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What Does It Mean to “Confess Christ”?

Many denominations encourage their members to publicly “confess Jesus Christ.” Oftentimes, this proclamation is presented in the context of “finding the Lord” or of “being saved.” Along with this personal “witnessing” others are then encouraged to “accept Christ” in order that they, too, might be “saved.” A favorite Scripture for this approach is Romans 10:9:

“[T]hat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Indeed, this statement and others, such as John 3:16; 6:40; and 6:47, all point to necessary actions for salvation. But is professing Jesus Christ and merely appropriating His name all that God requires? Jesus addressed those who would falsely believe they were serving Him by using His name:

“‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied IN YOUR NAME, cast out demons IN YOUR NAME, and done many wonders IN YOUR NAME?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

In the Book of Acts, we find an example of those who took it upon themselves to indiscriminately use the name of Jesus:

“Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:13-16).

From this example we learn that the men who falsely invoked the name of Jesus did so with terrible consequences. In the statement of Jesus as quoted above and by this example in Acts, we should understand that the name of Jesus Christ is to be revered! It is the divine name of the Son of God! (Philippians 2:9-11).

Using the name of Jesus Christ bears great responsibility—and power. Through the ministry appointed by Jesus, salvation is preached, and Jesus has given His ministry power to heal. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Peter healed a man who had been lame from his birth (compare Acts 3:1-9). Note this powerful testimony from the apostle Peter regarding this healing:

“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the “stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’”  (Acts 4:8-12).

On the Day of Pentecost—the beginning of the New Testament Church of God—Peter preached to those assembled, saying, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

A true minister of God will baptize “in the name of Jesus Christ”—pointing to His sinless Sacrifice as payment for one’s sins (1 John 3:5; Romans 5:6-11). But before a person is baptized, real repentance must take place (Matthew 3:8). Applying Romans 10:9-10, the minister will also ask if the individual believes that Jesus Christ is his or her Savior, and in that sense one “confesses”—that is—openly acknowledges the supreme role of Jesus Christ in their salvation.

How, then, do people continue to “confess” Christ—or should they even do so?

First of all, it falls to the ministry of the Church of God to PREACH! Jesus Christ has set the ministry in place with different roles (compare 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-16). Furthermore, no one should presume to have this responsibility who has not been ordained by the laying on of hands by other ministers. Carefully note what is written in Hebrews:

“And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5:4).

Jesus chose twelve apostles (Luke 6:12-16); Jesus chose seventy men to preach (Luke 10:1-12); and, Jesus chose Paul “‘to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel’” (Acts 9:15). Paul wrote to Titus that he “should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city…” (Titus 1:5).

Throughout the New Testament, the Church of God is reported as preaching the gospel in a very organized way. While the ministry was given specific roles, all the members participated in supportive ways. Romans 16:1-16 records the names of certain people and how they contributed to the Work of the Church. Several Books of the New Testament cite the positive actions of other Christians.

While preaching is not the role given to members of the Church of God, being an EXAMPLE of Christianity is! Jesus said, “‘You are the light of the world’” (Matthew 5:14). In this context, Paul writes:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14-15).

When we live according to the Way of Jesus Christ—when our example “speaks” to others, we may be asked about our beliefs. Here is how Peter said we should RESPOND:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” (1 Peter 3:15).

While some may think that they can push Christ onto others through their personal evangelism, THEY ARE UTTERLY WRONG! Christ said, “‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…’” (John 6:44); and, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

Ultimately, to really “confess Christ,” you must become perfect, “‘just as your Father in heaven is perfect’” (Matthew 5:48). That is accomplished by “bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Lead Writer: Dave Harris