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 Vol. 5, No. 3 

March 2003

Associate Editorial

~ Page 3 ~

When We Confess

By Steven P. Smithbauer

Image Most have probably heard the term "the good confession" as it applies to confessing one's faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God before one is baptized into Christ. Certainly we can find authority for making such a confession in Acts 8:37-38 where we read of the Ethiopian Eunuch's conversion.

"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. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."

What does it mean to confess Christ? Is it a one-time act, or is it perpetual? Paul builds upon the theme of "justification by faith" throughout the Book of Romans rather than by the good works of keeping the Old Testament Law. Faith is our response to grace, which is God's initiative. We are not saved by works of merit, or because we figured out a way to be saved on our own, but we are saved by grace, (God's initiative), through faith, (our response). (See Ephesians 2:8.) Part of our response to God is the confession we make. What are we doing when we confess faith in Jesus as God's Son?

First of all, we are admitting that we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Romans 10:6-8 reads:

"But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach"

The Jewish mind would not accept Jesus as the Lord, unless physical proof was offered. The Jews would taunt Christians saying in effect, "Ascend into heaven and bring Christ down, or descend into the grave and prove it to us." Even at the cross, they demanded more proof, in spite of the many miraculous works Jesus had already done. Matthew 27:40-42 reads:

"Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him."

Faith in God is all that is needed to accept Jesus as Christ. The Old Testament prophesied Jesus would come in the manner he did. Amazingly, the Jews did not comprehend this though there were some among them who could be considered experts on the Old Testament! In fact, the apostle Paul's method of evangelism was to convince devout Jews of Jesus' claims by reasoning with them from the prophesies in the Old Testament. Acts 17:1-3 reads:

"Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ."

Rather than demanding proof by sight, the Jews needed to confess their faith in Christ through the evidence of the Scriptures. We do the same today! No one now living has witnessed the miracles of Jesus, nor has any seen him face to face, and yet we can still believe. The third verse of We Saw Thee Not, a hymn written by Knowles Shaw and Anne Richter, conveys this very thought in song:

We Saw Thee Not when lifted high,
Amid that wild and savage crew;

Nor heard we that imploring cry,
"Forgive, they know not what they do."
But we believe the deed was done,
That Shook the earth and veiled the sun;

Jesus told Thomas, "...because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29). To confess Christ is to acknowledge our faith in the Scriptures as God's Word rather than trusting only in what we see with out own eyes.

Secondly, when we confess we are acknowledging our sins. Paul emphatically stated to the Romans in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Another stumbling block for the Jews was that they felt justified simply by being descendants of Abraham, failing to realize that the Law was fulfilled in Christ, and the Old Covenant was now obsolete. Hebrews 10:4 and 9 reads, " is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." and "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second." John the Baptist had to deal with this mentality. Notice Matthew 3:7-10:

"But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire."

To confess Christ, then, is to admit that we are hopelessly lost in sins and in need of a Savior.  See Romans 10:8-10:

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 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. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

The Jews felt that being a descendent from Abraham was all that was necessary to please God. How tragic that the means of their salvation was so near to them and they wouldn't accept it. Worst of all, the Law that they read should have left no doubts in their minds as to who the Messiah was.

The purpose of the Law was two-fold: First of all to point out sin. Notice Romans 7:7, "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." The Old Testament Scriptures defined sin in no uncertain terms. There could be no doubt as to what pleased God, and what did not.

Secondly, the law was to point the way to Christ. Galatians 3:24 reads, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39-40, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." These people were fully aware of the Law. They studied it constantly and knew it forwards and backwards. From the Old Testament Scriptures they had correctly reasoned that eternal life could be obtained. However, they were blinded as to the One who would make that all possible, the very One that was the object of the Law and prophets! Paul explained to Titus in Titus 3:4-5, "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." When we confess, we are saying we can't make it on our own, and need his blood to cleanse us.

Consider again the Eunuch in Acts 8 who provides an excellent example of one convinced of the Scriptures (Isaiah 53), convicted of his sins and humbled so as to admit his need for the Savior. His confession, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" is one we must emulate today. But that confession is not just a one-time act. It involves continued faith in Christ and confession of him daily by word and deed after one has been baptized into his body. Paul continued to do so! "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14). None can doubt the importance of confession when one hears the words of Jesus: "Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8-9).Image

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