“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven, But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”
Matthew 10:32-33 (NIV)
If you were to list the greatest days of your life, you’d probably have a few to choose from. They might include—the day you graduated, the day you got married, the day a child was born, the day your child graduated or got married, the day you retired.
You could probably compile quite a list, but Jesus speaks here about a day so momentous that it will outshine any other day of your life. One day you will stand in the presence of God. On that day you will see the Son of God, and you will hear his voice. He will speak to you.
The Son of God will say one of two things. Either he will confess you or he will disown you. To confess you means he will say to the Father “This is [Jim, Mary—put your name here], and she belongs to me.” To disown you means the Son will say to the Father “This is [Jim, Mary—put your name here], and he has nothing to do with me.” Every person will hear the Son of God say one of these two things.
Jesus makes it clear what he says about you then is intimately tied to what you say about him now: “Whoever acknowledges me before men [that’s what you say about Jesus now], I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven [that’s what he will say about you then]. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).
As I read this, I want to know three things: 1. What does this mean? What does it mean to confess Christ? Am I doing this? What does it mean to disown Christ? Is this something I have done? 2. What would confessing Christ actually look like throughout the course of my life? 3. How can I do this? Where do I find the strength, the courage to do what Jesus says in this difficult world?
What does it mean to confess Christ?
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven…” Matthew 10:32
The word “acknowledge” or confess in the Greek is homo = ‘one,’ plus logeo = ‘word.’ It literally means “to be of one word.” So, to confess Jesus is to be of one word with him. To confess Jesus means that what he says, you say.
When Jesus says “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), you say “For me, Jesus is my way and my truth and my life.” You believe it. You own it. You do not say “This is what Jesus says, but I have a different view.” Or “I’m not sure about that.”
We live in a culture of ambivalence. What you don’t know is cool. It is comfortable for us to see ourselves as seekers in process. But if you want Christ to confess you in heaven, at some point you have to move from being a seeker to being a confessor: “If you confess me…” not “if you consider me…” Jesus says “If you are of one word with me, I will be of one word with you.”
What does it mean to disown Christ?
“But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:23
Could I have done this? Maybe there was a time when you said to God “I am done with you.” Maybe you made some kind of commitment that was the opposite of faith in Christ. What does that mean for you?
Peter disowned Jesus. He did that three times, and then afterwards he went out and wept bitterly. Then, after the resurrection, Christ spoke with him. Jesus did not say “Peter, I am sorry, but you’ve disowned me, so now I am disowning you.” He forgives him and restores him, not only to fellowship with Christ, but even to ministry for Christ. In the light of this, we can be sure that Jesus is not saying “If you have ever disowned me, you are gone forever.” He is saying “If you continue to disown me, I will disown you.”
If that is what the second part of the verse means, then clearly that is how we should understand the first half of the verse. Jesus is not saying “If at some time in your life you said that you believe in Jesus, then everything is well with you forever.” He is saying “If you continue to confess me before men, I will confess you before my Father in heaven.” Jesus is calling us to a confessing life. He said “Follow me.”
How is our confession of Christ connected to His confession of us?
If you read this verse in isolation it could sound like salvation by works: (Jesus says “If you do this for me; I will do that for you.”) That is not the gospel. We are saved by the blood of Christ, not by an act of confession. There is no redeeming power in confessing Christ. Redeeming power lies in the Christ who is confessed. This Christ becomes ours by faith, and our confession is an evidence of faith in Christ who saves us.
That is how we should understand the words of Jesus here and how we should understand these familiar words: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Redeeming power lies in the Christ who is confessed, not in the act of confessing.
Jesus is not speaking to unbelievers, but to His disciples
The whole of this chapter is Jesus speaking to those who have already made a commitment to Him: [Jesus] “called his twelve disciples” (Matthew 10:1). This isn’t evangelism—calling unbelievers to make a decision and confess Christ. This is for Christians. He’s challenging us.
Jesus is not talking about something easy, but something hard
When you first hear this verse, it sounds like an easy thing to do. Here’s the Lord Jesus Christ and what does He want me to do? “Whoever acknowledges me…” (Matthew 10:32). So, that’s what I have to do—I have to acknowledge Jesus, and accept that He’s the Savior and say I believe in Him—nothing terribly difficult about that.
But look with me at the context:
“I am sending you out as sheep among wolves” (v16).
[What chance do sheep have among wolves?]
“They will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings. When they arrest you…” (v17-19).
[Not “If they arrest you…, When they arrest you…”]
“Brother will betray brother to death… Children will have their parents put to death. All men will hate you because of me. When you are persecuted in one place flee to another…”
(v21-23). [“When you are persecuted…,” not “If…”]
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul… Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (v28, 32).
Clearly “confessing” Christ will be the most demanding challenge these men will face in their entire lives. Confessing Christ will be the single greatest challenge in your life as a Christian believer. How does this apply to us?
Since the time of Christ there has been a long and noble line of Christians who have laid down their lives for Jesus. Have you ever read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?  Men and women thrown to lions, burned at the stake, enduring unspeaking suffering because they confessed Christ.
Some of you have been disowned by your own family, cut out of a will because you confess Christ. Others have suffered in different ways. But the truth is, that for most of us, confessing Christ does not put us in immanent danger. I have never been beaten up for my faith in Christ. I have never been imprisoned. I have experienced some hatred, but never more than words.
What does it mean for us to confess Jesus Christ in America? Philip Power was a pastor in England 150 years ago, in a Christianized culture. When he preached on this verse, he said:
“We must at once clear out of our way the idea that we in this land of professing Christians are confessors, because we call ourselves Christians. It would require far more boldness for us in this country to confess the devil, and say we were not Christians than to confess Christ and say that we are.” 
Don’t think you’re doing what Jesus says here because you call yourself a Christian, in a culture where it’s acceptable and costs you nothing. The hardest moments of our lives will be our greatest opportunity to confess Jesus.
Seven Ways to Confess Jesus Christ
- Confess the lordship of Christ in baptism
Christian faith involves drawing a clear-cut line in the sand, in which you put your faith in Christ and pledge your allegiance to Christ. Is this something you’ve done?
This is not a private matter, it’s public. That is the significance of baptism. Peter says “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38).
Being baptized as a believer is one way in which you can confess the lordship of Christ over your life. Have you confessed Christ in baptism?
If not, I invite you to do so on March 6th or March 7th.  I invite you to be a part of it. Why would you not?
- Confess the glory of Christ in costly obedience
“Jesus said, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’” Matthew 13:44
When you find something of supreme value, you go after it—regardless of the cost. If you have grasped the glory of Jesus Christ, you will wade out into deeper water, giving sacrificially like never before. Costly obedience shows how you value Jesus Christ.
The Gospels tell us about how Mary poured a jar of perfume over the feet of Jesus (John 12), and Judas was mad: “It could have been sold, and the money put to better use.” Mary could not think of a better use for this most valuable possession, so she poured it out over the feet of Christ. In doing this, she confessed the glory of Christ the Savior.
- Confess the presence of Christ in loneliness
If you have felt let down by your friends at a time when you really needed them, you will know that it can be really tough to confess the presence of Christ in your loneliness. Paul was familiar with the loneliness of friends who had let him down in a tight spot. He writes about it from prison, giving us a catalogue of his disappointments:
“Do your best to come to me quickly” (v9)
“Demas has deserted me” (v10)
“Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, only Luke is with me” (v11)
“Alexander the metalworker did me great harm” (v14)
“At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them” (v16)
At this point, Paul could have started in about “Well, that’s a Christian for you…” He could have turned his disappointment to bitterness, but he doesn’t do that. He uses the failures of others as an opportunity for confessing Christ: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength… And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth” (2 Timothy 4:17). What are you going to do when other people let your down? Confess the presence of Christ in your loneliness. It could be your greatest moment of discipleship.
- Confess contentment in Christ under financial pressure
Throughout the course of his life, Paul knew wide-ranging financial circumstances. At one time he had plenty—Paul had a brilliant mind, and a distinguished position under Gamaliel, an honored religious teacher. There were other times when he was in great financial need—to the point where he was hungry and did not have enough to eat.
He might have said “Why did Christ allow this to happen to me?” But he doesn’t do that. He uses his experience of financial pressure to confess Christ. Listen to what he says:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
I’m impressed by some folks in our congregation who are doing exactly this. Friday afternoon someone walks into your office and suddenly you’ve lost your job. Your whole financial position has changed. But you say, “I’m going to trust Christ in this.” That is confessing Christ. That is how disciples put their faith in Christ into practice in the realities of this world.
- Confess the sufficiency of Christ in sickness and pain
Paul had a particular affliction that he describes as “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). It seems most likely that this was some kind of illness or disability. Three times he pleaded with the Lord to take it away.
Some of us know about this. God gives you good health, but then suddenly you find that you have a condition that changes your life. You begin to experience pain. You are not able to do things that you were able to do before. You ask God to take it away… and perhaps He does. But the pain, the sickness is still with you. What are you going to do? Spend the rest of your life in resentment against God?
Paul uses his own pain to confess Christ. He tells us “[Christ] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you and my power is made perfect in weakness.’ So I will boast about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). That’s confessing Christ in sickness and pain.
Some of the finest testimonies among us are being wrought through these kinds of circumstances. Some of you are perfectly healthy, but you are under difficult circumstances, not just one, but one after another. In the same letter, Paul speaks about a time of intense difficulty he experienced in Asia:
- Confess the comfort of Christ in crushing trials
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.” 2 Corinthians 1:8
The issue here wasn’t illness. A series of things happened to him, in a period of this man’s life, that left him feeling unbearably crushed, absolutely pummeled. Some of you are right there now—under great pressure, beyond your ability to endure.
Paul seized this as an opportunity, not to give up, but to confess Christ. He speaks about the comfort of God that he has experienced in his own life, and how as a result of God’s grace to him in these experiences, he is now able to comfort others.
- Confess the sovereignty of Christ in sorrow and loss
Perhaps the most remarkable confession in all of Scripture comes from Job. Here’s a godly man who has everything going for him, then in a single day his whole world implodes:
His wealth is plundered by enemies. His children die when the house in which they are holding a party collapses on them. Even his own wife turns in on herself and says to him “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” (Job 2:9). Job says “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).
Some of us are going through indescribable sorrow. The fact that you love Christ still in the midst of your loss may be the greatest confession of Christ in your life. Christ tells us to take every opportunity in the difficulties of life to confess Him. Our confession of Christ in difficulties will reverberate through heaven and hell forever.
What at first seemed easy, confessing Christ, now seems incredibly hard. How can I do this? When I look at others, and admire the strength of their faith, my own faith seems so weak. How can I ever do what’s being described here?
How Can I Cultivate a Robust Faith…
…That Stands Up Under Pressure?
My older son Andrew plans on doing the Ironman triathlon  in the summer. Do you know what the Ironman is? You swim 2 miles, then you hop on a bike and ride 100 miles, and you finish it off in one day with a 26-mile marathon! He’s going to be training all year.
If you are going to do the Ironman, you have to put in some training. If you are going to confess Christ under pressure, you better get ready now! You never know when the next crisis of your life is coming. It might come tonight, or next week. It might come next year.
Begin building spiritual muscle now. You don’t know when the next crisis is coming. You need to put down deep roots into His Word now. You need to keep growing in your life in Christ, so that you can confesshim when the pressure comes.
Some of you are saying “I wish I’d thought about this a couple of years ago. I’m right in the middle of it now.” Here’s the second thing:
Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit
“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:2
Remember, you are not in this alone. Anyone can go around saying “Jesus is Lord.” That’s not what he’s talking about. Only the Holy Spirit makes this kind of confession possible. The Holy Spirit is given to you for this very reason, so that in the hardest circumstances of your life you will be able to stand and confess him.
I remember a time some years ago when I was feeling overwhelmed in my own life, and I heard a message in a small church in Scotland. God used these words in my life. The pastor said “Think what Spirit lives in you. The Spirit of God lives in you!”
When you grasp this, you will say “I can’t do this on my own. But by your strength and by your Spirit, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I can do it and I will do it.”
Anticipate the outcome of your faith
“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32
Why is he telling the disciples this now? He is sending them out into situations that will be indescribably tough. It’s going to be costly. It’s going to be the hardest thing in their life to confess Christ under these trying circumstances.
Christ says to you “Keep your eye on this. You confess me. I will confess you. The day is coming when you will stand in my presence, and I will say ‘He’s mine! She’s mine!’ I will confess you saying ‘I bought him with my blood. I have sealed her with my Spirit. He confessed me, now I confess him, to the glory of God the Father.’”
 John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Bridge-Logos, 2001
 P B Power, The ‘I Wills’ of Christ, p. 99
 Baptism service at The Orchard, for more information visit our website:
© Colin S. Smith
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