The confession of Romans 10:9 & 10

There can be no more crucial Biblical topic than what is required for eternal salvation, and Romans 10:9 & 10 is central to our understanding of this subject. There are plenty of Biblical records that tell us we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, but no other single record is as specific regarding exactly what one must believe.

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

We must believe God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, and we must acknowledge his Lordship. A problem arises, however, with the “confess with thy mouth” part of these verses. No other scripture tells us we are to say anything to be saved, only that we are to believe. And if this is telling us we must say something, doesn’t it seem like it would have told us exactly what to say? Furthermore, having to physically do something (even something as easy as make a confession) to be saved puts eternal salvation at least partially in the category of works. Ephesians could not be more clear that salvation is by grace and not by works.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Romans is equally clear that grace and works are mutually exclusive. If something is by grace, then it is not by works and vice versa.

Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

So what is the story with the confession of Romans 10:9 & 10? “Confession” by itself could be taken as a mental acknowledging rather than literally speaking certain words, but the record specifically says to make this confession with your mouth. Let’s back up a little in the context.

Romans 10: 6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)
7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Clearly, there are some idiomatic expressions used here. One cannot literally “say” something in his physical heart (verse 6). We understand what this means. An individual proposes a thought within. Although the word “say” is used, there are no words being spoken out loud. The word of (or pertaining to) faith is nigh (near) thee, even in thy mouth (verse 8). Words do not literally reside in someone’s mouth. Verse 8 also says the word of faith is “in thy heart.” Again, words do not literally reside in someone’s physical heart. These expressions are all idiomatic. We 21’st century westerners relate to “in thy heart.” The idiom “in thy mouth” is more foreign to us.
It is apparent that “in thy mouth” and “in thy heart” are an elaboration on “the word is nigh thee.” How near is the word of faith to you? It is within you. It is in your mouth and in your heart. There might be a small nuance of difference in emphasis of these two phrases, but they both express that the word of faith is within you. They are not communicating two entirely separate and different thoughts.
Now we come to verse 9. Everyone understands that “believe in thy heart” is idiomatic, but most have taken “confess with thy mouth” to be literal (thus requiring a “work” to be saved). I propose that both phrases are idiomatic.
“With” in the phrase “With thy mouth” is translated from the Greek word “en” which is normally translated “in.” It is the same word that is translated “in” in the phrase “in thy mouth” in verse 8. So in other words, “in thy mouth” in verse 8 and “with thy mouth” in verse 9 are the exact same phrase in the Greek text from which they were translated. The two occurrences of “with” in verse 10 do not appear in the Greek text at all. They were supplied by the translators. The Greek words for “mouth” and “heart” are in the dative case in verse 10. This indicates that these words are the indirect objects of their leading verbs. It is far more common to translate this by using the words “in” or “of.” In the heart man believes unto righteousness and in the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
If confessing in your mouth and believing in your heart were two different things, then verses 9 & 10 would be contradictory to each other. In verse 9, both confessing in your mouth and believing in your heart are required for salvation. In verse 10, believing in the heart yields righteousness, and only confessing in the mouth is prerequisite to salvation. These are not two different things. They are both a matter of having the word of faith within you
Let’s look at a variation of the “in your mouth” idiom. Do you remember the Sermon on the Mount? It goes on for three chapters with Jesus laying out one profound truth after the next. When he finished, “the people were astonished at his doctrine for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” But how does this record begin?

Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Of course one has to open his mouth to be able to teach, but that is not why the record specifically says he opened his mouth. The idiom communicates the imagery of having a message within. Then when one opens his mouth, it comes out. It indicates full communication of what is within. Nothing is held back. Whatever is inside comes out. We might have communicated this by saying he spoke fully, from his heart.
Philip did the same in Acts 8 when speaking to the Ethiopian eunuch who was of great authority under Candace, queen of Ethiopia. Philip had just been in the city of Samaria doing miracles and so speaking that “the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” Even Simon the sorcerer believed. Other Apostles also came down from Jerusalem and ministered unto the people. It must have been a very moving experience, not one that Philip would have wanted to have left, but “the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.” When Philip obeyed, he surely anticipated that some great thing was going to happen in this desert. When Philip saw the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot, “the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” The Spirit didn’t say to run, but he did. It is indicative of the eager anticipation that was in his heart. When he arrived, the Ethiopian was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. Philip said, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Here is the eunuch’s response:

31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:
33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.
34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?

Can you picture how thrilled Philip must have been? And what did he do? He “opened his mouth.”

Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

This wasn’t just a few murmured aphorisms. He opened his mouth. He communicated fully, from his heart. He didn’t just answer the question about that scripture. He began there, and the eunuch believed.
Peter went unto a group of Gentiles and spoke God’s Word to them (Acts 10). It took a little convincing to get him to go. God showed him a vision three times in preparing Peter to be willing. Convinced that it was God’s will, Peter obeyed, taking witnesses with him to verify what would occur. Upon arrival, Peter told Cornelius that it was unlawful for a man who is a Jew to go unto a Gentile, but that God had shown him that he should not call any man common or unclean. This was no doubt a shocking revelation to Peter, something that would have shaken him to his bones, and even more so upon hearing Cornelius relate that an angel had appeared to him, instructing him to send for one called Simon Peter who was in Joppa. What did Peter do? He “opened his mouth.”

Acts 10: 34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
36 The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)
37 That word, I say…

Do you think this was heartfelt, full communication? I do
The Apostle Paul’s mouth was open unto the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 6:11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.

There are a number of other uses of this idiom in God’s Word. They are all consistent with these examples. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that said “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 13:35) Wisdom is personified as a woman in Proverbs. She is described as one who opens her mouth with wisdom. (Proverbs 31)
Let’s go back to Romans 10:9. The scriptures here do not speak of opening ones mouth. They elaborate on the word of faith that is to be in ones mouth and heart.
I know this will seem very nit-picky to some. What difference does it make if we must confess the Lord Jesus out loud or only within to be saved? For many it doesn’t make much difference. They’ve done both, and confessing out loud was a simple act. For those who cannot speak, however, this “minor” point is the difference between eternity with our Lord or not. There are those who for whatever reason are physically unable to speak. Salvation is for them as well.

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