 Cf. Edwards, Romans, 256; Käsemann, Romans, page 293.

70 “Simple logic tells us those Paul arrested were Christians who openly acknowledged faith in Him and asked for His help as it was needed”; Moyer, Free and Clear, 122. “When Paul came to Damascus with authority to bind all who called on the Lord’s name (Acts 9:14), he was not looking for closet Christians! He was looking for those who were publicly identified with that Name;” Hodges, Absolutely Free, 196.

71 Dunn, Romans 9–16, 586.

72 Dillow, Reign of Servant Kings, 123.

73 Ibid.

74 The Book of Galatians emphasizes how sanctification becomes impossible when believers revert to a false view of justification.

75 Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Leviticus 18:5 and Paul: Do This and You Shall Live (Eternally?),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 14 (1971): 24.

76 The quote in Romans is taken from Lev 18:5. Three frameworks can be formulated to understand Paul’s interpretation of Moses. 1) Moses and the OT taught that justification (righteousness) was possible by the works of the law. But since Paul clearly teaches that justifying righteousness was never based on works of the law, this interpretation must be rejected. 2) Moses spoke hypothetically. If one keeps the entire law perfectly, then (potentially) a person could receive eternal life by the works of the law. Romans 2:7-10, 13 may be marshaled in defense of this interpretation. According to Moo, “The idea that Paul sees in Lev. 18:5 a (hypothetical) promise of life to the doer becomes almost standard in the Reformed and Lutheran traditions.” Moo, Romans, 648, n 15. But this perspective faces difficulties in Rom 10:5. Did God intend to lead the Israelites to believe that they should pursue the works of the law for a “potential” justification? The law provided for sins that were done unintentionally (Num 15:27-29; Deut 4:42). So how could anyone think that Moses implied that a person could keep the law perfectly, without sin? 3) Moses spoke of keeping the law for sanctifying righteousness by “doing” (i.e., by works produced through faith). Moses (and the Lord) never intended that the law could be kept without faith. The OT is replete with suggestions that faith is the key element in one’s relationship to God. Even Abraham illustrated the need to approach God first and foremost by faith (Romans 4). For a similar view, see Kaiser, “Lev. 18:5 and Paul,” 19-28. Faith and works for justification are abhorrent to God. Faith and works aimed at sanctification are commanded by God even in the NT era (e.g., Jas 2:22). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2). To walk by the power of the Spirit is to produce an expression of eternal life (8:6). Paul, like Moses, promised “life” for obedience (i.e., works done by faith) when he said, “but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (8:13, italics added). Genuine love is an expression of and an experience of eternal life. Hatred is an expression of and an experience of death. Moses taught (Rom 10:5) that one could experience eternal life by obedience to the law. This was not eternal life as initial justification, but eternal life as an ongoing sanctification experience and an outgrowth of eternal life received as a free gift. Cf. Dillow, Reign of Servant Kings, 138-39, 366.

77 The phrase (eis dikaiosune„n) may go with “everyone who believes” as in the NIV, “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Moo argues convincingly for this reading of the Greek (Moo, Romans, 638, n 35). But the interesting parallel with 1:16 may point to taking the words, “for righteousness,” with the phrase “Christ is the end of the law.”

dunamis gar theou estin eisso„te„rianpantito„pisteuonti (1:16)

“for it (the gospel) is the power of God for salvation, to all who believe”

telos gar nomou Christos eis dikaiosunen panti to„ pisteuonti (10:4)

“for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to all who believe”

78 Renald E. Showers, There Really Is a Difference: A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1990), 189-94. That the Christian is freed from the law for sanctification should not be understood to imply that either 1) NT believers have no moral law to guide them (they are under the law of Christ, Gal 6:2; 1 Cor 9:21), or 2) the Mosaic law has no function in the NT era (it still convicts of sin, 1 Tim 1:9-11; Rom 3:20; 7:7).

79 Paul is citing the OT passage rather than merely alluding to its words or phrases. The similarities between the two passages are too great to be limited to a simple use of its language or imagery. Dunn, Romans 9–16, 603.

80 Paul actually begins Rom 10:6 with the phrase, “do not say in your heart,” taken from Deut 9:4. The warning in the Deuteronomy context is against a heart of self-righteousness and self-sufficiency (which in turn arises from a lack of faith). Cf. Deut 9:5-6 “It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land…Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness…”

81 As noted above, Paul is conscious of the contexts of his OT quotations in Romans 9–11, i.e., the surrounding material of many of his quotations speak of the Second Coming of Christ. It would be surprising if Paul was purposefully citing a text from Deuteronomy 30 without thinking of the impact of vv 1-10 on the verses he cites (11-14). These verses teach a New Covenant with a circumcision of the heart (cf. Rom 2:27-29) that only God can perform (over against self-righteousness). Sailhamer believes Deut 30:11-15 still addresses matters of the New Covenant (30:1-10), with a transition back to the Old Covenant in 30:15. John H. Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 474.

82 In the Ancient Near East, pagan cultures thought of a revelation from a deity as very difficult to procure. This is illustrated in the incident of Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kgs 18:17-40).

83 Deuteronomy 29:29 immediately precedes the context of Deuteronomy 30: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” It is for this reason that I do not think that Paul has illegitimately taken this text and replaced the commandment and the law of Moses with Christ. The word that is near Israel is the revealed truth of God. But Christ is the final revealed truth of God. Israel should have perceived the continuing revelation of God in Christ.

84 As is evident in the exegesis of the DSS, the partial citation of a passage followed by an interpretive explanation (such as “this is…” as in Rom 10:6-8) was a common Jewish approach to the exposition of an OT text. Dunn, Romans 9–16, 603. Philo (Post. Cain 24 §§84-85, cited in Dunn, Romans 9–16, 604-605) and Baruch (3:29-30) also cite the Deuteronomy passage without giving attention to the clause, “so that you can do it.” But both interpret the text with this concept in mind.

85 Moses gave two parts to his warning: revealed truth was not “too difficult” to obey nor was it “too far off” to believe (Deut 30:11). To the thought that revealed truth is “too far off,” Moses corresponds with the corrective, “the word is near you, in your heart,” i.e., faith for justification righteousness. To the thought that revealed truth is “too difficult,” Moses corresponds with the remedial comment, “the word is near you, in your mouth,” i.e., calling on the Lord’s help for sanctification righteousness. In vv 12-14, Moses (and Paul in Romans) primarily expounds the “too far off” warning in his statements about going into heaven or across the sea (for Paul, going into the abyss) to receive revelation. First and foremost a heart of unbelief must be confronted. Without faith for justification, there is no divine help for obedience to the revealed truth of God. That is, unless “the word is near in the heart” first, it cannot be “near in the mouth” at all.

86 When Paul refers to the “word of faith,” he does not use the familiar Greek word logos but the word rhe„ma found in his OT quote from Deut 30:14 (LXX). While most scholars believe that the Greek words logos and rhe„ma (both translated “word”) are highly synonymous, Girdlestone suggests that there may be a small tendency in rhe„ma to “stand for the utterance and logos to point to the rationale for the utterance.” Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1897), 206. Paul uses rhe„ma quite rarely. Of his eight uses of the word, three are found in Romans 10 (vv 8, 17, 18). The apostle’s choice of rhe„mais to a degree dictated by his quote from the LXX. Nevertheless, if there is a slight significance to rhe„maas a “spoken word,” it is fully appropriate for Paul to use rhe„main Romans 10. This meaning is appropriate in a context where public confession is mentioned and preaching is highlighted. In other words, “the word of faith” is a spoken word both when Paul and others proclaim the need for faith, and when faith is expressed in confession.

87 Any sincere confession that Jesus is Lord will be a response of faith in the heart. As 1 Cor 12:3b states, “no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, only those who are already believers can make the confession of Rom 10:10. This is widely admitted. Because of this reference in First Corinthians, Stuhlmacher even believes the confession of 10:9-10 is spoken within the gathering of the NT church. Peter Stuhlmacher, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary. Trans. Scott J. Hafemann (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1994), 156.

88 The NIV replaces the concept of calling on the Lord with the simple idea of prayer: “the LORD our God is near to us whenever we pray to him.”

89 Even those that say the confession is the byproduct of genuine faith are admitting that believers make the confession. See footnote 28 above.

90 See footnote 43.

91 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 195.

92 Ibid., 196.

93 Although Godet comes to a different conclusion than what we have stated above, he observes that a distinction should be drawn between justification and salvation in Rom 10:9-10, and that the salvation is future while the justification is past. He remarks, “But salvation includes, besides, sanctification and glory.” Godet, Romans, 383.

94 Cf. Boice, Romans 9–11, 1209, who offers a similar opinion, but from a Lordship Salvation perspective. If his view is correct, it postpones a full assurance of eternal life indefinitely since no one can know at what point their confession of Christ finally proves they are born again.

95 Hodges, Absolutely Free, 198.

96 Moo, Romans, 645.

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