6/25/23 – Trinity 3 – “Confessing the Lord Jesus” – Matthew 10:26b-33

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1. The word translated twice in verse 32 of our Gospel text as “acknowledge” in the ESV is the Greek word homologeō. If you know much about etymology, you can probably hear the two parts of this word. First is the prefix “homo.” This prefix is familiar to us in our time, so we should have no difficulty in recognizing that it simply means “the same.” The second part of this word is the root, “logeō”, which is the verbal form of the well-known noun logos. Logos means “word”, so “logeō” would convey the idea of “speaking (a word).” So, this word translated twice in verse 32 as “acknowledge” could quite literally be translated as “say the same thing”, or, if we wanted to be more concise, “to confess.” “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I also will confess 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). What does it mean, then, to “confess” our Lord Jesus before men? The answer lies in the etymology of the word. To confess the Lord Jesus before men is to say the same things to men that our Lord has said to us—this is what every Christian is called to do. We are called to clearly speak the truth of who our Triune God is and what He has done for us, as revealed in the sacred Scriptures.

2. This is precisely what our Lutheran fathers in the faith were called to do in 1530 at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther simply intended for an academic discussion about indulgences to come from these theses. But this small spark set ablaze an empire-wide debate about the truth and nature of theology: Who is man in relation to God? How is grace conveyed to man? Does man participate or cooperate in his own justification? What is the nature, requirements, and responsibilities of the office of priest and bishop? These questions and many more became the central points of debate as the reformation spread. Finally, nearly thirteen years after Luther posted his 95 Theses, Charles V, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire decided that the religious turmoil in the empire had gone on long enough. The religious debate needed to be resolved so that political stability could be restored. So, Emperor Charles summoned the Lutheran princes and theologians to an official meeting of the empire in the city of Augsburg. On Saturday, June 25, 1530, the Lutherans offered their confession of faith before the men gathered at the Imperial Diet. The Lutherans boldly confessed the truth of the Scriptures, saying the same thing about God, His works in creation, and human nature as revealed in sacred Scripture. The Lutherans boldly confessed the Lord Jesus before men. And in so doing, they saw their confession as standing in a long line of bold confessions of the faith, as spoken of in Psalm 119:46: “I will also speak of Your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame.”

3. The Scriptures call us to this same boldness of confession. It’s likely that we will not be called to confess before kings, as were the Lutheran princes at Augsburg. But we are called to boldly confess before men the truth of God revealed in sacred Scripture. This is why our Lord says: “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I also will confess 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). And this temptation to deny Christ before men is real. To deny Christ before men is more than following in the footsteps of Peter and saying, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:74). This, of course, is denying Christ before men. But it would also be to deny Christ before men to fail to speak the truth when the opportunity is given us. For the confessors at Augsburg, they could have yielded to the pressures of the Roman church. They could have said, “You know, these things aren’t that big of a deal. We could just outwardly pretend to follow what the Pope and the Emperor want while inwardly maintaining our own confession of faith.” And yet, the confessors at Augsburg did not do this. They knew that to refuse to acknowledge Christ before men is no different than denying Him before men. There is no loophole in this call to boldness of confession. The Christian is called to boldly confess Christ before men. Anything less than this is denial of Christ. Our Lord makes this crystal clear by His words at the end of our Gospel text.

4. Refraining from confessing Christ before men is a real temptation that we all face. Perhaps it is a long-time friend who is less than friendly to Christianity. We are afraid that if we speak the truth of what we believe, we might lose our friendship. Or maybe it’s a loved one who is openly hostile to our faith. We are afraid that is we speak of what we believe, we will be ridiculed for it. Or maybe it’s a stranger or a new acquaintance. We don’t know where they stand religiously, but we are too afraid to speak to them about faith because we don’t know the right words to say. Refraining from confessing Christ before men is a real temptation that we all face. And more often than not, fear is what prevents us from confessing our faith before others.

5. This is why it’s no coincidence that our Lord begins our Gospel Reading by talking about fear. Our Lord instructs us not to fear the people or things of this world. They have no ultimate power over us. The hidden deeds which they perform behind closed doors, the evil deeds which they do in darkness will all be brought to light in the end. They will be exposed for who they are. They are limited creature who have no ultimate power over us. We might be tempted to fear the power of others to take away those whom we love. We might be tempted to fear the power of others to ridicule our belief. But it is God that we must fear above all things. When Martin Luther speaks of fearing God in his explanation to the first commandment, he does not instruct us to fear God only and not to fear anything else. He instructs us to fear God above all things. We will all be driven by fear to one degree or another. The question is, what is your ultimate fear? What truly drives you? Do you fear the judgements of man above all? Or do you fear God?

6. Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel text are a call to courage. God is for us. He numbers the hairs on our heads. He values us more highly than the sparrows. The Father sent His Son to be delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). There is no reason to fear anyone but God. Now, don’t be fooled. We will still fear. We are fallen beings. In our sinful condition we cannot help but fear the opinions of others at times. But our Lord calls us to courage. And let us be clear: Courage is not the absence of fear; rather, courage is the mastery of fear. Courage sees fear and determines not to be mastered by it. So, courage does not let fear of the one who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul master him. Christian courage enables us to fight the good fight of the faith and to make the good confession because the God who gives life to all things is with us (1 Timothy 6:12-13). “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 56:11).

7. So, how do we make the good confession? How do we confess Christ before men? Before we seek out opportunities to do this, there are at least two things which we must do. First, we must be reading and thinking about the Bible a lot. In moments of conversation with others, the Holy Spirit tends to work by calling to mind that which we know or have read. When we aren’t reading the Scriptures, there’s not much to draw from. So, read the Scriptures regularly. But don’t just read the Scriptures, you need to be thinking about the Scriptures too. One who passively reads the Scriptures without considering the implications will never develop the depth of knowledge needed to confidently confess Christ before men. Prior to our confession of Christ, we must first read and think deeply about His Word.

8. But secondly, we cannot allow the things that we read and consider to remain in our heads. We must talk about the Scriptures. We must have spiritual conversations. For lack of a better way to put it, we must practice. If we want to faithfully confess Christ before friends and family and strangers, then we must practice. We must talk with others about the faith—and I’m not talking about chiming in with more of our opinions in Bible class. I’m talking about having real, deep theological conversations around the dinner table and with our close friends. We would be wise to “practice” these kinds of conversations in friendly environments so that we are prepared to confess Christ before others who may be less friendly.

9. Confessing Christ before men is not optional for Christians. We must have courage to speak of Christ before others if we expect Him to confess us before the Father. And this is not a calling relegated to ordained clergy. The confessors at Augsburg were laymen. The Augsburg Confession’s principal author, Philip Melanchthon, was a lay man. The man who read the confession before Emperor Charles, Christian Beyer, was a lay man. The men whose names are signed to the end of the document were lay men. Our Lord is giving you this command. “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I also will confess 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). But do not be afraid. The Lord goes with you. He will preserve and protect your soul, no matter what happens. So, fear not. He will give you the strength. And He will confess you before our heavenly Father, in whose presence we will dwell for all eternity because of the great love which Christ our Lord has for us.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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