The NIV does this step no favours at all by changing the wording in Matthew 10:32-33 and 1 John 4:15 from “confess” to “acknowledge”. Surprisingly, other modern translations support the intent of “confess”.
- NLT Matthew 10:33 Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.
- CEV Matthew 10:33 If you tell others that you belong to me, I will tell my Father in heaven that you are my followers.
- NLT 1 John 4:15 All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.
- CEV 1 John 4:15 God stays one with everyone who openly says that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s how we stay one with God.
In practice, most Churches of Christ fulfill this Step by having a individual respond to a question like, “Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and your Lord and Saviour?” immediately before baptism: often as they stand in the water. When they respond “Yes!” they are baptised with the affirmation, “On the basis of this confession, I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”(or a shorter version.)
I fully intend to continue this practice. I think that affirming the deity and Lordship of Christ as well as naming him as Saviour is a pretty good basis for starting a new life in Christ through baptism.
As I read these passages though, I don’t believe that either Jesus or Paul were establishing a formula for Christians to confess at a specific moment in order to fulfill a “Step” toward full relationship with God. Rather, these passages fit right into my thesis of DAILY Steps of Salvation. They were encouraging a lifestyle that honours God, that also at various times may require specific statements of allegiance to Christ.
In the broader context of Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus predicts persecution and suffering ahead. In verses 26, 28, and 31 Jesus tells his followers “Do not be afraid”. In this context of fear he immediately encourages them not to deny their relationship with him. Instead, be encouraged knowing that whatever hot water their confession before men will land them in, will be more than compensated for by Christ acknowledging before the throne of God that they belong to Him. That seems a far cry from saying the right words immediately prior to baptism.
Paul’s also paints a bigger picture in Romans 10. The passage teaches the universal nature of God’s message and salvation. The Gospel is not limited to the Jews, but also embraces Gentiles. The emphasis of v13 is clearly on “Everyone”. This makes “calls upon the name of the Lord” a generic statement regarding people turning to God for rescue not a specific formulaic statement.
It also seems to me that verses 9-10 refer to “Believe and Confess” as an application of Deut. 30:14 which is quoted in v8, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” The passage is written to Christians, not to unbelievers telling them how to respond to the Gospel. There’s just a natural overflow of our beliefs into our speech. Belief that is ashamed of Christ, is not saving faith.
If these references to “Confession” refer to a general willingness to acknowledge our allegiance to Christ, then we would expect those around us to know of our faith. Our friends, work colleagues, family members, or classmates should not be surprised to find us worshiping God on Sunday morning, or making life decisions based on Biblical teaching.
I often think of these verses as applying to the time when my back’s against a wall and a guns in my face. But I believe that we can all practice the DAILY step of Confession. In my sermon I gave several examples of ways to live a lifestyle that confesses Christ without being obnoxious about it:
- Update your facebook status each Sunday to indicate that you’re worshiping God.
- Have a calendar with Scripture verses on your desk at work.
- Join a workplace conversation about religion… without being argumentative.
- When describing your weekend, mention your church activities.
- Offer to pray for those you know who experience difficulties.
Okay, now it’s your turn to respond. Please join the conversation by leaving a comment.
- Can you add some suggestions to this list?
- What does the word “confess” mean to you?
- Do you have some other ideas about how to read the verses I discussed above?