Because faith ordinarily comes by hearing the good news (Rom. 10:17), you and I need to be always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us, “What must I do to be saved?” But we also need to be ready to share that answer with others even when they do not directly ask for it. That answer must lie at the heart of the message that we communicate to others, because it is the means that God generally uses to bring them to faith in Christ.
There is perhaps no clearer answer to the question, “What must we do to be saved?” than the one the Apostle Paul provides in Romans 10:8–13:
But what does [the righteousness based on faith] say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Here, Paul says that our salvation is not actually about our doing anything—as it is under the law (v. 5); rather, our salvation is about our believing. And what a glorious “word” that is. God has brought the way of salvation “near” to us (v. 8). He has made it easy, if you will, not something that only the strongest or the fittest or the most intelligent among us could achieve. There is no initiation to endure; no IQ test to pass; no hoops to jump through; no test of physical fitness to conquer. It does not depend on who we know or where we were born or how much money we have. God has brought the way of salvation near to everyone not by tying it to something we must do but by making it available to those who simply believe.
But what does it mean to believe? According to Romans 10:9–10, it means, first, that we must know and affirm certain important truths, namely, that “Jesus is Lord” and that “God raised him from the dead.” In other words, there must be a basic content to our faith. We must believe that Jesus is none other than the Lord of glory and that He died and rose again. The resurrection is central to our defense of the faith. It is a declaration to the world that He really is the Son of God in power (Rom. 1:4) and a confirmation that His sacrifice for our sins really has been accepted by God for our justification (Rom. 4:25).
But for Paul, believing is more than simply acknowledging a few important truths. It necessarily involves the heart. Even the demons believe the facts about God (James 2:19). But they hate those facts, just as they hate God Himself. They do not believe in their hearts but only with their minds. Paul says that faith believes both with the mind and with the heart. It trusts and puts its hope in the things it knows about God, just as it trusts and puts its hope in God Himself.
Romans 10:9–10 goes even further by adding a third component to believing: we must also “confess with [our] mouths.” The reason for this is that believing and confessing must go together. We must confess “Jesus is Lord” with our mouths precisely because we must believe Him and His promises with our hearts (see Matt. 12:33– 34). True faith always reflects itself in our speech and actions, albeit imperfectly. If our faith never manifests itself in our speech and life, then it is not a real faith. It is not a believing in the heart.
This means that genuine faith will gladly submit to the lordship of Jesus. It will trust Him and entrust itself to His Word. It also means that faith will necessarily be repentant. It will not persist in an attitude of defiance and rebellion against the Lord but will acknowledge Him to be Lord in every area of life. And it will bear the fruit of love for Christ and His people.
The most glorious thing by far in this passage, however, is the promise that Paul holds out to us. He promises that, if we believe in Jesus in the above-mentioned way, we “will be saved.” Regardless of who we are or what we have done—remember, Paul himself was a murderer, a blasphemer, and a persecutor of Christians (Acts 7:58–8:3; 1 Tim. 1:13)—we will be saved from the guilt and condemnation that our sins have brought upon us (we “will not be put to shame”). We will be saved unto the glorious “riches” of God freely bestowed upon “all who call on” Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He—and He alone—is the “Lord of all.” There is no other name under heaven by which anyone can be saved.