Does Romans 10:9-10 Deny Baptism?

To deny the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins, people frequently turn to Romans 10:9-10 for support. The passage says, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (NKJV). Does this passage deny baptism for the remission of sins?
The most compelling reason to refute this claim is that this passage does not exist in a vacuum. It cannot be separated from all other New Testament passages. To accept these verses and refute other equal passages is to evidence activism and a willful blindness to truth.
In this passage, Paul writes that salvation comes by confession and faith. Jesus said that salvation comes by faith and baptism (Mark 16:16). Peter said that salvation comes by repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38).
Coffman writes, “There are no legitimate grounds for thinking that any one of these pairings excludes the conditions mentioned in the others.” /1 Lard writes, “we have four conditions of justification, namely: belief, repentance, confession, immersion. Not only are these conditions, they are all the conditions. Not one more can be named; and no one can scripturally name less.” /2
The resulting options are limited. Either all are accepted, ignored or they are selected at random. Only the first option is legitimate. Scripture provides all that we need to know in order to be saved because it is complete and inspired (Jude 3,2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16,17). To have faith in God is also to have faith in his word.
People cite Romans 10:9-10 to prove that faith alone saves us. Yet, these verses present both confession and belief as prerequisites for the remission of sins. Cottrell argues, “The references to confession and faith are grammatically parallel; the two verbs are identical in form and are related to ‘if’ in exactly the same way, i.e., as equal conditions to salvation.” /3
The same God who gives us Romans 10:9-10 and Ephesians 2:8-9 also gives us Acts 2:38 and James 2:14-26. All are inspired passages of Scripture. We must see how they work together, not pick and choose what suits our preconceptions. Milton Terry wrote, “No single statement or obscure passage of one book can be allowed to set aside a doctrine which is clearly established by many passages” /4
Lenksi says, “True faith is never silent; it always confesses.” Paul also wrote, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Faith confesses what we believe from the core of our being. When the belief is in our hearts, it is also to be in our mouths.
Confession “implies consent to some thing felt to be valid, and in such a way that it is followed by definite resolve and action, by ready attachment to a cause.” /5 Faith leads us to repent of our sins and to be born again through the waters of baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Baptism is how we enter into the body of Christ (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3,4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).
Romans 10:9-10 presents a very important teaching on salvation. Yet, it does not present the entire picture. No one passage presents all aspects of the plan of salvation. Salvation is a process that is presented throughout the New Testament.
Consider that Paul says in Romans that we must hear the gospel (10:17), believe in what it says (10:9,10), repent of our sins (2:4), confess Christ as Lord (10:9,10) and be baptized into Christ (6:3,4). Why should we reject some and accept others? Why not just obey all of them?
1/ Romans, 350.
2/ Romans, 179
3/ A Commentary on Romans, 331.
4/ Biblical Hermeneutics, 449. Cited at http://tinyurl.com/dkd5r
5/ The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 5:200.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

5 thoughts on “Does Romans 10:9-10 Deny Baptism?

  1. Thanks for writing such significant thoughts.
    Since Paul’s soteriology is not schizophrenic, a responsible reading of Paul will understand how all of the appropriate verses fit together, as opposed to interpreting some verses in such a manner that they war with others.
    Unfortunately, I suspect that some of those who disagree about the necessity of baptism will not be moved because they begin with the a priori assumption that their understanding of salvation by faith is accurate. Then they try to deal with the “problem” of baptismal verses.
    I hope these brief thoughts can contribute to your purpose.
    1) In my opinion, a paradigm shift is needed to realize that for Paul salvation by faith involved trusting in Jesus in the manner he describes. Galatians 3:26-27 From the NT we learn that for Paul, to rely upon Jesus for salvation involved baptism. He never contemplated trusting in Jesus by just inviting the Lord into one’s heart.
    2) As you wrote, this passage was not written in a vacuum. In its context, Paul’s purpose is not to teach pagans how to become Christians, but to describe the barrier which had prevented the Jews from being saved and the hope extended to them if they will come to faith. Some of the Jews would not confess Christ because they were not willing to trust in him. Accordingly, the wonderful news is heralded that if they would overcome this barrier (lack of faith) they too will be saved.
    Since the Reformation, some good-hearted people have been posing questions to this text which Paul never intended to address here.

  2. Barry,
    Thanks for your excellent comments. Yes, faith is a process where we yield completely to God. That trust is then eager to fulfill the rest of the process of being born again. Faith is the beginning point, not the end. It is regretful that this debate is even necessary. All of Paul’s words should be considered and not just preselected ones.
    It is certainly true that most false doctrines begin in faulty presuppositions. Salvation by faith only is no exception.
    Thanks for reading my articles. Your encouragement is much appreciated.

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