Confessing the Faith, by Pr. Klemet Preus

(This is post four of a four post series on evangelism. The other posts are archived in the Pr. Klemet Preus section of the Brothers’ Café.)


“Tell” often has connotations of saying something that only you or a limited number of people can say. Only Mary could report on the conversation she just had with Jesus. Only the demoniac could talk to his family. It’s still a great word.


An even better word is the word “confess.” The word in Greek is “homologeo.” It comes from two Greek words. “Homo” means “the same” as in homogeneous or homosexual. “Logeo” means to “say” or to “speak.” We get our word logic from “Logeo.” Homologeo means to “speak the same thing.” The best English translations will translate it “confess.”


So “confess” means to say the same thing as someone or something else. Our confession agrees with something. When we confess our sins as in I John 1:9 then we are saying the same thing about our sins that God does. We agree with God when he condemns us. According to the Scriptures we are to confess Christ, (I John 2:23) but never in some vague way. We confess agreement with the doctrine about Him: that He has come in the flesh (I John 4:2-3) that He is our high priest who made atonement for us, (Hebrews 3:1) or that he pleads for us before His Father’s throne (Hebrews 4:13). Our confession agrees with the doctrine of Christ in the Scriptures. Nowhere do we confess our personal faith or our personal hope. Instead we “confess the faith,” (I Timothy 6:12) “the hope,” (Hebrews 19:23) or “the gospel.” (II Corinthians 9:13) The faith, the hope and the Gospel are objective. They stand outside of us. Others confess the same faith, hope and Gospel. We say the same things as God and other Christians. There is a standard against which we measure our confession. [1]


If “tell” is something personal then confess is anything but personal. You “say the same thing” as the bible. “Confess” has an objective basis to it. You say the same thing as our church “confessions,” or the same thing as the liturgy or the classic time tested hymns of the church.


The easiest thing in the world to confess is something which is simple, to the point, commonly known and preferably something you have memorized. Hmmmmmm. Where would we find something like that? We find it in the catechism.


When you speak to someone about Jesus it is quite easy just to tell them the gospel in the words of the explanation to the second article, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten from the father from eternity and also true man, born of the virgin Mary is my Lord. He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, with his holy precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death.” Or let’s say someone asks you why we stress the Lord’s Supper and go to it so often. “It’s the true body and blood of my Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.” How tough is that?


Of course if you’ve never learned the catechism you will have to learn it. But the blessings are twofold. Not only do you strengthen your faith and understanding, you equip yourself to be a better teller and confessor of Jesus.  


I’ll warn you, confession can be divisive. It divides truth from error and God from the antichrist. (1 John 2:22) The word “confess” often stands in contrast to the false doctrine of those who would deceive the church by pointing away from Christ. (I John 4:2-3) We should not be surprised if confession brings friction and even divisions in the church. That’s because it is based on something outside us.


I really do not believe that the church is particularly blessed by discussions of how we can be better witnesses or how we can all do the work of evangelism. That’s not what the bible encourages and it’s not the way we talk in our everyday lives.


With two little words we can get the job done. Confess. Say what the church has said for 500 years in the catechism, for 1500 years in the liturgy and for 2000 years in the words of the New Testament which also, incidentally is the inspired word of God. Then tell. Tell the story of you and Jesus; your baptism, your catechism instruction, the last time you communed, how your church is a great place to learn, how your pastor is a good teacher. How your will bring your friend to bible class.


Confess and tell. With these two little words every Christian has enough to do for their entire lives.


Conclusion to the series.


With these last nine blogs I hope that you do not think that I oppose the goals of Ablaze! or the task of world evangelism. I pray that more people will be told about Jesus. I want new Lutheran churches to be founded which are proud of their heritage and the name Lutheran. I simply think that the Ablaze! program is based on a misunderstanding of certain bible words, is not helpful, is in some ways insulting, distances itself from our noble history and tends to overlook the real work which every Christian can do. In contrast, the Bible itself encourages us to tell and confess the truth of Christ in a manner which is not daunting but inviting and which the entire church can embrace with pleasure.

[1] See the chapter in my book, “The Fire and the Staff” chapter eleven for a full discussion of this word.   (St. Louis, CPH 2005)

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