[editor’s note: this is clearly not a Christian evidence question but we get this question fairly often so thought an answer would be useful to some of our readers]


I have a friend I have been studying with about baptism.  She has shared with me the belief that we do not need to be baptized to be saved.  I respectfully disagreed.   I asked her if we could revisit her belief on baptism and study this out.   I said “Let’s see what the Bible says.”   All agreed to this.   I also explained that baptism was never meant to cause division, but rather to be a point of unity for Christians.  So I shared these specific scriptures: Acts 2:38-41,  Matthew 28:18-20, Romans 6:1-7, Galatians 3:26-27,  and 1 Peter 3:21-22. We also looked at all the conversions in the book of Acts. Lastly I went over the study you presented on Baptism: Can people be saved without baptism? EX: The man with the wrong clothes at the wedding banquet- Matthew 22:1-14. [note: this can be found here  baptism lesson     Oh one more thing… I did a thorough study on the false teaching of the sinners prayer and or”pray Jesus into your heart.”   After I presented all that, my friend has started to believe that baptism is the point your are saved.   She believes that it is the blood of Jesus that saves us through baptism!     My friend shared these scriptures with me today and I needed some help understanding the interpretation or context of these scripture! Here are the scriptures:

1. Romans 10:9-10  “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”.     It is my understanding that when Paul was teaching this- declare with your mouth- Jesus is Lord, that is done at baptism right? Plus all the people Paul was writing to were already baptized.  Yes ? Also when Paul says “believe” it means that those that believed in Jesus, had been living as a disciple and had then been baptized? Can you break down the context of Romans 10:9-10 for me please? Is there something I’m missing?

The other scriptures my friend sent me are: Galatians 3:2,5,14. I’m not sure if she is saying that you can get the Holy Spirit other than at baptism.   I believe the scripture “believing what you heard” means hearing about Jesus and his resurrection- ex if you want to follow Jesus then you need to be baptized into him and continue to live you life out as disciples.   What do you think about this?


About Romans 10:19, I think we should take this at face value.   Those who have “confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord” and who have “believed in their heart that God raised Jesus” will be saved.   We should (as you already appear to have) take this scripture in context.  Paul is writing to Christians–to saved people.

Can we assume that this confession was a literal spoken one?   I say that we can assume this based on the phrase “it is your mouth that you confess”, although if a person was mute I do not think this prevents them from going to heaven.   Obviously, although the confession is literally made by a physical mouth, it is the actual belief and acceptance of Jesus as Lord which is the essential point.  From this passage it is fairly clear that in the early church people were asked to make some sort of verbal confession.

Can we assume that such confession was made before baptism?  Or, more specifically, can we assume that it was made immediately before baptism?   This is not stated in the passage, so we should be careful about this assumption unless it is supported by another passage or by clear reasoning.   We know from church history that catechumens (candidates for baptism) were required to make a certain set confession before baptism as early as the very early second century.  There is the Old Roman Confession (see my book on Church History on this  “The Christian Story” www.ipibooks.com) which was used in the second century which was exactly this–a statement made by candidates for baptism.  Therefore, the passage itself does not command a spoken confession immediately before baptism, but historical evidence supports the conclusion that this is what happens.   Also, common sense reasoning would imply that such a confession would be asked for before baptism for obvious reasons.   Such “reasoning” does not amount to proof and we should be very careful about teaching this as doctrine.   I would say this:  An actual by-mouth confession (which, of course matches the reality of making Jesus Lord) immediately before baptism is a very wise tradition which is consistent with biblical teaching and which appears to be supported by church history, but is not a direct doctrinal teaching of the New Testament.

As for the definition of “believe” used in Romans 10:9-10 we should assume that he is talking about a kind of belief which is sufficient for baptism and for salvation.    It is not the kind of intellectual acknowledgement that even the demons have (James 2:19).  It is a belief which is accompanied by deeds (James 2:14-26).   It is a belief which includes being certain of what God promised (Hebrews 11:1,6).   It is the kind of belief which leads to repentance (2 Tim 2:19).  This is no mere intellectual acceptance of a fact.

As for Galatians 3:2,5 he is talking about the Mosaic Law.  We do not receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Mosaic law–by circumcision, by Sabbath-keeping and the like.    This is a repudiation of the Judaizers who were teaching that Gentiles had to follow certain elements of the Mosaic Law to be saved.     I do not know how your friends were using this passage.   Possibly they were trying to use it to “prove” that baptism is not required to receive the Holy Spirit.   If so, then your friend needs to find a better passage than one talking about the Old Covenant.    Paul tells the Galatians that they received the Holy Spirit “when they believed.”   In other words, he is reminding them that they received the Holy Spirit by faith, when they became a Christian.    Whether baptism is required for receiving the Holy Spirit or not is a separate question, but we know that “when they believed” is a shorthand for all the things that accompanied their belief, which would include confession with our mouth that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and repentance and baptism, obviously (Acts 2:36-41), as these are required in order to be saved and to receive the Holy Spirit, as is very clearly taught in that passage.  Galatians 3:2 does not specifically mention a confession, but it is implied, as Paul is using “when you believed” to represent when they were saved (which obviously does not include circumcision or Sabbath-keeping which the Judaizers were trying to force on the Galatians).

I hope this helps.

John Oakes

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