With this post we welcome Jim Pierce to the BJS stable of writers. I have known Jim for years adn have had the pleasure of worshipping with him and his pastor in Seattle while visiting my in-laws. Jim has been with BJS from its inception and is known to many as a sharp, confessional, and provacative commenter on the site. It is a good news/bad news welcome. Jim has decided to shut down his apologetics blogsite down due to an illness in his family that he must attend to. In the meantime, he will be writing for us here at BJS as time allows. Great to have you on board brother!
Pastor Rossow, Editor – The Brothers of John the Steadfast
I was sitting with a group of fellow Lutheran laymen as we were being led through a study of the Scriptures by our pastor when Matthew 10: 32 was read aloud, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV). Other versions translate “acknowledges” as “confesses.” No sooner had this scripture been read when the person sitting next to me turned towards me and asked, “How do we confess Christ to unbelievers?” Not only was his important question off topic, but I admit I was taken back a little by the question, since I didn’t have a good pat answer at hand. In response to his query I think I mumbled something like “As Christians we just do” and refocused my attention to our pastor’s teaching. However, I continued to ponder the question, because I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Today I believe I can give a better answer to my brother in Christ and it would go something along the lines of the following.
Synod President Matthew Harrison tells us in his book Christ Have Mercy that the word confession “…is used in three different ways in the New Testament. The word is a combination of two Greek words; homo (“the same”) and logein (“to say”). To confess means to say the same thing…. When we make a confession of faith (Romans 10:9-10), we say the same thing that God has told us about Himself in His Word” (p. 160). I believe that is the sense of the word “confesses” my interlocutor likely had in mind when he asked how to confess Christ. Confessing Christ before the world is to acknowledge Him. Paul writes to the Romans that those who would be saved “confess with their mouths” that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9). As Christians we acknowledge Christ and we can’t help it, since He is our Lord and savior. One of my favorite Scriptures somewhat illustrates this point, “And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’ And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled” (Mark 5:19-20). Jesus healed a man whom had been possessed by demons and the man, now set free by Christ, wanted to go wherever Christ was going. However, he was not permitted to do so. Instead, Jesus tells him to go home and tell his friends about the mercy shown to him. The point about going home and telling his friends is significant. As laymen we don’t have to become street preachers in order to be confessors of Christ. We don’t have to become skilled apologists who can overturn every skeptic’s arguments known to mankind, in order to confess Christ. We don’t even have to travel to far away exotic lands to confess what Jesus has done for us (we can go home and tell everyone what mercy Christ has shown to us). We also don’t need to come across like pitchmen for the Lord with bait-n-switch programs or canned church growth methods in order to acknowledge the tender mercies of Christ towards us before others. Many times “telling” is showing our neighbor what mercy Christ has for us and this can often happen as we go about doing our day to day vocations.
The answer to my brother’s excellent question with “we just do” isn’t satisfactory to me, but there is certainly something there to think about especially in light of the fact that as Christians we do good works. Yet, the question is how to confess the faith to unbelievers and I still haven’t offered a good answer. What I can point out is that there is something about acknowledging, or confessing, Christ before all men which requires that we are confessing “the way, the truth, and the life.” In other words, to confess means we are all saying the same thing about Christ and namely the truth.
Confessing the truth about Jesus means that as laymen we must be well catechized in God’s Holy Word and the Lutheran Confessions so that we are saying the same things about Christ to each other and to the world.—In fact, if you are a layman and the congregation you attend doesn’t have a Lutheran Confessions reading group, you could approach your pastor and ask him if he would be willing to start one.—We can’t possibly speak the same things if we don’t know what we as Lutherans confess as true doctrine and thankfully our Lutheran fathers loved to confess the truth of Christ in writing and so we are blessed with the Book of Concord from which we can learn what it means to confess the truth of the Scriptures to others.
So to my dear brother I would respond that how to confess Christ is through diligent preparation in studying the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions and thereby being ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you as you work daily in your vocations. I have found that the telling part of confessing the faith goes much easier when we understand what we confess as Lutherans.