Elsewhere in this issue, I have tried to answer several questions sent to me about our calling to witness. In connection with this subject, reference is made toRomans 10:9, especially to the words, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus.” This reference reminded me of some pointed remarks on this subject in a sermon on this text by the late Rev. Herman Hoeksema in God’s Eternal Good Pleasure, pp. 203, ff. These remarks are worthy of consideration—and still very up to date—by themselves. But they are also helpful in connection with the questions about witnessing which I tried to answer in Question Box. We present them here:
“But the apostle makes mention of another characteristic of those that shall be saved, in fact, he mentions this fast. If the word is nigh unto us, it is not only in our heart; it is also in our mouth. Hence, the text calls our attention to the element of confession: If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus . . . thou shalt be saved. Faith of the heart and confession with the mouth cannot be separated. To believe in our hearts that God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and to confess Him with our mouth are not two separate conditions of salvation, but they belong together. They are one. He that believeth in his heart also confesses with his mouth. He that does not confess with his mouth thereby shows that he does not believe in his heart. And that which the believer confesses with his mouth the apostle designates by saying: the Lord Jesus. The believer confesseth the Lord Jesus. And this means the confession that Jesus is Lord. The believer, therefore, confesseth with his mouth that Jesus, Whom God raised from the dead, is Lord!
“What is the implication of this confession? What does it mean that Jesus is Lord? In its widest sense it implies that He has received from the Father authority and power over all things. He has a name above all names, He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He stands at the very pinnacle of created things, and all things are subject unto Him. Jesus of Nazareth, Who died and was raised from the dead, is exalted by the Father at His right hand, and now has power over all things both in heaven and on earth, angels and principalities and powers being subject unto Him. There is nothing in all the world to limit His lordship. Even the powers of darkness, the devil and his hosts and all the wicked, though they refuse to serve Him and to acknowledge Him as their Lord, must nevertheless do His bidding and serve His purpose: the realization and final perfection of the Kingdom prepared for Him and His own from before the foundation of the world. This is, indeed, a mighty confession! Mark you, Jesus is Lord! The confession is not an exhortation that we make Him Lord, that we crown Him King. He is Lord in heaven and on earth and rules the world in the name of the Father. He, Who humbled Himself deeply, is highly exalted. The obedient Servant of Jehovah is become Lord of all.
“But there is another, a more intimate relation of lordship expressed in this confession of the believer. It is this, that Christ is Lord over His Church with a lordship, not of power merely, but of love. The Church belongs to Him, because she has been given. to Him by the Father from eternity, and He purchased her with the price of His own blood, the precious price of unfathomable love. And having shed His lifeblood for His Church on the accursed tree, and having been raised from the dead and exalted in the highest glory, He dwells in her by His Spirit, pours out heavenly graces upon all His people, downs the throne of Satan in their hearts and establishes His own, so that they become sincerely willing to serve Him and have their delight in His precepts. His mind becomes their mind; His will is their will. He is Lord over His Church with a lordship of grace and rules over them by His Spirit and Word. And the confession that Jesus is Lord implies that He is given unto the Church as a Head over all things.
“And in this sense the confession assumes a very personal character. It means that I confess Him, to bemy Lord. This implies that I belong to Him, that I am not my own but His, with body and soul, in life and death, for time and eternity. I profess that He is responsible for me, now and in the day of judgment; that He has the authority, the sole right to rule over me, to demand of me that I shall do His will; and that this lordship of Jesus has become my delight, so that with body and soul, with heart and mind and will and all my desires, personally and in all the different relationships of my life in the midst of the present world, it is my sincere endeavor to do what is pleasing to Him, to think as He would have me think, to do His will, to speak to His glory, to walk in newness and holiness of life, and thus to fight the good fight even unto death, that no one take my crown!
“This we confess if the Word is nigh unto us, in our mouth and in our heart, the Word of faith, which is preached unto us. . . With our mouth we make this confession, the apostle writes. And, perhaps, you remark that it is rather superfluous to say that we confess with our mouth. How else can confession be made except with our mouth? And this is true, of course. Yet, the apostle is not guilty of a tautology in this case. It is sometimes necessary to give special emphasis to matters that appear to be self-evident, in order that we may realize their grave importance. It may be ever so self-evident that confession must be made with the mouth, and that it cannot possibly be made otherwise. But in actual life we, nevertheless, frequently forget or find many excuses to evade this self-evident truth. Is it really necessary to say everywhere that Jesus is Lord? Is it really necessary to explain that we do certain things and refrain from doing other things because Jesus is our Lord? Do not actions speak louder than words? If we quietly go our way and walk as Christians, cannot people, cannot the world see that we belong to Him and that we consider Him our Lord? Must we really express this? You see, it is not quite so superfluous as it might appear to emphasize this truth, as the apostle does in the words of our text, that confession must be made with the mouth. In the church and in the world, on the street and in shop or office, wherever we may be and whatsoever may be our daily calling, we should at all times be prepared to confess, to express very clearly and audibly with our mouth, that Jesus is Lord. You may not always put it in that very form, but the contents of your confession must be that Jesus is Lord. You do not have to have this confession on your lips whether there is occasion to make it or not, but whenever it is plainly demanded you should not hesitate to confess it clearly with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord. He that believeth in his heart and confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus, shall be saved.
“Let us take this very seriously. Not he who simply believes in his heart shall be saved, but he that believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth is heir of eternal salvation. If we do not confess with the mouth, we have no right to appropriate the promise contained in the last words of our text unto ourselves. They do not apply to us. Did not also the Lord Jesus Himself plainly state that whosoever would confess Him before men He would confess before His Father in heaven? There is no third possibility. There are only two alternatives. We confess Jesus the Lord, or we deny Him. You cannot keep still. To keep silence with regard to Jesus’ lordship is to deny Him. The reason lies in the peculiar position of the people of God in this world. I have reference to the antithesis. The world has and confesses its own lord, the prince of darkness. Over against this confession of the world that of the people of God must stand, clearly and definitely, so that there is no room for doubt: Jesus, Whom God raised from the dead, is Lord!”
Then, after explaining the relation between confessing with the mouth and believing with the heart, the author continues:
“Now, what does this all mean for the practical life of the Christian in the world? It can signify nothing less than this: that in our entire life, in all our walk and conversation, in every department of life, we shall insist that Jesus’ name shall be acknowledged, that His will shall be obeyed and that we shall do nothing that is contrary to His precepts. ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not an empty phrase. It means that we acknowledge Him as our Lord in our personal life, Lord over our body and soul, our thinking and willing, our speaking and acting. It implies that we acknowledge Him as Lord in our family-life, in our relations of man and wife, as parents and children, as brothers and sisters, and that in all these relationships we shall earnestly ask: ‘Lord, what wilt thou that I shall do?’ It means that we acknowledge His lordship with regard to the education of our children, whether it be in the church, at home, or in school. In the Christian School we confess that Jesus is Lord. It signifies that we maintain His lordship in our public life, political and social, and that we protest against the denial of His name in every department of life. In business and industry, with regard to the relation of employer and employee, Jesus is Lord. In whatever relationship we may stand in any sphere of life, we shall insist upon the lordship of our Lord Jesus Christ!
“Negatively, this also implies that you shall never join yourselves to any association, union, lodge that refuses to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus in the proper sphere of its activity. O, this confession that Jesus is Lord is a serious matter! When we are admonished not to join ourselves to such so-called ‘neutral’ organizations, we find many excuses. These organizations have nothing to do with religion! They do not require of their members to do anything that is contrary to their conviction! They are very broadminded and tolerant! But I would say: insist that the organization of which you have voluntarily become a member acknowledge in its constitution that Jesus is Lord, Lord also in the sphere of labor and industry, of business and commerce, and discover for yourself whether these organizations of the world can actually boast of neutrality; Remember: you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord! And not to confess is to deny!
“This confession implies, moreover, that you would never voluntarily appear in any place where it would appear strange and awkward to confess Jesus as your Lord. It is well to remember this. To determine whether or not it is proper to partake of certain kinds of worldly amusements, we often proceed from the viewpoint of the question: what is wrong with it? It is more salutary to remember always your positive calling to confess with your mouth that Jesus, in Whom you believe, and of Whom you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, is Lord! And wherever your very presence would be in conflict with that confession, so that it would appear absurd if you would make it, you have no proper place as a member of the body of Christ.
“Conceived of the words of our text in this light, the matter of our salvation does become a rather serious question, does it not? The way becomes narrow, indeed! The gate through which you and I must enter is strait! In our light-hearted, worldly-minded, superficially religious age we have almost forgotten the seriousness of the Christian faith. O, just accept Jesus and you will go to heaven! That is all! That we cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon, we hardly understand anymore. They that profess to be Christians amuse themselves with the world, associate themselves with the world, dance and sing with the world. Only, they insist that they do not go to perdition with the world! But why not, pray? We have forgotten, indeed, that the word of the Lord concerning the narrow way and the strait gate is still true. . . .”