What is Confession?
According to the scriptures, confession is a significant factor in one's attaining and sustaining a saving relationshipto God. What God has said on the subject must therefore be of vital interest to everyone truly concerned with the eternal welfare of himself and others.
In the New Testament, the Greek word commonly translated "confess" means literally to say the same thing as another, and thus to agree, acknowledge, or confess. This term and its cognates are employed in a variety of contexts, sometimes conveying such ideas as thanks, praise, or promise. But predominately the idea is that of confession.
Sometimes it is sins that are confessed. We are informed, for instance, that many people went out to hear John the Baptist, "And were baptized of him in Jordan, confession their sins" (Matthew 3:6). And the Apostle John assures his Christian readers: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just ot forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). More often, however, it is confession of faith which is in view. That will be the focus of the remainder of this lesson.
Jesus asked His disciples: "But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16:15-17).
This is the confession of faith which God requires of all men. He has not, however, required it without first providing us with an adequate basis, and strong incentive, for making that confession. He has graciously given us the testimony of His word. John accordingly writes: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar: because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (I John 5:9-12). John further emphasizes the vital role of this confession in one's relation to God when he says: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (I John 4:15).
Confession and Salvation
As with faith and repentance, God has also made confession a condition upon which he bestows the gift of salvation. Paul thus remarks: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).
Public Confession of Christ
It is not enough to acknowledge Christ in one's heart, or simply to privately confess Him to God. One must publicly confess his faith in Christ. In Christ's own words: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).
Confession and Commitment
It should be noted that the sort of confession demanded by Christ involves not merely a formal admission of His identity, but also a commitment to His cause. Hence He says: "Not every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven: (Matthew 7:21). Paul also indicates the commitment which one's confession requires when he says: "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in thename of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by Him" (Colossians 3:17).
Costliness of Confession
Confession of one's faith in Christ can sometimes be costly in terms of social position, personal relationships, or worldly possessions--a cost which many regrettably have been unwilling to bear. We read, for example, that during Jesus' personal ministry many of the Jewish rulers also "believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42-43).
On the other hand, many, like Stephen, James, Peter and Paul, have confessed Christ even at the cost of their lives. Eusebius, the early church historian, reports, that when the Roman governor ordered Polycarp to renounce Christ or be put to death, the aged disciple steadfastly refused, saying, "For eighty-six yeas have I been His servant, and He has never done me wrong: how can I blaspheme my King who saved me?"
Confession and Faithfulness
As we have seen, confession, if it amounts to more than a mere repetition of words, must involve a commitment to Christ. That commitment, moreover, demands fidelity to His service. "And he," says Christ, "that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:38). Paul accordingly urges Timothy to "follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, where unto thou art called, and hast professed a good profession (i.e., confessed a good confession, ASV) before many witness" (I Timothy 6:11-12). Having publicly confessed his faith in Christ, Timothy was to be committed to a life consistent with his confession. Jesus says: "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
All Men Shall Confess Christ
Scriputre teaches that sooner or later every souls shall acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. One may freely confess Him in this life with joy and the assurance of eternal bliss, or on shall be compelled to confess His Lordship at the judgment with sorrow and the certainty of everlasting woe.
Christ came and died on the cross for the sins of all men. "Wherefor God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11). We further read: "For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God" (Romans 14:11, cf. Isaiah 45:23).
When one publicly declares his unqualified confidence in Christ and His claims, he has made the good confession which God requires. Confession must hten be followed by that course of actions, beginning with baptism, which conforms one's entire life to God's will. And, finally, to everyone who remains faithful to his confession, Christ promises" :I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Revelation 3:9).