“…because, 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.” Rom. 10:9-10 ESV
I believe this passage of scripture in Romans is one of the most often quoted passages of scripture when someone is teaching “easy believism.” And, I will explain what I mean by that in a few minutes here. But, I want to first look at what this passage is really saying, in context.
First of all, we can’t pull two verses out of context and build an entire doctrine of salvation from sin from them, yet many do. Also, we can’t interpret these two verses apart from the whole of the book of Romans, for it was written to the church in Rome by the Apostle Paul as one complete letter, so we must interpret these two verses in light of the whole book.
And, again, we must compare scripture with scripture, which is what a topical study does, in order to get the complete picture.
So, with that said, let’s look at what this is really saying.
We must confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. He is God. He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is the promised Messiah of Israel. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. He is our creator God. He is completely sovereign over all things that he has created. And, nothing can thwart his purposes.
As Lord, he is owner-master of our lives. He has full reign. Our lives are surrendered to him. We are in submission to his will for our lives. We live to serve him. He’s the boss! And, we are his servants, his bond-slaves – slaves to God and slaves to righteousness, since he delivered us from our slavery to sin. Thus, we have died with him to sin that we might live with him to righteousness. Our lives are no longer our own, for we were bought back for God with the price of Jesus’ blood. So, we now honor God with our lives.
We must confess, out loud, in front of other people, that Jesus is now king of our hearts and that our lives are now surrendered to him for his service. But, this can’t be just words or the confession will mean nothing. It must be genuine. He must truly be the owner now of our lives, and we must be following him in surrender to his will and to his ways. For, if we profess it, but we don’t mean it, it will hold no weight at all. It is just hot air.
And, believe what?
We must believe that God raised him from the dead. But, this entails so much more, for to believe that, we have to believe that he died, that he rose again, as he said he would, that he ascended back to heaven, that he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell his followers, and that one day he is coming again to take us to be with him forever.
And, if we believe in all that, we must also believe in who he is and why he had to die, and what his death and resurrection mean for us. Thus, we will believe that he died that we might die with him to sin and live with him to righteousness. We will believe that his death on that cross put our sin to death, and when he rose from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf.
Since we have confessed him as Lord, as God, then we believe that it was God who took on human flesh and became a man and who died to take away the sins of the world. And, too, we will believe that his death meant for us that we could be delivered from our slavery to sin, and his life means that we can live holy lives pleasing to him. For, if we believe him, and we believe in what he did for us, then we will submit to him as Lord of our lives, too.
Faith and Confession
Another thing this teaches us, too, is that faith and confession with our mouths go hand in hand. It appears that we can’t have one without the other, which makes perfect sense. For, if we truly believe Jesus to be who he is, and if we truly believe that he provided the way for us to be free from our slavery to sin, then why wouldn’t we want to share that with others?
There is a scripture where Jesus said that if we are ashamed of him that he will be ashamed of us when he comes back. If we deny him before others, he will deny us. If we don’t take up our cross daily and follow him, then we are not truly his disciples. For, if we want to be Jesus followers, then we must deny self, take up our cross daily and follow (obey) Jesus.
So, it isn’t enough just to say we believe in him. And, it isn’t enough just to make a profession of faith in him, either, especially if it is not genuine. Our actions and our faith work together. For, what we do is evidence of what we truly believe. And, confession of him as Lord is not just us mouthing the words, either, and confession, as well, is not just with words. For, if what we profess with our mouths and what we do are opposite, our actions will indeed speak louder than our words.
I want to look at one more thing here before I talk about easy believism, and that is I want us to consider who the people were of Paul’s day who were being given these instructions, and what the mood of the day was with regard to belief in Jesus Christ.
Some of them were Jews by birth, and some of them were Gentiles by birth. So, for the Jew to confess Jesus as Lord would have been considered an outrage, and it could have meant much persecution and/or certain death. The same may have been true for the Gentiles, as all Christians were under persecution at that time, as far as I can recall.
But, let’s look at our day and time. In many countries throughout the world such a belief in Jesus, and such an outward and verbal confession of him as Lord, as God, does mean great persecution for the follower of Christ, and in many cases it means it could cost them their lives. So, they don’t take such faith or such a confession lightly, at all. They are quite committed to Christ Jesus as Lord of their lives, in order for them to put their lives on the line.
I live in America, so it is what I am familiar with. Your country may be similar, I don’t know. But, in America, if someone confesses faith in Jesus Christ with their mouths or calls him “Lord,” no one brings out the firing squads. The name “Jesus” is actually quite acceptable here, as is the term or the title “Lord.” Not many are threatened by that at all. For, we are often referred to here as a “Christian” nation.
So, telling an American that all he has to do is to believe Jesus was raised from the dead and to confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, it doesn’t have to mean anything. It doesn’t have to change anything in that person’s life. And, so to teach these two verses as the gospel message absent of all the other scriptures on what it means to be a believer in Jesus, is teaching “easy believism.” It doesn’t mean a heart transformation ever took place.
But, many people are using these two verses as their gospel message, and that is reducing the gospel to a mere profession of faith. But, it doesn’t tell the people who are believing that that is all they have to do, that belief in their hearts, and a confession with their mouths, is so much more than that.
It doesn’t tell them what Romans 6 and Romans 8 tells them about death to sin and walking in holiness as required by God for salvation from sin and eternal life with God. It doesn’t tell them that “Lord” means Jesus is now the boss of our lives. It doesn’t tell them what Ephesians 4:17-24 tells them about how they are not to live like they did before, and how they must forsake their self-life and their sin-life to follow Jesus Christ in obedience, if they want that hope of heaven when they leave this earth.
And, thus it is “easy-believism” because it short circuits the true gospel message and it leaves the “believer” with the idea that if he just acknowledges Jesus, and if he just believes (intellectually) in his death and resurrection, that he is saved from his sins, heaven is guaranteed him, and what he does from this point forward doesn’t matter.
But, the truth is that we must die daily to sin and self, we must be walking in obedience to our Lord, we must leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we must surrender our lives to Jesus and to his will for our lives. For, this is what it means to believe. And, the truth is that if we don’t give up our lives of sin, and we don’t follow our Lord in obedience, then eternal life is not guaranteed us at all. It is not saying we have to be perfect, but that sin should no longer be our master. Jesus is to be our only Lord.
So, don’t buy into the “easy-believism” message that tells you that a mere confession of Christ as Lord and a mere acknowledgement of Jesus and what he did for us is going to secure heaven for you no matter how you live your life. For, that is a lie straight from hell. Read all of Romans. Then, you will know the truth which will set you free.
[See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 6:1-23; Rom. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; Gal. 6:7-8; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Pet. 2:24.]
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.