OBJECTIONS TO BAPTISM
"The Truth In Love"
Churches of Christ have always taught that water immersion is the dividing line between the lost and the saved. This means that a penitent believer remains unforgiven of sin until buried in the waters of baptism (Rom. 6:4 ). Practically the whole denominational world disagrees with this analysis of Bible teaching, holding instead that one is saved at the point of faith before and without water baptism. Let’s examine some of the points that are advanced in an effort to minimize the essentiality of baptism for salvation.
1. Jesus’ Baptism
Some say Jesus could not have been baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless; therefore, people today are not baptized in order to be forgiven. They merely imitate Jesus’ example. But the baptism to which Jesus submitted Himself was John’s baptism (Matt. 3:13; Mk. 1:9). John’s baptism was for the remission of sins (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3). This truth is particularly evident from the fact that when Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John sought to deter Him noting that, if anything, Jesus needed to baptize John (Matt. 3:14)! Jesus did not correct John, as many seek to do today, by falsely arguing that baptism is not for remission of sins. Rather, Jesus, in effect, agreed with John, but made clear that His baptism was an exception to the rule.
Jesus’ baptism was unique and not to be compared to anyone else’s baptism. Jesus’ baptism had the unique purpose of “fulfilling all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). In other words, it was necessary for Jesus to submit to John’s baptism (1) to show His contemporaries that no one is exempt from submitting to God’s will and (2) more specifically, Christ’s baptism was God’s appointed means of pointing out to John and the world the precise identity of His Son. It was not until John saw the Spirit of God descending on Jesus and heard the voice (“This is My Son”) that he knew that “this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1:31-34; Matt. 3:16-17).
Of course, John’s baptism is no longer valid (Acts 18:24-19:5). John’s baptism paralleled New Testament baptism in the sense that both were for the forgiveness of sins. But John’s baptism was transitional in nature, preparing Jews for their Messiah. Baptism after the cross is for all people (Matt. 28:19), in Jesus’ name (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38; 19:5), into His death (Rom. 6:3), in order to be clothed with Him (Gal. 3:27), and to be added to His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:131 Cor. 12:13). We must not use Jesus’ baptism as a reason for believing that salvation occurs prior to baptism.
2. The Thief on the Cross
Another point that some make to hold that baptism is not essential to salvation is the idea that “the thief of the cross wasn’t baptized, and he was saved.” When we “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), we see that the thief was not subject to the New Testament command of immersion because this command was not given until after the thief’s death. It was not until Christ was resurrected that He said “He that believeth and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). It was not until Christ’s death that the Old Testament ceased, signified by the tearing of the temple curtain (Matt. 27:51). When Jesus died, He took away the Old Testament, “nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:14).
The word “testament” means “covenant” or “will.” The last will and testament of Christ is the New Testament and consists of those teachings that apply to God’s people after the death of Christ. If we expect to receive the benefits of the New Testament (salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life), we must submit to the terms of the will for which Christ is mediator (Heb. 9:15), for “where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives” (Heb. 9:16-17 ).
So prior to Lord’s death and the sealing of the N.T., New Testament baptism for the forgiveness of sins was not a requirement for those who wished to be acceptable to God. We now live under the Christian era of religious history. Prior to Christ’s death, there were no Christians (Acts 11:26). For a person to reject water baptism as a prerequisite to salvation on the basis of what the thief did or did not do, is comparable to Abraham seeking salvation by building an ark—because that’s what Noah did to please God. It would be like the rich young ruler (Matt. 19) refusing Christ’s directive to sell all his possessions—because wealthy King David did not have to in order to please God!
The thief on the cross could not have been baptized the way the new covenant stipulates you and I must be baptized. Why? Rom. 6:3-4 teaches that if we wish to acquire “newness of life,” we must be baptized into Christ’s death, be buried with Christ in baptism, and then be raised from the dead. There was no way for the thief to comply with this New Testament baptism—Christ had not died! Christ had not been buried! Christ had not been raised! In fact, none of God’s ordained teachings pertaining to salvation IN CHRIST (2 Tim. 2:10) and in His body THE CHURCH (Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:22-23) had been given! The church, which Christ’s shed blood purchased (Acts 20:28), had not been established, and wasn’t set up until weeks later (Acts 2).
We need to forget the thief as an example of salvation and obey “from the heart that form of doctrine” (Rom. 6:17)—the form of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection through baptism (Rom. 6:3-4). Only then can we be “made free from sin to become the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18).
3. The Door of Your Heart?
A third objection to the necessity of baptism: doesn’t the Bible say “Christ stands at the door of your heart” and all we have to do to be forgiven of sin and become a Christian is to “invite Him into our hearts”? No. The Bible simply does not teach this doctrine.
The phraseology is reminiscent of Rev. 3:20—the passage usually quoted to support the above idea. What does Rev. 3:20 teach? Rev. 2 & 3 consist of 7 specific messages directed to 7 churches of Christ in Asia Minor in the 1st century. Thus, at the outset, we must recognize that Rev. 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians on the verge of conversion.
Secondly, Rev. 3:20 is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus makes clear that the church had moved into a lost condition. They were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He is on the outside looking in. He still wants to be among them, but the decision is up to them. They must recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language to say that they must repent (3:19). They must return to the obedient lifestyle so essential to sustaining God’s favor (Jn. 14:21, 23).
This means that Rev. 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus comes into their heart and they are simultaneously saved from all past sin and have become Christians! The context of Rev. 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
But doesn’t the Bible teach that Christ does come into a person’s heart? Yes. But not the way the religious world suggests. For instance, Eph. 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can only be acquired by hearing biblical truth (Rom. 10:17). When Bible truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Heb. 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22). Thus Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (repentance) and our bodies washed with pure water (baptism)” (Heb. 10:22).
4. Accept Christ as Personal Savior
What did Jesus mean when He said in Mt. 7:21, “Not everyone that says unto me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven”? The predominant viewpoint in the religious world today is that salvation comes to the unsaved the moment he “accepts Christ as his personal savior.” What is meant by this phrase is that all one has to do to receive the forgiveness of God and become a Christian is simply mentally accept Jesus into one’s heart and make a verbal statement of that fact.
To be sure, oral confession of Christ is one of the prerequisites to salvation (Rom. 10:10). But Jesus is saying there is more to becoming a blood bought follower of His than merely calling on his name and inwardly accepting Him as Savior. He is telling us that before we can even consider ourselves as God’s children (Christians), we must show our acceptance through outward obedience (“He that doeth the will of my Father”). Notice the significant contrast being made: the difference between mental/verbal determination to accept and follow the Lord versus verbal confession coupled with action or obedience (James 2:14, 17). This is why we must do everything the Lord has indicated must be done prior to salvation. Jesus is telling us that it is possible to make the mistake of claiming we have found the Lord, when we haven’t done what He plainly told us to do.
Jesus plainly said: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Jesus plainly said “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16).
Honestly, have you accepted Christ as your personal savior, “the way He said it must be done?” “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
5. Putting Christ on
Listen closely to Galatians 3:26-27: “You are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The word “put on” comes from the Greek word “enduo” which signifies “to enter into, get into, as into clothes, to put on.” Can we be saved prior to “putting Christ on” or “being clothed” with Christ? Those who teach we can be saved before baptism are, in reality, teaching we can be saved while spiritually naked and without Christ! Paul affirms that Christ is “put on” at the point of our baptism—not before.
When Paul wrote these words to the Galatian churches, he was writing to people who were already saved. They had been made “sons of God.” But how? At what point had they been “been clothed with Christ?” When were they made “sons of God?” When were they saved? Paul makes the answer to these questions very plain: they were united with Christ, they put on Christ, they were clothed with Christ when they were baptized. Please be honest with yourself. Your eternal destiny depends on it! Have you been clothed?
6. Baptism as a Badge
Some argue that baptism is like a badge on a uniform that merely gives evidence that the person is already saved. But the New Testament simply does not expound the idea that baptism is merely a “badge” or “outward sign of an inward grace.” Yes, baptism can biblically be referred to as a symbolic act; but what does it symbolize?
Previous forgiveness? No! Romans 6 indicates baptism symbolizes previous death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus the benefits of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection (remember, Jesus’ blood, which blots out sin, was shed in the context of His death, burial, and resurrection) are realized and accrued by the individual when he obediently (in penitent faith) submits to a similar ordeal, i.e., his own death of the “old man” or “body of sin” (Rom. 6:6), burial (immersion into a watery tomb), and resurrection (rising from the watery tomb).
Denominational doctrine teaches that forgiveness of sin is received prior to baptism. If so, the “new life” of the saved individual would also begin prior to baptism. Yet Paul says the “new life” occurs after baptism. This thought is reiterated to the Colossians. The “putting of the body of the flesh by Christ’s circumcision” (Col. 2:11) is accomplished in the context of water immersion and being “risen with Him” (Col. 2:12). Chapter 3 then draws the important observation: “If ye then be risen with Christ (an undeniable reference to baptism), seek those things which are above…” (an undeniable reference to the new life which follows—not precedes—baptism).
7. Baptism as a Work
Some say baptism is a meritorious work and that we are saved by grace, not works. However, “works” or “steps” of salvation do not imply that one “merits” his salvation upon obedient compliance with them. Rather, “steps” or “process” signifies the biblical concept of preconditions, stipulations of faith, or acts of obedience—what James called “works” (James 2:17). James is not saying that one can earn his justification (James 2:24). Rather, he is describing the active nature of faith, showing that saving faith, faith that is alive as opposed to dead and therefore utterly useless (2:20), is the only kind that is acceptable to God—a faith that obeys whatever actions God has indicated must be done. Abraham and Rahab are set forth as illustrative of the kind of faith James says is acceptable. They manifested their trust by actively doing what God wanted done. Such obedient or active trust is the only kind that avails anything. Thus, obedient response is essential.
The actions themselves are the manifestations of this trust that justifies, not the trust itself. But notice that according to James, you can’t have one without the other. Trust is dead, until it leads one to obey the specifications God has assigned. Here is the essence of salvation that separates those who adhere to biblical teaching from those who have been adversely influenced by the reformers (e.g., Luther, Calvin, et al.). The reformers were reacting to the over-emphasis of Catholicism on man’s part in the grand scheme of salvation with the unbiblical concept of stacking bad deeds up against good deeds in an effort to offset the former by the latter. Unfortunately, the reactionary reformers went to the equally unacceptable but opposite extreme by asserting that man need “only believe” (Luther) or do nothing at all (Calvin). The truth is somewhere between these two unbiblical extremes.
From Genesis to Revelation, faith is described as the trusting, obedient response that man manifests in response to what God has done and offered. This is the kind of “justification by faith” that Paul expounds in Romans. Like red flags, he refers at the very beginning (1:5) and at the end (16:26) of his divinely inspired treatise to “obedient faith.” Until faith obeys, it cannot justify.
The Hebrew writer makes the same point in Hebrews 11. The faith which is seen in Old Testament “men of faith” is a faith that avails only after God-given stipulations are obeyed. God rewards those who “diligently seek Him” in faith (v. 6). Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” when he “prepared an ark.” If he had not complied with divine instructions, he would have been branded as “unfaithful.” The thing that made the difference, that constituted the line of demarcation between faith and lack of faith, was obedient action—what James called “works” and Paul called “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). In this sense even faith is a “work” (Jn. 6:29). Hebrews 11 repeatedly reinforces this eternal principle: (1) God offers grace (which may at any point in history consist of physical blessings, i.e., healing, saved from enemies, given land or property, etc., or spiritual blessing, i.e., justified, forgiven, saved from sin, made righteous, etc.); (2) man responds in obedient trust (i.e., “faith”); and (3) God bestows the blessing.
It would be wrong to think that man’s obedient response is man’s “earning” or “meriting” the subsequent blessing. Such simply does not logically follow. God always bestows blessings which men do not deserve (Luke 17:10). His rich mercy and loving grace is freely offered and made available without man ever deserving such kindness (Tit. 2:11). Yet a non-meritorious response is absolutely necessitated if unworthy man is to receive His blessings.
8. Faith as an Act of God
Some say that not only is baptism nonessential to salvation, but that even faith is a gift of God given to a person. Calvinism asserts that man is so depraved that he is incapable of believing.
Surely God’s infinite justice would not permit Him to force man to desire God’s blessings. God’s intervention into man’s woeful condition was not in the form of causing man to desire help or miraculously generating faith within man. God’s intervention is seen in His giving His inspired word, which tells of the giving of His son to make a way for man to escape eternal calamity. Faith is then generated in the individual by the reading/learning of God’s words (Romans 10:17). The individual then demonstrates his faith in obedience.
When? When the Israelites merely “believed” that they would fall? No! Rather, when they obediently acted according to the specifications. The walls fell “by faith” after conditions were met. If the conditions had not been met, the walls would not have fallen down “by faith”!
Notice the capsuling nature of Heb. 11:6. Faith or belief is not given by God. It’s something that man does in order to please God. The whole chapter is predicated on the fundamental idea that man is personally responsible for mustering obedient trust. God does not “regenerate man by His call thus enabling man to respond.” God “calls” individuals through, by means of, the written word (2 Thess. 2:14). In turn, the written word can generate faith in the individual (Romans 10:17). How unscriptural to suggest that man is so “totally depraved” that he can’t even believe, thus placing God in the position of demanding something from man (John 8:24) which man is inherently incapable of doing. Such cannot be a just God!
Some approach passages like Romans 10:17 in this fashion: (1) God chooses to save an individual; (2) God gives him the free gift of faith; and (3) God uses the gospel to stir up the faith which He has given the person. Yet Romans 10:17 does not even hint of such an idea! It explicitly says faith comes due to hearing Christ’s word. Notice Verse 14, where the same sequence is given: (1) Preacher preaching; (2) individual hears the preached word; and (3) individual believes. This is a far cry from suggesting that the message “stirs up” faith which has already been given to the person by God! Such a notion has God giving man a defective faith which then needs to be stirred up! The text makes clear that God has provided for faith to be generated (i.e., originated) by the preached word as opposed to God arbitrarily intervening and imposing faith upon the hearts of a select group of individuals.
Notice 1 Cor. 1:21—mankind did not know God, so God proclaimed His message to be proclaimed—those who respond in faith would be saved. Paul said in Romans 1:16 that it is this gospel message that serves as God’s power to save those who will believe it. Notice that the gospel is what Paul preached (v. 15). Thus it is the preached message from God that in turn generates faith and enables people to be saved.
Notice Acts 2:37. What pierced their hearts? Obviously, the sermon. This phrase is saying what Romans 10:17 says “faith comes by hearing…the word of God.” God did not miraculously change these people; Peter’s preached words did.
At this point, if denominational doctrine is correct, Peter should have said: “There’s nothing you can do. You’re so totally depraved, you can’t do anything. God will regenerate you; He will cause you to believe (since faith is His ‘free gift’).” Yet, quite to the contrary, Peter tells them that there are some things to be done! And they are things that they must do—God can’t do it for them.
First, they must “repent.” Biblical repentance is a change of mind (Mt. 21:29). A “turning” follows repentance (Acts 3:19) and consists of some specified action subsequent to the change of mind. John the Baptist called this turning activity, which follows repentance and serves as evidence that repentance has occurred, “fruits” (Mt. 3:8). After being convicted (v. 37—i.e., believing the truth of Peter’s contentions), they are told to “repent” (i.e., change their minds about their previous course of life). What else are they told to do?
Not believe, for Peter did not say “repent and believe.” Their belief was already abundantly evident in their pricked hearts and fervent petition for instructions on what to do! What was lacking? Peter said (i.e., God said) they still lacked baptism. Remember, the only difference between dead faith and saving faith is outward action—compliance with all actions that God specifies as necessary before He will freely bestow unmerited favor in the form of forgiveness.
Thus baptism marked the point at which God would count them righteous if they first believed and repented. Baptism served as the line of demarcation between the unfaithful and the believer. Only Jesus’ blood could wash their sins away at the point of baptism.
9. Baptism “Because Of” Salvation
The English preposition “for” does have the meaning “because of,” but the Greek preposition “EIS” never has a causal function. It always has its primary, basic, accusative thrust: unto, into, to, toward. We must not go to the text, decide what we think it means, and then assign a meaning to the grammar that coincides with our preconceived understanding. We must begin with the grammar and seek to understand every text in light of the normal, natural, common meaning of the grammatical and lexical construction. The exact same grammatical construction of Acts 2:38 is found in Matt. 26:28 (EIS APHESIN HAMARTION) “unto the remission of sins.” Jesus’ blood, the blood of the covenant, was undeniably shed for many “in order to acquire remission of sins.” This is the natural and normal meaning of the Greek preposition—toward, in the direction of. Had the Holy Spirit intended to say that baptism is “because of” or “on account of” past forgiveness, He would have used the Greek preposition that conveys that very idea: DIA with the accusative.
Similarly, in Acts 2:38, if repentance is not “because of” remission of sins, neither is baptism. Regardless of person and number considerations, the individuals who asked Peter what to do were told to do both things. The act of baptism (connected to the act of repentance by the coordinate conjunction) cannot be extricated from the context of remission of sins by any stretch of the imagination.
10. Baptism and the Jailer
If God gives a person faith, why did Paul tell the jailor that he (the jailor) had to believe? Not: What must God do? Again, to be accurate and honest, if denominational doctrine is true, Paul should have responded: “You don’t have to do anything—God will give you faith.” Yet, on the contrary, Paul and Silas told him that he had to manifest faith in Jesus. How? The jailer didn’t know, so he had to be told how. Acts 16:32 says they preached to him. If Romans 10:17 can be trusted, the words which Paul and Silas proclaimed generated faith in the jailor and those same words surely included the necessity of repentance and baptism because the jailor immediately manifested the fruit of repentance (washed stripes) and likewise was immediately baptized (not waiting until morning or the weekend). ONLY AFTER the jailor believed, repented, and was baptized, does the inspired writer say the jailor was in a position to rejoice; and only then does Luke tell us that the jailor’s response to the preached word was to be described in terms of “having believed in God” (v. 34).
11. Baptism and Saul
Regarding Saul’s conversion, the sequence of events clearly shows that Saul was not saved while on the road to Damascus. Jesus identified Himself and then accused Saul of being a persecutor (v. 5). Saul “trembles” and is “astonished” (hardly the description of a saved individual), and pleadingly asks what he should do—a clear indication that he had just been struck with his lost and undone condition.
This question has the exact same force as the Pentecostians’ question (Acts 2:37) and the jailor’s question (Acts 16:30). All three passages are analogous in their characterization of individuals who have just acted wrongly (i.e., the Penecostians crucified Jesus, Saul persecuted Christians, and the jailor kept jailed and guarded innocent Christians). Likewise, in each of the three instances, the candidates for conversion are portrayed as unhappy (i.e., the Pentecostians were “cut to the heart,” Saul “trembled” and “was astonished,” and the jailor “came trembling”—i.e., he was frightened). They were scared, miserable individuals, suddenly brought face to face with their horribly unacceptable status before God! Such is hardly an apt description for saved individuals! Where’s the joy, the peace, the happy excitement that comes when one’s sins have been washed away?
So Saul was not forgiven on the road to Damascus—he still needed to be told what to do! He still lacked “hearing the word of the Lord.” The only way for Saul to hear the gospel was through the agency of a preacher (Romans 10:14; 1 Cor. 1:21)—not a vision of Jesus on a road. Saul still needed to hear words from a preacher—like Cornelius. An angel told Cornelius (Acts 10:4) that his prayers and money had gone up for a memorial before God—yet he was unsaved. He needed to contact an inspired preacher, Peter, “who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). So with Saul, before he could be told of God’s plan that he be the great “apostle of the Gentiles,” he first needed to hear the gospel expounded and told how to personally respond to what God offered in Christ.
Rather than tell him what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to go into the city, where a preacher (Ananias) would expound to him the necessity of salvation. NOTICE: Saul waited in Damascus for three days without food and drink, and still blind!
Here’s an individual who is still in a miserable, unhappy condition, still unsaved, awaiting instructions on how to change his unfortunate status. Acts 9:18 condenses Saul’s response to the preached word while Acts 22 elaborates a little further on the significance of Saul’s response. Verse 16 of Acts 22 says “Why tarriest thou?”—which has the effect of saying “What are you waiting on? Why are you hesitating? It’s time for you to respond to what I’ve been teaching.”
Notice Ananias’ inspired connection between baptism and sins being washed away. If Saul was already saved prior to baptism, it was wrong for Ananias to say that Saul still had his sins that needed to be washed away. Ananias didn’t tell Saul that he had already had his sins washed away, and now only needed to be baptized as a “badge” or “outward symbol” or “picture” of what had already occurred. He plainly says Saul’s sins yet needed to be washed away. That can only be accomplished by Jesus’ blood in the act of baptism. The water doesn’t do the cleansing of the sin-stained soul. Jesus does! And Ananias clearly states when (not how) that occurs. If Saul’s penitent faith would not lead him to submit to water immersion, he could not have had his sins washed away by Jesus. Instead, he would have been in opposition to Jesus. Remember, baptism is never indicated in scripture to be symbolic of previous sin removal. The only symbolism ever attached to the act of baptism is its (1) likeness to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5; and (2) its likeness to Noah’s emergence from a sinful world (1 Peter 3:20-21). God literally (not symbolically) removes sin and justifies the individual by grace through faith at the point of baptism.
12. Baptism and Mark 16:16
The omission of “and is not baptized” in Mark 16:16 is totally logical and necessary. The first phrase describes the complete response by man necessitated by the preaching of the gospel: Faith must precede baptism, since obviously one would not submit to baptism if he did not first believe. It is not essential to ascribe condemnation in the second clause to the individual who is not baptized, since the individual being condemned is the one who does not initially believe. The person who refuses to believe “is condemned already” (John 3:18) and certainly would not be interested in the next sequential item of compliance—baptism. He that believeth not would obviously not be baptized—and even if he would, his failure to first believe disqualifies him from being immersed. Only penitent believers are fit candidates for baptism to be saved. An exact grammatical parallel would be: “He that goeth to the store and buyeth coffee shall receive $5.00. He that does not go to the store shall be spanked.” Obviously, if the person refused to go to the store, he would not be in a position to buy coffee and it would be redundant to include the failure to purchase the coffee in the pronouncement of an impending spanking.
The textual evidence supporting the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 is exceptional in light of the vast sources available for establishing the original text. While it is true that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the last twelve verses it is misleading to assume that “the validity of this statement is weak.” In fact, the vast number of witnesses are in favor of the authenticity of verses 9-20. The rejection of Vaticanus is less weighty in light of its comparable exclusion of the Pastoral Epistles, the last part of Hebrews and Revelation. The rejection of Sinaiticus is similarly unconvincing, since it includes some of the Apocryphal books.
13. Baptism and Romans 10
The use of EIS in Romans 10:10 cannot mean “because of.” Verse 9 explicitly says one will be saved “if” he confesses and believes in the heart. Confession & faith are therefore prerequisite to forgiveness. They are God-ordained “responses” to the preached word (v. 8) and must occur before salvation is imparted by God. In other words, the soul is purified when the truth is obeyed (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus provides eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Heb. 5:9).
Notice the order of Romans 6:17-18: (1) slaves to sin; (2) person obeys; (3) made free from sin (righteous). Item 3 cannot occur unless item 2 occurs first. The “whole” of man is to reverence God and keep His commands (Eccl. 12:13). To whom does God give the Holy Spirit? To those whom He arbitrarily chooses without any consideration of the individual’s necessitated response? No! Acts 5:32 says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him! God has always conditioned the bestowal of spiritual blessing upon the prior obedient response of the individual (Jer. 7:23; Gen. 26:4-5). To whom does God show mercy? Deut. 5:10 says to those who love Him and keep His commands!
In Romans 10, Paul is not stressing the specific aspects of the conversion process. That is not the context. The context is: is one acceptable to God in the Christian dispensation due to physical heritage (i.e., race) or is one saved when one complies with God’s instruction?
Paul is here stressing to Jews that their nationality is not what brings them into God’s favor. It is their obedient response to the gospel. He quotes Joel 2:32 where the emphasis is on the word “whosoever” in contrast to “Jews only.” Vs. 12 argues that there is no distinction in God’s sight on the basis of race. The individual’s response to the preached word is the deciding factor. However, Rom. 10 does not reveal all of the details of that obedient response. One must be willing to search out the whole truth on such a subject.
If repentance is essential to salvation, one must concede that such teaching must come from some passage other than Romans 10. Does Romans 10:10 mean that repentance is unnecessary just because it is unmentioned in the text? If not, then why assume baptism to be non-essential simply because it is not dealt with in this particular text? To ascertain the significance of baptism in God’s sight, one must go to passages that discuss that subject, rather than avoid them or brush them off. If God says, “faith saves” (Rom. 5:1), let’s accept that. If God says, “baptism saves” (1 Peter 3:21), let’s accept that, TOO! Jesus Himself said: belief + baptism = salvation (Mk. 16:16)—Not BELIEF = SALVATION + BAPTISM!
Notice also, Rom. 10:10, 13 is NOT saying that salvation can be acquired by mere verbal confession alone (e.g., “I accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior”). Why?
(1) Nowhere is the statement “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior” found in scripture!
(2) Jesus forever dashed such an understanding of salvation by mental acceptance/verbal profession alone in Mt. 7:21 and Lk. 6:46 where He showed that oral confession alone is unacceptable. There have been specified obedient actions in every age that God has required before He would count individuals as pleasing or acceptable to Him. In fact, if FAITH is not coupled with the appropriate obedient ACTION (like baptism), then such faith is unable to justify. Such faith is imperfect (James 2:17, 20, 26) and therefore CANNOT be a saving faith!
(3) The phrase “call on the name of the Lord” is an idiomatic way to say: “respond with appropriate obedient ACTIONS.” It is the figure of speech known as synecdoche (i.e., the part stands for the whole). To “call” on God’s name is equivalent to saying , “Do what He tells you to do.” Is. 55:6 tells the Jews of Isaiah’s day to call on God. Vs. 7 explains HOW:
(1) forsake wicked ways
(2) forsake wicked thoughts
(3) return to the Lord.
To obey these three stipulations constituted “calling on God.”
Similarly, Paul himself became a Christian, that is, he “called on the name of the Lord”—not by verbally confessing Christ—but by being BAPTIZED (Acts 22:16). For Paul, “calling on the Lord’s name” was equivalent to (not precedent to) being baptized—which washed his sins away at that moment!