Updated: Feb 1
By Luke Lancaster
Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters will attempt to prove their understanding of faith alone by quoting Romans 10, which states, "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9). The Protestant interpretation of this verse is that all you have to do to be saved is believe and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. Nothing about baptism. Nothing about going to Mass on Sundays. Nothing about good works, and on and on it goes. This is a misunderstanding for a few reasons.
First, I would argue that the word "belief" encompasses other things. For instance, you demonstrate your belief by getting baptized, which Paul spoke about in Romans 6:3-4. Your faith has to express itself with repentance, which Paul spoke about in Romans 8:13. Your faith has to express itself in acts of love, which Paul spoke about in Galatians 5:6. Vines' Greek New Testament Dictionary says that “believe” means three things: to trust in God, to rely on God, and to obey God. Consider Matthew 7:21, which says that it is not those who simply believe Christ by confessing Him, but those who obey His will! This would include things like the Sacraments.
Second, to confess with your lips that “Jesus is Lord” would actually a shortened version of the Creed - which was spoken before baptism in the early Church. We read in Acts 22:16 that when St. Paul converted, he was told to "Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name." Calling on the Name of Jesus is associated with baptism. Acts 2:21 speaks of calling on the Name of Jesus, and then everybody got baptized (Ac. 2:38). Truly, calling upon the Name of Jesus encompasses all of our faith.
In the words of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 AD), “Just as the mustard seed contains a great number of branches in a tiny grain, so too this summary of faith encompassed in a few words the whole knowledge of the true religion contained in the Old and New Testaments” (Catech. Illum. 5,12:PG33, 521-24).
Third, you have to confess Christ over and over, it cannot be a one-time only event. Our whole lives need to be spend confessing Christ. We read in Hebrews, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession" (Heb. 4:14). St. Paul writes in 2 Tim. 2:12 we have to persevere in our confession, saying "if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us." This is a daily event shown in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
Romans 10:9 does not prove Sola Fide.