But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for "whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans 10:8-13 (NASB)
What do you understand to be the role of the verbal profession of faith in salvation?
The Bible seems to presume verbal identification with Christ to be intrinsic to salvation. The block quote above is quite pointed: "with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." Along with repentance and faith, articulation of that faith is described as having a causal relationship with salvation. The practice of verbally articulating one's faith is highlighted in 1 Timothy 6:12-13 (NASB), "take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate…" Here Paul uses the shorthand of election and confession to refer to Timothy's salvation experience. The New Testament church had good reason to emphasize public spoken acknowledgement of one's faith in Christ as significant: Jesus Himself had said, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in Heaven." Matthew 10:32-33 (NASB)
As we were studying Romans 10 last Sunday evening, a member said, "My kids would ask this one: What if you can't speak? Will sign language suffice?" I do not believe that salvation is tied to any sort of physical ability on the part of humankind, nor, indeed, that salvation is contingent upon human capacity to achieve it at all. However, as one who seeks to be submissive to the Lord's commands given to us in the Scriptures, I find that the Bible marks as suspect and deficient any "faith" that does not bring forth the fruit of public articulation and do so incipiently.
Rather than the case of one who cannot speak, I offer this scenario for your perusal: A man is at home alone watching religious TV. He hears an appeal for the gospel. He "prays the prayer" internally in his own mind at the end of the program. He then turns off the TV, goes to bed, gets up the next morning, and goes on about his life without ever telling anyone about his "decision." Has this person received the New Testament gospel?