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In Romans 10:9, 10 Paul said:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Is it possible for someone to be saved having believed the gospel without literally confessing with his/her mouth?

Did Cornelius and his household literally confess Jesus as Lord before they were filled with the Holy Spirit?

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To literally confess with one's mouth in order to be saved such words as, "Jesus is Lord" would mean that mute people could not be saved.

To literally be baptized in water in order to be saved (as some believe to be the case) would mean that the repentant evil-doer on a cross next to Jesus could not be saved.

The very fact that there are exceptions shows that this is not a rule that must always be literally carried out. A principle is being stated, but there's more than one way of being obedient to it. Take my deceased husband as a case in point.

We'd been married 48 years, but after I became a Christian a few years into our marriage, I was left wondering till his death-bed whether he had, at some point or other, confessed Christ in faith. Well, he simply whispered one word, twice, while I and a Christian couple were sitting by his bed, and I knew he was saved. We thought he was asleep, or even unconscious, so were talking quietly. Romans 10:9-13 was our subject; I'd quoted the verse when we heard a faint, "Yes" come from my husband, whose eyes were still closed. I hesitated, then said a bit more, quoting a bit more, and the second time we heard this whispered, "Yes".

That's all I needed to hear - in a Hospice, with three of us present to hear those two little words. That's all I'm going to say by way of an answer.

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    That is a powerful testimony. God knows our innermost thoughts and motives and knows who belong to Him, which is of great comfort. Thank you for sharing.
    – Lesley
    Mar 22 at 9:47
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There is a subtlety here that many miss. The crux of this question goes the so-called "model" of atonement that one subscribes to. There have traditionally been numerous theories about what the atonement actually means and how to understand it, including, “Moral Influence Theory”, “Ransom Theory”, “Christus Victor”, “Satisfaction/Substitution Theory”, “Penal Substitution”, “Governmental Theory”, “Scapegoat Theory”, etc . Most of these are helpful (and contain truth) in some ways but all have two serious problems:

  1. Each focusses on (or emphasises) only one or two aspects of the atonement to the neglect of the others. That is, each one simplifies the more comprehensive divine plan of atonement.
  2. Each amounts to a form of Platonism which is foreign to the Bible – they create a “back-story” to explain Bible material that is unnecessary.

It is much better to accept that the Bible provides a very rich set of metaphors for the atonement to suit different understandings and situations. There is no single Biblical word or idea that encompasses all that is involved in atonement; however, several analogues (or metaphors) are employed to show God’s intent because none conveys the full meaning of God’s atonement. All illustrate another aspect of the operation of free grace and how a perfectly just and holy God deals with the abhorrence of sin and its consequences. These include:

  • Christ’s robe of righteousness provided a covering to hide the sinner’s wretched state. Job 29:14, Ps 132:9, Isa 11:5, 59:17, 61:10, 64:6, Zech 3:4, 5, Matt 22:1-14 (wedding garment parable), Rev 3:4, 6:11, 7:9, 19:8. This robe is a counterpoint to the “filthy rags” of Isa 64:6 and Zech 3:4, and immediately and completely hides them.
  • The Greek verb “aphiemi”, to forgive or give remission, means (literally) to send forth or send away. It is used of sins in Matt 9:2, 5, 6, 12:31, 32, 26:28, Mark 14:24, Acts 8:22, Rom 4:7, James 5:12, 1 John 1:9, 2:12, etc. That is, our sins are sent away or banished. See also Mark 3:29, Acts 5:31, 13:38, 26:18, Eph 1:7, Col 1:14. Again, Jesus accomplished this great work on the cross.
  • Propitiation or expiation (Greek: “hilasterion”) denotes the act of appeasing a deity by sacrifice to incur divine favour (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). Thus, Jesus’ sacrifice is described as propitiation in Rom 3:25 and 1 John 2:2. These are direct references to the same word used in the Septuagint in Ex 25:17-22 (and repeated in Heb 9:5) where the “atonement cover” or “mercy seat” of the Ark of the Covenant is described. That is, the covering of the Ark provided both atonement and mercy at the same time! See also 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Pet 3:18. Thus, Jesus is correctly described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, 36).
  • Justify and Justification (Greek cognate root: “dike”) means to pronounce righteous or acquit and is obviously a legal term. Paul, in Romans, tells us that God has freely justified all sinners (Rom 3:23-27) and that this occurred while we were still sinners (Rom 5:5, 8, 9) by His death on the cross. This “declaring right” is clearly what God does and is His initiative and something that cannot be earned (Rom 3:20). In Gal 2:16 we are emphatically told that we are justified by trusting God and not by works of the law.
  • The Bible also uses the idea of Jesus’ death being a kind of penal substitutionary execution to satisfy the requirements of “the law”; thus, His death was an essential part of our salvation. Isa 53:5, 6, 11, 12, Matt 20:28, Rom 5:19, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4, 3:13, Heb 9:15. Again, the extent to which this is literally true is highly debated – is it only a metaphor to demonstrate God’s great love and grace? Or did Jesus’ death actually change something about God’s attitude to us (recall that Jesus is also God!) Obviously Jesus’ death did not change God’s mind because God gave His Son and God did not give something in order to change His own mind! Jesus death was to demonstrate His justice (Rom 3:22-28).
  • In Rev 12:7-10 the process that leads to atonement is depicted as a war which Jesus wins. His victory obtains atonement for mankind (Col 2:15, 1 Peter 3:22). In this warfare, sinners are God’s enemies that He must capture in the war (Rom 5:10). This metaphor is extended for the Christian life (Eph 6:10-17, 1 Thess 5:8, 2 Cor 10:3-5, Isa 59:17) with “the armour of God”.
  • “Credit”, “account”, “imputed”, or “reckoned” (Greek: logizomai) is a financial or accounting term used in the market place but was employed by Paul to denote the act of God in crediting Abraham (and sinners generally) as righteous when they trusted in God, apart from the works of the law, as a free gift. The idea is based upon the assumption that sin creates a debt to God which must be repaid (Col 2:13-15, Matt 6:12). Again, it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech and so is not literally true. (Rom 4:3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24, 2 Cor 5:19, Gal 3:6, James 2:23. (See also Gen 15:6.) That is, the righteousness of God is “imputed” to the underserving sinner, freely. Thus, God “cancels the debt” (Matt 18:21-35).
  • “Gift” is used to convey the idea that atonement is absolutely free and the initiative of God. Rom 4:4, 5:15-17, 6:23, 2 Cor 9:14, 15, Eph 2:8, 3:7, Heb 6:4.
  • Redemption, Ransom, or most correctly, Manumission: Two Greek words are translated “redeem” (“exagerazo” and “lutroo”) with almost exactly equivalent meanings. Both speak of Christ redeeming sinners as slaves (Luke 1:68, 24:21) by paying a ransom (Matt 20:28, Mark 10:45, 1 Tim 2:6, Heb 9:15), but, Scripture is silent about to whom the manumission fee was paid (it is only an analogue, metaphor or figure of speech!). 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23, Gal 3:13, 4:5, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:18, Rev 5:9. This manumission idea emphasises God’s free gift of salvation because both Greek verbs were commonly used to buy freedom for a slave or hostage, without any contribution of the slave. Perhaps the most touching example of redemption is contained in the enacted parable of Hosea and Gomer – see Hosea 3:1-3. The New Testament also presents several things from which the sinner needs freedom: * Freedom from the devil, Heb 2:14, 15, * Freedom from death, 1 Cor 15:56, 57, * Freedom from the power of sin that enslaves, Rom 6:22, * Freedom from the condemnation of the law, Rom 3:19-24, Gal 3:13, 4:5.
  • Reconciliation describes the process of reuniting an estranged family member. It is predicated on two Biblical assumptions that (a) Jesus is our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29), and (b) sin separates us from Jesus our brother (Isa 59:2, Gal 5:4, Eph 2:12, Ps 22:1, Eze 14:5, Jer 6:8). Reconciliation is found in only a few places but they, again, emphasise that atonement is God’s initiative without any input from us. In 2 Cor 5:18, 19 we find that Christ reconciled the world to Himself by “not counting our sins against us”. Rom 5:10, 11 teaches that sinners were reconciled to God by Christ’s death. Further, a comparison with v9 shows that justification and reconciliation are used in parallel.
  • Rescue (save): The Greek verb, “sozo” means literally to rescue or deliver from danger (Matt 8:25, Mark 13:20, Luke 23:35, John 12:27, 1 Tim 2:15, 2 Tim 4:18). Thus, when the New Testament discusses salvation, it is using the figure of someone in immanent mortal danger being rescued by a “rescuer” (Acts 2:47, 16:31, Rom 8:24, Eph 2:5, 8, 1 Tim 2:4, 2 Tim 19, Titus 3:5, etc). This a perfect figure of our relationship with Jesus who delivers us from the danger of sin (Phil 2:12) and eternal loss (Rom 13:11, 1 Thess 5:8, 9 2 Thess 2:13, Heb 1:14, 9:28, 1 Peter 1:5, 2 Peter 3:15, etc). See also Eph 6:17 where salvation is described as a helmet to protect from spiritual danger. This figure also emphasises that salvation must come from outside the person.
  • The absolving of sin is sometimes represented as a “washing away” of sin, or “cleansing”. Lev 16:30, Num 19:9, Ps 51:2, 7, 10, Isa 4:4, Eze 36:25, Zech 13:1, 1 Cor 6:10, Eph 5:26, 1 John 1:7, 9. The practice of Baptism is built on this vivid metaphor and thus depicted as washing away of sin (Acts 22:16) as well as death to the old life and resurrection to a new life in Christ.

All this means that Christ's sacrifice was for all people, regardless of our confession or otherwise.

  • Rom 3:23, 24, “… for all have sinned … and all are freely forgiven...”
  • Rom 5:18, “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all people, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all people, resulting in justification of life.”
  • 2 Cor 5:14, “…we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”
  • 2 Cor 5:18, 19, “…God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ …”
  • 1 Tim 2:6, “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself as a ransom for all people.”

Why confess? What do we have verses like 1 John 1:9 and Rom 10:9, 10?? Very simple! The answer is actually given in Rom 10:9, 10 - While a wife may forgive a drunk husband, it is only when he confesses that he is a drunk and needs help that any help can be provided. The same is true of us - until we confess - there can be no reformation of life.

Nothing we do earns us salvation because it is God's absolutely free gift (Eph 2:5, 8-10, Gal 2:16, Titus 3:5 , etc). Therefore, confession is NOT a work we do to earn salvation. God's free gift of salvation is grasped by the sinner who realises his/her desperate need that is impressed upon them by the Holy Spirit (Phil 2:13, John 6:44, Rom 2:4), when such a person confesses.

Lastly, whether Cornelius and his family confessed or not is explicitly stated. However, the fact that he had been praying to God for some time before the angel appeared to him strongly suggests that he almost certainly had done much confession.

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  • God bless you sir for the detailed answer. Nov 25, 2018 at 12:28
  • It is an honour to be of service
    – user25930
    Nov 25, 2018 at 20:04
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The context of Romans 10:9-10 is Romans 10:1-8 and also the things said in the previous chapters.

"If you live after the flesh you shall die, if you through the Spirit do put to death the deeds of the flesh, you shall live." Romans 8:13-14

In Romans 10 Paul is speaking about how to receive the Spirit. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 30:12-14 "Who shall go up to heaven and bring the word down to us, that we may hear it and do it" "that we may hear it and do it" is repeated in the Deuteronomy text, but what we have of Paul's quotes leaves that out, but the idea is that Jesus is that word of God come down from heaven, that we may hear it and do it. One professing such and believing that Christ rose from the dead is sealed with the Holy Spirit.

Cornelius was likely living the way Christ taught, without having heard of Christ. Acts 10:31, 35 Before they received the Holy Spirit we can conclude that they already were living correctly, and they then believed that Christ rose from the dead: Acts 10:40-42, right then when Peter said that they could have believed it in their hearts, then also 10:43 Peter tells them to believe, then verse 44 they receive the Spirit.

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Instead of this verse being about initial salvation, it is about what is necessary for the salvation of those whom Paul is addressing - those who clearly are already very Christian:

...your faith is proclaimed in all the world. - Romans 1:8
...we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. -Romans 1:12
...you are not under law but under grace. -Romans 6:14
...but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons... -Romans 8:15
...I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ... -Romans 15:30
... “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart...” -Romans 10:8

It necessary for Christians to be saved to hold fast to what they believe:

1 I would remind you... of the gospel... 2 ...by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word ...-unless you believed in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:1-2

It is necessary for Christians who have died with Christ to confess him, for if you deny him he will deny you:

11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us... -2 Timothy 2:11-12

Objection: Why, in Romans 10:9-10, does Paul talk about salvation in the future tense if he is talking about Christians? Aren’t we who are Christians already saved?

Yes, Paul considers that we already have been saved:

24 For in this hope we were saved... Romans 8:24

But, Paul also sees that we are in the process of being saved as we read above in 1 Corinthians 15:2

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:1-2

It is also the case that Paul sees our salvation as something that will happen on the Day of Judgement.

9 ...because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. Romans 5:9
11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. -1 Corinthians 3:11-15

This way of talking may be familiar to some who recognize the way Paul talks about the 'already, but not yet'...
In one passage, he says that we are already in the Kingdom:

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, -Colossians 1:13

And in another that we have yet to enter the kingdom:

22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. -Acts 14:22

Here’s one way to conceptualize the past, present, and future reality of our salvation:
If we will be saved in the future from the fire on the Day of Judgement, it will be because Jesus has saved us in the past through his death we have been united in. And as we await the coming Day, we are being saved presently if we are in Christ, believing in and confessing his name.

9 because, 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. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. -Romans 10:9-10

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