This verse is often used to say that a person must verbally and publicly confess Jesus as Lord to be saved. It also is used to say the one must make Jesus Lord to be saved? Is that really what God is trying to communicate?
First of all Jesus is Lord. You cannot make Him Lord. Once saved it is wise to learn to submit to Him in every area of your life allowing Him to direct and guide you as you yield to His Spirit rather than following the dictates of your own heart. But that takes time and no one ever fully arrives in this lifetime. (Phil. 3:12)
Secondly there are those who would say that you must outwardly confess Him as Lord to be saved. That’s why ‘walking an aisle’ or ‘saying a prayer’ in some churches is part of the salvation process. But we will see that is not what the verse is teaching.
In chapter one the apostle makes it very clear that the gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (1:16). God always has two groups of people in mind – Jews and Gentiles (Greeks). He intended Israel to be His witness to the world (Is 43:10; 12; 44:8). But the gospel does not exclude the Gentile. Whoever believes will be saved. “There is no partiality with God (Rom 2:11). He is not just the God of the Jews but also the Gentiles (3:29).
Two great men, Abraham, and David, were declared righteous by faith – justified apart from the deeds of the law (Rom. 3:28, 4:1-8) “For by the works of the flesh no man will be justified (Gal 2:16)”. Abraham was not under the law. David was. Regardless they both were declared righteous by faith looking forward to the cross.
The Jewish nation as a whole missed the significance of justification by faith even though they were God’s chosen people. All the sacrificial system pointed them to Christ. The law should have made them realize their need for a Savior. Because of the hardness of their heart as a whole they missed the significance. “Israel pursuing the law of righteousness has not attained to righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone (Rom 9:31, 32)” – faith in Jesus their Messiah and Savior.
Why did the apostle choose to inject three chapters concerning Israel at this point (9-11)?
I believe that the Spirit is addressing questions in the mind of Jewish and Gentile believers as to why Israel, God’s chosen people, have not gotten saved and become part of the church as promised by God. Furthermore has God nullified His promises because of their rejection of the Messiah? Will God keep His promises to us?
The apostle wished that he could be accursed for his countrymen (9:2). His desire is that they would be saved (10:1). Because most are not being saved, he explicitly acknowledges that God has not cast them away as His people (11:1)! In fact, he goes on to say that one day “all Israel willed be saved” (11:26). Due to their rejection of Messiah, blindness has in part happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (11:25).
Much of the subject of chapters 9 -11 is regarding the Jewish people as a whole, as a nation. God is speaking of them as a group and not as individuals so to help them understand why most Jewish people are not being saved. National blessing was dependent upon their obedience (Deut. 28:1-14; Jer. 31:31-34). Concerning the nation of Israel God says, “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people (10:21).
With this is mind let us examine chapter 10. The apostle states that Israel had a zeal for God but not according to knowledge (10:2). Israel sought to establish their own righteousness and did not submit to the righteousness of God (10:3). The law requires perfect obedience (James 2:10) – “the man who does those things shall live by them” (10:5). They did not because they could not. It is impossible for anyone to do.
In verses 6, 7, and 8 of chapter 10 the apostle quotes from the Old Testament. After Moses had presented the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience to the nation, he stated that the commandment was “not too mysterious for you, nor is it afar off’ (Deut. 30:11) It was in their mouth and their heart that “you may do it”.
The Spirit uses these verses to say to Israel that the word of faith that the apostle Paul was preaching was near them and in their hearts just as the law was in Moses’ day. Jesus had come “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). He said to Jerusalem that He had wanted to gather her children together as a hen gathers her chicks, but they were not willing (Matt. 23:38). As a nation they had rejected Him as their God, Messiah, and Savior. At Pentecost Peter preached to the Jews, “…let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36)
How was it possible for Israel, God’s chosen people:
• who had received through their prophets the oracles of God
• who were promised everlasting blessings
• who were witnesses to the miracles of the Messiah and apostles
• who saw the Messiah face to face,
and in spite of all that revelation continued to reject Him and his spokesmen the prophets and apostles? It was due to their unbelief.
But if you (Israel) confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus (they had rejected Him as Lord – “You being a Man make yourself equal with God” John 10:33) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (they denied his resurrection – “Sir remember while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, After three days I will rise’ (Matt. 27:63) you (Israel) will be saved.
The national salvation of Israel is an example for any individual (whoever). All Israel will be saved when they confess or acknowledge that Jesus is Lord (God) and believe in their heart that God raised Him from the dead. It is through confessing with the mouth that others hear, “How shall they hear without a preacher (10:14)? And it is by believing the message – Christ died for sinners, was buried, and rose from the dead – that one is saved, and perfect righteousness is received.
Confessing Jesus as Lord outwardly has nothing to do with saving one from the penalty of sin – eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. There will be those who confess Jesus as Lord yet will be cast out. “Many will say to me in that day Lord, Lord… and then I will declare to them I never knew you. Depart from Me…” (Matt. 7:22, 23) Although they acknowledged Him as Lord, they had tried to enter in by their good works – have we not prophesied in Your name… cast out demons in Your name… done many wonders in Your name?” (Matt 7:22)
Romans 10 verse 9 is teaching that Israel (as a whole) can be saved by believing in the gospel and confessing that Jesus is Lord (God who died for them and rose) as a witness to their countrymen. One day this will happen. The prophet Hosea spoke concerning that day:
“I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense (singular – the nation’s rejection of the Messiah). They (Israel) will seek my face; in their affliction (tribulation) they will earnestly seek Me.” (Hosea 5:15) God will use the seven years of tribulation to get through to them that He is the Messiah and Savior and Lord. “Alas! For that day is great, so none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30:7; also see Daniel 12:1)
Israel’s future confession – Notice the past tense of the verbs about events that would not happen for hundreds of years. Isaiah the prophet spoke concerning this day:
“He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. As we (Israel) hid, as if it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we (Israel) did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3)
“Surely He has bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we (Israel) esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4)
“But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was on Him, and by His stripes we (Israel) are healed. All we (Israel) like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone, to His own way; but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)
“Come let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us (Israel); He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
All Israel will be saved –
“And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one third shall be left in it. I will bring the one third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name (confess), and I will answer them. I will say, this is My people; and each one will say, The Lord is My God.” (Zechariah 13:8-9)
“In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.” (Zechariah 13:1)
“No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother saying ‘know the Lord’, for they all shall know Me from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34)
God will use the seven years of tribulation to bring about the salvation of many Jews and will judge many who continue to reject Him (Zechariah 13:8, 9). All the nations of the earth shall be gathered against Jerusalem in that day (Zech. 12:3). When Jerusalem is on the brink of destruction God will defend Jerusalem by empowering the feeble to be like David and the house of David shall be like God (Zech. 12:7). He will then pour out on the house of David and Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication and they will look on Jesus whom they pierced (Zech. 12:10) They will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.
The apostle has grief in his heart because most of his countrymen are rejecting Christ, even though God chose them and was merciful to them. However through the prophet Isaiah God spoke concerning Israel that a remnant will be saved. A remnant will be saved because salvation is individual. However with Israel there are additional blessing that will be bestowed on them when they corporately believe the gospel.
The apostle desires them to be saved. In the same way, any individual Jew or Gentile can be saved the same way. As a group, they have rejected righteousness through faith and have embraced works. There is a remnant of Israel according to the election of grace. But one day at the end of the tribulation when the armies of Antichrist are attacking Israel, many survivors of Israel will be saved by faith in the Lord Jesus expressed by their confessing Him as their Messiah, God, and Savior. The rebellious Jews will be purged and shall not enter the land. (Ezekiel 20:37- 38; Zechariah 13:9), but this remaining remnant of Jewish believers will live on into the 1,000 reign of Christ on earth. They will have trusted Christ as their Savior and will be saved from the penalty of sin and will as well be saved from physical death. “And so all Israel will be saved…” (Rom. 11:26)
The Jews always knew that Jesus was crucified and buried. However, they denied He was crucified for them, denied that He rose from the dead, and denied that He was God in the flesh. The day that they believe that in their heart they will be saved. The confession with their mouth will only be the evidence of the inward reality of their belief which will also become a witness to other Jewish men and women as well as too many Gentiles during the tribulation. (Rev. 7:1-9, 14; 11:3)