A Study of Romans 10:11
“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:11)
There are three pairs of terms in this verse which complement one another in the text:
“unto righteousness…unto salvation”
“believeth…confession is made”
“with the heart…with the mouth”
And the emphasis falls upon the last pair mentioned: “with the heart…with the mouth.”
As is plain from the word “for,” the apostle in some sense furnishes a reason, a further explanation, for what he has just written in verse 10 concerning the contents of the “word of faith, which we preach.” There he had explained the contents of the word of faith as being: “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.” Why and how is this true? The answer is, first of all, that “with the heart man believeth (or, more literally: “it is believed” or “one believes”) unto righteousness,” and, secondly, “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
With the heart man believeth . . . .
As is plain from the subsequent context as well as from the text itself, the apostle is speaking of the act of faith, the activity of believing. It is correct to make a distinction between faith as a faculty, as a spiritual power, in distinction from faith in its conscious activity. The former, faith as a power, or faculty, is wrought in the elect sinner’s heart when he is regenerated by the Spirit of Christ. Just as in the natural sense of the word a baby is born with the faculty to think and to will, and, in fact, with all the talents and abilities which he later will exercise in his life, though he does not actually and consciously exercise those abilities of mind and will the moment he enters into the world, so it is spiritually. Just as an infant has the power of perception though he does not as yet actually perceive, and has the power to speak but does not yet speak, so also the elect, regenerated sinner, born of God, receives in and with his regeneration the power of faith, the spiritual power to believe. But the apostle is not speaking of his power of faith as such, a power wrought in the heart of the elect immediately, but of faith as it is wrought through the “word of faith” and through the power of the preaching.
With the heart one believeth…
Believing is not simply a matter of the will or of the emotions. It surely is not a superficial stirring of the emotions such as is characteristic so often of what is sometimes called “temporary faith,” the kind of “faith” which is the product of much revival preaching and mass evangelism which is designed to create an emotional surge.
Believing is not merely a matter of intellectual assent, a kind of assent to the truth, or at least to some elements of the truth, which is altogether lacking in personal interest. It is the latter, the lack of a personal interest and personal participation, which characterizes a faith which is merely intellectual. Saving faith professes Jesus as Lord, because it trusts in Him as Lord. It lays hold upon the Christ and clings to Him. He who has saving faith, who believes, rejoices in the fact and confesses the fact that he is not his own, but belongs to his faithful Saviour Jesus Christ! Besides, a merely intellectual faith differs from saving faith because it is not characterized by the element of confidence. He who merely assents to the truth in a natural sense of the word does not rely on Christ and on God for righteousness and justification. But if a man believes in the saving sense of the word, then he relies for all his righteousness and salvation upon Him in Whom he believes. He wants nothing of any other ground of righteousness than the God Who raised Jesus from the dead. All other ground is sinking sand; on Christ the solid Rock he stands.
But there is one outstanding characteristic of saving faith which is mentioned in both verse 10 and in verse 9, the characteristic which is altogether lacking in a mere intellectual faith. Saving faith, faith of the heart, confesses! He who believes also confesses with the mouth the Lord Jesus.
The apostle is not speaking here of two different and separate items: believing and confessing. The idea is not one of faith plus something more. Mouth-confession and heart-believing are not two unrelated activities. If a man does not confess with the mouth, neither does he believe with the heart. And if he believes with the heart, he will surely confess with the mouth. And if he truly confesses with the mouth (and is not merely a “Lord, Lord” sayer), it is only because he believes with the heart. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matthew 12:34)
The content of his confession is not mentioned in verse 10, but verse 9 spells it out.
He confesses that Jesus is Lord! He confesses not merely that Jesus is Lord in the sense that He is King of kings and Lord of lords, in the sense that the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth is exalted at the right hand of God and that all power in heaven and on earth has been given unto Him, in the sense that all beings and all powers and all events are subject unto Him, in the sense that all must do His bidding and serve His purpose, either willingly or in spite of themselves.
But he confesses personally: Jesus is MY Lord! I belong to Him with body and soul, in life and in death, for time and eternity! He is responsible for me now and in the day of judgment; I am in His hand. He has the right to rule me and to demand that I do His will. I acknowledge this, so that the controlling question of my life is: Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?
With the mouth he confesses!
He does not hide behind the ruse that his actions will speak louder than words and that it is not always necessary to say explicitly that Jesus is his Lord. True enough, a mouth confession which is empty, which is contradicted by one’s actions and by his walk of life—such a mouth confession is false. It does not arise out of the heart and out of heart-believing.
But a heart-faith will surely find expression in mouth-confession! Believing and confessing belong together. The latter is the outward expression of the former.
With the heart…
You see, the heart is the center of it all.
According to Scripture, the heart is the spiritual center of a man’s entire life. Just as physically the heart is the fountain of our physical life, so that from it our lifeblood flows and courses through our entire bodily existence, so also in the spiritual sense. The heart is the center and fountain of our life spiritually. From the heart are the issues of life. Our thinking and willing, our longing and desires and inclinations and aspirations, and also our joy and our sorrow, our speech and our activities, our hopes and our fears—these all are determined as far as their spiritual, ethical worth is concerned by the heart. If the heart is good, its issues are good. If the heart is corrupt, so are all the issues of the heart. If our heart is wicked, then our thinking and willing and desiring and speaking and acting will all be carnal. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. But if by the grace of God our heart is good, is not carnal but spiritual, then all the issues of that heart will be good, will be directed toward the things which are spiritual. The tree is known by its fruit. A good tree brings forth good fruit.
And believing is in the deepest sense of the word a matter of the heart. Not merely of the mind or the will or the emotions; but of the heart!
If with the heart a man believes the gospel, then he knows it with a true, spiritual knowledge and he trusts in it implicitly, putting his confidence in it with childlike trust. And then that believing heart controls and directs our whole life, so that we believe with our whole life, with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. We believe with all our being. Old things are passed away; all things have become new. All the issues of our life are controlled and directed by that belief that God has raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
…unto righteousness! …unto salvation!
It is of salvation in the final and full and future sense of the word that the apostle speaks here, our salvation as it shall be realized in the day of Christ. Yes, he who believes and confesses is saved already. He is redeemed and delivered from his guilt and from the power of sin and death. He is partaker of the life of Christ. He is a child of God by adoption and a child of God by rebirth. And he is heir of all the blessings of salvation. But the viewpoint here is the future. He who believes and confesses shall be saved. Snatched from the power of death and the grave, changed from the earthly to the heavenly, from the corruptible to the incorruptible, from the mortal to the immortal! Received into the tabernacle of God, where we shall see face to face, and know even as we are known!
With a view to that salvation righteousness is the prime requisite. Indeed, he who believes is the heir of many, many blessings of salvation. But righteousness is first! Without that blessing of justification, of being declared perfectly innocent, without the knowledge and the assurance that “God, without any merit of mine, but only of mere grace, grants and imputes to me, the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin”—without it there can be no possibility of any of the other blessings of salvation. For God is the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, and He cannot deny His own perfect righteousness. Without righteousness, therefore, there is no salvation now or in the day of judgment. With it, both are infallibly certain!
That righteousness was sealed—and here is the connection with verse 9—when God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was raised on account of our justification!
Hence, if a man believes with the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, he believes unto righteousness. And if he believes unto righteousness, he confesses with the mouth the Lord Jesus. And if he confesses with the mouth the Lord Jesus, he shall be saved.
Faith from the heart—faith that is only and altogether the gift of grace—is the God-given power and the act that clings to the power of that God Who raised Jesus from the dead!
Homer C. Hoeksema