This series is taken from Chafer's Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, Volume III, Chapter XX (under Soteriology):
The ambition to secure apparent results and the sincere desire to make decisions for Christ to be definite have prompted preachers in their general appeals to insist upon a public confession of Christ on the part of those who would be saved. To all practical purposes and in the majority of instances these confessions are, in the minds of the unsaved, coupled with saving faith and seem, as presented, to be of equal importance with that faith. This demand upon the unsaved is justified, if justified at all, upon two texts of Scripture which should have consideration:
1. Scripture Bearing on Confession of Christ. Matthew 10:32. "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven."
This verse, which occurs in the midst of Christ's kingdom teachings and as a part of His instructions to His disciples whom He is sending forth with a restricted message to Israel (cf. vss. 5–7) and which was to be accompanied by stupendous miracles (cf. vs. 8) such as were never committed to preachers in the present age, applies, primarily, to these disciples themselves in respect to their faithful delivery of this kingdom proclamation, and could be extended in its appeal only to the Israelites to whom they were sent. The carelessness which assumes that this Scripture presents a condition of salvation for a Jew or Gentile in the present age is deplorable indeed.
Romans 10:9–10. "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."
This message, falling as it does within the specific teachings which belong primarily to the way of salvation by grace, is worthy of more consideration. The force of the positive statement in verse 9, "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," is explained in verse 10: "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." In the latter verse the true meaning and use of the word "confess" is suggested. Of this word in this same passage the late Dr. Arthur T. Pierson wrote: "That word means to speak out of a like nature to one another. I believe and receive the love of God. In receiving His love I receive His life, in receiving His life I receive His nature, and His nature in me naturally expresses itself according to His will. That is confession. Alexander Maclaren has said: 'Men do not light a candle and put it under a bushel, because the candle would either go out or burn the bushel.' You must have vent for life, light, and love, or how can they abide? And a confession of Christ Jesus as Lord is the answer of the new life of God received. In receiving love, you are born of God, and, being born of God, you cry, 'Abba, Father,' which is but the Aramaic word for 'Papa'—syllables which can be pronounced before there are any teeth, because they are made with the gums and lips—the first word of a new-born soul, born of God, knowing God, and out of a like nature with God speaking in the language of a child."
The two activities named in these verses are each expanded with respect to their meaning in the immediate context which follows. Of believing it is said: "For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek" (vss. 11–12). Salvation is promised to both Jew and Greek (though in his case a Gentile) on the one condition that they believe. Such, indeed, shall not be ashamed. Of confession it is said: "For the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (vss. 12–13). It cannot be unobserved that the confession of verses 9 and 10 is declared to be a calling on the name of the Lord. In other words, this confession is that unavoidable acknowledgment to God on the part of the one who is exercising saving faith, that he accepts Christ as his Savior. As Abraham amened the promise of God—not a mere unresponsive believing (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:3), so the trusting soul responds to the promise which God proffers of salvation through Christ.
2. Two Conclusive Reasons. There are two convincing reasons why the Scripture under consideration does not present two human responsibilities in relation to salvation by grace.
a. To claim that a public confession of Christ as Savior is required in addition to believing on Christ, is to contend that 150 passages in which believing alone appears are incomplete and to that extent misleading. A certain type of mind, however, seems able to construct all its confidence on an erroneous interpretation of one passage and to be uninfluenced by the overwhelming body of Scripture which contradicts that interpretation.
b. To require a public confession of Christ as a prerequisite to salvation by grace is to discredit the salvation of an innumerable company who have been saved under circumstances which precluded any public action.
ConclusionConfession of Christ is a Christian's privilege and duty and may be undertaken at the moment one is saved, but it is not a condition of salvation by grace, else works of merit intrude where only the work of God reigns.