Vol. 3, No. 2 Page 10 February, 2001
For many, many years this preacher has been quoting Matthew 10:32-33 to prove that it is necessary for one to confess with his mouth that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And while it is true that all who become Christians are to confess with their mouths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, in order to be saved, except for the deaf mute, who would confess with his hands, that is not what the passage in Matthew Chapter Ten is speaking of. Such passages as Romans 10:8-10 teach us very clearly that we are saved by the confession of the name of the Son of God, and there is nothing wrong in asking a person who comes to be baptized if he or she believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But again, this is not the subject under discussion in the passage in Matthew. And those of us who have used the Matthew passage to prove that one must confess Christ in order to be saved, have done so ignoring the context of the statement Jesus made, and the reason why Jesus said what he said, and the type of confession of which he spoke on that occasion.
Matthew Ten tells the story of the "twelve" being sent out to preach to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Not only were they to preach but they were to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead and cast out demons. Next, they were told that they were not to take anything with them for their journey, but let the people provide for them as they went along. If they were rejected by a city or a house, they were to shake the dust from their feet and go on. Jesus then warned them that he was sending them "out as sheep in the midst of wolves." And he also told them that they would be persecuted because of the message that they were going to bring to the house of Israel. Then he explained to them that he too was going to be persecuted, and that the disciple was not above his master, so they should not become inactive because of fear. Jesus explained that they were to teach what they had learned privately from him, and God would take care of them because he takes care of the birds of the air, and they were much more valuable than the birds that fly in the heavens. In other words, God was going to take very good care of them because of their value which accrued from the great work that they were to do in presenting the Gospel to the lost Jews.
Immediately after telling his apostles these things, Jesus said, "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." The confessing and denying of which the Lord speaks in this passage is not confessing with the mouth that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, but rather it was a confessing of Jesus as the only true Messiah by the things which the apostles were to preach to the house of Israel. In other words, if the apostles were to continue to preach the things which they had learned from Christ, in spite of the fact that they were being persecuted for so doing, then they would be "confessing" Christ by their preaching and their actions. As a result of this, Jesus would "confess" them to God, that is, he would recognize them before the throne of the Majesty on high as being preachers and teachers of his righteousness.
On the other hand, if they allowed persecution to cause them to fear to the point that they refused to go forward giving the message of the Messiah to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, that would be equal to "denying" Jesus before men, and would result in his "denying" them as apostles before the very throne of God. If we look at the next to last paragraph in the chapter we will find Jesus telling them that the Gospel and the preaching of the Gospel does not bring peace but a sword dividing households. Then Jesus told the apostles that the one who "finds" his life, that is, preserves himself from persecution by refusing to preach to the lost would lose his life (spiritually) and that would be tantamount to denying Christ. But whoever lost his physical life for the Messiah would find his spiritual life, and that would be equivalent to being "confessed" in heaven.
Then in the last paragraph of the chapter Jesus told them that those who heard and received what they had to say, also heard and received both himself and the Father, and that the manner of their reception would determine the reward of those who were doing the receiving. But whoever gave a cup of cold water to one of those little ones, (the lost sheep of the house of Israel) would by no means lose his reward, that is he would not be denied in heaven at the throne of God.
It is more than just an option that you and I should confess Christ today by teaching others about him regardless of whether or not we are persecuted. This commission was not given to us per se, but still under the great commission, and such passages as 2 Timothy 2:2, we are to sound forth the Gospel to the lost, and every time we do that we are confessing Christ by so doing. (I am deeply indebted to brother E. Russell King for helping me to see this great and exciting truth in a bulletin article he wrote for the 14th of December 1997 entitled, "Confessing Or Denying Christ.")