I tell you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God.
I. THAT CHRISTIANITY CENTRES IN THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST. Our Lord taught us much concerning ourselves - the inestimable value of our spiritual nature; the real source and spring of evil in our own souls; the true excellency of a human life; whom we should regard as our neighbor, etc. But he taught us still more of himself - of his relations with the Divine Father; of his essential superiority even to the greatest among mankind; of his sorrow and his death on behalf of the human race; of his mission to enlighten, to redeem, to satisfy the souls of men. And he not only affirmed, but frequently and emphatically urged, the doctrine that, if we would enter into life, we must come into the very closest personal relation with himself - trusting in him, loving him, abiding in him, following him, making him Refuge of the heart, Sovereign of the soul, Lord of the life. Not his truth, but himself, is the Source of our strength and our hope.
II. THAT JESUS CHRIST DEMANDS AN OPEN CONFESSION OF OUR FAITH IN HIM. More than once (see Mark 8:38) he insisted upon a clear recognition of his authority and regal position. He will have us "confess him before men." How shall we do that?
1. In a heathen country, by avowing the Christian faith, renouncing Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, etc., and declaring before all that Jesus Christ is the one Teacher of truth and Lord of man.
2. In a Christian country, by making it clear that we have accepted him as the Lord whom we are living to serve. We shall probably think it right to do this by attaching ourselves to some particular Christian community; also by regular, public worship of Christ; but certainly, in all cases,
(1) by paying honor to his Name;
(2) by upholding against his enemies the truth and worth of his religion;
(3) by translating his will into active human life in all its departments - domestic, social, commercial, political, ecclesiastical.
III. THAT COMPLIANCE WITH HIS DEMAND WILL SOON PROVE TO BE AN ACT OF THE FIRST IMPORTANCE. The day draws on when we shall meet our Master: then will he tell us what he thinks of us. Then, if we have failed to honor him, he will refuse to honor us "before the angels of God." What is involved in that denial? The worst of all exclusions - exclusion from the favor, from the home, of God. And then, if we have honored him, he will acknowledge us as his own. And what will that include?
1. Acceptance with the Judge of all.
2. The expression of his Divine approval - the "well done" of the Lord.
3. Admission to the heavenly kingdom, with all its advancing glory, its deepening joy, its extending influence, its enlarging life. - C.
Whosoever shall confess Me before me.I. For FINGER-POSTS that may guide our endeavour to come at the spiritual reality here symbolized, such thoughts as these may serve.
1. Evidently Christ here contrasts the seen and the unseen world as respectively small and great; here a petty vicinage, there a grand environment; here ignorant men, there high intelligences — the angels of God; here ourselves as affected by the examples and opinions of sinners, there ourselves as feeling the presence and the criticism of the pure; in dim light here, in dazzling light there.
2. Christ evidently contrasts the seen and the unseen world in their respective objects of honour and dishonour.
3. The next truth of which Christ here makes us certain is, that the future is simply the continuance of present relations to Him under changed conditions. Thus we approach a true and clear conception of what our Lord meant by confessing Him and being confessed by Him, &c. Not by what we say, but by what we are, is our present confession or denial of Christ most tellingly uttered before men. Likewise, by what He is, as compared with what we are, will His future confession or denial of us be most conclusively made known, to our glory or our shame before the heavenly witnesses "the angels of God."
II. From this look into the spiritual reality of our subject we draw some obvious and practical CONCLUSIONS.
1. Confessing or denying Christ is certainly no mere affair of words. Yet words, though weak, are not worthless. They can make their mark on character — our own and others' character.
2. Confessing Christ and being confessed by Christ are not to be separated in our thought, like work-day and pay-day, as if the confessing were all here, and the being confessed all there. What comes out there is simply the flash of an awakened consciousness of a judgment of Christ which has been going on here every day under the eyes of the invisible witnesses of many a negligent life.
3. Confessing or denying Christ here is not a question solely as to the totality or average of character, but quite as much a question as to the particulars of character. Point by point, the world compares the professed copy with its model, and recognizes agreements or contradictions in detail. No otherwise can it be in the presence of the angels of God.
(J. M. Whiten, Ph. D.)
(M. F. Sadler.)I. Consider some of the OCCASIONS WHICH CALL FOR THE EXERCISE OF THIS GRACE.
1. It requires courage to be able to withstand persecution for conscience sake.
2. You will need courage to bear reproach for Christ's sake.
3. You will need courage to act up to your convictions of duty in your own family and in the world at large.
4. You will need courage to resist temptation.
5. Courage is necessary to confess Christ in the presence of the rich and powerful, and of all who are exalted above you in station and influence. "I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings," said David, "and will not be ashamed." And what noble courage was displayed by Daniel, and by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!
6. It may be that some of you will need courage to venture your life at the call of duty. You may need it for the right discharge of your business. You may need it to act vigorously in endeavouring to save the lives of others.
7. You will need courage to resist the mere apprehension of evil.
8. You will need courage to bear the evils of life while they are actually pressing on you.
9. You will need courage to meet the last enemy.
II. In order, then, to the attainment of this necessary grace of courage, or, which is the same thing, in order to your preservation from sinful fear, let the following BRIEF DIRECTIONS be considered and followed:
1. Begin with a well-founded hope in God's mercy, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this, though you may be free from fear, you must be exposed to the most awful danger; and, therefore, though you may be foolhardy, you cannot be rationally and scripturally courageous. But, if God be "on your side," as the Psalmist expresses it, then you need "not fear what man can do unto you."
2. Endeavour, next, after a very firm trust in God's providence. Remember that the slightest evil cannot befall you without your heavenly Father, and believe that He causes all things to work together for your good.
3. Reflect on the noble examples of courage which are recorded in Scripture.
4. Vex not yourselves with fears as to the future, but give yourselves to the duties of the present.
5. Consider the exhortations and promises of the Word of God, and have the substance of all, and the very words of many of them, in your memory. They abound to this effect throughout Scripture, especially in Isaiah, and the Psalms.
6. Think of the confession that awaits you from the Lord, and the crown of glory which will be yours, at last, if you be faithful. He assures you that He will confess you before His Father and the holy angels: and He says to each of you, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Think often of this; and the thought will far more than counterbalance any reproach, or opposition, you may meet with here. And, finally, mindful of your own weakness, and how certainly both your strength and courage would fail if you were left to yourselves, be much in prayer to God for this grace of holy courage.
(James Foote, M. A.)
(A Soldier's Diary.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(Dr. Talmage.)only religion that gives a man spiritual power, is the religion of Jesus Christ, and yet it is the only religion that men are ashamed of. When Mr. Moody was at Salt Lake City he did not meet even one that was not proud of being a Mormon. Everywhere the fact was announced over their shops and places of business. If you meet a man who is possessed of an error he will publish it. Why should we, who have the truth, not publish it also?
(T. Guthrie, D. D.)
(H. G. Salter.)
(P. B. Power, M. A.)
(D. L. Moody.)
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE WORDS "CONFESS CHRIST"? There is no great obscurity about them; still, a few words of explanation may bring out their meaning more clearly. Confessing Christ is an avowal of what He is in our esteem, of what He is to us. It assumes, of course, that there is an inward conviction that He is the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. To confess Him is to let that conviction be outwardly expressed in some form or other, i.e., it is a taking care that we do not stifle our convictions by keeping them to ourselves; but that we utter them, by letting it be known that we believe Christ, that we receive Him, that we worship Him, that we follow Him, as Teacher, &c. In a word, it is to say, "I am a Christian. I am Christ's man; 'for me to live is Christ!'"
II. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE ACT OF MAKING THIS CONFESSION? It denies. It affirms. It opposes. Let us note each of these points. This confession denies that man is his own master. It is a practical declaration that we are under the authority of another, and it denies every other authority for man than that of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence this confession affirms as well as denies. It avows the infinite right of Christ to rule over men because of His work for them! It is an avowal of His glory. Thus, this confession must needs oppose very much loose and wrong thinking of the present day. It is in opposition to the worldliness which would treat all religion and worship with supreme indifference. It opposes formalism, &c. And, by the terms of the expression, confessing Christ is as really exclusive as inclusive. It refuses to be cumbered with a host of commandments, and doctrines of men. It declines to own any priestly intrusion between a man's conscience and the Lord Jesus, and hence is as much a confession of Christ only, as of Christ.
III. IN WHAT WAY SHOULD THE CONFESSION BE MADE?
1. By letting it be seen that we are Christ's, by our light shining before men. The sun has no need to have the words, "I am a light," blazoned above or beneath him. Nor have even dim, artificial lights any need for this. They give light by shining. Now, though the parallel does not hold in every respect, yet in one point it indicates what we mean. Are you Christ's men, heart and soul? Then show it by being Christ-like. Not indeed that this is enough, but without it, nothing else can be enough. The importance of our unconscious influence can scarcely be overrated. So ought we to live that men can see that we are Christians by what we are, whether our conversation for the time being be on religious matters or no.
2. But the apostle Paul says: "With the mouth confession is made unto salvation." There is a saying, I am the Lord's, and this is a part of the confession — "speaking for Christ" — in the society in which you move.
3. Then, by acting for Christ we may confess Him. We may seek to spread His name among those who know Him not, and may make it a business of our lives to teach and train men for Him.
4. But let us not only passively endure, let us also take up the positive attitude of attack. We must not be content simply to receive rebuffs, we must give them, going forth without the camp, exposing error and rebuking sin. We can do this better in company than we can singly. I may go forth to work and witness alone, and succeed, but if a brother comes and stands by my side, and says, I am one with you, he makes me twice the man I was before. And out of this law of reciprocal influence, out of this power of combination — as being so much greater than that of isolation — there comes another means of making this confession, viz., joining the militant host of the people of God, or, to use a common phrase, joining the Church.
IV. WHY SHOULD CHRIST BE THUS CONFESSED? For many reasons, each of which has some weight: but it is rather to the cumulative force of all of them that we desire to point attention.
1. Jesus Christ has definitely and expressly commanded it (Luke 12:8, 9).
2. It is manifestly reasonable that we should avow our relation to such a Saviour, and His relation to us. For what are we, but sinful, dying men, owing our immortal life and eternal hopes to Jesus and His saving love? When the names of men whom a country loves to honour are often on our lips, as if we felt honoured by knowing something about them, shall it be that we keep silence only concerning the Man of Sorrows, as if it were aught but an honour to speak His name? God forbid.
3. It is assumed in the New Testament that Christ's men act as a corporate body. The institution that Christ intended to build up, He called "a Church"; and after He went to heaven, a group of one hundred and twenty were found meeting in an upper room, &c.
4. To avow your convictions, will help to give them definiteness and precision. So long as a conviction remains snugly lodged within, unexpressed, it need not be very sharply defined; but bring it out, put it into shape, set it in words, draw it forth to living action, and lo! it is at once a fuller and clearer conviction, owing to the very effort required to avow it! Yea, more, conviction unavowed becomes feebler.
5. Christ and the world are such opposites, that if a man has any adequate conception of the difference between them, he cannot help seeing the incongruity of a believer in Christ refusing to confess Him. When so many are opposed, or indifferent, does it not behove the friends of Christ to stand up for Him?
6. Jesus Christ confessed us.
7. Christ lives on earth in those who confess Him. By His Church He manifests Himself in living form to the world. His confessing ones are His mouthpiece by which He speaks to a dying world I And we want your voice and tongue, and hands and feet, and brain and heart, to be employed for Him in ringing out the grand testimony that the Father sent the Son, the Saviour of the world!
8. In confessing Christ we join such a blessed line of confessors.
9. The confession itself is such a glorious one.
10. The true confessors will be so blessedly confessed (Matthew 10:32, 33). "But," says one, "is there no medium between confessing and denying?" We reply, Christ puts none, therefore we cannot. Nor would we if we could. We would bid you turn away your eyes from all goals but the very highest of all! And suffer me to ask, Has not the promise of being confessed by Christ any charm for you?
V. MANY DO NOT THUS CONFESS CHRIST. WHY IS THIS?
1. There is reason to fear that there are some who do not confess Christ because they know that if they were to do so, as things are now, they could but profess a regard for His name, which goes no further than outside reverence. They are not living in obedience to Christ; so that, even if they were to call Him "Lord, Lord," though there might be there a form of godliness, there would not be its power!
2. "That is not my reason," says one; "but it seems to me that in the Church you hedge round the open confession of Christ, which is involved in 'joining the Church,' with such difficulties, that many are thereby kept back." As might be expected, we find that the "difficulties," which Churches are supposed to put in the way, vanish in the course of friendly conversation with those who are kind enough and frank enough to state them.
3. Some do not confess Christ, on account of not seeing the importance of making such confession. But if Christ has commanded it, ought we not to obey orders without debating the question of its importance?
4. Some do not confess Christ owing to the feebleness of their personal conviction. When the heart beats feebly the whole frame languishes, and when brain nerve-power is lacking the heart beats feebly. Herein is one of the many parables of physiology. A lack of strength in the convictions of the soul is often a cause of holding back from avowing Christ. And this feebleness of conviction is often owing to confusion of thought, or to a lack of clear understanding with regard to the contents and mutual relation of religious truth.
5. Some are kept back from avowing their convictions through the fear of man (John 12:42, 43, and others).
6. Others are kept back from confessing Christ, by a cause which is far less objectionable, because more reasonable, viz., a fear of themselves. Confession of Christ seems to them to involve so much, that they fear they can never come up to the high standard which is before their eye. They see, too, that there are some who, having confessed Christ, settle down at their ease, and they fear lest it should be so with them.
7. Some are deterred from confessing Christ by the warning of the apostle, "Whosoever shall eat this bread," &c. Whosoever is kept back by these words, should read the whole of the section of the chapter in which they stand; he will then find that the persons there addressed were turning the Lord's Supper into a common meal, mistaking its nature and design. Hence they tarried not for one another; some came hungry and feasted, and others were drunken.
8. "But look at the inconsistency of professors!" Yes, we do look at it, and grieve over it, but how that should be a reason for not confessing Christ, it is not easy to see.
9. "Well, but I can be saved without making this confession." Do not be so sure of that. If you see it to be a duty which you owe to Christ, and then can leave a known duty unfulfilled, you are not a saved man! None who continue in known disobedience to Christ are saved. Besides, look at the selfishness of the plea. It is as if all that a man had to think about was — being saved! This may, indeed, be the first thing, but most assuredly it is not everything! We would put another question: Suppose you refuse to confess Christ, can you do as much to save others as if you avowed Him as your Lord? And to this we most decidedly answer, No!
VI. KEEPING BACK FROM THE CONFESSION OF CHRIST IS IN MANY RESPECTS A GREAT EVIL. Whether the reasons for keeping back be those which we have named or not, the non-confession of Christ is evil, though the kind and degree thereof may be varied according to the motives which lead to a secret rather than an open discipleship.
1. It is unworthy. Such a Saviour as we have ought to be confessed willingly, yea, joyfully. To keep silent on our tongues the name that angels love to sound forth through the realms of heaven, and for the one who thus keeps the name so still to be the one who owes to it all his hopes of eternal life, that is no worthy return for the suffering of the cross. Much reason had He to be ashamed of us, but why, oh! why, should we be ashamed of Him?
2. If any refuse to confess Christ they voluntarily lessen their own possibilities of usefulness.
3. For we have only to suppose this isolated working to be universally carried out, and then it is clear we should never hear of a visible Church at all! The Church might remain, but her visibility would be gone.
4. Inactive convictions will be injurious. To have them and not act on them would be to our condemnation.
5. Another evil is, that not to confess Christ is to be disobedient to His direct command.
6. And still another evil in the non. confession of Christ on the part of those who are His, is that it may throw the balance of their personal influence on the wrong side.
VII. WHAT SENTIMENTS AND FEELINGS SHOULD MOVE US TO THE CONFESSION OF CHRIST?
2. Love. When once it is clear that He has commanded it, and that He is infinitely worthy of being so confessed, then love to Him for His infinite worthiness should leave us without hesitation as to the course to pursue. And there is this distinction between being moved by gratitude and being inspired by love. Love is the higher affection of the two, Gratitude is the desire to recompense, or at least to acknowledge, a favour received. Love is the passion which cleaves to One who is in Himself surpassingly glorious.
3. Loyalty. Gratitude has respect to what Christ has done for us; love to what He is in Himself; loyalty, to His relation to us as Leader and Commander.
4. The feeling of brotherhood should impel to the confession of Christ.
5. Compassion for men who are out of Christ should lead us to confess Christ.
VIII. IN WHAT SPIRIT SHOULD THE CONFESSION BE MADE? This we may gather from the notice already given of the feelings which move us to make it. Evidently it should not be made without much thought, care, and prayer. The essential qualifications for such a confession are — sincerity and truth; without these there must be an unreality about the confession, which would not only render it null and void, but would bring greater guilt on the individual making a merely hollow confession. This, of course, must be the prime matter. When any one says, I am Christ's man, he should say it because it is true, for to say it cannot make it true, if it is not so otherwise. But this being the case, any one contemplating a step so important will be anxious to put into it all the meaning that he can do. To help such in so doing, let us observe —
1. The step should be taken humbly; not in a spirit of boastfulness or self-sufficiency, nor yet with the notion uppermost of "becoming a professor."
2. The confession should be made with fear and trembling.
3. At the same time that fear should not be so disproportionate, as to prevent a hallowed joy in confessing Christ.
4. We should always bring with us to the confession, a sense of the great and undeserved honour put on us in having such a Christ to avow. If a king should have pity on a pauper, and should translate him from a workhouse to a palace, and clothe him with royal robes, and make him partner of his throne, and should then educate him up to his dignity, and all out of pure regard to that pauper, without his having done aught to deserve it, might he not in his elevated position glory in the honour put upon him, and with a sense of the honour might he not well proclaim his deliverer and friend?
5. Making the confession of Christ should be attended with a spirit of entire devotion to the interests of the kingdom.
6. There should be the desire to gain such an amount of Christian intelligence as shall give him the right kind of influence in the Church of God.
7. But, if possible, even more eagerly intent should the individual confessing Christ be on "adorning the doctrine of God" his "Saviour in all things," by pureness, lowliness, meekness, and long-suffering.
8. To all this, let us add — There should be a reliance on Divine aid and on the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. These, the Saviour whom we confess has received for us, and will impart them to us. And no one who has an approximately adequate sense of the grand destiny of the Christian life will ever dream of attaining it by his own unaided power.
IX. THERE ARE SPECIAL REASONS JUST NOW FOR SUCH A CONFESSION OF CHRIST AMONG THE INDIVIDUALS COMPOSING OUR PROTESTANT CONGREGATIONS. Certain features in the several epochs of time may furnish reasons which would make a specially urgent duty of what would be a duty at any time. Such features show themselves now in the ecclesiastical movements and theological conflicts of the day, This may appear more clearly as we proceed.
1. A special reason for this confession is found in the fact, that only by banding together as Christian people can we give practical effect to Christ's own law, that those who love Him should uphold His cause.
2. It is important to hold up to the view of men another principle: viz., that Christian men, when associated together in their corporate capacity, are empowered by Christ with authority to carry on His work.
3. It is important, at a time when so many are denying and disobeying Christ, that hearts which are loyal to Him should cheer on each other in their witness-bearing for Him.
4. It is important that each Christian man should bear a testimony for the doctrine and polity which he believes to be most in accordance with Christ's will, and most effective for Christ's service.
5. Whatever we can do to leaven public sentiments with the truth of Christian doctrine, and to show the relation of that doctrine to the well-being of a nation, it is our bounden duty to do, and towards this, it is no unimportant contribution for us to band together with those who uphold the cause of our Lord.
(C. Clemance, D. D.)
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