Written by Brad Shockley
In the early ministry of Jesus large crowds gathered hoping to catch a glimpse of the miraculous. The fame of Jesus spread like wildfire as people spoke of the wonders and signs they had seen. Water was turned to wine, the Samaritan woman had her life story told, a man with an infirmity of thirty eight years was made whole, five thousand were fed with a few barley loaves and a couple small fish. While He grew in popularity, Jesus’ teaching became more difficult for the crowds to grasp. The people longed to see miraculous signs but Jesus was concerned about the spiritual. They were interested in wonder and amazement, Jesus was concerned about their souls. They were no longer on the same page and many, not understanding the importance of the life of Christ, quickly grew dissatisfied and walked away. At this point in His earthly ministry Jesus asked His disciples, “Will ye also go away?” (Jn. 6:67). Peter’s response echoes a truth that will stand after heaven and earth have passed away: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Jn. 6:68-69).
Peter, for all of his shortcomings, understood the importance of following Christ. His blessed confession that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of the living God,” was prompted by the realization that no one else could provide directions for eternity. This is not the only occasion in which Peter utters the marvelous confession. Remember when Jesus asked the question, “Who say ye that I am?” (Mt. 16:15). Peter responds promptly, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16). As we mull over Peter’s expression of faith we must consider our own lives. Have I made the good confession? Is it necessary? What must I confess? Let us search the Scriptures that we might come to an understanding of what confessing Christ entails.
Confession Is Necessary For Salvation
The Apostle Paul provides insight into the necessity of confession in Romans 10:9-10. He writes, “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.” Clearly, one must confess Jesus if one wishes to be saved.
This is not just any old verbal statement that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; it is an expression of faith. Faith and confession are interlinked. It is ludicrous to confess something one does not believe. In the truest sense of the meaning, when one has faith, it is impossible not to confess it. Confession is an utterance of an individual’s faith, developed within their heart, of the resurrected Christ. Had Jesus not come forth from the grave then Christianity would not be a valid religion. Had Jesus not resurrected then His death on the cross would be just another unfortunate abuse of justice suffered at the hands of Roman soldiers. But on the third day Christ came forth, proving His supreme power over death, hell and the grave. As one examines the evidence for the resurrected Christ, recognizes their truths and develops deep convictions concerning the death, burial and resurrection, it should prompt them to take a stand. Jack Cottrell says, “Belief in Christ’s resurrection is naturally linked with confession of his Lordship, since in the NT his resurrection and Lordship are inseparable. As the final and victorious stage in his battle against death and Satan, the resurrection is the supreme and conclusive expression and validation of the Lordship of God the Son in his incarnate form as Jesus of Nazareth. Because of the resurrection there can be no doubt that this man is, in Thomas’ words, ‘my Lord and my God’ (Jn. 20:28).”
The term “confession” used in verse ten is defined by Arndt and Gingrich as, “declare (publicly), acknowledge, confess, also confess that one is something.” The definition fits with the immediate context, for in verse nine the confession is to be “with thy mouth.” Paul reminds Timothy that he had “professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (1 Tim. 6:12). Timothy’s confession in this passage was not a continual action, but one necessary to fulfill a step in the plan of salvation. That which is to be confessed is Jesus. Based upon the evidence surrounding the life of Christ one can confess that Jesus is the Lord. According to C. E. B. Cranfield the phrase “Lord Jesus” is described as, “Jesus is Lord. The confession is the acknowledgment that Jesus shares the name and the nature, the holiness, the authority, power, majesty, and eternity of the One and only true God.” We shall discuss in a moment the example of a proper confession.
Such a confession is unto salvation. The term “unto” is a preposition from the Greek word eis which means “into, to, towards, for, among” (Thayer). This is the same word used in Acts 2:38, where Peter states, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” No wonder Jesus made the statement, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Mt. 10:32).
We should not come away from this passage thinking only belief and confession are necessary for salvation. Such is a fatal mistake made by many in the denominational world. Faith and confession are clearly necessary for salvation, however, one must continue to search the Scriptures to see what else is required. According to the Lord Himself there are other necessary steps such as repentance (Lk. 13:3) and baptism (Mk. 16:16). To take the Roman passage as absolute is to forsake Biblical reasoning. Thus, when we consider all the New Testament says about salvation, we understand faith, repentance, confession and baptism are all essential. However, salvation does not end at the baptistery. One takes these steps in order to receive the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) and to be put “in Christ” (Gal. 3:27), but one must remain faithful and obedient to God’s will until death or the return of Christ (Rev. 2:10).
What Should I Confess?
The Bible contains many examples of those confessing their faith in Jesus. Consider what we have noted about Peter: “And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, The Son of the living God” (Jn. 6:69). “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Peter, from personal experience and eyewitness accounts, was willing to confess the Lord. He understood full well the implications of who He is and the importance of such an acknowledgement.
John the Baptizer, cousin and forerunner of Christ, knew his preaching would become less important while Christ’s would become much more important. John swayed the hearts of many with powerful spoken words, yet he realized his message was prepatory and would soon fade as the real soul saving message took hold. John declared, “This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn. 1:15-18). In Bethabara beyond Jordan priests and Levites came questioning John. John denied he was the Christ, insisting he was simply “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Jn. 1:23). When he caught a glimpse of Jesus he made the magnificent proclamation, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29).
Doubting Thomas made the marvelous confession based on the undeniable evidence. The disciples were extremely excited after seeing the resurrected Lord, however Thomas, who was not with the disciples to see the Lord, refused to believe. There was nothing which could sway him unless he could see with his eyes the nail pierced hands, the spear thrust side and be able to touch the wounds of the Lord. A little more than a week had passed and Jesus finds Himself amongst the disciples and tells Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (Jn. 20:27). Following the encounter Thomas declared, “My Lord and My God” (Jn. 20:28).
All the examples noticed so far were confessions made in the presence of the Lord Himself. Unfortunately, we are not privileged to keep company with the Lord, thus, we cannot confess Him in the same manner. What are we to do? Thankfully, we find an example of a Eunuch from Ethiopiawho made such a confession. The evangelist Philip was sent by an angel to the Eunuch. He found this man reading one of the the most recognizable prophecies regarding the Messiah in the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 53). “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:35-37).
Notice the confession made by the Eunuch: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” He begins the confession by using the personal pronoun “I,” allowing us to understand this is a personal, individual confession. This is not merely something someone else believes; it is the deep conviction of the confessor’s own heart.
The thing acknowledged is Jesus Christ is the Son of God. McGarvey states, “Both the custom of confessing Christ, and the formula employed, originated in the most natural way, and without any positive precept. Jesus appeared in Galilee andJudea, proclaiming himself the Christ and the Son of God. As men became convinced of his claims, they would say, ‘I believe that he is the Christ.’ Others would say, “I believe that he is a prophet, but I deny that he is the Christ.” Thus the confession or denial of this proposition was the first mark of distinction between believers and unbelievers.”
There are some textual difficulties with the confession rendered thus we do not have a set formula for confession. However the words uttered by the Eunuch are very typical of the first century Christians. Oscar Cullman remarks, “Before a man was admitted to Christian fellowship by baptism, he made a public confession of his new faith, probably in response to some definite question asked of him about his beliefs.” It is necessary for some kind of confession to be made for the one conducting the baptism needs to know the one being immersed understands their actions. David Roper adds, “Since early Christians did not baptize anyone who did not believe in Jesus, how could they find out if a prospect for baptism believed? What is more natural than asking if the sinner believes – and what is more natural than the sinner’s replying?”
The Fear of Confessing Christ
In our current society postmodernism is infiltrating the minds of many. The dangers of this frame of mind are causing a remarkable paradigm shift. Postmodernism is the belief system which says there are no absolutes. There are no absolutes, no truth and no person can be wrong, for each decides for one’s self if something is right or wrong based on their situation. Such an attitude is starting to cause problems for Christians. It is causing people to consider the ramifications and consequences of claiming Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Postmodernism is causing many headaches and will continue to bring grief to those who refuse to change their stance. Regardless of the philosophy of our peers we must never allow them to influence our spiritual lives. This, however, is not the first time Christians were faced with the dilemma of confessing Christ; it is a problem which sprang up shortly after the ministry of Jesus began.
In the first century, the penalty applied to a Jew for confessing Christ was to be put out of the synagogue. John records, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many 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.” (12:42-43). They should have stood on their convictions, but they realizing that to do so would mean a drastic change, they were not willing to confess Christ and accept the consequent changes that stand would bring..
In John 9 Jesus gave a blind man his sight. This infuriated the Jews. When the man’s parents were questioned by the Jewish leaders, the parents refused to recognize the healing of their son as a divine act. This took place for, “they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (Jn. 9:22).
The good confession of Christ was readily admitted by many in Biblical times and still stands today as essential to our salvation. The wonderful proclamation that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God represents the true reflection of one’s inner being. Undoubtedly, we recognize the coming day in which “every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” (Phil. 2:11). Let us not wait to the final day but instead bodily proclaim, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
Arndt, William F and Gingrich, Wilber F. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, TheUniversityofChicagoPress, 1952.
Cottrell, Jack, The College Press NIV Commentary Romans Vol 2, College Press, Second Printing 2003.
Cranfield, C. E. B., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary. 2 vols.Edinburgh: t & T Clark, 1975-79.
Cullman, Oscar, The Earliest Christian Confessions, English Trans by J. K. S. Reid,London, 1949. Per Reese, Gareth, New Testament History Acts, College Press, Eleventh Printing, 1997.
McGarvey, J. W., The Four Fold Gospel, Power Bible 5.5, 2007.
Roper, David, Truth for Today Commentary – Acts 1-14, Resource Publications. Second Printing 2002.
Thayer, Joseph, Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of The New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Third Printing 1999.