If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,”and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Martin Luther called the epistle to the Romans the true masterpiece of the New Testament and the very purest gospel, which is well worth and deserving that a Christian man should not only learn it by heart, word for word, but also that he should daily deal with it as the daily bread of men’s souls. Paul had given perhaps the most systematic presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ through his letter to the Church of Rome, and while some of the earlier chapters are rather confusing reads, chapter 10 is straightforward – talking about faith. In Romans 10:9 we see a famous verse that clearly lists the conditions of our salvation. In this study, we will examine these conditions to expound on what we should do, and also read between the lines to what it doesn’t tell us.
Romans 10:9 cannot be clearer. There are just two things we need to do to be saved:
- declare with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord”
- believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead
Let’s dissect them bit by bit.
declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord” – this is a declaration of faith, a confession of faith, a publication of our faith. Clearly, we aren’t asked to be timid Christians. You can have many identities in your closet – it seems a rather popular term these days, even if the phenomenon was happening right from the very beginning, from Cain and Abel’s time (closet murderer, just saying). However, Closet Christian is an oxymoron – it simply doesn’t stand. The Christian lifestyle does not work that way. Granted, there may be circumstances that compel you to be low-key about your faith, but it is surely not the heart of God that we keep our faith a secret, or worst, deny our faith. The entire gospel can perhaps be summed up by these three words: “Jesus is Lord” – to the point where by declaring these three words alone is akin to a confession of the Christian faith. You may have heard of very long Sinner’s Prayers before – they are good and helpful to the new believer, but really, all that’s necessary is this: “Jesus is Lord”. It suggests that you have handed the Lordship of your life to Christ, who died for you on the cross, who is a son of God, and part of the Holy Trinity, and the way, the truth and the life. It says so much more than a declaration like “I am a Christian” (there are many kinds of Christians) or “I believe in God” (many non-Christians believe in God too).
As Christians we are charged to speak out about our faith. People need to hear the gospel in order to believe [Rom 10:17|Article]. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God [1 Peter 4:11]. Jesus promised, he who hears you, hears me [Luke 10:16]. We should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you [1 Peter 3:15]. Jesus was Word becoming flesh, as he first descended to the earth to fulfil the redemption plan of God. Let us lead a ‘Word becoming flesh’ lifestyle. While not everybody who claims “Jesus is Lord” may lead Christlike lives, it is impossible to lead a Christlike life without declaring it.
God raised Jesus Christ from the dead – this was apparently important enough that out of so many things that could be emphasized, Paul chose this. This was perhaps a slap on the cheek to the Sadducees, a strong political faction who did not believe in the resurrection. However, there is a simple logic behind what Paul said. If you do not believe fully that Jesus Christ is revived (and by God, not by the devil like some believe) – admittedly it is a difficult and foreign concept to understand and to believe, more so for us scientific and modern people today perhaps – then the God we’re worshipping is nothing more than a dead god – akin to the idols of the other religions. This faith becomes dead, the eternal hope becomes meaningless, and the word of God becomes a lie. Essentially, if Jesus Christ remained dead to you, then this faith cannot be established, and is a false faith. The power of resurrection – that God is able to do that, and that Christ is an example of that – cannot be undermined. God is great, and all-mighty.
believe in your heart – and finally a variable in the conditions of salvation. Paul was clear about the confession of the tongue of one’s faith – clear even to the point of listing out the words that should be uttered. Paul was clear about the most important thing to ascertain your belief in. Yet it is this need to believe – and fully, truly believe – in your heart that a curve ball can be thrown. Technology may have broken new grounds today, but there is no measuring device available to inform us whether we truly believe or not. After all, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? [Jer 17:9|Article]. We are certainly capable of fooling ourselves. Our hearts are craftily deceitful, even to ourselves. We love self-denial, we love self-indulgence, and in doing so, we not only fool others, but ourselves. Hence it is often hard for us to say with certainty – I am saved. While you most likely can gauge whether you believe or not, we need to know that it is only God and God alone who sees through our hearts, and him alone who knows if we truly believes in him – Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight [Hebrews 4:13].
you will be saved – confession with our mouths is easy – we can do that even without belief. Yet it is still necessary as a testimony of the Lord, to proclaim the gospel. Believing in our hearts is a little harder, but frankly speaking, not that hard too. We’re not asked to climb Mt Everest or slay a thousand men before we get saved. Just confess and believe, and you will be saved. It is a certain thing, not a ‘maybe’ thing. You will be saved. There is no doubt, if you had done the two things. This is salvation by faith through grace at its simplest. You don’t need to do anything else. It’s not about how good you are. But, note, if you truly believe in your heart, and with all your heart, then it is unthinkable that your faith is not evidenced by actions and deeds. James famously claimed, What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? [James 2:14] – the same guy, Martin Luther, blasted the book of James as a book of straws for the idea that faith is based on deeds. With a few more hundred years worth of analysis and reading and understanding, we know today that James wasn’t saying that. He was just saying that if you claim to have faith but it is not supported by deeds, then this faith is dubious, and you probably do not truly believe in your heart but are merely confessing with your mouth. And this breaks the condition listed by Paul here, and hence, this ‘faith’ cannot save you. Anyone who truly believes in the greatness of God will obey his commands. If we love him, we will do his word [John 14:15]. It is just that simple.
Paul repeats this concept in the next verse, for emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, he’s hinting. This is simple. Straightforward. Repeating it: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved [Rom 10:10].
No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, or how active you are in your ministry in the house of the Lord, these conditions apply to you. Have you confessed your faith? Do you truly believe? Let us not be surprised one day if there are outstanding brothers and sisters in our midst who are not saved and not seen in our eternal life in the courts of the Lord. Some may be pastors and teachers. But God sees through it all. Let us check ourselves and not allow ourselves to become a hypocritical believer. Let us be assured in our salvation, because we truly believe. And this belief will not put us to shame [Rom 10:11] – or at least, we have no reason to be ashamed of the gospel, if we truly love and understand and believe.
In completing the Martin Luther quote about the epistle to the Romans from above – it can never be too much or too well read or studied, and the more it is handled the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.