How do these two verses impact our understanding of God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, and salvation?
Let's remember what is going on in the book of Romans. At the end of Romans chapter 8, Paul has told us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (see verses 38-39). At this point in the letter, the reader could wonder, "What about Israel? Hasn't God rejected them?"
It seems that Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, anticipated this objection to 8:38-39. Therefore, in chapters 9-11 of Romans, Paul discusses God's continued relationship with Israel, and makes the point that God has not rejected them.
When reading Romans 9-11, we must not make the mistake of treating these chapters as if they have no application to Gentiles. Any fair reading of chapters 9-11 makes it clear that at least 10:9-17 pertains to many more than just Israel.
So let's see what Romans 10:9-10 means, keeping in mind the context.
Below are several versions of Romans 10:9-10.
KJV "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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
NKJV "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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
ESV "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."
NASB "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation."
NIV "That if you confess 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 confess and are saved."
NLT "For 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 it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved."
YLT "that if thou mayest confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and mayest believe in thy heart that God did raise him out of the dead, thou shalt be saved, for with the heart doth one believe to righteousness, and with the mouth is confession made to salvation."
In 10:8, Paul writes, "But what does it (righteousness based on faith) say?" The answer Paul gives is, "The word (of salvation) is near you." What is this word? It is explained in verses 9-10.
In verse 9, Paul writes a simple "if-then" statement. In other words, if one thing happens, then another thing happens. What occurs in the "then" phrase depends on what occurs in the "if" phrase.
So, if a person both A) confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and B) believes in his heart that God raised him (Jesus) from the dead, then C) he will be saved.
It amounts to a simple statement of cause and effect. An individual's confession (not just acknowledgment , but acknowledgment based on a life-altering decision) and belief (more than head knowledge; this is a belief that changes a person's course of life), leads to his being saved.
Verse 10 is simply an explanation and description of how verse 9 comes about. It just gives the reader a fuller meaning of what verse 9 is telling us.
So what can we learn from verses 9-10? We learn much the same that we saw in John 3:16:
-if any person confesses Jesus as Lord
-if that same person believes in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead
- that same person will be saved.
Much like John 3:16, this is a sweet, simple statement about the gospel. We should commit these verses to memory because they are so important to the heart of what we believe as Christians.
We must also look at what Romans 10:9-10 does not say:
-It does not tell us about God's sovereignty as it relates to salvation.
-It does not tell us whether or not man has free-will to choose God.
-It does not inform us as to whether or not God wills for everyone to be saved.
However, it does seem that the wording of Romans 10:9-10 implies that man has some sort of choice in all this. Clearly, all men are given the responsibility of confessing and believing, or refusing to do so. That appears to amount to some sort of choice. If a person does not make an active choice for the gospel, then he has made a passive, but real, choice against it.
However, we are not told anywhere in these verses that this is a free choice. Paul is silent to this. Despite this, the choice does appear to be a real choice that certainly has real consequences.
Can a choice be a real one even if it is not a free one? Well, I suppose your answer to that will depend on your theology. That is not a can of worms I want to get into right now.
To summarize Romans 10:9-10, we are presented with a simple, but wonderful, "if-then" statement. If any person confesses Christ and believes in His resurrection, then he will be saved. This alone is amazing.