I saw a Christian banner recently that said,
“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.”
It’s a famous quote from Romans 10:9, but I do not think it is a good banner…because:
…the main reason is that the emphasis in the banner is clearly on the words “JESUS IS LORD”, these were set apart from the rest of the text, big bright letters. But grammatically it is simply not possible that these words are the intended emphasis of the author.
- Rom 10:9 starts with ὅτι making it a subordinate clause
- the majority of the verse is the protasis of a 3rd class conditional clause. The apodosis of the condition (which is where the emphasis lies) does not begin until right at the end of the verse (“you will be saved” – σωθήσῃ)
- the second half of the protasis is conjoined to the first with και making them co-ordinate – so it is illegitimate to emphasis one above the other, they are co-ordinate in Paul’s mind – they come together
- the emphasised words are direct speech, the content of the belief. It is the verb ὁμολογέω which carries the weight. Otherwise the verb might as well be ἀρνέομαι
- the context (esp the next verse) shows clearly that this verse is not mean to be a theological statment about the Lordship of Christ and what you must believe in order to be saved. Rather it is about salvation being for all people in the same way: throught belief, confession, mouth and heart.
I do not deny that it is necessary for people to confess and believe in jesus to be saved. But whoever put this banner together paid no attention to the grammar of the text. Rather, and this is why I take issue with it, they imported their theology into the verse at the cost of understanding the authors proper meaning.
May I suggest that the problem with church/Christian banners like this is that they don’t demonstrate as high a view of scripture as we think they do. We like to think that because we have big banners with verses form the bible on them that everyone will recognise that we have a high view of Scripture. Whereas they actually show the opposite – they show that we have a tendency to ignore what the bible actually says and read into it what we think the bible says!