“Whosover 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.”
One of the most joyful experiences for elders and pastors is the occasion of thzperiodic confessions of faith by the youth of God’s church. This joy is shared by the entire congregation when those confessions are made public in one of the worship services of the church. Joyous is this event because it provides concrete evidence of the saving grace of our Covenant God as He through the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ brings the children of His covenant into the consciousness of their faith, their unbreakable union with Jesus Christ. Pastor, consistory, and the entire congregation see the visible fruit of covenant instruction in the home (and Christian school) and the visible fruit of the means of grace—the preaching of the gospel and catechetical instruction by and in the church. God says, as it were, through these occasions: “I am thy God and the God of thy seed after thee.”
For this very reason the occasion of the confession of faith is of no less significance and joy for those young people who by God’s grace stand before the church to express agreement with the doctrine of the Old and New Testaments as taught in the Articles of the Christian faith “here in this Christian Church,” and to express their resolve to live a new and godly life in harmony with the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and under the gracious discipline of Jesus Christ exercised by His Body, the Church. The keen joy of salvation thrills the hearts of godly young people as they confess their faith. A new sense of consecration to the cause of Christ often grips their hearts as they publicly say: “I belong to Jesus in life and in death.” And because of this the church properly devotes the entire service and sermon to this occasion.
Because of the tremendous significance of this act for the church and especially for the youth of the church we wish to devote an article or two to this subject. The writer (and no doubt all our pastors and elders share this experience) is aware of the fact that there is a measure of misunderstanding concerning the idea and necessity and significance of confession of faith in the minds of many young people. Most wonder just what is involved. Some have the mistaken notion that to confess one’s faith means that we join the church. For a few it’s just the proper thing to do when we reach our middle or late teens. For a very few (thank God) it is a way to escape the tedious routine of attending weekly catechism classes. And still others lack a proper understanding of the utter seriousness of taking this step. These in some cases (altogether too many!) confess that the doctrine of Old and New Testaments, which is contained in the Articles of the Christian faith, as taught in the Protestant Reformed Churches is the true and complete doctrine of salvation, only to leave those churches for one reason or another (usually for a wife or husband from another denomination) a short time later. Assuming that the youth of God’s covenant are vitally interested in this subject we will address ourselves to some of these things. In the interest of providing Biblical instruction and with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will bless these efforts we set ourselves to this task.
In the brief course of this writer’s ministry he recalls an incident in his pastoral work which brings this whole subject of confessing our faith to mind. A young person once said to him “Confession of faith?, that doesn’t mean much! All you do is say ‘yes’ to three little questions. What’s the big deal about that? That doesn’t mean someone has faith, and that’s not much of a testimony.” Is that true? Is that really all that’s involved? Just saying “yes” to three questions, is THAT what it means to confess our faith? Oh, no! That is only the FORMAL aspect of confessing our faith. Just what does it mean then to make confession of faith?
In answer we may say that the Scriptures speak of faith in two senses. We mean this quite in general, for the Bible speaks of faith from many points of view and in so doing reveals many aspects of what we call faith. But generally speaking, the Bible reveals faith in an objective sense and in a subjective sense. (We hear these terms often—Prot. Ref. preachers use them frequently.) What do we mean? In the objective sense the term faith indicates the contents of the Word of God, the doctrine or teaching of Scripture, or that which the Scriptures reveal to us. We find an instance of this use of the term in Jude verse 2 where the Word of God admonishes the Church to “contend earnestly for the faithwhich was once delivered to the saints.” Here faith means the doctrine of the Scriptures which was delivered (through prophets and apostles and the other inspired, holy men of God) to the saints. The Church is called to fight for the faith, the truth of God’s Word, because of the false teachers who creep in unawares and turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (vs. 4). In the subjective sense faith is the actual believing in God and His Christ. It is the conscious knowing of God as our Father for Jesus’ sake and the confident clinging to Christ. In this sense faith is trusting, hoping, believing in Jesus as MY Lord and Savior! Now then, the idea of confession of faith includes both of these.
What is it to CONFESS that faith? The word uses in the New Testament conveys a rich and beautiful idea. It means “to say the same thing as another or with others.” Thus our confession of faith is an expression of the unity of all the saints of God in Jesus Christ. We are ONE in Christ. And that means the entire Church of Christ: the Old Testament Church as well as the New, the saints of God gathered out of every nation, tribe, and tongue. The members of the universal Body of Jesus Christ all confess the same faith in the same Lord, through the power of the same Spirit. They say the same thing together.
Still more, the child of God says that! That is, he expresses that which the Scriptures teach and which he believes. He gives conscious expression to the faith, the truth. He acknowledges before the Church, before the world, and before the face of God that he believes the faith once delivered to the saints to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation. And he is acknowledging that this faith is the conviction of his heart, or the principle that governs his whole life. He is really saying, “Jesus died for me; He’s my Savior; He is for me the way, the truth, and the life! I know He loves me with the love of His Father and, therefore, I love Him! His will is MY law. Him I serve always and everywhere. All my joy is in Him and in His service! To live with my Lord in the fellowship of God in the glorious Kingdom of Heaven is the goal of my life!” Joining the saints of all the ages we say when we confess our faith: “By grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8).
The Scriptures make perfectly obvious that this is the calling of every child of God! Have you confessed your faith? Do you know the truth of the Word of God as taught in the confessions and in your church? Do you hear the voice of Jesus through the preaching of the gospel convicting you of sin and assuring you of pardon in His shed blood? Does the Spirit witness with your spirit that you are a child of God? “Yes,” you say? Then confess that! Say that in God’s Church and before His face! That is our calling! The contents of the Word of faith which is preached by the Church is according to Romans 10:9, 10: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, (that Jesus is THE Lord) 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.” Faith is believed in our hearts but also confessed with our mouths! Jesus said in that text quoted above this article: “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. Denial of Christ can be by silence as well as by actual expression!
Perhaps you react at this point and say, “But I’m not ready.” “I don’t know enough.” Be assured of this: we never know it all! The Scripture is a mine of infinite treasures of truth. One of the writer’s former pastors, the late Herman Hoeksema often expressed the sentiment in his later years that if the Lord gave him another fifty years to preach he still would not be able to plumb the depths of the Word of God. That we confess our faith does not mean that we “have arrived.” With respect to our knowledge of the truth as well as with respect to living the new and godly life we have but a small beginning. For that reason the Scriptures admonish us more than once not only to continue in the Word, but also to “grow in grace and knowledge.”
If you have not yet confessed your faith perhaps it is because the Spirit has not yet brought you to the consciousness of your salvation in Jesus. Perhaps that’s true. But be sure that that is the case with you, lest you deny your Lord by failing to confess His name before men. Pray about this. Talk to your godly parents about this and to your pastor or elders.
(to be continued)