Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: “The man who does these things will live by them.” 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
Romans 10:9-10 is often quoted as proof that we are saved without baptism. However, verses 9-10 cannot be used to exclude baptism from the salvation process—for several reasons: One, chapter 10 follows chapter 6, and in that chapter, baptism is clearly taught to be a part of dying to sin and being raised to begin a new life; and two, “trust” in verse 11 and “call on him” in verse 12 go farther than simply believing and confessing. The progression in verses 14-15 is preaching, hearing, believing and calling.
Calling on the name of the Lord includes baptism, as may be readily seen in Acts 2:21, 38, and also in Acts 22:16. In Acts 2:21, Peter quotes from Joel 2:32 which states: “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then, when the people ask, in essence, just how to do that, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38). Acts 22:16 is even clearer, as Paul is told to “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul is talking about the Jews who had failed to accept Christ, and he is addressing the reasons for that rejection. He was making the point, beginning in verse 5, that the righteousness which comes by faith is not a complex issue, nor an unreachable goal. God has already done the difficult work by sending his Son to the cross. Now, in response to what he has done, we need to accept him as Lord and Messiah. That was the challenge to the Jew. Being baptized was not a hard concept for them to accept. It had been a part of John’s ministry, and large numbers of Jews had received it from his hands. Matthew 3:5-6 says that: “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Proselytes to Judaism were customarily baptized as an initiation rite into Judaism. Therefore, Paul had no reason to mention baptism again in this chapter. That was not their stumbling block.
The problem that the Jew did have was to accept Jesus as the Messiah and to then make this crucified Jew from despised Nazareth their Lord and King. Now that was a challenge! This background focus explains why the passage was worded as it was. Similarly, the problem with Gentile acceptance of the gospel was repentance. Therefore, Luke focused on that need all through the Book of Luke. In fact, his account of the Great Commission only mentions repentance: “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:46-47).
Luke’s failure to specifically name faith in this account does not mean that he meant to exclude it from the conversion process. He was simply focusing on their greatest challenge. And Luke’s approach follows exactly the same principle used by Paul in Romans 10. Studying passages in their context is one of the most basic issues of biblical interpretation. As has been often said, “Taking a verse out of context creates a pretext.” Salvation is a process, as shown by this passage in Romans and in many others. It is built upon our faith in a crucified Savior, and thus all aspects of the salvation process fit within the scope of a faith response. But no part of the biblical response can be left out and then be assumed to be complete.