James D. Slopsema is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan.

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess 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. 

Matthew 10:32, 33

These words were spoken by Jesus to His twelve disciples as He sent them out to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. These words of Jesus were intended to encourage the disciples. For they would meet hatred and opposition as they brought the gospel. They would be delivered to the councils; they would be scourged in the synagogues; they would be brought before governors and rulers. To encourage His disciples in the face of this persecution, Jesus laid down a fundamental principle of the kingdom: whosoever confesses Jesus before men, him will Jesus confess before His father in heaven. But to serve as a warning, the opposite is also true: whosoever denies Jesus before men, him will Jesus deny before the father in heaven.

All this applies to us as well. Confessing and denying Jesus before men is not something that pertains only to the preaching. Each one of us either confesses or denies Jesus every day by the words we speak and the kind of life we live. Hence, also to us Jesus says, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess 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.”

The Meaning

If we will discover what it means to deny Jesus, all we need to do is to reflect on Peter’s denial of Jesus.

In the courtyard of Caiphas the high priest, while Jesus was being tried before the Sanhedrin, Peter was approached on three different occasions. And each time the charge was the same, “You were with him, weren’t you? Your speech betrays you. You are a Galilean. You are one of Jesus’ disciples.” And each time Peter denied it, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I don’t even know the man”. This Peter even confirmed with cursing and swearing. Thus, the very words of Jesus were fulfilled, “This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

When Peter denied Jesus he denied any connection with Jesus. He claimed not to be Jesus’ disciple. He repudiated Jesus’ teachings. He wanted no part of Jesus’ salvation. He wanted nothing to do with the kingdom of which Jesus spoke so much. In disgust he separated himself in every way from Jesus.

And so we may say that to deny Jesus is to deny any association with Jesus. It is to deny that Jesus is your Lord and Master. It is to deny that you are His disciple, who loves Him, serves Him and adheres to His teachings. To deny Jesus is to deny that Jesus is your Savior and that you possess His salvation. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, who is He? He’s a stranger to me!

To confess Jesus is just the opposite of this. To confess Jesus before men is publicly to acknowledge that there is indeed a very close relationship between you and Jesus Christ. It is to confess that Jesus is your Savior to whom you cling by faith. By faith you possess and enjoy His wonderful salvation. Jesus is also your Lord and Master whom you love and serve as a disciple. His teachings you embrace. His cause you champion.

Those who publicly and openly confess these things confess Jesus before men.

Do you confess Jesus before men?

The Difficulty

It is difficult to confess Jesus before men.

This is true because, first, confessing Jesus before men involves not just what we say but also the kind of life we live.

It is often said that actions speak louder than words. It is very easy to talk. It’s an altogether different matter to live in harmony with what you say about yourself. In fact, what some people say with their mouth they completely contradict by the kind of life they live.

The same is true of confessing Jesus before men. Confessing Jesus doesn’t simply involve what you say; it also involves how you live. If we will confess Jesus we must not only tell others verbally that Jesus is our Savior, we must also live as those who have been saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. If we will confess Jesus we must not simply acknowledge verbally that Jesus is our Lord and Master, we must also live as those who have bowed the knee to Christ. We must not only say we are Jesus’ disciples. We must live as disciples. And if our lives do not, in fact, conform to the testimony of our mouth, then we by our very life deny Jesus before men.

Not so simple a matter is this confessing Jesus before men when we bear in mind that it is a confession that must be made by the very way we live!

Nor is confessing Jesus easy if we bear in mind that it must be done before men.

The world hates Christ. They hated Christ while He was on the earth and lived among us. His own generation opposed Him, mocked Him, slandered Him, and finally when given the opportunity murdered Him on the cross. And the world still hates Christ. The ungodly have no sympathy whatsoever for the cause and kingdom of our Lord. They despise all that stands for Christ.

It is before those men that we must confess Christ. And when we do that the world will hate and oppose us even as it did Christ. This is what Christ Himself told His disciples. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. You shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.

How difficult it can be to confess Jesus before men.

And for that reason many fail to confess Him but rather deny Him.

How little, for example, do we speak of Christ and the great salvation we have in him with others either in the church or outside the church.

How little difference there often is between our life style and that of the world. We hesitate to be different for the scorn it will bring. In fact, to gain the approval of others we are much inclined to be as the world. Worldliness is creeping more and more into the church today. And in the process we deny Jesus. We deny that He is our Savior; we deny that He is our Lord. We deny Jesus just as really as Peter did in the court yard of Caiphas the high priest.

The Result

Whosoever shall confess Jesus before men, him will Jesus confess before His Father in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Jesus before men, him will Jesus also deny before His Father in heaven.

Jesus’ confessing or denying one before the Father in heaven has to do with the intercessory prayers of Jesus to God the Father in heaven. As High Priest Jesus appears in heaven before God the Father continually in prayer. And in those prayers He will either confess you or deny you before the Father.

If Jesus confesses you before the Father, He claims you as His own. He points out to the Father that you belong to Him. You are one that God has eternally given to Jesus. You are one whom He has purchased with His precious blood. And claiming you as His own, He in turn presents all your needs to God the Father and asks that God bless you in your needs—to forgive your sins, to empower you to live a holy life, to comfort you, to strengthen you, to provide for all your needs. And because those prayers of Jesus are based on the perfect work of the cross, God hears them. And God blesses us in our needs.

How important it is that Jesus confess us before the Father. That heavenly confession is our salvation.

If, however, Jesus denies us before the Father in heaven, then He denies that you belong to Him or have any connection whatsoever with Him. He denies that you were ever given to Him of the Father. He denies that you were purchased with His blood. He will tell the Father that you are a stranger to Him. And therefore He will pray for your destruction.

How horrible if Christ denies you before the Father.

Such a denial will seal your doom!

Whosoever shall confess Jesus before men, him will Jesus confess before His Father in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Jesus before men, him will Jesus also deny before His Father in heaven.

Of course!

How can it be any different!

All Jesus is doing is presenting the facts to the living God.

Those who confess Jesus before men do so exactly because they belong to Jesus Christ. They are those whom the Father has given to Jesus to save. They are those whom Jesus has purchased with His own blood. The fruit and therefore the proof of that fact is that they now confess Jesus before men. Consequently, Jesus confesses them before the Father in heaven and brings down upon them the blessings of their salvation.

But those who deny Jesus before men do so exactly because they do not belong to Jesus. They have not been given to Jesus by the Father; nor have they been purchased with His blood. They are still in their sin and can do nothing but deny Jesus. Them Jesus will deny before the Father.

Confess Jesus before men.

And when it becomes difficult to confess Jesus before men, then remember that whosoever shall confess Jesus before men, him will Jesus confess before His Father in heaven.

And when you fail as did Peter, then do not despair. Remember that Peter went out into the night and wept bitterly. In the way of his repentance Peter was restored by Christ Himself on the day of the resurrection. And Peter went on to confess Jesus before men faithfully and boldly as a man of God.

Let us also confess Jesus before men.