Why Romans 10:9 is not a Basis for the “Sinner’s Prayer”

beach prayerMany in the denominational world like to “hang their hats”, so to speak, on Romans 10:9 as the formula for gaining eternal security with God.  However, we explore some of the challenges of this assertion.

Romans 10:9-10 states:

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If we examine chapter 10 of Romans and put the scripture into its proper context we can see that Paul the Apostle expressed his desire for Israel to be saved.  Now, many were saved at that time.  However, the nation of Israel as a whole rejected the gospel of salvation through Christ.

In verse 5, Paul explains that Moses’ teaching was that all a person needed to do was follow the law to be saved:

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”

In subsequent verses Paul explains that the mindset of following the law to be righteous has been replaced with faith in Christ:

But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”[c] (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’”[d] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”[e] (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

The passage referenced above is focused on a change in mindset or dispensation and was not designed to be a step-by-step process for salvation.

In fact, in Mark 16:16, which I might note comes before Romans 10:9, we see that Christ told Nicodemus the pharisee the following:

16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

We also see the requirements in the book of Matthew and in Acts; both of which occur before Romans 10:9:

Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[b]

Acts 2:37-38 :

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

One would have to skip over several commandments to conclude that simply confessing one’s sins and believing would make one compliant with Christ’s commands for salvation.

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Is Baptism Really a New Testament Command for Salvation, or is it an Outward Sign of an Inward Testimony?

BaptismThis dilemma is one that many serious students of the Bible may face in various denominations.  The short answer is to always trust the scriptures instead of what man says.  One reason to consider is Romans 3:3-4: 

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”[

Our foundation is based on the scriptures claims about itself in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:  16 All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Now notice: while all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, not all men are inspired by God.  Even those who claim that they are.  In fact, the apostles who wrote much of the new testament said in Galatians 1:8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  This is a pretty powerful statement.  In other words, don’t trust us if we say something different than what has been presented to you and inspired by God!

Taking these couple of scriptures into consideration as a foundation to respond to the dilemma in the title.  Let’s consider scriptures that teach that Baptism is a divine command:

Christ’s Direct Commands on Baptism

  • Christ himself was baptized as an example (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9 and Luke 3:21) – He clearly had no sin but said “it fulfills all righteousness”.  He would never ask his followers to do something that he himself would not be willing to do as an example.
  • Christ said being born again required water and spirit.  Otherwise, we cannot enter the kingdom of God: John 3:5.
  • Christ said that if you aren’t baptized you won’t be saved: Mark 16:16
  • Christ had his followers baptize believers.  This was in preparation of God’s coming kingdom: John 4:1-2.
  • Christ commanded his apostles to add believers to his church through baptism: Matthew 28:16-20.

Other Examples of Baptism In the New Testament

  • Peter’s 1st Gospel message included the commandment of baptism to wash away sins: Acts 2:38-39; Acts 22:16.
  • Baptism added people to Christ’s spiritual church Acts 2:40-42.
  • You can only put on Christ through the act of baptism: Galatians 3:27.
  • Baptism saves you: I Peter 3:21.
  • Ethiopian Eunuch’s baptism; requirement was much water (aka immersion in water) : Acts 8:26-40.
  • Baptism puts us into contact with the cleansing power of Christ’s blood as we are immersed in water into his death; spiritually killing our old self: Romans 6:3.

Friend, please heed the clear direction of scripture and do not trust in what man says. God has provided ample scriptures as evidence of what is required to enter into his kingdom.  Baptism isn’t the end, but only the beginning.  I pray that you won’t face God in judgment having thought that you did what was commanded only to realize that he doesn’t recognize you as one of is:  Matthew 7:22: