Faith and Confession (Phil Johnson)

Romans 10:9-10   |   Sunday, December 28, 2014   |   Code: 2014-12-28pm-PJ

Our text is Romans 10:9-10. It says, "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."

This is one of several texts in Paul's epistles where he

sums up the gospel message in a simple, short sentence or

two. Every now and then, in Paul's writings, he'll make a

concise summary statement about the way of salvation,

summing up the heart of the gospel in a simple, condensed

statement. And these are all vital biblical references.

Ephesians 2:8-9 is one of them: "For by grace you have been

saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift

of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Titus

3:5 is another: "he saved us [Christ did], not because of works

done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by

the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."

Romans 4:4-5 is another: "Now to the one who works, his

wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one

who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly,

his faith is counted as righteousness." Galatians 2:16 is

Romans 10:9-10 2

another: "We know that a person is not justified by works of the

law but through faith in Jesus Christ."

Always, Paul's focus is the same: salvation is not

something that can be earned by merit or obtained by human

works, but justification is a work of God' grace, by which

"the righteousness of God [is imputed] through faith in Jesus

Christ for all who believe" (Romans 3:22). Salvation is

wrought through Christ's work on our behalf. God saves us

for Christ's sake, not to honor us or reward us for anything

we do, but to honor Christ for what He did. Salvation is a gift

of God, not something earned by works. And faith is the sole

instrument by which we lay hold of it. That is the consistent

teaching of the apostle Paul, and it is the consistent teaching

of all Scripture.

Now, to some of you, these may seem easy and

elementary truths, things you hear about all the time. You

may even be tempted to tune me out and think this message

isn't for you, because you have already believed the gospel

and embraced Christ by faith as Savior. But I want to urge

you not to tune me out. If you think you've reached the point

where you don't need to hear basic gospel truth taught and

explained, then maybe you haven't quite laid hold of the vast

fullness of the gospel message yet. Because the gospel is not

only the way of salvation; it is the ground of our assurance as

well. And the faith that first lays hold of justification at the

initial moment of conversion is the same faith that is

Faith and Confession 3

instrumental in sanctification as well. We all need to be

reminded of the basic truth of the gospel all the time. So

don't tune me out, even if you are someone who has been a

Christian for many years. The truth of this text is for you,

too, and you need to be reminded of it.

Still, there's nothing particularly complex or difficult

about these two verses. They are a simple summary of the

way of salvation, and they feature in very few words a

number of key ideas that lie at the heart of the gospel

message, and therefore at the core of the Christian faith.

Like all Scripture, this passage is not to be considered in

isolation from the rest of Scripture, and its full meaning is

made clear by the context. So we'll examine both the

immediate and the broader contexts as we work our way

through this text, but I want to do it by highlighting the same

key concepts Paul mentions in the text itself.

There are three ideas that are repeated in each of these two

verses. Notice: both verses speak of confession; both speak

of faith; and both speak of salvation. In verse 9, it's

confession, then faith, then salvation. In verse 10, it's faith,

then confession, then salvation. And I want to examine each

of those ideas in reverse order from the way they appear in

verse 9. First isC

Romans 10:9-10 4


The context makes clear that the subject is spiritual

salvationCsalvation from sin; redemption from the guilt and

the penalty of sin; rescue from the wrath of God and the

eternal punishment that Scripture says is owed to everyone

who violates the law of God.

In fact, the immediate context is dealing with the question

of salvation for Israel. Paul is speaking particularly of the

unbelieving leaders of Israel (the Sanhedrin, the leading

Pharisees, the leading Sadducees)Cthose who hated Christ

mostCas well as the majority of the Jewish nation who

looked to them for leadership. National IsraelCthe earthly

nation. Paul says they had rejected and killed their own

Messiah; they had spurned the true righteousness of God;

and they were going about trying to establish a substitute

righteousness of their ownCan external, hypocritical, selfrighteousness

that would ultimately result in their

condemnation rather than their salvation.

You're in Romans 10. Look back at verse 1:

Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is

that they may be saved.

2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God,

but not according to knowledge.

3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and

seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to

God's righteousness.

Faith and Confession 5

Now, the fact that he's talking about salvation presupposes

the need for salvation. That should be obvious, but it

nevertheless needs to be pointed out. There's an implicit

acknowledgement of our human fallenness, our dilemma as

sinners, in the very idea of "salvation."

In other words, there's something we need to be saved

from, and it's our sin. That's where you have to start in order

for any of this to make sense. You have to acknowledge, first

of all, that you are a sinner in need of salvation.

In fact, that's the very issue Paul did start with back in the

first three chapters of this same epistle to the church at

Rome. He's giving a detailed, systematic account of the

gospel, and he starts with the fact of sin. Starting in Romans

1:18 and continuing through Romans 3:20, Paul had already

systematically demonstrated that everyoneCincluding the

out-and-out pagans, the religious Gentiles, and the

JewsCeveryoneCis sinful and in need of salvation. He sums

up the point in Romans 3:23: "For all have sinned, and come

short of the glory of God." Romans 3:10: "There is none

righteous, no, not one." But (Romans 3:9) "both Jews and

Gentiles . . . are all under sin."

And, by the way, because we are under sin, we are also

under the wrath of God (Romans 1:18): "For the wrath of God

is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and

unrighteousness of men."

Romans 10:9-10 6

That's the human dilemma. It's not just loneliness, or low

self-esteem, or depression, or an empty lifeCor any of the

other personal problems people today like to focus on instead

of their sin and their guilt. All those other things are fruits of

sin, but they're not the root of the problem. The real problem

with our sin is not just that it makes us feel bad or causes us

emotional stress. It's that our sin has separated us from God

and placed us under His wrath. We need to be right with

God, and that is a more pressing and important need than all

the self-centered needs most people today spend their time

obsessing over.

That is the starting point of the gospel. That's the problem

and the universal human dilemma the gospel addresses: We

are all sinners, and therefore we are subject to judgment and

eternal wrath. We cannot do anything to save ourselves from

that predicament. We need someone else to save us. And

only Christ can do that. Acts 4:12: "And there is salvation in

no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given

among men by which we must be saved."

Now the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin, and the majority of

Israel rejected the idea that their spiritual condition was that

hopeless. They would have embraced a Messiah who would

have ended their oppression under the Roman emperors.

They were ready to follow a Messiah who would give them

food and physical healing and make them feel better about

themselves. But as soon as they realized Christ's mission was

Faith and Confession 7

to rescue them from sinCand that required them to admit that

they were hopeless sinners in need of that kind of salvation,

they turned against Him and ultimately killed Him.

Now, don't misunderstand me: Most of them probably

would have admitted that they had sinned, just like most

people today, if you press them, will say, Oh sure, I've

"sinned." I've made mistakes. I've done things I'm not proud

of. I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But I'm not that bad. My

situation isn't really hopeless. I'm getting better. Every day

and in every way, I'm getting better and better.

According to Romans 10:3, they still believed they could

establish their own righteousness. They didn't see their own

sin as any real impediment to earning God's approval. They

were "ignorant of the righteousness of God," Paul says. They

didn't understand the utter perfection God demands. They

wouldn't submit to His righteousness, because it would have

condemned them. And they refused to acknowledge the

hopelessness of their condition. They were convinced that

their external obedience to the ceremonies and the rituals

prescribed in the law made them better than everyone else.

So they were satisfied with an external show of

righteousness, and they were ignorant of their need for a

better kind of righteousness.

That is why Paul makes such a clear and dramatic contrast

in verses 5-6 between two kinds of righteousness. One is

self-righteousness, which always condemns and can never

Romans 10:9-10 8

save. In verse 5, he calls it "the righteousness that is based on

the law."

In other words, the kind of righteousness that depends on

what I do always condemns, (even if what I am trying to do

is be obedient to God's law) because I cannot fulfill the law's

demand for perfect obedience. I never obey perfectly. But the

law demands total perfection. James 2:10 says, "For

whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point,

he is guilty of all." Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5:20:

"[Unless] your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of

the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the

kingdom of heaven." And then Jesus said in Matthew 5:48,

"You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is


Paul said that if you want to work for your own salvation,

you'll be paid whatever wage you earn. He made that very

point back in Romans 4:4: "Now to the one who works, his

wages are not counted as a gift but as his due." If you want to

get paid a reward according to your own works, just

remember that the wages of sin is death, and it only takes one

infraction of God's law to be accounted a sinner and worthy

of death. That's why it is utterly hopeless to think you can

earn favor with God by what you do. To attempt to do that is

the very definition of self-righteousnessCself-dependence on

your own righteousness.

Faith and Confession 9

But there's another kind of righteousness. In verse 6, Paul

calls it "the righteousness based on faith." In verse 3, he

makes it clear that it's God's righteousnessCa truly perfect

righteousness because it is God's own righteousness. Back in

Romans 3:22, Paul said that "the righteousness of God [God's

own perfect, flawless righteousness] . . . is [bestowed through]

faith [in] Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe."

Romans 4 then goes on to describe in detail how that

righteousness is imputed, or reckoned, to the account of

every believer, by faith, apart from our works. So those who

simply believe get credit for a perfect righteousness that is

not in any way the fruit of what they do. It's something they

receive by faith. It's a righteousness they don't earn, but they

get credit for it. That's the righteousness that saves.

Notice: Here in verse 4, Paul says that the righteousness

that saves is the righteousness of Christ. It's not only God's

righteousness; more specifically, it belongs to Christ and

was wrought by Him for us. Verse 4: "For Christ is the end of

the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." The word

translated "end" is the Greek word telos. It means Christ is

the object, the goal, and the fulfillment of the law on our

behalf. You might read the English expression and think it

means simply that Christ has put an end to the law by

overthrowing it or declaring it null and void. That's not what

it means. It means that he has fulfilled the law on our behalf.

He is the end (He is the goal and the object) of the law. He is

Romans 10:9-10 10

that to which the law points. Obviously, He fulfilled the law's

moral demands perfectly, because He was sinless. But He

also fulfilled the penalty God demands of those who

transgress His law. He did both things as our substitute. He

fulfilled the law in our place; and He bore the law's penalty

in our stead. Therefore His righteousnessCthe perfect

righteousness of God incarnateCis put to our account, in the

very same way that our sins were put to His account on the

cross. He is quite simply the perfect fulfillment of every

intention and every design that was built into God's law.

That is why self-righteousness can never save, but there is

a righteousness that does save. It's God's righteousness, not

ours. It is Christ's righteousness and the perfect fulfillment of

the law. And it's received by faith, not earned by works.

By the way, Paul makes a similar contrast between the

two kinds of righteousness in Philippians 3:9, where he says

he wants to be "found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of

my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through

faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on


So that is what salvation is all about. That's the only way

salvation is possible. It is the result of a righteousness that

we don't earn or contribute to with our own works. It's

something Christ alone has done for us, on our behalf. And

you can't have it if you want to earn it on your own. Because

if you think you can earn it on your own, you're not really

Faith and Confession 11

looking for salvation; you're imagining that you can earn

eternal life as a reward, and that was the very error that kept

the unbelieving Israelites cut off from the possibility of


It's important to understand those truths at the very

beginning: you need salvation. You need to be saved from

the wrath of God and be justified in His eyes. You cannot

save yourself. Even if you could reform yourself enough to

be absolutely perfect from now until the end of your life, you

still can't afford the price you would have to pay for your

past sins. But more than that, God's standard of

righteousness is so high that you could never attain it

anyway. So don't imagine that you can do anything to save


But here's why the gospel is good news: the very thing

you need most is available by faith to all who simply put

their trust in Christ. The perfect righteousness you need but

could never earn on your own is the very thing verse 10

means when it says, "with the heart one believes and is

justified." The familiar King James Version says the same

thing, but says it this way, "with the heart man believeth unto

righteousness." Perfect righteousness. Not your own

righteousness, but the righteousness of God, unto all and

upon all who believe. And that brings us to the second of the

three great ideas that stand out on the face of our text:

Romans 10:9-10 12


In many ways this goes to the very heart of Paul's point. It

is faith in contrast to worksCsomething you believe as

opposed to something you do. Paul's answer to the Philippian

jailer's question is notable for its single-minded simplicity. In

Acts 16:30, the jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?"

Paul didn't give him a list of works to perform or a liturgy of

sacraments to observe. This is the simple, biblical answer to

the urgent question of every seeking heart (Acts 16:31):

"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

In our text, Paul is saying the same thing. "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." Now, at first

glance, you might think he has added an act of verbal

confession to the simple condition of faith, but that's not the

point, and I'll show you that in a moment. For now, though,

let's examine what he means by the idea of believing in

Christ with your heart.

The context makes clear that Paul is stressing the utter

simplicity of faith in the finished work of Christ. Look at the

preceding verses, starting with verse 5. This is not an easy

passage to understand, but when you see what Paul is saying

here, his logic is brilliant.

Remember, he is contrasting two kinds of

righteousnessCself-righteousness versus imputed

righteousness. The mistake of the unbelieving Israelites was

Faith and Confession 13

that they thought they could establish their own

righteousness. They were pursuing a legal righteousness that

they imagined was derived from their obedience to Moses'


So Paul calls Moses himself as a witness against that kind

of works-religion. And in verse 5, he is quoting from

Leviticus 18:5, which is simply a promise of life and

blessing to those who obey the law. Listen to Leviticus 18:4-

5. God is speaking, and He says: "You shall follow my rules

and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.

Lev 18:5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a

person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD." That

was the promise of the law: "do and live." And the same

thing is reiterated repeatedly in Scripture. You find that same

verse quoted again in Nehemiah 9:29 and three times in

Ezekiel 20. I believe Jesus was making reference to that very

same text (Leviticus 18:5), when a certain lawyer asked the

same question as the Philippian jailer. Luke 10:25 says,

"behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying,

'Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'"

Now, there's a significant difference between this guy and

the Philippian jailer. The jailer was feeling his sin and

sincerely seeking salvation. The lawyer, notice, was just

putting Jesus to the test. He didn't really sense his own need.

So Jesus turned the question back on him and pointed him

back to the law: What do you think? What does the law say?

Romans 10:9-10 14

So the lawyer recited back to Jesus the first and second great

commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your

heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with

all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." He gave the

legal answerCthe answer of the law, rather than the answer

of the gospel.

Luke 10:28 says Jesus told him, "You have answered

correctly; do this, and you will live." That is the only answer

the law can give: do and live. But the gospel has a

completely different answer, as we're going to see.

Before we see that, though. Notice this: there's another

message also contained in the law. There's not only a

promise of life to those who obey; there's also a curse for

those who disobey. Galatians 3:10: "For it is written, 'Cursed

be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book

of the Law, and do them.'" That's a quote from Deuteronomy

27:26. Also, Jeremiah 11:3 says, "Thus says the LORD, the

God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not [heed] the words

of this covenant."

You can't have the promise of the law without the curse,

too. And that is Paul's point in verse 5. "The man who

practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by

that righteousness." You have to obey the law perfectly to

benefit from its promise of life, and if you don't, the

righteousness which is by law demands death as a penalty.

Faith and Confession 15

In Galatians 3 Paul says something very similar to what

he says here in Romans 10, and it's worth looking at, because

it sheds some light on this passage and the meaning of

Leviticus 18:5 and the law's promise of life for obedience

("So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a

man may live if he does them.").

So turn for a moment to Galatians 3:12. Keep a marker

here, but turn over to Galatians 3. Notice, verse 10 is where

Paul cites the curse of the law. Therefore, he says, you can't

be justified by doing the law (verse 11) because you can't do

it perfectly and the law curses every imperfection. But, he

points out, even the Old Testament recognized that the just

shall live by faith. And there Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4,

which he also quotes in Romans 1:17 as proof that justifying

righteousness is acquired by faith, not by works. That's

gospel truth, not legal truth, because, as he says in Galatians

3:12, "But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does [the

commandments] shall live by them.'"

So that is Paul's argument against those who try to justify

themselves before God by their own works: works cannot

justify, because the same law that promises life for obedience

also pronounces a curse for disobedience, and that makes

true righteousness utterly impossible for sinners. So the law's

promise of life is illusive and impossible. It's "not of faith,"

he says, and faith is the true way of salvation. That is the

Romans 10:9-10 16

promise of the gospel, and it's better than the promise of life

that was attached to the law.

Notice, also, that he goes on to say in Galatians 3:13 that

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law."

Now, listen, because this is the heart of the case Paul is

making: Christ not only redeemed us from the curse of the

law; he also obtained the promise of the law on our behalf.

That's why the law promised life in the first place. Because a

redeemer would come who could obey the law perfectly, and

He would do it on our behalf. He has done everything the

law requires of usCincluding die. Look at Galatians 3:13:

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a

curse for us--for it is written, [written in Deuteronomy 21:23]

'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'" Or as

Deuteronomy 21:23 has it, "A hanged man is cursed by God."

Christ was cursed for usCmade the living embodiment of

every curse ever uttered. But God accepted His sacrifice as

payment in full for the sin of others, and the proof of

thatCthe ultimate vindication of Christ and the proof of our

salvationCis seen in the fact that God has raised him from

the dead.

Now, go back to Romans 10 and look at this: Verse 5 tells

us what the law says: you get life for perfect obedience.

That's the righteousness of the law. It is unattainable for you

and me by our own works.

Faith and Confession 17

But remember, there's another righteousnessCthe

righteousness of faith. This is the gospel-promise. And Paul

turns to this other righteousness in verse 6:

But the righteousness based on faith says, "Do not say in

your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to

bring Christ down)

7 or "'Who will descend into the abyss?'" (that is, to bring

Christ up from the dead).

8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your

mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we


Again, Paul is citing Old Testament verses. He draws his

proof-texts about the righteousness of faith from the Old

Testament, proving that even to those who were under the

law, the way of justification by faith was promised. The

gospel-promise was hidden in the law.

And I wish we had time for an in-depth look at the

context of the verses he cites, but we don't. So be sure you

get the point here.

Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 30, where Moses sums

up the meaning of the law in a way that points the people

toward faith rather than works. Moses sets before them a

choice between life and death, good and evil. And the apostle

Paul is saying that Moses' words, the very capstone of the

law, pointed the people to faith. They implied the promise of

Romans 10:9-10 18

the gospel. They gave hope despite the curse of the law.

Deuteronomy 30:11-15:

For this commandment that I command you today is not

too hard for you, neither is it far off.

12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will

ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may

hear it and do it?"

13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who

will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may

hear it and do it?"

14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in

your heart, so that you can do it.

15 See, I have set before you today life and good, death

and evil.

Paul then takes that text and applies it to Christ. In effect, he

pulls back the curtain and shows that all along, the purpose

and the intent of the law was to point people to Christ by

making them see the futility of trying to be righteous on their

own and leaving them with no recourse but faith as the way

of salvation.

In other words, even in its Mosaic context, this was a

gracious, gentle, expression of God's willingness to save.

And Paul explains the sense of it by applying it to Christ. We

can't ascend to heaven in order to bring Christ down. And we

can't descend into the deep in order to bring Him up from the

dead. But everything that needs to be done for our salvation

Faith and Confession 19

has already been done on our behalf. There is nothing left for

us to do but lay hold of it by faith.

And, Paul says, that is "the word of faith, which we preach."

It's about faith, not works. It's about believing, not doing. It's

about laying hold by faith of that which we could never do.

But Christ has already done it on behalf of his people. He

obtained the law's promise of life, by obeying the whole law

perfectly as our substitute and our proxy. And then he

redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse

for us and dying to pay the penalty that was owed us. That

penalty he also paid as our substitute and our proxy. The

proof that God accepted His work is gloriously declared in

His resurrection.

We lay hold of Christ and the promise of justification by

faith, and by faith alone. We cannot earn salvation by any

merit of our own, because we have no merit of our own. So

faith is the only possible way we can lay hold of it.

Now, two more points about faith before we move on.

First, faith is objective, not subjective. In other words, faith

is not some indistinct, ethereal feeling that we get, but it has

a definite object. And the only true and valid object of saving

faith is Christ. But it's again not just a vague and indistinct

notion about Him. There is specific content to our faith. It

involves certain biblical doctrinesCessential articles of

faithCthat I don't want you to miss.

Romans 10:9-10 20

Verse 9; we must confess "that Jesus is Lord." In other

words, there must be a recognition of His deity. Whenever

the New Testament refers to Him as "Lord," the emphasis is

on His deity. Paul uses the very same word you would use in

Greek to translate YHWH, the covenant name of God. Jesus

is God incarnate, and that is also what's implied in verse 6,

when Paul speaks of bringing Him down from above.

The title LORD also involves an implicit recognition of

His absolute right to rule. True faith in Christ as Lord is

incompatible with hard-hearted rebellion against His

lordship. You're not a true Christian if you haven't embraced

Christ by faith as your Lord and God and yielded your heart

to His lordship and authority.

It should also go without saying that the expression also

implies an unquestioning recognition of His ability to save.

True saving faith leans on Christ alone as God and Lord and

SaviorCand that is why if you haven't abandoned all hope

whatsoever in anything else you might think will save you

from your sin, you're not believing in Christ in the sense our

text requires. If you're holding on to acts of penance, or if

you think church membership alone will do it, or if you

retain any hope that your own good works will earn you

favor with God, then you haven't believed in your heart the

way our text demands.

And the objective, doctrinal content of genuine saving

faith doesn't stop there. Notice the second half of verse 9.

Faith and Confession 21

You must also "believe in your heart that God raised him from

the dead." After all, if the resurrection is proof of Christ's

justification, you can't doubt the testimony of Scripture about

that objective, historical fact and still be saved. First

Corinthians 15:17: "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is

futile and you are still in your sins."

So our faith has objective content, and the one true object

of saving faith is the Lord Jesus Christ, as He is revealed to

us in Scripture. That's where saving faith begins, and that is

where true faith must ultimately rest.

If you believe those things in your heart and confess them

with your mouth, Paul says, "you will be saved."

That brings us to the third key idea we find in these two

verses. It's the idea ofC

Romans 10:9-10 22


Now, let me say as clearly as possible that when Paul

speaks of confessing with your mouth, he is not saying this

external act is a work that must be added to faith in order to

merit salvation. He is not suggesting that some work must be

added to faith in order to make it efficacious for salvation.

Throughout his epistles he consistently teaches that no work

is necessary to merit salvation. Romans 4:5: "To the one who

does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his

faith is counted as righteousness." Remember Titus 3:5,

which I quoted already: "[Christ] saved us, not because of

works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own

mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy

Spirit." And 2 Timothy 1:9 says God "saved us and called us

to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his

own purpose and grace."

But here Paul includes the idea of confession for two

reasons. First, notice once again verse 8: "The word is near

you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith)."

So it's all about faith. But remember that verse 8 is a

quotation from Deuteronomy 30:14: "The word is very near

you. It is in your mouth and in your heart."

Paul is still thinking of that text, and its reference to the

mouth and the heart. He's pointing out that the way of

salvation is not through something external, like the law

inscribed on tablets of stones. But we lay hold of salvation

Faith and Confession 23

by genuine faith, and genuine faith is expressed in the mouth

and the heart.

And that's the second reason he stresses confession with

the mouth: he is talking about the expression of genuine

faith, not the ontology of faith. In other words, when we

make a true verbal confession of faith, that is just how true

faith shows itself; it's not how you get faith, or muster faith

within yourself. Verbal confession is the natural and

expected result of true faith. It's therefore a valid test of

faith's reality. Faith is the sole instrument of justification; but

if it's real faith, it will bear the fruit of confession, because

(verse 11) "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to

shame"Cor as the King James Version has it, "Whosoever

believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

This is very similar to what James says in James 2:18:

"Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you

my faith by my works." We could adapt that phrase to what

Paul is saying here: You try to testify about your faith without

a confession if you can find a way to do that; I'll show you

my faith by confessing it.

Faith and good works are not the same thing, but if it's

true faith, it will bear the fruit of good works. True faith and

a confession of faith are not the same thing, either, but

authentic faith will bear the fruit of a sound confession.

That's what Paul is saying.

Romans 10:9-10 24

How do we confess our faith? There are many ways.

Baptism, properly understood, is a confession of faith. That's

why here at Grace Church we follow the apostolic practice of

asking converts to give a confession of faithCa testimony

about how they came to faithCwhen they are baptized.

Baptism ought to be one of the first steps of obedience for

every Christian, and if you consider yourself a believer but

have never been baptized, especially if you are holding off

baptism because you are afraid of confessing your faith

publicly, you ought to examine yourself to see whether you

are truly in the faith.

Now, I'm not saying that you ought to regard a baptism or

a verbal confession of faith as automatic proof of genuine

faith, and Paul wouldn't say that, either. Notice (verse 10):

"with the heart one believes and is justified." Faith must be

borne in the heart before it can be truly expressed on the lips.

And that's the proper order. (The only reason Paul mentions

confession before faith in verse 9 is because he is doing an

exposition of Deuteronomy 30:14, so he follows Moses'

word order.) But it's obvious (isn't it?) that faith must

precede any honest confession.

Confession of faith doesn't end with baptism, either. I

hope you are bold to confess your faith in the workplace, or

at school, or wherever you encounter unbelievers. If you shy

away from that kind of verbal confession of your faith, again,

I would urge you to examine your heart.

Faith and Confession 25

Matthew 5:16 says: "Let your light shine before others, so

that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father

who is in heaven." Now if you understand that text in light of

our text, a couple of vital truths become clear. First, the chief

way to let your light shine before other men, and the most

important "good work" that should be visible in your life, is

your confession of faith in Christ. I hope you tell everyone

you know that you are a Christian. If you're keeping that a

secret, you are not letting your light shine the way Jesus

meant. And I hope you tell people why you are a Christian

and how they can also be Christians. That's one of the main

points of Romans 10: "how shall they believe in him of whom

they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a

preacher?" (v. 14). You need to speak up; "Confess with your

mouth that Jesus is Lord."

Now, someone might point out that the verse I just read

from Matthew 5 connects the idea of letting your light shine

with the fact that people should be able to see the good

works you do. And a lot of people mistakenly assume it is

possible to be a faithful witness for Christ simply by the way

you liveCwithout ever speaking a word. You've heard the

saying, I'm sure: "Preach the gospel at all times. When

necessary, use words."

That's a cute sentiment. (It's usually attributed to St.

Francis of Assisi), and there's a hint of truth to it: what you

do is often more effective than what you say in convincing

Romans 10:9-10 26

people that the gospel is true. But what our text makes

inescapably clear is that what you say is not optional. You

cannot faithfully preach the gospel at all without words. If

you try to leave off the words, all you will be doing is

impressing people with your own good works (which the

Bible says are like filthy rags anyway), instead of pointing

them to the work of Christ (which is truly perfect). Truly

preaching the gospel necessarily involves wordsCincluding a

verbal confession of faith. That, again, is one of the main

points of our text: "With the mouth one confesses and is


Notice one other thing before we draw this to a close, and

it's this: the fact that we are to make a confession of faith also

underscores the fact that true faith is objective, not

subjective. Articles of faith are expressed in true

propositions. That's what our doctrinal statement is all about.

That's why doctrinal statements are often referred to as

"confessions of faith."

I hope your faith is real, and objective, and something you

think about in such a way that you can articulate it in a sound

confession. That is the natural, expected, and inevitable

result of true faith, and as that's why as you study God's

Word and learn sound doctrine and feed your soul with the

truth of Scripture, your faith will be strengthened.

Meanwhile, you ought to be confessing your faith verbally,

every opportunity you get.

Faith and Confession 27

In closing, let me point out that this text we have been

looking at today is a promise. "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." That's the gospel promise.

Believe it in your heart in such a way that you cannot help

confessing it with your mouth, and you will be saved. The

gospel is just that simple: “Whoever calls on the name of the

Lord shall be saved.”

It's also an invitation. If you labor and are heavily laden

and weary of the struggle of trying to earn God's approval on

your own, lay hold of Christ by faith. Recognize that He

alone can doCand has already doneCwhat the law demands

of you (and what you could never do for yourself)Cand turn

to Him in faith as your risen Lord and only Savior. The

promise of God is true: when you do that, you will be saved.