Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 26, 1956
NUMBER 50, PAGE 5,12b

Is An Oral Confession Necessary?

Keith T. Thompson, Owen Sound, Ontario

"Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.

I charge thee in the sight of God who giveth life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed the good confession" (1 Timothy 6:12,13). Since this passage mentions "the good confession" twice, we must all admit at the start that there is something that is called "the good confession." It is our purpose to consider certain questions regarding this "good confession," especially that of our heading, "Is An Oral Confession Necessary?"

1. What is "the good confession?" Before noting what it is, let us observe what it is not. (1) It is not a public oral acknowledgement that one's sins have been forgiven. The New Testament teaches no one to do this — neither before nor after baptism. (2) It is not a profession of allegiance to some human creed or to some human religious organization. God's Word nowhere teaches anyone to make this kind of a confession. (2) It is not a public oral confession of the guilt of sin on the part of a child of God. However, this last is sometimes in order (James 5:16).

Now let us positively define "the good confession." (1) The term "confess" is in antithesis to "denial" (Matthew 10:32, 33). (2) The confession had its origin in the demand of Jesus that men should either confess or deny him (Matthew 10:32,33.) (3) Christ Jesus witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate (1 Tim. 6:13). Christ witnessed that he was the King of the Jews before Pontius Pilate (Mark 15:2). But since the King of Israel was the Christ (Mark 15:32; Matthew 27:40-43), and the Christ was the Son of God, (Matthew 26:63), therefore, Christ witnessed his identity as the Son of God before Pontius Pilate. Thus, the good confession is the testimony of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The good confession of Timothy (1 Timothy 6:12) must have been the same as the good confession of Christ (1 Timothy 6:13), i.e., that Jesus is the 'Son of God. The good confession is not an "ecclesiastical formula" but is the affirmation of one's faith respecting the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

2. What is the meaning of this Confession? What is meant when a penitent believer confesses his faith in Christ? It means that he realizes that as a lost sinner, separated by his sins from God, there is no other hope and no other name through which there is salvation but Jesus Christ's. He acknowledges that he believes Christ died for his sins in accordance with God's plan revealed in His Word. He confesses his faith in the great truth of the resurrection of Christ from the tomb. He acknowledges Jesus as the Risen and Glorified Lord and Christ over his life. As Christ, he is our Prophet, Priest and King. As Prophet he speaks to us in behalf of God and reveals the Father to us (John 1:18; John 14:9). As Priest, he intercedes for us before the throne of God's grace, having offered once for all the atoning sacrifice of his blood for our redemption (Hebrews 4: 14-16). As King, he holds absolute authority and sovereignty over every relationship and activity of our lives. Every thought must be brought into captivity to the obedience of his will (2 Cor. 10:5). I thus acknowledge my absolute trust in him as Saviour, Redeemer, Prophet, Priest and King, and my willingness to follow him wherever he may lead.

The Apostle John said that he wrote his account "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God." Our faith is therefore in the Person of Christ. One who has faith in the Person of Christ will gladly receive all the teachings of Christ. To believe in Christ is to believe what Christ taught. Thus, the one who confesses his faith in Christ as God's Son, accepts the Old and New Testaments. For Christ endorsed the Old Testament and the New Testament is the Word of Christ. It is a pledge of loyalty to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

The Ethiopian eunuch made the simple confession: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37, KJV). An analysis of this confession reveals the following: It is personal — "I"; Confident — "believe"; "that Jesus" — the Saviour of men; "Christ — the anointed prophet, priest and king; "is" — now — present reality; "the Son of God" — one of the persons of the Trinity, the only foundation of man's faith and hope. We should consider it an honour to make this great confession. It is a simple confession but it comprehends the most profound truth. Who can fathom its meaning? Rather than renounce this faith the martyrs endured torture and death.

3. How and where is this confession to be made? The good confession is to be an oral or spoken confession. The term "confess" in the original means "to say the same thing as another, i.e., to agree with consent." The confession made by Peter, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mathew 16:17) was made with the mouth. Christ himself, made the good confession with his mouth (Mark 15:2). The Eunuch confessed with the mouth (Acts 8:37). Paul plainly stated, "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10). A mere nod (except in the case of the dumb) could not fulfill the scriptural requirements of the confession.

Several passages answer the question, "Where is the confession to be made?" Timothy confessed before many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:12. The Ethiopian nobleman confessed before Philip (Acts 8:37). Jesus declared that we should be willing to confess before men (Matt. 10:32,33). Thus, the good confession must be made orally before the presence of our fellow men.

4. Is this public, oral confession necessary? If we would desire the Lord to confess us before the Father and avoid being denied of him before his Father then we must confess Christ before men (Matt. 10:32, 33). Perhaps the plainest statement on the necessity of the confession is found in the following from Paul: 'Because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God 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). Of course, a confession with the lips, without faith in the heart, is worthless. The only acceptable confession to God is one that proceeds from a heart of faith. But the fact that confession is "unto salvation" shows beyond contradiction the necessity of the act. Furthermore, both belief and confession are directed toward the same salvation. If, therefore, belief is necessary to the salvation of an alien sinner, confession is likewise necessary.

Although the good confession is made as a single act prior to baptism there are many passages that show that confession is a recurring Christian duty. Matthew 10: 32,33 refers primarily to the need for confessing Christ under adverse conditions such as the Apostles faced in preaching the gospel of Christ (see Matt. 10:26-31). However, the statement is general enough to include the confession that is made previous to baptism. The one who makes the good confession is required to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). The exhortation is given that we hold fast that which we have confessed (Heb. 4:14; 10:23). The same faith that caused us to confess Christ before we were baptized will cause us to confess him afterwards with increasing efficiency as we grow in Christian strength.

One day all men will confess before the Lord (Phil. 2:11, Rom. 14:11). Now men can confess unto their salvation. In the final day when all men will be able to do nothing else than acknowledge the Lord those who do so for the first time will do it not unto salvation, but in shame and regret. If you have never made the good confession, may God help you to acknowledge your faith in Christ, and obey him by being baptized into the saving relationship.