The emotion-filled time when I obeyed the gospel stands out vividly in my memory even though over 30 years have passed. I was baptized when I was twelve years old during a gospel meeting held by Wayne Fussell at the Lee’s Summit congregation in Missouri where I was raised. I made up my mind to become a Christian and took extra clothes with me to church that night. Once we got to church I visited with Jerri Triplett (Jerri Young now) and told her I was going to be baptized and did she want to also? Then, when the invitation song started I went forward and so did Jerri. I remember I could not stop singing as I walked down the aisle, I was so nervous. Then followed our confessions and baptisms in the baptistery there at the building. What wonderful memories for all of God’s children as we remember the time when we were “born again”.
Each facet of our obedience to the gospel is both precious and important to understand. In recent years the confession has come under fire in some quarters so I want to examine what the Bible has to say about “The Good Confession.” Questions I intend to answer include: Is a confession necessary when we obey the gospel? If it is, does it make any difference what we say? Is what we have said through the years and handed down from generation to generation sufficient or is there something else that is necessary? Does it make any difference what Bible translation we use to learn about the confession? All of these questions deserve Bible answers.
Confession in obeying the gospel is essential and necessary.
I believe the Bible teaches confession is necessary when we obey the gospel because of what we read about Timothy.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. (1 Tim 6:12 KJV)
The “good profession” or good confession,” as the same word is translated in the next verse, is describing the time when Timothy obeyed the gospel. He made a statement before others and they were witnesses to his statement. His statement was acceptable to God and commended by the Apostle Paul.
When Jesus sent the twelve forth to preach to the Jews as described in Matthew 10 he warned them they could expect many problems. He reassures them and us with these words:
Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny)’ before my Father which is in heaven. (Matt 10:32-33KJV)
We can conclude from these passages there is never a time when it is wrong to confess Christ in our lives, whether at the beginning of our walk with God, during a time of persecution, or at the end of a long life in his service. Obviously our confession of Christ is important since Jesus’ response is to confess us to God the Father.
Vine on this verse says:
In Matt 10:32 and Luke 12:8 the construction of this verb (the word translated confession) with en, in, followed by the dative case of the personal pronoun, has a special significance, namely, to confess in a person’s name, the nature of the confession being determined by the context, the suggestion being to make a public confession. (p224)
Confess is from HOMOLOGEO, and I shall give Robinson’s definition of the word… “To speak or say together, in common, i.e., the same things, hence to hold the same language, to assent, to accord, to agree with.” To confess one, then, means to admit being in agreement with him and endorsing his teaching. (vol. 5, p37)
The Good Confession:
Timothy’s confession is referred to by Paul as being “The Good Confession.” Let us take a closer look at this passage to see what is being taught.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; (1 Tim 6:12-13 KJV)
Notice the same passage from another translation:
Combat the good combat of faith: lay hold on eternal life; to which, also, you have been called, and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you, in the presence of God, who makes all alive-and of Christ Jesus; who witnessed to Pontius Pilate the good confession; (The Living Oracles)
Timothy’s profession or confession is compared to what Christ did when appearing before Pilate. It follows then, in order to understand what Timothy said we need a better understanding of what Pilate heard from Jesus.
But, in order to understand Christ’s confession to Pilate, we need to look first at what Christ confessed to the Jews.
Jesus’ confession to the Jews:
The Jews were aware of old testament prophecies concerning the Messiah, the anointed one of God, the Christ.
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly (John 10:22-24 KJV)
I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I she wed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If! do not the works of my Father; believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. (John 10:30-38 KJV)
Jesus to the Jews during his trial:
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, lam: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power; and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-62 KJV)
And as soon as it was day the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together; and led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth. (Luke 22:66-71 KJV)
Jesus’ confession is later referred to by those who mocked him while he was on the cross:
And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left. And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, 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. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, lam the Son of God. (Matt 27:37-43 KJV)
While we have looked at what Jesus said to the Jews, we still have not looked at what Jesus said to Pilate. Before we look at what Jesus said to Pilate, let me ask a question: Have you ever tried to explain a religious concept to someone of the world? That is what the Jews are about to attempt to do with Pilate.
Several years ago when Don Pruitt and I were in Russia we went into a restaurant to eat lunch. The only other people in the place were two Russian men. As was usual, we enlisted anyone’s help ordering our meal, because we spoke no Russian, and the waiter spoke no English. The two Russian men spoke a few words of English so between all of us we ordered something to eat. During the course of our meal the waiter delivered a bottle of wine to our table, which we did not order. The two Russian men had ordered it for us at their expense, usually a great honor in their country. Oh no! Now what do we do? We told the waiter “No Thanks!” This prompted our benefactors to come over to our table. They had been drinking, and not a little. We told them in English we do not drink, but they did not understand. Then we tried to find words they would understand to convey the message we do not drink. We eventually used the word “priest” pointing at ourselves and then at the wine shaking our heads. That word they understood, but their response was “So?” Evidently, Russian Orthodox priests do imbibe. Finally, they went back to their table, obviously upset and not completely understanding, but knowing we were not going to drink. We were faced with explaining a religious concept to someone of the world.
We see an example of a worldly person attempting to explain such a conversation in Acts 25. Paul was accused by the Jews of a crime worthy of death. The Jews had presented their case against Paul to Festus and Festus is relating what he heard to King Agrippa.
When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive. I was at a loss how to investigate such matters; so I asked if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial there on these charges. (Acts 25:18-20 NIV)
It is difficult to explain religious concepts to people of the world, even when you speak the same language. That is what the Jews were faced with when they needed to explain to Pilate the crime Jesus had committed that was worthy of death. Now, notice how the Jews reported Jesus’ confession to Pilate:
And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him unto Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar; saying that he himself is Christ a King. And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews ? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it. (Luke 23:1-3IJV)
What did Jesus confess? To the chief priest and Jews he affirmed he is the Christ, the Son of God. The Jews reported to Pilate, “He is Christ a King.” Pilate’s response lets us know what he understood: “Art thou the King of the Jews?” Jesus’ response to Pilate is, “Thou sayest it.” Those familiar with figures of speech will recognize this as a synecdoche, where a part stands for the whole. What was told Pilate stands for all that Jesus had revealed to the Jews.
So, what is the good confession? It certainly includes all that Jesus told the Jews, that he is Christ and the Son of God.
Jesus’ confessions to the Jews and their report to Pilate agree with Peter’s earlier confession:
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And! say also unto thee, That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. (Matt 16:13-2 0 KJV)
Let us ever be reminded, Jesus tells all mankind that the truth Peter declared is the foundation of the church. What is that truth? That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! We dare not lose sight of that important and wonderful point.
Learning about Jesus
How do we come to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? Is this some miraculous knowledge that God places in our hearts? Not at all. John answers our question:
And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:30-31 KJV)
John is saying the result of studying what God inspired him to write, of learning about the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is to conclude that he is the Christ, the Son of God.
When Christ was to be born the angel told Mary her baby would be “holy” and that he “shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). When Jesus was baptized God the Father declared from heaven: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). Paul tell us that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead declares him to be the “Son of God with power” (Rom 1:4).
An expected and natural consequence of learning about Jesus is to confess who he is and to tell others about him. When Paul was converted he immediately started preaching. What did he preach?
And straightway (immediately) he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (Acts 9:20 KJV)
Other references to the confession remind us of the importance and preciousness of the profession of our faith. When John the Apostle was combating the problems of his day he again places importance on the confession.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth (confesses) the Son hath the Father also. (1 Jn 2:23 KJV)
Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (I Jn 4:JS KJV)
Hopefully, thus far in our study we have sufficiently proven that confession when we obey the gospel is necessary, and that the confession we make should include reference to Jesus being the Christ, the Son of God in keeping with the example of Timothy whose confession follows the example of Christ.
Published in the December 1, 1997 issue of the OPA.