After one hears the word and believes in Jesus as the Son of God, one must confess his belief before men. Notice again the Ethiopian eunuch's response in verse 37 of Acts 8. Philip told him that he could be baptized if he believed with all his heart. The eunuch voiced his belief in Jesus as the Son of God prior to being baptized. In this lesson we will look at the definition of the word "confess", review the New Testament scriptures dealing with confession, and summarize the role of confession in salvation. Links to an online Bible and Vine's Expository Dictionary are provided. When the scripture listed has a Vine's reference mentioned, please click on the Vine's link and go to that paragraph to see the definition of the Greek word used in that verse.
Confession is an oft-misunderstood concept in religion. Many people believe confession is sufficient for salvation. Once during a study of confession I had a student walk out as the study was taking place due to his misunderstanding of the word. What is meant by confession in the New Testament, and is it sufficient for salvation or is it a step towards salvation? We will answer these questions in this study.
First, what is meant by confession? The definition of homologeo is key to understanding confession. Notice what Vine's says above: homologeo is "to declare openly by speaking out freely, such confession being the effect of deep conviction of facts" (Vine's A-1c). Confession is not a private act. When one confesses Jesus one verbalizes publicly his/her belief in Jesus as the Son of God. This profession comes as a result of deep convictions, and these convictions are based on facts. As you can see, confession naturally follows the acts of hearing the word and developing a belief in Jesus. One learns of the facts that lead to the deep convictions expressed during confession by hearing and studying the Word of God. Since the profession is based on facts, one must be certain that his/her belief is based on facts. Jesus warns us of the possibility of having a faith based on fables in Matthew 15:9. One who has a faith based on doctrines of men is worshipping God in vain!! Please follow this link to study the practices authorized in true worship (that is, worship which is not in vain).
Next, let's consider whether confession is sufficient for salvation or is a step towards salvation. Romans 10:8-10 will answer this question. Please link to Romans 10:8-10 and read closely Paul's words. Many people use these two verses as support for the doctrine that one who confesses Jesus and believes is saved. Did Paul say that? The key word in these two verses is found in verse 10. That word is unto. I have provided a link to Merriam-Webster. Vine's does not include a definition for unto. In Merriam-Webster you will find a link to the word to. Please follow that link and consider definition 1a. Notice the word to suggests movement toward a person, place or thing. Toward indicates something that is coming soon, not something which has already arrived! A perfect example of the use of the prepositions unto and into is found in John 6:16-17. John tells us the disciples came unto the sea and entered into a ship. When they came unto the sea, were they into the sea yet? No! They were on the shore preparing to board a ship. Once they entered into the ship they sailed over the sea to Capernaum. We all understand the use of unto, into, and over in these verses. Let's apply the same reasoning to Romans 10:10. Paul tells us "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Is the person saved after making the confession? No! Just as the disciples were not yet into the sea when they went unto the sea, the believer who has confessed has not yet achieved salvation. They are on the path toward salvation, but are not yet saved.
The New International Version has a serious flaw in its translation of Romans 10:10. It reads, "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." The NIV states that one is saved after confession! But why is this a serious flaw? Don't many in the religious world today teach this doctrine? Yes, they do. For that reason it is important for us to determine why the NIV has mistranslated this verse.
In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul gives us a list of things of which there is only one. There is only one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God. Therefore, there is only one plan of salvation. Anytime we read of something one must do before entering a saved state, we know that particular action is part of the one plan of salvation that allows us to enter that one body and have that one hope. In order to properly understand that one plan of salvation we must look to the entire New Testament and identify those things that are necessary prior to salvation. In Romans 10:10, the NIV makes confession sufficient for salvation. But what does the NIV say in Mark 16:16? It reads, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Here the NIV makes baptism necessary for salvation! How does one resolve the conflict between these two verses? One cannot! Either there are two plans of salvation, one in which confession is sufficient and another that requires baptism, or there is a contradiction in the NIV. This is true of any version that teaches that confession is sufficient for salvation. In any such version of the NT turn to Mark 16:16 and determine whether baptism is necessary for salvation. If that version teaches that it is, then confession cannot be sufficient for salvation and that version has mistranslated Romans 10:10.
As you can see with some simple logic, confession is not sufficient for salvation. Please link to the final step in the plan of salvation to see what is necessary to enter into salvation.