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.

Does the Bible Really Say that Faith is all that You Need?

looking-to-heavenOne common misconception about faith in God is that works are not required to be both in right standing with God, and to live with him eternally.  However, this assertion could not be further from the truth.  Let’s explore the reasons why.

Faith without Works is Dead

James 2:14-26 is pretty clear that faith that is not backed up by works that supports the faith is no faith at all.  In fact, James provides an example of what is meant by the statement above by referencing someone in need (verses 15-16) of food and/or clothing. As James asserts in the text, if you say to that person: “go and be warmed and filled” without providing the things that they needed, you didn’t demonstrate anything.

He then provides the Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham demonstrated his faith to God by actually preparing Isaac for sacrifice as he had been commanded by God.  However,God stopped the sacrifice from occurring as he was satisfied with the action or works that Abraham performed prior to the sacrifice.

You see it wouldn’t have been enough for Abraham to simply say:  “God I would gladly sacrifice my son if you want me to do so”.  Genesis 22:3 says that he got up early to do so.  What an incredible demonstration of faith!

Consider James 2:19-20 (NASB): “19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”

Your Works are Your “Fruit”

Both Matthew 3:10 and Matthew 7:19 indicate that every tree (symbolic language for you and me) that does not bear good fruit (works) is cut down (cast out) and thrown into the fire (eternal punishment, hell).

John 15:2 says that if we bear fruit he (Jesus) will prune us (adjust, help, correct) to produce more fruit.  Furthermore, Jesus says that he have to be connected to him as he is “the vine” and we are the branches.  If we have not obediently followed his commandments so that we connect with him (e.g. Mark 16:16) we are not able to produce good fruit.  The reason being that we can do nothing outside of him that would be pleasing to God.

Christ Demonstrated His Love Through His Works

It wasn’t enough for Christ to come to this earth and tell everyone that he loves them, God loves them, etc.  Instead, he demonstrated his love through his works. For example, the miracles that he performed, the care and forgiveness that he offered, the teaching, insight, commandments and ultimately, his death on the cross for the redemption of mankind.

The notion that one would simply need to just become a Christian without the requirement of works as if this same person would be justified before God on judgement day is simply false.  This isn’t to say that your works will save you.  The works part of the christian’s life should be seen as faith demonstrated and no more than that.