Romans 10:9-10 is used by many well-meaning Christians in an endeavor to bring someone to faith in Christ. “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
This passage should not be understood to mean that we are saved by means of an audible profession of faith. We know that salvation is by grace through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), not by words we speak. Therefore, as with all Scripture, context is of critical importance if we are to properly understand Romans 10.
At the time of the writing of the book of Romans, for a person to accept Christ and confess Him as Lord typically resulted in persecution and, ultimately, death. At that time, to embrace Christ and confess Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to come, was an indication of true salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. Outward professions of faith are rare when one’s life is at stake, and no more so than in the early church. The phrase “you will be saved,” is not intended to reveal a condition for salvation by the public confession of a creed, but rather a definite fact that no one facing death would confess Christ as Lord unless indeed he or she was saved.
In Romans 10:10, we read, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” The original Greek carries the idea of “confirming” with the mouth what has taken place in the heart and being thankful for it.
Romans 10:13 says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Verse 14, however, indicates that calling upon the Lord is the privilege of those who are already redeemed: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?” Further, verse 12 says, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek – for the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” Clearly, the phrase “richly blesses all who call on him” cannot be speaking of salvation, as those who “call” already “believe,” according to verse 14.
To conclude, Romans 10:9-10 is not establishing public confession as a prerequisite for salvation. Rather, it is asserting that, when someone trusted Christ and subsequently confessed Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to come, that individual gave evidence of genuine salvation. Those who are saved will confess Christ as Lord because He has already instilled faith in their hearts. As with baptism and all good works, public confession is not the means of salvation; it is the evidence of salvation.