Rudiments of the Gospel

God Dwells in the Confessor

J.S. Smith

The apostle John wrote, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:15). A genuine profession of faith, upon which a faithful life is then predicated, creates a special covenant relationship between man and God, in which the two dwell together and in one another.

The New Testament goes so far as to make oral confession of faith a condition of salvation. Paul wrote, "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. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). One needs an obedient mouth as much as a believing heart in order to accept the offer of grace from the father of lights.

There will be those who see the word "condition" in paragraph two and immediately object, stating that confession is not a condition of salvation, but merely a component of faith, which alone does save. Such a Calvinistic suggestion is easily refuted by proving that it is possible to believe without making confession.

The apostle John quoted from the same passage as Paul when reporting that the gospel had been rejected by many Jews who heard Jesus preach. John wrote, "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in 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).

Men like these are no more saved than the demons who believe and tremble (James 2:19). They fail to arrive at the praise of God for they love the admiration and acceptance of men so much that anything which threatens their societal standing is quickly scuttled. These rulers did not combine faith and confession and so they cannot be spoken of in the scriptures as in God's grace. Thus, while confession is an expression of faith, it remains a distinct step to salvation and condition of entering the covenant.

The book of Acts provides a concrete example of confession unto salvation when Philip the evangelist interrupted the journey of an Ethiopian eunuch along a desert road. After preaching Jesus to him, the eunuch asked to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of his sins. Philip replied, "'If you believe with all your heart, you may.' And he [the eunuch] answered and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God'" (Acts 8:36-37). He was baptized immediately on the basis of this confession, a confession truly made unto salvation and yet clearly after the point at which belief became rooted in his soul.

That confession is unto salvation is further established in the words of Jesus: "Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33). This demand by our Lord had life and death ramifications in the first century, when the Roman government could attempt to squash Christianity with threats of fatal reprisals. The book of Revelation includes challenges to remain "faithful until death" in order to receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10), a direct reference to overcoming the threat to recant one's confession of faith. The church at Philadelphia was commended for having members that had not denied Christ (Revelation 3:8).

It must likewise be noted that such a confession is more than just an assent to a roster of facts. It is an entrance to discipleship at the feet of Jesus Christ. Denying the Savior can be accomplished through means other than an oral denial of his divinity. Paul exposed some saints on Crete and elsewhere who "profess to know God, but in works they deny him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work" (Titus 1:16). John reminds us that "He who says, 'I know him,' and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). Your confession must become your profession, your way of life and daily work. If your faith goes no deeper than your mouth, your confession is, in fact, a lie.

Confessing Christ has always carried with it certain consequences. In first century Israel, it was the threat of being cut off from the temple, synagogue and family (John 9:22, Matthew 10:37). Later, it was the threat of being cut off from the Roman marketplace (Revelation 13:17) and even being cut off at the neck. A public confession of faith today places the saint into a socially ostracized group, but denying the Lord promises worse consequences in eternity.

Conjuring up the confidence to confess Christ before men prior to baptism is an important step unto salvation, but confession does not cease there. Instead, it becomes a daily obligation and blessing, the way in which the rest of the Christian's life is defined and dedicated to God.

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