To Be A Christian Is To Confess The Truth

To Be A Christian Is To Confess The Truth

This short post is the first of a series on the way in which confessions of faith embody and thus express the vital elements of the Christian faith. This first one makes the judgment that where there is no confession of the truth, there is no Christianity.

Confession is of the essence of Christianity both from the standpoint of personal transformation and the belief of objective truth.  Confession of sin is the most consistent evidence of continued reliance on the objective work of Christ. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Though this is an experiential aspect of Christian faith, still it must arise from an affirming sense of the verdict of Scripture against our sin. We agree with the Scripture about us. We agree that God justly holds us accountable for violation of his law, and we agree that he is right to condemn us. We sense the justice of the biblical outrage and onslaught against sin and, I have sinned. Lord be merciful to me, the sinner.” The Bible has said it, the Spirit has confirmed the testimony of Scripture to our conscience, and we confess it.

The transformed conscience maintains a consistent awareness of sin, missing the mark, transgressing, and falling short of the perfectly righteous and lovely law of God. Freely, admission of the pervasive character of such moral corruption flows from mind to tongue in the regenerate person. At the same time, one sees the fullness of forgiveness and cleansing based on a truly righteous provision so that God, in forgiving and cleansing, remains faithful to his word and just in his character. Such conscientious confession is a result of “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7) and the divine faithfulness is seen in that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

This confession of transformation flows from the confession of objective revealed truth. “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” (Romans 10:9). “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2, 3). Because of the work of the Spirit in revealing who Christ is and what he did, and the Spirit’s illumination of the mind (1 Corinthians 2:10-16), one confesses the historical reality of the incarnation of the Son of God for the purpose of dying a substitutionary death. Thus, we see confession vitally connected to transformation of both soul and mind according to truth.

For that reason, the historical stance of Christians through the centuries has been one of confession. Confession of revealed truth gives glory to God and sanctifies the heart. In the following posts, we will make several observations about historic confessions of faith. By God’s grace, we may be led to purer worship through their witness. Beyond that, a deeply sensed perception of their witness to truth can aid in the development of Christian usefulness and maturity as well as the corporate witness of the church.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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