Confession is an outward expression of an inward conviction. It assumes three distinct forms in the Bible.

1. Of Christ. The individual's confession of Christ is to be seen in two particulars:

a. as savior. Of this particular confession of Christ the Scriptures declare: "That 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. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10); "Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. ... Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God" (1 John 4:2-3, 15); "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist" (2 John 1:7). Too often these texts—especially Romans 10:9-10—have been thought to refer to a confession of Christ which an individual might make in public. Earnest men have taken this Scripture to mean that an individual must make a public confession of Christ as a prerequisite to salvation, little recognizing the fact that the majority of those who are believers were saved under circumstances in which no public confession of Christ was possible. The confession here enjoined is directed to God and not to men. It is the response of the heart to God by which acceptance of Christ as Savior is sealed. When confronted with Jehovah's promise respecting a son, Abraham believed—literally, amened—God (Gen. 15:6). Thus every soul born of God turns to Him with a heartfelt acknowledgment of Christ as Savior. It is the response of the soul and spirit saying in the innermost being, "Abba, Father." It should also be noted that, since in upwards of 150 New Testament passages salvation has been conditioned upon faith or believing alone, it cannot be true that any other requirement is laid upon the unsaved for salvation, else these many and central passages are incomplete and to that extent misleading. All who hear the call of God do respond in their hearts to that call, if they are saved at all.

b. in the kingdom. According to Matthew 10:32-33, Christ's confession of His own in the future kingdom will depend upon their confession of Him on earth. This will evidently be a most vital consideration in the kingdom age. The passage declares: "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."

2. Of Sin. The second aspect of this doctrine divides, likewise, into two main divisions, which are:

a. the old testament requirement. Since any covenant person or persons may be restored to the experimental blessings of their relation to God by confession—though in no instance is an unconditional covenant itself or the position before God which it secures in danger of being sacrificed—the people of Israel were thus restored, and this provision became a vital feature of Old Testament doctrine (cf. Lev. 5:5; 16:21; 26:40; Num. 5:7; 1 Kings 8:33, 35; 2 Chron. 6:24, 26; 30:22; Ezra 10:11; Neh. 1:6; Ps. 32:5; 51:1-19; Prov. 28:13; Dan. 9:4). As with the case of the Christian in the present age and as stated above, the covenant position and standing of Israel could not be lost, but fellowship with God if lost because of sin could be restored by confession. Two specific instances of individual confession within the old order should be observed with attention. David's notable sin, even if involving immeasurable evil and the sacrifice of his personal blessings, did not destroy his salvation, for he said, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." He also recognized that his sin, though an injury to many, was primarily against God. This he indicated with the words: "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight" (Ps. 51:4). Likewise the prodigal of Luke 15:11-21, who also belonged to the old order, did not sacrifice his sonship by reason of sin, but was restored to communion with his father through confession, in which confession he said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (Luke 15:21). It is to be observed how both of these confessions recognize that sin is primarily against God. Since there is here as elsewhere a progress of doctrine, the general theme of confession will be more clearly presented in connection with relationships which obtain on this side of the death of Christ.

b. the new testament requirement. Confession, being the outward expression of an inward conviction, is closely related to repentance. The problem before the believer who has sinned is not restoration to the saved estate, which estate depends wholly upon the immutable Person and merit of Christ and therefore continues what it is so long as the basis abides upon which it rests; it becomes rather a matter of fellowship with the Father and with the Son. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed and God cannot have communion with evil; however, when the sinning Christian turns to God in full acknowledgment of the sin, accepting God's estimation of it, agreement is established again and restoration to fellowship is at once experienced. On the divine side, there is both cleansing and forgiveness required and also provided, and these are wrought in the faithfulness of God to His promise and purpose, and in justice since Christ has borne the sin in question (1 John 1:9). Naturally, such provisions are intended only for those who are actually sons of God and thus enter into a union with God which cannot be broken. Confession should always be unto God and to no one else unless, perchance, some other person has been injured by the sin. It should be recognized also that true confession is a complete admission of the evil wrought. Asking God to forgive is wholly beside the issue. He has said that He will forgive and cleanse the saved one who confesses his sin. This promise should be taken exactly as given, and faith should reckon that when sincere confession has been made the promise is kept, regardless of emotions respecting the sin which may continue. Two important passages bear on the Christian's confession of sin: "For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. 11:3132); "But 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. ... If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:7, 9; cf. James 5:16).

3. Of Men. As noted above, it is a major feature of the future kingdom relationships that Christ will confess before the Father and the angels those who confess Him before men. The passage reads, "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. 10:32-33). This Scripture is wholly within the kingdom revelation and therefore could not apply to the Christian in the present age. A similar feature for the Church is seen, however, in Revelation 3:5.

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  • omar aatifa
    What is meant confession in systematic theology?
    3 years ago

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