How Do We Obtain Salvation? – The Romans 10:9 Question

Many believers cling to a doctrine which claims that accepting Jesus Christ as one’s personal lord and savior is the only prerequisite for salvation. Most turn to Romans 10:9 as a way to justify this idea. Belief, they say, is enough to bring one into union with Christ. Just to be clear, I absolutely agree with what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 10:9: salvation is certainly obtained by faith in Jesus Christ. However, a problem arises with any attempt to make Romans 10:9 the central text concerning one’s salvation.

In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, the word for saved (or save) is σῴζω, a word transliterated into English as sōzō. The writers of the New Testament used the word “sōzō” at least 15 times when teaching about the salvation that was made available to humanity by the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Below are three examples. Please take a moment to carefully read the following verses of scripture:

Romans 10:9 – 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.

Mark 16:16 – He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

1 Peter 3:19-21 – By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

I have a question for anyone who is reading this post:

Which of the above verses is more important than the others?

Obviously, each of the references is equally important. One cannot make a distinction between the verses in terms of importance or relevance. What’s fascinating, however, is that the Greek word “sōzō” can be found in each of the verses, and it was translated as “saved” in each case. Yes, even the two baptism passages.

Baptism

The point I am attempting to convey is, according to scripture, baptism is an essential component of salvation. We cannot lean on Romans 10:9 as the most important salvific text. To do so would be akin to saying that we’re saved by grace and not faith. That’s obviously absurd, but I would also say that excluding baptism from the doctrine of salvation in Christ is equally absurd, considering the usage of “sōzō” in the texts above. Simply put, there is more to salvation than belief and a few words of affirmation. One must also be baptized after repenting of all sin. A person in that position, according to Acts 2:38, is also ready to receive the Holy Spirit.

On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter addressed the Jews who gathered to witness the first outpouring of the Holy Ghost. He explained to them what they were witnessing and made a bold declaration: “therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). When he finished his message, the Jewish people who listened where “…pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38).

Notice, Peter said that baptism in the name of Jesus is administered for the remission of sins. In other words, for one to receive remission (forgiveness) of sins, they must submit to water baptism as soon as possible. After Paul’s conversion, Ananias made the following statement: “…arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Paul’s sins were remitted, or washed away, at baptism.

Romans 10:9 is a beautiful verse that reminds us of the availability of salvation for whosoever desires it. However, we must remember the context in which it was written. Romans is an epistle (letter). Like all the other epistles it was written to people who previously had a conversion experience. Why else would Paul be writing to “the called of Jesus Christ”? (Romans 1:6). The apostle was writing to a group of believers who received the same message of hope as the Jews did on the day of Pentecost. Therefore, Romans 10:9 isn’t a call to salvation or conversion, it is a call to confess and believe the hope that was previously delivered to them. A confession and belief that, if held to by faith, would result in salvation.

Please prayerfully consider these things.

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