In Romans 10:9-10 Paul seems to condition salvation upon faith in Christ plus confessing Him–not faith alone in Christ alone. Many evangelists today say that a person who is either afraid or unwilling to confess their faith in Christ remains unsaved. Imagine that. A believer being unsaved. Does that sound Pauline? Biblical? Absolutely not. Earlier in the Book of Romans Paul asserted that nothing can separate believers from the love of God which is in Christ (Rom. 8: 38-39). Not even a failure to confess Christ! Let’s look at this key passage.
We can begin by observing that verse 10 is an explanation of verse 9.
Notice, too, that what a person must do to obtain righteousness is different than what he must do to obtain salvation according to verse 10. One becomes a child of God and positionally righteous simply by trusting in Christ as His sinbearer (cf. Rom. 10:4). However, one is “saved” by confessing Him. What type of salvation/deliverance does Paul have in mind here (i.e., salvation from what?)? Verse 13 provides the answer.
Verse 13 is expanded upon in verses 14-15. Let’s go to the back of verse 15 and work our way forward. What comes first, one being sent to preach or one preaching? The sending, of course. What comes first, someone preaching or someone hearing the message of deliverance? Clearly the preaching of the preacher. What comes first, hearing the message or believing the message? Obviously hearing must preceding believing. And finally, which comes first, believing or calling upon the Lord? Clearly in this context in this progression the believing must precede calling upon the Lord. Take a moment and follow this progression in your own Bible.
Now go back to verse 13 and answer the $64,000 question. To whom, then, does calling upon the Lord refer, believers or unbelievers? Yes, BELIEVERS! The salvation spoken of in verse 13 (and thus also in verse 10) relates to believers. It is dealing with salvation from the wrath of God here and now, not salvation from God’s eternal wrath.
Thus verse 10 teaches both that unbelievers gain positional righteousness by believing in Christ and that believers gain salvation from temporal wrath by confessing their faith in Him. I take it that calling on the Lord/confessing the Lord Jesus is a sort of shorthand for obeying Him in both word and deed. This confession/calling is neither a one time act nor an oath. It is a life of obedience.
What, then, does verse 9 mean? Doesn’t it condition salvation upon both faith and confession? The key is in understanding the theme of Romans. Paul was writing to tell his believing Roman readers how one can escape (i.e., be saved from) the wrath of God temporally and eternally. He reminded them that one escapes the eternal wrath of God simply by believing in Christ as his Savior. He also taught them that one escapes the wrath of God here and now by living a godly life (cf. Rom. 1:18ff.) A believer is thus secure eternally but not temporally. That is, nothing a believer can do can lead to his experiencing the eternal wrath of God (Rom. 8:38-39). However, believers can and do experience the wrath of God here and now by sinning. The more we sin the more we experience God’s loving discipline.
Confessing Christ by my words and deeds is not a requirement for salvation from hell. Rather, it is a requirement for salvation/deliverance from God’s wrath here and now. On the other hand, Romans 10:9-10 affirms that salvation from God’s eternal wrath is by grace through faith alone. That’s good news!