A couple of verses that have been used in the anti-baptism argument come from Romans 10. The first is found in Romans 10:9 – “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.” That seems pretty straight forward and hard to get around…Paul doesn’t mention baptism as something necessary to do to be saved. The next comes a few verses later in 10:13 – “for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Again, another seemingly straight forward verse. Paul seems to be saying here that if you call on the name of the Lord you will be saved. No mention of belief, confession, repentance, or baptism. This would seem to contradict what Paul writes about baptism in other passages and even what Jesus and Peter taught concerning baptism. But if you can ignore that and the context of this passage you have the perfect prooftext to prove baptism is not necessary for salvation.
So what is Paul trying to say? The problem is not with Paul. The problem is with our traditional methods of interpretation and our propensity to prooftext verses that seem to say on the surface what we want them to say rather than actually trying to figure out what Paul meant. In Romans 10, Paul is talking about the unfaithfulness of Israel and God’s desire for them to put their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and as the culmination of the Law. In 10:9 he is saying that God desires to see in them the acknowledgment of who Jesus is – Lord – from his people. This is the response Jesus was supposed to elicit in their hearts and bring them to confession/faith. So the first part of the equation is the context, that Paul is saying God desires for them to acknowledge Christ as Lord (confession).
The second part of the equation is what Paul is not trying to do. Paul is not intending to write here what many have believed he is intending to write. Paul is not writing a “Spiritual how to manual” of how to be saved. Yet, when using this verse that is what many have made it – do this and you will be saved. Paul is not listing all things pertaining to what one must do to be saved. Here is merely telling them the response God had hoped to see in Israel when the Messiah came – acknowledgment by faith that he is the Messiah and Son of God. Instead, many rejected Jesus. So we have to read this verse in an effort to do with it what Paul was trying to do with it and not use it to make a point we want it to make. Context is important.
The second verse is in Romans 10:13 – for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Again, on the surface it appears that Paul is saying just cry out to God and that is enough. Again, we have to read it with an eye for how Paul intended for it to be heard. The emphasis is not an exact, scientific or mathematical equation that adds up to equal salvation. In the previous verses his point has been that anyone who puts their faith in Christ, God is willing to bring to salvation, whether Jew or Gentile. Notice these words in 10:11-13 – “anyone”, “Lord of all”, “richly blesses all”, “everyone who calls”. The point Paul is making here is not a specific “how to” about salvation. The point is about “who.” Who will be saved? Paul says anyone can if they will have faith in God.
So these verses go from proof texts to be used to make a point Paul wasn’t making into verses to be heard as Paul intended them to be heard and to make the point Paul was trying to make. Isn’t that interesting…that we might actually want to know what the Bible means rather than just try to make it mean what we think it means!