What Confession Means In Christian Experience
1. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”
a. Anyone who reads these words thoughtfully may gather from them at least these three facts.
i. There is a confession of hope which all Christians have in common.
ii. As events unfold and time passes in a person’s life, confidence in that confession may waver.
iii. But the confession rests upon such a solid basis that it can be, and should be, held fast by any of us.
b. The rest of the New Testament confirms all three of these conclusions.
2. What confession means is so far-reaching that the term may be used to summarize the entire gospel system and all of Christian experience.
a. It is mentioned specifically in a number of important passages, and it is exemplified in some of the wonderful scenes in the New Testament.
b. It carries a meaning which is crucial at the beginning of the Christian life, and which grows even more precious throughout the journey, and which will finally become the only thing that matters.
1. Confession expresses agreement.
a. The term means literally “the same word.”
i. “Confess” means “to say the same thing” or “to speak the same thing,” and to do so openly and freely out of the real convictions of the heart. (Vine, 224)
ii. The word group has the general meaning of “acknowledging something to be the case in agreement with others.” (New Bible Dictionary, 225)
iii. Think about it: the word for “confession” describes an action which has to underlie unity.
b. It comes up in contexts which connect it to the faithful love of the Lord.
i. Our text is an example: our confession should be held fast because it is the same thing the faithful God has promised.
ii. Whether we are speaking about our own lowly condition or about the exalted position of our Lord, confession is saying the same thing God is saying (cf.1 Jn. 1:10; 2:23).
iii. Agreement with him is what brings us into agreement with each other.
c. That is where Paul started when he wanted to teach the church at Corinth that they were one body in Christ.
i. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’” he wrote, “except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).
ii. He meant that no one can come to that conclusion apart from the word the Spirit has made known (cf. Rom. 10:17; 8-9).
iii. But he also meant that when anyone does make that declaration he has agreed not only with God but with everyone else who says that same thing.
2. Confession involves commitment.
a. At the moment when a person openly says what he believes in his heart he is committing himself, either to acting in keeping with that conviction, or to a life without any integrity.
i. Phil Sanders wrote, “When the pilot of a giant airliner is speeding down the runway, there is a certain point where he cannot decide to remain on the ground. When he crosses that line, he is committed to the air.”
ii. Saying “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God” is a point like that. It is “an act of open joyful commitment to God in the presence of the world” (New Bible Dict., 224).
iii. “In his confession a man indicates that he stands by the fact of Christ and submits his life to it.” (NIDNTT, 1, 347)
b. That explains some behavior we read about in the Gospel of John.
i. John 9:22
ii. John 12:42
iii. They knew that if they confessed him they would be committed.
c. That is why confession of Christ is associated with baptism into Christ.
i. When a person confesses Christ he is publicly stating what he believes, gladly accepting God’s plan, and promising himself to the Lord’s way.
ii. Romans 10:13, 11-12, 9-10
iii. Acts 2:21, 38
iv. Believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth are paired as conditions of salvation in the first passage; repenting and being baptized are paired as conditions of being forgiven in the second; and believing and being baptized are paired as conditions of being saved in Mark 16:16.
v. Each of these conditions is an important aspect of turning away from self and calling on the name of the Lord.
3. Confession establishes identity.
a. What we agree upon and are committed to makes us who we are.
i. Our confession, therefore, becomes very much a mark of our identity.
ii. In that way, our confession becomes a source of courage, strength, and loyalty.
iii. Acts 24:14-15
b. Much of the encouragement of the New Testament is just a call to live in keeping with our confession.
i. Hebrews 3:1; 4:14; 10:23
ii. 1 Timothy 6:12-14
iii. Revelation 3:5
4. Confession maintains relationship.
a. While confessing Christ is what we do in coming to him in baptism, confessing our sins is what we must do when we recognize that unrighteousness is keeping us from walking with him.
i. That is simply because relationship requires it.
ii. Dr. Everett Ferguson, a great student of early Christian history, explains, “...the process of restoration to the church came to be known in early Christianity by the Greek word exomologesis, ‘confession.’ Confession of sin is implicit in repentance and prayer. If repentance is the inward turning away from sin to God, confession is the outward expression in word and deed....Confession requires that one be honest with him/herself....Bringing the sin into the open is an important early step in achieving repentance and reformation of life. Acknowledgment of sin is essential to receiving forgiveness.” (The Church of Christ, 387)
iii. Luke 15:21 offers the best illustration of that point I can think of.
b. How this works out in the church may be observed from the General Epistles.
i. James 5:16
ii. 1 John 1:9
iii. Confession takes place in the context of relationship, is only as wide as the knowledge of the sin, and dealt with by intercessory prayer by the family to the Father of light.
5. Confession proclaims reality.
a. Remember that confession is the open acknowledgment, in words, of what is true.
b. In that way, what happens now when the assembled church sings foreshadows the goal toward which history is headed.
i. Hebrews 13:15
ii. Philippians 2:9-11
iii. Romans 14:10-12
1. When a person either places himself on the side of Jesus or separates himself from him in the sight of people, he makes a decision on which God will act (Matt. 10:32-33).
2. Someone told about a large group of people with Jesus on one side and Satan on the other side. Separating them, running through the group, was a fence. The story goes that both Jesus and Satan began calling to the people in the group and, one by one, each went to either Jesus or Satan. Soon Jesus had gathered a group of people from the larger crowd, and so had Satan.
One man, however, sided with neither group. He just climbed the fence and sat on it.
Then Jesus and his people left, and so did Satan and his people. The man on the fence sat alone. As the man sat, Satan came back and appeared to be looking for something. The man said, “Have you lost something?” Satan looked straight at him and replied, “Oh. No, there you are. Come with me.”
“But,” said the man, “I sat on the fence. I chose neither you nor him.”
“That’s okay,” said Satan. “I own the fence.”