Romans 10, Baptism, and Evangelization

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 “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!”

Romans 10:9,13-15

In a way, these verses from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans sums up the entirety of our call to evangelize. Let’s consider them a bit closer.

Confess, Believe, and Call on the Lord

What does Saint Paul mean when he says that those who confess and believe in Jesus, those who “call on the name of the Lord,” will be saved? It is helpful to look at what is said elsewhere about salvation. In his first letter to the Corinthians, for instance, St. Paul indicates that Christians are “justified” (which Paul uses nearly synonymously with “saved”) when they were baptized (cf. 1 Cor 6:11). Likewise, Saint Peter teaches that baptism “saves” Christians (1 Pet 3:21). This makes a lot of sense, since Baptism was (and is) the solemn ritual where a person, with their lips, makes a public confession of the inward faith of their heart. Baptism is preeminently the time when you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead.”

This conclusion — that confession of Christ and faith in him are tied not only to salvation but to Baptism — is strengthened when we consider St. Paul’s quote of the prophet Joel: “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This prophecy is about what will happen when the Messiah comes. St. Peter quotes the same prophecy at greater length when he preaches the gospel for the first time to the people of Jerusalem in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2. He, too, tells the people, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Then, when he is finished speaking, the people are cut to the heart and ask him, “What, then, shall we do?” His response is that they should repent and be baptized!

Baptism, then, and all that it entails, is what it means to “call upon the name of the Lord” — to confess Jesus with the lips and believe in Him with the heart.

“Here am I, Lord, Send Me!”

So if salvation is through the Sacrament of Baptism and the confession of inward faith that it entails, people need to receive the gift of inward faith that they may confess it and be baptized. This is where St. Paul’s argument in Romans 10 goes next, as it is quoted above: How can they call upon and believe in Jesus if they have not heard of him? And how can they hear if nobody preaches the gospel to them? And how can somebody preach the gospel without being sent?

By your baptism and confirmation, and your partaking of the Holy Eucharist, you have been commissioned to share the gospel with those who need to hear it. Through it, they can receive salvation through faith and baptism. This is your call; fulfill it! Rely upon the Lord daily. Pray and fast. Fulfill your duties in life. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. Frequent the sacraments. Then, from the strength he gives you, preach the gospel!

How beautiful it is, when disciples of Jesus Christ share the good news!

Author: Mr. Mark J Hornbacher, OP

Mark is the Vice President of Programs and Director of Theology at St. Paul Street Evangelization. He has a MA in Theology and a B.Phil from Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and a BA in Theology from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI. With Steve Dawson, he is the co-author of Ordinary Christians, Extraordinary Signs: Healing in Evangelization. He is a lay Dominican, and resides in Sterling Heights, MI with his wife Gayle, and their two sons.

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