I just heard a well-intentioned nationally-known speaker on the radio ask the question: “Do you want to be sure that you’re saved? You can be.” And then he said that assurance comes by knowing whether or not we have done what Romans 10:9 requires. What does that passage say? “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.”

Because of my respect for the author/pastor, I won’t give his name. Yet, I soundly disagreed with his comments. I don’t have a problem with his citation of Romans 10:9. I simply disagree with his application of it.


I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. However, I don’t believe this is a mole hill. I believe that this sort of mindset is what has led to the apathetic state of the American church (in general). 


So many churches are only a few funerals away from closing their doors when we’ve been assured that the gates of Hades won’t prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). “Christian” marriages far too often break up in divorce when we’re told it is supposed to be a beautiful picture of Christ’s relationship to the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33, esp. 32). Pastors all too often are found to be frauds, living double lives, when we are clearly commanded to live lives that are “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:1-2). We see so many churches embroiled in internal fights when Jesus Himself prayed for our unity (John 17:20-26).

All too often, the Christian community shows itself to not be so “Christian.” Why is this? It’s quite possible that we’ve taken the Gospel that is free … and made it cheap. We’ve reduced it to a prayer … just words … and all too often, empty words. It could be that many who profess to be believers and are on our church rolls are not really believers after all (Matthew 7:22-23).

So, what do we do with Romans 10:9 that says all we have to do to be saved is: “…confess with (our) mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in (our) heart that God raised him from the dead…”

First of all, we must put Paul’s words in context. Who was he writing to? To the Romans, of course. But, a moment’s reflection reminds us that the world leader ruled from that very city. Caesar’s throne was in Rome. Caesar was the only lord as far as he was concerned … and as far as any Roman was concerned (especially those who kind of liked to stay alive). Any words spoken that talked of some other king, lord, leader, etc. was treasonous!

The Jews, at the occasion of Jesus’ mock trial, understood this. Listen to these two passages:
  • “From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.'” (John 19:12)
  • “…Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” (John 19:15)

So, when Paul said that to be saved, you needed to “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord”, he was saying that following Jesus was treasonous. It was a person’s commitment to follow Jesus as their supreme ruler, not Caesar. If Caesar’s words ever conflicted with Jesus’ words, they were going to obey Jesus! Further, a true follower of Jesus would make his allegiance public, “with his mouth,” even if it cost him his life.

Do you see how applying Romans 10:9 in the 1st century was VERY different than how it is understood today?

Second, we are told in Scripture to examine ourselves to see if we are truly saved (2 Corinthians 13:5). Yet, we are never told to go back to some prayer that we prayed. We are always encouraged to look at our lives to see if it is bearing the fruit of a true believer.
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21). It’s obedience to Jesus words that shows we are saved.
  • “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46). Calling Jesus “Lord” means absolutely nothing unless we’re obeying Him.
  • “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13). This is the classic text on how we can be sure we are saved. 1 John was written so we can know we’re saved. What permeates the pages of 1 John? It is the behaviors that are evident in true believers.
Our obedience to Jesus doesn’t save us. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet, the Scripture makes it clear that true believers will live differently. While we will continue to struggle with sin, we will be getting victory over it and becoming more like Jesus.

It is this lifestyle of becoming more and more like Jesus that is the only evidence we have of whether or not we are truly headed to Heaven or Hell.

The way that leads to Heaven is not just the narrow gate (salvation); it’s also the narrow way (a life of obedience) that shows we’ve truly been saved (Matthew 7:13-14).