9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.


There seems to be much confusion and conflict these days about the tenth chapter of Romans. Many misuse verses 9-13 to support the “sinner’s prayer” approach to evangelism. They claim that a sinner must vocally call upon the Lord to be saved, and they emphasize prayer over faith. Others, seeing the error of this approach, overcorrect and go to the extreme of claiming that Romans 10 is only for Israel and has no application in this present age of grace. The apostle Paul was certainly talking about Israel in Romans 9-11, but he said that he was speaking to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13).


What is the Context?


Romans 10 is in the middle of the dispensational section of this epistle in which Paul demonstrates and defends the faithfulness of God to His word concerning Israel. In these three chapters, he has something to say about Israel’s past election (9), present rejection (10), and future salvation (11).


In the ninth chapter of Romans, Paul expressed his deep burden for unbelieving Israel and showed how that despite being God’s chosen nation they had willfully rejected Him. However, there was a remnant that had believed the gospel of the circumcision. In the tenth chapter, he demonstrates how that unbelieving Israel was responsible for the condition they were in. The “righteousness which is of faith” (Rom. 9:30; 10:6) was available to them (Rom. 10:6-8), offered to them (Rom. 10:12-13), but rejected by them (Rom. 10:16, 21).


With the context in mind, we offer the following exposition of Romans 10.


An Exposition of Romans 10


1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.


Paul had been accused of being against Israel, but nothing was further from the truth! He begins each chapter in this section (Rom. 9-11) declaring his burden and desire to see unbelieving Israelites saved. By the way, if they were predestinated to damnation, what was the purpose of this prayer?

The Bible does not teach that anyone is predestinated to damnation. Paul was driven by the love of Christ which constrained him (2 Cor. 5:14-15). How else do you explain his burden for those who were falsely accusing him, and persecuting him (Rom. 11:28-29; 1 Thess. 2:15-16)?


Paul was praying for their salvation in this present age of grace. There is no need for him to pray for Israel to be saved at the second coming of Christ because it is guaranteed by prophecy (Rom. 11:26). There are things that Paul says in this chapter that prove he is talking about salvation in the dispensation of the grace of God (Rom. 10:4, 8, 12).


2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.


Paul knew all about their religious zeal because he had been just like them (Gal. 1:13-14). Their zeal was for their own traditions and not for the truth of God. Had they loved the word of God they would have recognized their own Messiah of whom their scriptures prophesied.


3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.


They were zealous in going about to establish their own righteousness which proved their absolute ignorance of God’s righteousness. In time past God required a man under the law to have the righteousness which is of the law (Deut. 6:24-25; Lk. 1:5-6; Phil. 3:6), but if he trusted in his own righteousness, it proved he did not know and believe the law as well as he pretended to (Lk. 18:9-14). But now, the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ has been revealed (Rom. 3:19-28). Like unbelieving Israel, the religious world today is busy trying to establish its own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God.


4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.


What is meant by “the end of the law?” Does Paul mean that Christ is the goal of the law or the termination of the law? Both are true (1 Tim. 1:3-11; Gal. 3:24-25). We are made righteous in Christ the moment we believe the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17).


5 For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.


In this section (Rom. 9-11) Paul quotes or alludes to many OT scriptures because he is dealing with Israel in the context. The righteousness of the law was by a faith that worked. They had to do all the law, all the time, and when they failed, they had to bring the required sacrifice by faith with a repentant heart (Gal. 3:10).


6 But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)

7 Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)

8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;


In contrast with the righteousness which is of the law, a man does not have to do anything to receive the righteousness which is of faith (Rom. 10:4, 10). Christ has already come down from heaven to die for our sins and rise again from the dead. It is a finished work offered freely to those who believe. Paul alludes to a passage in the law (Deut. 30:12-14) to show that God has been faithful to make His revelation known to His people (Deut. 29:29; 30:11-20).

Notice how Paul, by inspiration, exchanged “Christ” for the “commandment.” Just as God had made His commandment known to Israel, He has now made the righteousness of Christ known and available for them to receive through Paul’s Acts ministry in which he went “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16).


9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.


The confession required under the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 10:32-33) is not what Paul is talking about in this passage. The context is clearly different. Paul says nothing in this passage about confessing Christ before men or being denied before the Father if we fail to do so. In this context, Paul is not talking about the gospel of the kingdom, but “the word of faith, which we preach.”

He did not preach the gospel of the kingdom to Israel in his Acts ministry (Gal. 1:6-12). There was an election of Jews according to grace that believed Paul’s gospel and were baptized into the Body of Christ (Rom. 11:5-6). Paul preached one message of salvation throughout his entire ministry.


Paul is not teaching that we must literally confess with our physical mouth to be saved. That would contradict his emphasis upon FAITH as the only condition for salvation, which he already established in the doctrinal section of this epistle (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:19-28). Also, what about mutes? They cannot confess anything audibly. When he said to believe in our heart, he did not mean that we must believe with our literal blood pump. He is referring to confession in the sense of heartfelt acknowledgement.


Confession is not merely saying words (cf., 1 Jn. 4:1-2, 15; Mk. 5:7-8). We can call upon God from the heart without literally saying words. Besides, confession means nothing without believing. It is with the HEART we believe unto righteousness. Believing on Christ for salvation is not merely a mental assent, but a heartfelt trust (Eph. 1:13). It is good to publicly confess Christ. What is in our heart will come out of our mouth (Rom. 10:11; Matt. 12:34; 2 Cor. 4:13). But we do not have to verbally and publicly confess Christ to be saved.


What Paul said in verse 12 is a great dispensational truth for this present age. If this passage is about Israel’s future salvation like some claim, why did he say, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek?”


Some claim that prayer is a work and that asking Christ to save you means that you did not believe the gospel. Real prayer is a spiritual work in the Christian life (Col. 4:12). Saying a simple prayer from a believing heart that is trusting the finished work of Christ is not a work. The issue in salvation is not prayer, but faith. It is wrong to tell people that they must pray to be saved, but it is also wrong to tell people that they are not saved if they prayed when they believed the gospel. Do you really think that if a sinner prays when they trust Christ as their Saviour that God will not save them?


We are aware that verse 13 is a quote from Joel 2:32 concerning salvation in the future day of the Lord, but Paul is obviously making a spiritual application.


14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!


In these verses Paul proves that Israel could have called on the Lord because God did indeed send preachers to them with a message of peace (Isa. 52:7; defines gospel as good tidings). He sent them the greatest preacher of all, His own Son (Acts 10:36-38). Christ trained and sent His twelve apostles to Israel with the gospel of the kingdom (Jn. 20:21). Israel rejected and crucified Christ, but they were given an opportunity to repent and a renewed offer of the kingdom in the book of Acts (Acts 10:38-43). They rejected the witness of the Holy Ghost through the apostles. In amazing longsuffering God also sent Paul to the Jew first during the Acts period with the gospel of Christ which is a message of peace to the individual sinner (Eph. 6:15).


16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.


That Israel would reject the gospel of the kingdom was prophesied by Isaiah. They were also now rejecting the gospel of Christ. We obey the gospel of Christ by believing it (“obedience of faith,” Rom. 16:26). In verse 18 Paul begins to anticipate and answer objections. They heard the word of God and therefore they could have believed the message. The gospel was going out to the world.


19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.

20 But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.

21 But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.


Paul is not referring to the Gentiles in verse 19. How can the nations be called, “a foolish nation?” God did use the Gentiles to provoke Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11), but before He did that, He was provoking unbelieving Israel with the little flock (Matt. 21:43; Lk. 12:32). They were considered “no people” and a “foolish nation” because of their small number and the fact they were made up primarily of common people. Christ poured out His Spirit on them as they preached to Israel, and they brought forth the fruits of the kingdom of God.


Paul is not referring to the Gentiles in verses 20-21 either. Christ sent the little flock to preach to the very ones that crucified Him and wanted nothing to do with Him, and they stubbornly persisted in their rejection of Him (Isa. 65:1-7).

Paul himself had been one of those, but he was saved by exceeding abundant grace. In amazing longsuffering, God also sent Paul to get a remnant out of Israel before He set them aside as a nation (Rom. 11:1-6). Israel fell in Acts 7 (when they stoned Stephen who was filled with the Holy Ghost), but there was a transition period until Acts 28. This remnant explains certain things about Paul’s ministry during the book of Acts. Israel was a disobedient and gainsaying people, yet Paul still had a heart to reach them (Rom. 10:1).

David O'Steen

David O'Steen


David O'Steen has been the pastor of Hope Bible Church in Jackson, GA since 2005. Pastor O'Steen believes that the King James Bible is the inspired and preserved word of God (2 Tim 3:16) and that rightly dividing (2Tim 2:15) is the key to understand the Bible.

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