Depending on who you talk to in the religious world, you will receive different answers on what is required to have eternal life—even if we only consider those who believe in Jesus. Some will say nothing at all is required; others that faith alone is sufficient. Of the latter group, there are those who say that must confess Jesus is the Christ, but when pressed on the matter, would not say it is essential to salvation. Faith alone will do, so they claim. Faith is necessary (Jn. 8:24; 3:16). However, faith alone is not enough.
Paul wrote, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9, 10). This confession is made with the mouth. It is not merely a way of living as some want to make it. We do “confess” our belief in God by the way we live, but we must also verbally assent to the Lordship of Jesus.
An example of confession leading to salvation is found in Acts 8. The Ethiopian eunuch was taught the gospel (Acts 8:35). When he and Philip came to water, he asked, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). Philip told him he must believe, at which point the Ethiopian confessed his belief—“I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37).
The confession of Jesus Christ is not some type of word magic. The seven sons of Sceva thought there was something special in saying the name “Jesus,” but found out differently (Acts 19:13-16). Saying Jesus is the Christ must come from the heart, a deep, genuine conviction that He is the one and only Savior. Without this confession, you cannot be saved.
Romans 10:9, 10, is not the “sinner’s prayer.” Confession with the mouth is not merely in a prayer uttered to God. Yes, we may express to God that we believe in His Son. However, the confession leading to salvation is not a statement made in prayer. If it was, Saul of Tarsus would have been saved before Ananias came to him—but he was not. There is no doubt that Saul believed in Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). It is an indisputable fact that he was praying for three days (Acts 9:11). Yet, when Ananias came to him, he still had sins that needed to be washed away (Acts 22:12-16). Do you think Saul acknowledge Jesus as the Savior in any of his prayers over a three day period? Likewise, do you think he told others—his traveling companions—that he believed in Jesus?
Sometimes people wonder about confessing sins before being baptized. We know Christians are to confess their sins (Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:7-10). However, alien sinners are not required to tell of their sins. Why? First, everyone already knows they are sinners; and that is the reason they are being baptized. Second, if a man obeys the gospel when he is 50 years old, could he remember all of the sins he committed?
Confession of Jesus as the Christ is required of all who want to become Christians. For those who truly believe in Jesus, this is not a problem. Too, their conviction will lead them on to obey the commands of the One whom they confessed, namely to repent and be baptized (Lk. 24:47; Mk. 16:16).