Confess means to disclose, acknowledge, or admit something. Both our English word, confess, and the Greek word behind it are used for confessing sin and also professing faith. Some English translations have adopted “acknowledge” for the confessing faith passages.
One of the great passages dealing with confessing faith is Romans 10:9: “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” (ESV). Some might ask us, “Doesn’t that exclude baptism?”
Many who might ask that question believe in unconditional election. Yet what is a sentence that states “if you confess and believe, you will be saved” but a condition. Further, Paul’s emphasis in this verse is on the resurrection, yet we know from all of Romans that the basis of salvation also included the atoning death of Christ. Paul mentions a part for the whole. Maybe the same is true for the conditions of salvation. We need to consider all that is said about salvation in the New Testament.
Paul is dealing with the problem of Jewish unbelief in Romans 9-11. Paul underscores that salvation is available to all with his use of the quotation from Joel 2:32, “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13, ESV). The quote also explains Paul’s discussion of confession.
Interestingly, Joel 2:32, confession, and baptism intersect in a number of passages. Peter quotes Joel in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:21) but commands his listeners to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). When Paul recounts his own conversion in Acts 22, he quotes Ananias as saying, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (22:16, ESV), which obviously alludes to Joel 2:32. Peter writes, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21, ESV). Confession and baptism are not at odds with one another, but seem to go together in the New Testament.
Confessing our faith in Jesus brings us out into the open. It makes our faith public. Jesus does not want secret disciples (see also Matthew 10:32-33). Clearly Jesus and Paul link confession to salvation.