Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1967
NUMBER 26, PAGE 11b-12

Scriptural Confession

Douglas H.C. Northcutt

Scripture dictates two confessions of God's people. The first is that Jesus is the son of God, and the other is that of the confessor's sins. This article will survey the teaching of the scriptures on this matter and then make some applications to current dangers associated with them.

'Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my father which is in heaven." (Matt. 10:32) As well as this promise that Jesus will confess us to God if we confess him before men, we are to be confessed before angels (Luke 12:8), we are to dwell with God and He with us (I John 4:15), we are to receive the Father (I John 2:23), and we are to be saved (Rom. 10:10). That these blessings accompany our confession of Christ is no point of contention. However, there are those who feel that an oral confession is not necessary, but that one confesses by the life he lives. That the latter is true cannot be disputed, but to say that oral confession is not needed is to contradict scripture. Paul said to the Romans, "That if thou shalt confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe with thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Rom. 10:9) We cannot misunderstand the phrase, "confess with thy mouth..." as denoting an oral confession. Vine adds that the use of the word "confess" in Matthew 10:32 and in Luke 12:8 suggests a public confession.

Confession of Christ is not just an affirmation that there was a man who lived named Jesus. That confession is not that Jesus was a just man, worthy to be called the son of God. Rather, that confession is that JESUS IS THE SON OF GOD. (I John 4:15)

At what time are we to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God? None of the passages above places a time or limit on this confession. It would appear logical that the time would be as soon as faith is strong and at which time salvation is to be attained. The eunuch confessed Christ when he desired to be baptized, and he desired his salvation. We know that his faith had been built up by a study of the scripture. (Acts 8:34-39 K. J. V.) Likewise, as long as our faith is strong and we seek salvation, we should confess Christ as the son of God, both in our lives and by our mouths.

"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9) This confession is not unique to the dispensation of Christ, for we read of it in the Old Testament (Ezr. 10:11, Pro. 28:13, Jer. 3:13), and we read of it in the time of John the baptizer. This was the confession of John's baptism.

(Mark 1:5) We find that it has its place in the New Law also. Aside from the numerous examples of those confessing their sins (Luke 18:13, Mark 1:5, 5:8, 15:18, Acts 8:20), there are commands to do so. The introductory passage and James 5:16 tell us that we must confess our sins.

God has commanded that we must confess our sins to Him and to our brethren. He says that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins..." (I John 1:9) Simon the sorcerer when he had sinned against the Holy Spirit, was told by Peter to repent and pray God that the evil in him might be forgiven. When Simon prayed to God, he acknowledged his sin and thus confessed it. We are to confess our sins "one to another" (James 5:16), that is to our brethren. Not only do we find here a command, but, as in many instances with God's plan, a blessing also. The easing of the burden from our shoulders, and the forgiveness of those we have wronged is a blessing indeed. Just as the joy of receiving the forgiveness of God upon our repentance and prayer, we rejoice in the forgiveness and prayers of our brethren.

Many arguments arise as to the nature of this confession. Some contend that it is a confession of specific sins, and others that it is a confession of the existence of one's sins. Much sophistry can be offered by both sides, but the law of God is silent on this matter. Examples show us that a general confession of sins is acceptable. (Luke 5:18, 15:18, 18: 13) It seems that there would be circumstances where one would be applicable and the other not, and vice versa. In any case, God's silence has placed this part of our confession of sins to our own judgment.

Few are the arguments circumscribing this next consideration. To explain it we cite an example. It is reported that a group of Christians were at a ball game, when one member of Christ's body, in the heat of the game began to curse. An elder, it is told, immediately went to that man and said, "If you do not come forward tomorrow (Sunday) and make a public confession of this sin, we will withdraw fellowship from you." This elder is to be commended on his courage and haste in confronting this sinner. On the other hand, where is his authority to threaten disfellowship because a man does not conform to a tradition of men? If this man had rebelliously continued in his sin of cursing, then disfellowship would have been required. (Tit. 3:10) However, to make "come forward and make a public confession..." a requirement, is to add a condition which God has not authorized. Nowhere does the law of Christ make such a confession mandatory.

In connection with this man-made requirement, we hear such terms as "public sin" and a sin that "brings reproach upon the church." It seems that these are the sins that call for one to "come forward". Is this a line drawn by God or men? I find nothing in my Bible that makes a distinction between sins. If there is such a teaching, I am ignorant of it. If there is none, we should abandon that idea. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let us assume that there is such a distinction made. We still require scripture that calls for one action ("coming forward" plus the prayers of the saints) in the case of a "public sin" and another action (prayer to God alone) in the case of a "private sin." Such a teaching is foreign to the New Testament.

We are to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God. This confession is to be made with the mouth and by our lives. When we become strong in faith, we should follow the example of the eunuch and confess our Lord. Our sins are to be confessed to God and man. We must watch that our obedience is to this command and not to one of man's origin. When one comes to his brethren, whether it be the whole congregation or to one brother, it must be done for the purpose of confession and forgiveness, and not to participate in a man-made ceremony. Both of these confessions are a command and a blessing from God. In them we gain a rapport with Him and our brethren, we gain strength, and we gain assurance in our work as His servants.

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