Romans 10:9, A Plumber and Baptism

by Barry Newton
Many preachers conclude that baptism is unnecessary for salvation after quoting, “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The problem of a leaky faucet quickly illustrates just how fallacious this reasoning is.

Imagine a woman hiring a plumber to diagnosis why her faucet drips. Upon inspecting the wet offender, the plumber concludes, “your faucet has a bad stem.” With a smile he adds, “Change the stem, you will have no more drip.”

All dumb blonde jokes aside, would any woman later argue with her husband, “No, we don’t have to shut off the water and unscrew the faucet. The plumber just said, ‘Change the stem, you will have no more drip!'”

In the event a wife would dare to make such a poor argument, hopefully a loving husband would respond, “Honey, the plumber identified what was wrong and needed to be fixed. He did not intend to give us a step by step instruction guide on how to change a faucet’s stem. Yes, we need a new stem. However we also need to turn the water off and remove the faucet fixture.”

In the same way, consider the context of Romans 10:9. Beginning in Romans 9:30, Paul diagnosed the barrier preventing Israel from being justified by faith. She refused to believe in Jesus and confess him. In spite of all of her other activity there would be no justification by faith because how someone responds to Jesus with their lips and their heart is essential to faith.

However, just like the plumber, who had promised a favorable result, so too Paul unveiled how resistant Israel could enter salvation. If Israel would fix her problem by confessing Jesus and believing in him, she too would be saved since salvation is extended to all who will call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:11-13).

Neither the plumber nor Paul intended to provide an exhaustive step by step list of how to achieve the desired goal. Both identified the problem and pronounced resolution if that problem would be addressed.

Furthermore, even from within Romans evidence surfaces revealing that Paul would sharply disagree with many contemporary preachers regarding baptism. Arguing that Christians should abandon sinful lifestyles, Paul reminded the disciples about the transformative ramifications of their baptism (Romans 6:1-4).

Then Paul described this pivotal act as constituting a wholehearted obedience resulting in setting them free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

To make an argument against the necessity of baptism for salvation from Romans 10:9 requires ignoring both the immediate and greater literary contexts to pursue a proof-text for a preconceived theology. This is theology driving interpretation, not a contextually based interpretation driving theology.

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They are the parents of two young men.

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