Someone once said, “The Christian faith is a personal matter, but not a private matter.” How true that is! A Christian’s belief in Christ is intensely personal – to be a Christian is to believe that the Son of God died for me, to take away my sins – but at the same time that faith ought not and cannot remain veiled from the world. Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).
Scripture brings into the closest possible union faith in Christ and confessing that faith before others. To be sure, we are saved by faith alone, and faith is a function of the heart. But the faith that saves us is one we are called to verbally confess before others: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). This passage in Romans identifies heart belief and verbal confession as two aspects of the one act of faith in Christ by which we are saved:
… if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
God calls us not to be secret Christians, but confessing Christians. But confessing faith in Christ in a world fundamentally hostile to God is both difficult and potentially dangerous. Rarely does the world applaud the one who acknowledges Jesus as Savior and Lord; rather such a confession is often met with polite indifference, or bemusement, or scorn, or hostility, or even violent opposition. In Luke 12:8-12, my sermon text for this past Sunday, Jesus gives us two promises to strengthen and encourage us in confessing our faith in Christ before others.
First Jesus gives us a promise of eternal life. “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God” (v.8). Jesus was speaking to his disciples, who would be brought before hostile authorities to give an account of their preaching the gospel (e.g., Acts 4:5ff). The threat of punishment and even death hung over their heads. At such a time the words of Jesus must have strengthened their resolve to boldly declare the truth concerning Christ and their hope in him. If they would acknowledge Jesus before men in an earthly court, Christ promised that he would acknowledge them before the angels of God in his heavenly tribunal.
We may not be put on trial for our faith in Jesus, but this promise belongs to us all the same. If we are faithful to acknowledge Jesus before others in this world, in the world to come Jesus will openly proclaim to all creation that we belong to him, that we are his redeemed and beloved people bound for eternal glory. Remember this promise the next time you are tempted to downplay or even hide your faith in Christ from others.
Jesus next gives us a promise of divine assistance. He tells his disciples that when they are brought before synagogues, rulers, and authorities, that the “the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (vs. 11, 12). Though this promise has special application to those who are compelled to confess Christ before hostile authorities, I believe Jesus’ words apply to all believers. We are all called to be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). If we sincerely seek to honor Christ in our response, I believe we have the assurance of the Holy Spirit’s help. Just as the Spirit illumined our hearts to believe in Christ, so he will enable us to speak words that testify to our hope.
May these promises embolden you as a Christian living in a world enshrouded in darkness, to shine the light of Christ before others as you acknowledge him with your lips to be not only your Savior and Lord, but the one and only hope for lost sinners.
Soli Deo Gloria!