What About Confession?
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 10. We are going to read the paragraph which begins with verse 6:

Romans 10:

6But 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:)
7Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)
8But 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;
9That 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.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If you are familiar with the context of the paragraph which we have read, you will recognize that the apostle has been talking about a righteousness which is obtained by works, but which will not endure. In contrast to the righteousness obtained by works, he presented a righteousness which is obtained by faith, and which will endure forever. He said that it is as close as the word of faith found in the heart and the mouth of any individual:

Romans 10:

9That 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.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Review

We would like for you to keep in mind a word twice used in this paragraph, the word confess and the word confession . We have been dealing with a series of questions which we have been pleased to term Simple Questions Often Asked . We have dealt with the question, “What does it mean to be saved?” When you talk about a person's being saved, just what do you mean by that? That question gave rise to other questions because the answer to the question of how to be saved is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31). That is the answer most simply, most directly, given to the forceful question, “What must I do to be saved?”

That gave rise to another question with which we have dealt, and that is, “What does it mean to believe?” After we presented the simplicity of believing in Christ, that question gave rise to a number of other questions which begin with the words, “What about…?” For instance, if you say that all you have to do to be saved is to believe, then what about repentance? We have dealt with the matter of repentance.

The Meaning of Confession

We anticipate another question—simple though it is, it is often asked—and that is, “What about confession?” If you say that all you have to do to be saved is to believe, what about confession? We want to answer that question, and in order to do it adequately, I am going to suggest that we notice first the definition of the word confess in the original language.

Let me suggest to you that the English word confess is a translation of two different Greek words. One of them is used often, related to confession in the hearing of men. One of them, I repeat, is used often—not always, but often—as related to confession to God, not necessarily in the hearing of men. There may be somebody about when you make this confession to God, but there does not need to be.

The word used primarily in relation to confession to God is the word homolegeo , which actually comes from two Greek words. One of them is the word homos , which means “the same,” and the other is legeo , which means “to speak.” Always involved in this word legeo for speak —there are other words for speak —is the idea that you are speaking not from the lips out, but from the heart out. You are not speaking from the lips out in the sense that you may be saying something you do not really believe; you use this word only when you are speaking of something that you believe with all your heart. If you take these two words and put them together, homos and logeo , or homolegeo , you have a statement which gives you a definition of the word confess , and that is to say the same thing with all your heart.

Other Ideas about Confession

That is, if God says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” (Matthew 3:17), and you confess that, you are saying the same thing with all your heart. If the Word of God says that Jesus Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures (I Corinthians 15:3,4), and you confess that, you are saying the same thing with all your heart.

It might be wise to keep in mind that this word homolegeo is also translated by the word profess or profession , and by the phrase, “giving of thanks.” We might remind you that there is another word that is very similar to this; as matter of fact, it is exactly the same except that it is preceded by the prefix ex, so that you have the word exhomolegeo , which means “to speak the same thing out loud.” You see, you can speak the same thing without speaking it out loud, and you can speak the same thing out loud; it is the second word that is used in relation to giving confession in the hearing of men.

Confession during the Tribulation

Now that we have defined the word confession , I would like for you to notice with me in the Scriptures some of the demands in relation to confession. What does the Bible say it expects of men in relation to confession? It is important for us to know this because we must rightly relate the word to every usage in the Scripture. Turn with me, please, to the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 10, as I remind you that confession will be demanded of every person in the Tribulation period which is to come upon the earth. Let me say that for you again. Confession of faith in Christ will be demanded of every person who will be living during the Tribulation, if he has any faith at all in Christ. The reason for that, as you know from the study of the prophetic Word, is that no person can live who confesses Jesus Christ as Savior because the Antichrist will demand his life as a penalty for confessing Christ. Notice Matthew, chapter 10, verses 32 and 33:

Matthew 10:

32Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

These verses of Scripture must be—notice what I am saying—dispensationally interpreted. They apply only to the group of people who are described in chapter 10 of the gospel of Matthew—the people who will be in existence on the earth during the Tribulation. The reason that this is exceedingly important is that if you take this verse of Scripture and apply it to the age of grace in which we live, you would have no assurance of your salvation. Every time that you failed to confess the Lord Jesus Christ in the hearing of men, you would be denied in Heaven, and you would have no certainty of your relationship with Christ.

Many preachers quote this passage of Scripture and use it to twist the arms of people to make them walk down the aisle in order to make a public profession of faith in Christ. They tell them that if they don't, they cannot be saved. But this has nothing to do with the individuals who live in this age in which we live; confession will be demanded publicly of people who live during the Tribulation period.

Confession at the End of the World

Turn, please, to Paul's letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, as I suggest to you that confession will be demanded publicly of all men in the final consummation of all things. When God is through dealing with the earth and all the loose ends are tied together, it will be necessary for men to confess Jesus Christ whether they want to or not. That is brought to our attention in Philippians, chapter 2, where we read in verse 9:

Philippians 2:

9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Notice the detailed description. Not only human beings are involved in this confession, but every creature is involved; whether they are in the earth, above the earth, or under the earth, a confession is demanded of every creature in the final consummation of all things. But listen carefully; this confession will not mean the salvation of any individual. These will be the individuals who have waited too long to acknowledge their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This will be a forced confession because in this hour of which we speak, God will have every knee bow and every tongue confess.

Confession for the Believer

May I suggest to you further, as we notice the demands of the Bible in relation to confession, that confession is expected of every believer—notice carefully what I am saying—from the standpoint of privilege and duty, but never, never as a requirement for salvation. When I talk about confession in this sense, I am talking about a common interpretation of confession, where you are told that you cannot be saved unless you walk down the aisle of some church and publicly confess that Jesus Christ is your Savior. I am speaking of a commonly accepted meaning of the word confession , where you are told that there are no secret followers of Jesus Christ—that a man cannot be saved unless he publicly declares his faith before men.

I want to emphasize before we go any further in our discussion that there is not one passage of Scripture rightly interpreted that says that before Christ will save him, a man must acknowledge before men that Christ is his Savior.

A Description of Confession

Confession in the life of the believer is a privilege after he is saved and a duty because he is saved. To help you understand that, let me suggest that we pursue a description of confession as it is presented to us in the Word of God. Let us take our text, for example—Romans, chapter 10, verses 9 and 10:

Romans 10:

9That 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.
10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made [before an assembled congregation], unto salvation.

Are you looking at your Bibles? That is not what it says. It does not say that confession is made with the mouth before an assembled congregation. It simply says that confession is made with the mouth unto salvation. Look at the text as I read it for you again as people read into it their own preconceived notions:

Romans 10:

10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Is that what it says? No, it isn't. It says that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation, and the literal meaning of the phrase in the original text is that with the mouth confession is made in relation to salvation. Not for salvation, but in relation to it. The subject of the confession is salvation. If you are thinking, as I trust you are, you will remember I told you that the Greek word for confession is sometimes homolegeo , which means “to speak to God.” Sometimes it is in the hearing of men, but not necessarily so, and that is the word from which the word confession is translated here.

When we read in this passage of Scripture that a man believes in his heart and confession is made with his mouth concerning salvation, it can be, “confession is made unto God concerning salvation.” Exactly what kind of confession would you make to God in relation to this? You could say with your lips, “Lord, I believe,” and that would be confession.

Confession as Thanksgiving

If you will turn with me to the book of Hebrews, you will recognize another suggestion concerning this word confess , because you will remember that I told you that this word homolegeo is translated not only by the word confess , but by the phrase, “giving of thanks,” as well. If you will notice in chapter 13 of the book of Hebrews, the emphasis is placed upon the sacrifice of our lips; God is pleased when we give a sacrifice of our lips to Him, and that sacrifice of our lips should be thanksgiving.

Hebrews 13:

15By him [that is, by the Lord Jesus Christ] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Notice the phase, “giving thanks.” That phrase is the translation of this word homolegeo . When we confess concerning our salvation, we could be giving thanks to God for it.

Friend, if for whatever reason you have never walked down an aisle in a public assembly to confess your faith in Jesus Christ, do not feel that you are not saved because of that. If when you received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, you lifted your heart to God in thanksgiving for His goodness in saving you, then on the authority of the Word of God, I suggest to you that you are saved because the Bible describes confession as an illustration of communion with God.

Confession as a Confirmation of Faith

I would like to suggest to you that the Bible describes confession as that which will represent a confirmation of your faith. Turn with me, please, to the first epistle of John, chapter 4. Confession represents a confirmation of your faith because in verse 15 we read:

I John 4:

15Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

Again, the grammatical construction of the verse in the original tongue indicates that it is an absolute impossibility for any person to give such confession unless the Spirit of God does dwell in him, for Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, said that no man can call Jesus Christ Lord, save by the Holy Spirit who dwells within the hearts of men (I Corinthians 12:3). If you were to walk down the aisle some morning or evening, if you should choose that way to give confession to your faith in Christ even though it is not required, you would not be doing it in order to be saved; you would simply be doing it as a confirmation of your faith. God has saved you through His grace, and the fact that you are willing to give testimony to that represents a confirmation of your faith.

Confession of the Believer's Life

The Bible describes confession as a continuous expression of your faith, not necessarily by your lips, though it may be, but certainly by your life. Turn, please, to Paul's first letter to Timothy:

I Timothy 6:

12Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.
13I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession;
14That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Notice in verse 12 the word professed and the phrase, a good confession, The word profess , the word professed , the word confession are all translations of this one Greek word homolegeo , which means exactly what we talked about—“saying the same thing.” What are we being taught in these individual verses of Scripture? Simply that you can confess with your life that Jesus Christ is Lord.

I have heard preachers say that it is not enough to confess with your life; you must confess with your lips or you can't be saved. I am quite willing to agree that if you are expressing continuously your faith in Christ by the life that you live, in all probability you will be confessing it with your lips at some time or other; but to stand here and tell you that unless you get up in some public place and audibly declare your faith in Christ, you are not pleasing to God, would be to declare to you something that does not have its roots in the Word of God.

What about confession? Confession is described in the Word of God as a continuous expression of your faith in Jesus Christ. Time will not permit me to elaborate on that, save to emphasize to you that God expects you, as Paul expected Timothy, to keep his commandment—that is, to keep this faith which has been committed to you without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am sure that some of you can say, as can I, that there have been times when you have not kept the faith unrebukeable; there have been times when the testimony has not been as good as it could have been. That distresses the Lord Jesus Christ.

Confession for Fellowship

Let me suggest as we pursue the description of confession in the Word of God, that the word confession is described in the Scriptures as being consistent with fellowship—as being an absolute necessity as far as fellowship is concerned. Turn with me, please, to the first epistle of John, chapter 1, verses 7-9:

I John 1:

7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
8If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Notice that this passage of Scripture is addressed to believers; unbelievers are not included in it. This is a passage of Scripture addressed to every person who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior. This passage of Scripture says that if you walk in the light that you have, then the blood of Jesus Christ continuously cleanses you from all sin, as something that occurs without your being particularly conscious of it. But if you do not walk in the light, then you have sinned, and if you say that you are not capable of sin, you are a liar. If you say you have never sinned, you are a liar, and you are deceiving yourself. You must recognize that all believers sin. This is not God's primary purpose because He said in I John, chapter 2:

I John 2:

1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

“That is my ideal; that is what I want,” John said, “but if you do sin, you have an advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” How are you going to be able to take advantage of the advocacy of Christ? By putting into effect I John 1:9:

I John 1:

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Beloved, this means exactly what it says. That is the reason I say confession is consistent with fellowship. It is an absolute necessity. God expects you to confess your sins.

Confessing Sins to God

Notice the accuracy of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Word. He was very careful to use the word homolegeo instead of the word exhomolegeo because He never intended that you should confess your sin to men. You should confess your sin to God. If a man is involved in your sin and you have injured him in some way, other Scriptures indicate that you should make the thing right with him, not in order to be forgiven, but because you are forgiven; but your confession should be made to the Lord. It is not necessary for you to go to some confession chamber and whisper into the ears of some mortal man the sin that you have confessed. All that is necessary for you to do is to whisper that sin into the ears of God.

Keep in mind as I emphasize the meaning of the word confess that I am not speaking of naming your sins as though you were reeling off a great many triumphs of which you are proud. The confession involves your feeling the way God feels about your sin; God hates your sin. It is obnoxious to Him, and He does not want His child to be dirtied by it. It is only when we say the same thing, thinking it as we say it, that we will be able fully to comprehend the true meaning of confession

Turn with me to one other passage of Scripture which deals with the suggestion that confession is consistent with fellowship. That passage is the epistle of James, chapter 5, which is the other place where the word confession is mentioned in the Scripture:

James 5:

16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

The Problems in Confessing Faults to Another

“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another.” Here is the word confess , and it is a word which describes confessing your faults into the ear of a human being. Look at the word faults for a moment. It is very important for us to notice what we are talking about so it will not appear that we have contradicted ourselves. The word faults is the translation of the Greek word parapipto , which is composed of two words, the preposition para , which means “alongside,” and the verb pipto , which means “to fall.” The two words put together speak of an individual who has fallen by the wayside. What does it mean to fall? You don't intend to, you don't plan it, but you fall by the wayside. You lose your step in the march. You lose your pace in the race because you have fallen into this fault.

The suggestion is that you can confess your faults one to another. Confess your sin to the Lord, but confess your faults one to another. Why? So we can have the best gossip fest we have ever had in all our lives? My, couldn't we have a good time? I go to you and say, “Look, I have a weakness, I have a fault, and it is hindering my ministry.” When I have hardly hung up the receiver or closed the door as the case may be, you run to the phone, you dial and you say, “Whoopee, I have it! Let me tell you the juiciest thing that I have just heard!” Then it will be repeated, and as it is repeated, it will be added to until instead of its being a weakness, it has become an open, overpresumptive act of disobedience to God.

The Purpose of Confessing Faults to Others

No, that is not what we are talking about. Confessing your faults, one to another—for what purpose? That we may pray for one another. You go to your brother and you say to him, “Friend, I have this weakness, and I need prayer. It is breaking my fellowship with God and I want you to pray with me about it.” If someone has confessed a fault to you for the purpose of prayer, if you are even a tenth of what God expects you to be, that fault would never pass your lips to another person, even on the excuse which I sometimes think must have its roots in Hell, the excuse that you want somebody else to pray with you about it. I don't know how many times people have said to me, “You know, I don't want to gossip; I would not do it for anything in the world; I would not breathe this to another living soul. All I want you to do is pray about this.” Sometimes sincerity is there, but let's face it; let's be perfectly honest. Our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, and no man can know how often we have used that as an excuse because we wanted to convey what we had heard.

Restoration of a Brother

Confess your faults one to another. Pray one for another, that you may be healed. This is consistent with fellowship, and this is exactly what the Spirit of God had in mind in Galatians, chapter 6, verse 1, when He said:

Galatians 6:

1Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault [and here the same word is used, parapipto], ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Keep in mind that the word overtaken in that verse does not mean that you are parked around the corner with your headlights out and your nose out to snoop out something on your Christian brother. That is not how he is supposed to be overtaken in a fault. It isn't that you stand behind your window with your shade cracked just enough for you to look out and see what they are doing, without their seeing you, so that you can overtake them in a fault. It is not that. The word overtaken indicates that the fault itself overtakes him. He falls into it before he knows what has happened, and you who are spiritual have an obligation to restore him—but “in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

I have read this verse because I want to make a point. So often we find that when a brother has been overtaken in a fault, we feel that it is necessary for us to form a committee and go tell him about the fault. Don't you think he already knows that? Of course he does. I would suggest to you that one of the best ways, certainly not the only way but one of the best ways, to restore a brother who is overtaken in a fault, is to take him to the throne of grace, and God can work in a way that no one else can.

Difficulties in Confession

Let me say to you that there are some difficulties related to confession in the hearing of men. There are some difficulties related to confession in the hearing of God. When you have time, read what is recorded in chapter 4 of the book of Hebrews, verses 14 through 16, as we are reminded that some of the things that keep us from confessing are the infirmities of the flesh—the very weaknesses of which I have been speaking, and other weaknesses that may be related, timidity or what have you. The suggestion is made in Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15, that if such infirmities are making it difficult for you to confess, remember that you have a great High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who is tested in all points like as we are, yet without sin; if you go to Him and ask Him, He will give you the strength that is needed for the confession that ought to be made.

When you have time, read chapter 10 of the book of Hebrews, with special emphasis upon verse 23, and call to mind that one of the difficulties related to confession is the wavering of our lives. Consistency—what a rare gem it is, and how few of us possess it. As a matter of fact, if you were to stand up and tell me that you are consistent, I would mark it down in my mental notebook that for the first time you were inconsistent. Consistency is a rare gem, and wavering in our Christian life and testimony makes it difficult for us to confess.

Deterrents to Confession

I might suggest to you some deterrents to confession. In chapters 9 and 12 of the Gospel of John the most classic deterrent to confession that is recorded in the Scripture is labeled the fear of men . We are told that they passed a rule that if men confessed to the truth concerning Jesus Christ, they would be put out of the synagogue. In chapter 12, we are told that many of the chief priests believed everything about Him, and believed in Him, but they did not confess Him for fear of those who were in authority. I would remind you that the fear of man bringeth a snare, but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be saved (Proverbs 29:25).

God's Attitude toward Confession

How does the Lord Jesus feel about your confession? Does it matter to Him? Does it make any difference? Because I have been so anxious for you rightly to relate confession with salvation, so that nothing would be detracted from God's marvelous grace in relation to our salvation, you may have gathered the idea in this discussion that it just doesn't matter to the Lord Jesus Christ whether you confess or not. I would remind you to read Revelation 3 with special emphasis on verse 5, and II Timothy, chapter 2, with special emphasis on verses 11-13. I suggest to you that it does matter to Him. It matters so much to Him that His decision about your reward at the Judgment Seat of Christ—notice what I am saying—is vitally related to your confession.

What about confession? Confession to God is the duty and the privilege of every believer.


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