Confession, it is said, is good for the soul. Putting it closer to the scriptures, confession occurs in Biblical writing in two contexts: confession of Jesus as Lord, and confession of sin. This brief study will cite scriptures that deal with both. Both kinds of confession are indispensable to the healthy Christian life.
Confession of Jesus as Lord: Jesus said in Matthew 10: 32, 33 (KJV)
that "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
When the Ethiopian Eunuch was converted during his visit with Phillip on the road to Gaza, he found it totally natural to confess Jesus as his Lord before he was baptized (Acts 8: 34-38):
34 "And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man?
35 "Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.
36 "And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?
37 "And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38 "And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
Churches of Christ usually follow this Biblical pattern in leading people to Christ. People first hear the word of God (Romans 10: 17), believe it (Hebrews 11: 6), repent of past sins (Acts 2: 38, Acts 3: 19, Luke 13: 3), confess Jesus as Lord, and put Jesus on in baptism (Galatians 3: 27, Acts 2: 38, Acts 22: 16).
What other Biblical evidence exists to indicate that confession has any bearing on salvation? Romans 10: 9, 10 says that "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.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
Confession is, then, a salvation issue: if we don't do it, we will not be saved.
A lack of confession will be made up at the judgement: Romans 14: 11, 12-"11 For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.
12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Confession of Jesus as Lord gives others a window to our souls. I Corinthians 12: 3-"Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
and the writer John said that "15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (I John 4: 15, KJV).
If confession of Jesus as Lord is so important, why don't we see it happening in every instance of conversion in the New Testament? There are several answers to that question. One is that if God says only once to do something, once is still enough. Another is that the confession does not begin and end before the baptismal waters are applied; we are to live lives for Jesus Christ (Romans 12: 1, 2) and give every day as a confession to Him.
Now about the issue of confession of sin.
Confession of sin.
It has been part of the nature and characteristics of God to deal more compassionately with people who will acknowledge and confess their sins than for those who try to cover it up. Numbers 32: 33-". . . and be sure your sin will find you out." In the New Testament, see Luke 18: 14-18:
9 "And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 " Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 "And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
In James 5: 16 in speaking of Christians the writer says " Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (KJV)
Confession of sin is a vital part of the relationship between man and Christ. In I John 1: 7-10 he says:
7 "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.
8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."
Confession of sin and of wrong is the first step to resolving problems between Christian brethren. The "due process between brethren" passage of Matthew 18: 15-19 gives someone who is in the wrong ample opportunity to recognize that he is in the wrong and to make restoration.
Confession, then, plays a vital part in the life of the follower of God. For the person who has not yet become a Christian, it is part of the pathway to becoming a true believer. For someone who is already a Christian, it is part of the continual cleansing process by which Christians are kept pure in the sight of God.