Can we obtain the promise of salvation by the “confess and believe” doctrine?
Have you ever heard it taught that all you need to do to obtain salvation is: 1) confess Jesus as Lord and, 2) to believe in the testimonies of Christ? These are two lofty ideas, but they need clarity. For demons also believe in Christ …and shudder (Jam 2:19). They will be confessing Him as Lord also, but it won’t do them any good.
If your Christian walk bears little true fruit of righteousness and resulting peace, then you need to consider what you believe. For we live according to our beliefs. And if we believe right, we will live right.
As a consideration:
How cheaply do we regard the gift of salvation? Have we understood the great price God paid through Christ to atone for our sins? And does the Bible dare to teach that all we need to do is to confess Him as Lord, and believe in the testimonies of Christ to obtain eternal life?
Taking scripture out of context to justify our lives is like feeding on cardboard. We might satisfy an initial hunger, but it will do us more harm than good. So is it with God’s Word. We ought not think that we can use parts of God’s Word that suit us and discard the rest.
Paul, who wrote Romans 10:9, also said: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God (Act 20:27 KJV). He means here that he has not kept back any part of God’s Word from his hearers. It is for your soul’s security and your assurance that you are of Him, if you will only receive the full counsel of God’s Word.
The context of Romans 10:9
The context begins in Rom. 10:6
The foundation of Rom. 10:9
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), (Rom 10:6)
or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” (Rom 10:7)
But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, (Rom 10:8)
The portion above was inspired by Moses’ words in Deut. 30; particularly Deut. 30: 11-14. Here Moses was counselling Israel not to return to idols and the way of the world so that they can continue in the love and life of God obtaining as a result, all the blessings of God’s promises.
But here lies the problem
How many try to claim the promises of God by confession and belief (which they call “faith”)? And how many do you know of that have been claiming these promises for years and yet their lives are no better than those in the world? And many of them are worse off. I have seen this problem over and over for over 40 years now. The results are usually conclusive: This type of faith does not work! But why not?
True, working faith is not a cliché; nor is it a belief system. If you bear with me and understand the workings of exercising true faith it will change your heart, then your whole life. And you will love it!
The process of receiving the blessings of God
Moses told the people how to receive the blessings. The process was in keeping the moral law of God. The method was loving God with our whole heart. (Deut. 30: 10)
Now, immediately people will defend their non-working belief by saying: “we are not to keep the law because we are not under it, but under Christ”. But their misunderstanding in this is also hypocritical. I will show you why. But first:
Israel was given not only the written moral law of God on mount Sinai, but also the ceremonial law, which came later through the establishment of the Levitical priesthood. The ceremonial law of God was for the foreshadowing of things to come.(Heb. 10:1) But the moral law of God will always remain.
Peter said to the council that no one was able to bear the law. But this was the ceremonial law (Acts 15:10); in particular, circumcision (See Acts 15:5). Paul said that he was not under the law (this was the ceremonial law of the Jews), but he was certainly under the law of God in Christ. (This is the moral law) (1Cor. 9:21).
Here is the hypocritical part:
How many choose to believe that they are not under the whole law including the eternal moral law? Answer: Many! (If not most). Now, how many of them would like other Christians sinning against them through murder, stealing, adultery, slander, hate, etc. Are they not hypocrites?
The moral law of God is the matrix of God’s kingdom. It never changes. It produces the peace and safety of perfect benevolence. The method of living in that benevolence is to love God and His righteousness through faith. And, unless we walk in the Spirit of holiness i.e. being sanctified, we will not see heaven or eternal life. (Heb. 12:14) The way to salvation is learning how to walk in loving obedience through saving faith.
The difference between the old and new covenant
The difference between the old covenant of the Jews and the new covenant of Christians is vast.
The Old Covenant
In the old covenant, Moses said that the law he was counselling them in was “not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach”. That is; it was possible to walk in all the counsel of God. If it wasn’t then God would not have commanded it (Deut. 30:11). After all, Moses and Joshua did, bar Moses’ hitting the Rock twice. So why did the people not walk in it? Because it was not done in true, saving faith (Heb. 4:2).
Moses tried to explain to the Jews how to obtain the method of walking in faith to receive God’s blessings. He said:
“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ (Deu 30:12)
“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ (Deu 30:13)
“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deu 30:14)
This means that the word of faith was already within them. God has given every free-moral agent the gift of faith to believe and walk in Him. (Rom.12:3) But for them it was more difficult to exercise faith in an unseen person of God.
The New Covenant
But in the new covenant, we have better promises (Heb. 8:6) based on the tangible presence of God having appeared in Person, through Christ. Jesus came to us to show the way to God. He is the Word of God made flesh.
We can now identify with God through Christ, making following after Him more simple. Further, He has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us to keep us in the will and blessing of God. Therefore, it is by knowing God through Christ that we can exercise faith in the Person of God living in us by the Holy Spirit.
This presence of Christ within is what makes our covenant so much better than believing in the God who never manifested Himself in person before. Through this living way we are more than able to walk pleasing to God for salvation. His commandments now are not burdensome (1John 5:3) because our relationship with Him is real. No one can walk in the conscious presence of God and sin (1John 3:6). Therefore, it is this consciousness of Him that keeps us in Him. Those who do not have this consciousness have no part in Him, nor He in them (Acts 8:21; Rom. 8:9).
Paul’s meaning of Rom. 10:9
Paul was saying that this Word of faith is not far from us, and he paraphrased Moses words by saying that we don’t have to send up to heaven to bring this Word of faith down to us; nor go to the depths of the earth (Abyss – Moses says “across the sea”) to bring it up. But what is this Word of faith? It is Christ in the heart, the manifest Word of God.
The secret to walking in true saving faith
This faith in God’s Word is now manifest not just as God’s spoken commandments, but as the real Person of God. Therefore, we do not have to bring Christ down from heaven again, or raise Him from the dead (Rom. 10:6-7). All we need to do is exercise the faith that we already have been born with, in the Person of Christ, through the Holy Spirit who is given to us. (Rom. 10:8)
- We are to believe what has been done for us. Receiving the Spirit of Christ is a choice.
- Then we walk in that choice of having received Him.
- We choose to believe that He resides within us because we trust His word that says so. By doing this we walk in His revealed will.
- Then, and only then, we will be given the Spirit of Christ to give us the assurance that we are in Him and have eternal life. Any other belief is mere speculation and empty assumption.
The love of Christ comes from discovering what great love He has shown us (1John 4:19) by giving Himself, even to death, to redeem us as His people. He promised to give us His Spirit if we only believe it. This is the secret to walking in the Spirit of Christ and being counted as children of God.
The revelation of true faith in Rom. 10:9
The assurance that we are in Christ, or have the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8: 9) is if we are found walking in His righteousness. This will be the result of true saving faith.
Rom. 10:10 explains verse 9
“…for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Rom 10:10)
Faith is not a mental consent to, or belief in the testimonies of Christ. Rather, it is a quickening of the spirit – a consciousness of the reality of Christ within. This consciousness in the heart, (or saving faith) produces a natural tendency to live pleasing to God, producing righteousness as a way of life. The heart, being filled with Christ, loves what He loves and hates what He hates. Consequently, the result will be acknowledging, through confession, that Jesus is Lord. For what the heart is filled with the mouth will confess (Matt. 12:24). And the final result of this is our salvation.
When one truly believes in Christ, it is because he has received Him to abide in him. Hence, Christ lives His life through him. This faith is sincere and from the heart (1Pet. 1:22) and naturally purifies the soul. Therefore, when we walk in the conscious reality of Christ within us, the result will always be righteousness,which is a holy conduct of life (or as Hebrews puts it – our sanctification (Heb. 12:14)). And if anyone lives otherwise and calls himself a Christian is a liar (1John 2:4).
The promises of God
God promised a good life on earth and eternal life in the world to come, if we walk according to the laws of righteousness that governs His holy kingdom (Deut. 30: 8-9). However, those to whom the promises were initially given did not hear the Word united with faith (Heb. 4:2).
Let us then, while the promises of God remain, turn to Him in real saving faith, and walk in that conscious presence of Christ (See Heb. 4:1). Our assurance of salvation will not be based on assumption, but God will quicken our spirits with that knowing that we are children of God.
Peter said that we are to make sure of our calling to salvation (2Pet. 1:10). For many are called, but few are chosen. This is because they refuse to exercise a living faith in the present Person of Christ. Those who call on Him in all sincerity of heart, exercising faith will not be disappointed (Rom. 10: 11 -13).
Do not harden your heart
Today, if you hear His call on your life to repent and walk in the presence of Christ, do not harden your heart against the truth. He will walk with you to accomplish that which He has begun in you if you will exercise the kind of faith that is conscious of His abiding presence to produce righteousness of the heart.
To learn more about this subject see How do I know if I am saved?