The Third Sunday after Pentecost June 14, 2015
1 Timothy 6:3-21
44, 451, 346, 769 (TLH alt. 45)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
In Christ Jesus, the Savior whom we confess, dear fellow-redeemed:
At this point in a typical worship service you’ve already done it…TWICE! You have confessed Christ. The first time is when we confess our sins. Confessing sins is also confessing Christ because as we confess our sins we are recognizing our inability to save ourselves and our need for Christ. As we confess our sins we are confessing our utter helplessness and going to our heavenly Father pleading the forgiveness of sins which Christ has won for us. So when we do confess our sins in faith, trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, we are indeed confessing Christ our Savior.
Later in the order of service, the Apostolic Creed confesses the prominent points of what we believe about the true God, our Savior, and the forgiveness of sins which He brings.
In reality, we also confess Christ in our prayers, in our hymns, and in our whole worship service.
We call ourselves “CHRISTian.” We call our church body the “Church of the Lutheran CONFESSion.” So “Christ” and “confess” would, therefore, seem to be two very key elements in our spiritual lives, and they are! Today, with the Holy Spirit’s blessing we seek to explore, meditate upon, and consider more closely our confession of Christ our Savior. As children of God we are given the imperative: CONFESS CHRIST! I. Proclaim without fear, II. Prepare for division, and III. Stand in righteousness
God desires that we be “confessing Christians;” but what does that really mean? It has to mean much more than just saying the words. Ananias and Sapphira, a husband and wife from the early New Testament Church, verbally confessed Christ, but they were hypocrites. They did not put their trust in Him. They were not confessing Him in faith, and ultimately they were killed by God for their hypocrisy (cf: Acts 5:1ff).
The apostle Paul, writing to the Romans, helps us understand more fully what a confession of Christ involves when he says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:9-11).
Our confession of Christ begins and ends with our trust—our faith—put in Christ and His Word. That trust produces the verbalization of our faith. “Believing in Jesus,” produces conversations with others about Jesus, it leads to using His Word with one another for encouragement, correction, and strengthening. This is all part of confessing Christ, but the foundation is the Spirit-worked faith in our hearts. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” We “will not be put to shame” by putting our faith and trust in Christ.
In the text, Jesus says, “whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” [vv.32-33]
We ought not view these words of Jesus as a threat: “Confess Me or else I won’t confess you before the Father!” Rather, Jesus is simply stating the facts. He is simply presenting the truth. If we confess Jesus out of a heart that is relying upon Him, He will confess us before the Father. We will have salvation through faith in Christ. But if we reject Him, if we do not have that faith in our hearts toward Christ, if we do not confess Him in that way, then neither is there salvation; and Christ will have no option but to reject us also before the Father.
Faith confesses. Through that faith we receive the forgiveness of sins and are declared righteous before the Father. We need the association with Jesus to live. He is our life. He is that living branch to which we have been grafted by faith and from whom our fruits of faith flow and grow (cf: John 15:1ff). If we do not confess Christ, we are cut off and left to die.
Faith in the heart produces a confession outwardly—a proclamation. Jesus said, “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.” [v.27]
You could take your Bible and in a very private way sit in your room and study the Word. By doing so you would grow in your faith and you would learn from Him in a very private way. Jesus says: “What you are learning privately, what you are learning from Me is what I want you to tell the world.” You are learning it one-to-one. Faith is a very personal thing. “I am coming to you personally through My Word. Hear it! Believe it! Trust in it!” Jesus says. “But then take that and proclaim it from the housetops! Go! and proclaim it to all who will hear!”
Jesus also knows that to make this proclamation can be a fearful endeavor for us. It can be very fearful to confess and proclaim the Word of Christ when the world that is hearing the proclamation is completely opposed to Christ. So Jesus continues, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.” [v.28]
To properly confess Christ and to boldly proclaim His Word, we have to have our fear in the right place. Don’t fear those who can just kill the body. No matter what people might do to you on this earth, they simply cannot touch anything beyond your physical life. They may make your life miserable, they may torment you beyond belief, but they cannot go beyond your physical life. So don’t fear them, don’t be afraid at all! Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell. Fear the one who has the authority and the power and the dominion over your eternal life…and that is God.
As sinners, we rightly stand in trembling fear before the holy God who holds our eternal life in His hand, who will judge us whether we are alive or dead when Jesus returns. But as children of God, redeemed in Christ, confessing Christ, our fear is not one of terror because of our sins, but rather a fear of awe and respect. Stand in awe, respect, honor, and glorify the One who holds your eternal life in His hands; and don’t be afraid of those who are not able to touch you beyond this life.
Next, Jesus adds more reassurance: “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” [vv.29-31]
Jesus promises to be with us. He promises that He knows everything about us. He promises and assures us that we are of great value. If He can treasure something as relatively worthless as a sparrow and know when one of them dies; if He knows something as seemingly insignificant as the number of hairs on your head, He will surely provide, protect, and care for you in all things, both small and great.
Thus, we are able to confess Christ by proclaiming the truth of His Word boldly, with confidence, and without fear. So it was when Jesus gave His disciples the commission to make disciples of all nations He said, “Behold! Look! I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
One of the fears we might experience, is the fear of being wrong—the fear of perhaps not saying the right thing at the right time, not knowing what to say. There is a way to deal with that fear. First of all, God has entrusted this treasure of the Gospel to us, earthen vessels (cf: 2 Corinthians 4:7). We are not perfect. We have not been given the treasure of the Gospel to proclaim because we are sinless and without mistake in our use and proclamation of it. God also gives us the encouragement, “…do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak” (Matthew 10:19). As we diligently apply ourselves to the study of God’s Word and grow in the Word through that study, we can be assured that God will give us the words to speak. We do not need to enter into our proclamation fearfully, with hesitation, or silently because “I might be wrong” or because “I might not say the right thing.” We can go boldly without fear proclaiming the Word of God, proclaiming the faith which the Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts.
Paul wrote to Timothy and to us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power (because we bear the powerful Word of God!) and of love (because we are confessing the great love of God which He has demonstrated to us in Christ Jesus) and of a sound mind (because the truth of God’s Word is guiding us in our lives). Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord…God who has saved us and called us with a holy calling… has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel…I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:7ff).
God has not given us a spirit of fear. He has given us salvation. He has not given us timidity. He has given us boldness. We have been redeemed by Christ! We have the power of God’s Word! Proclaim, confess Christ without fear!
Jesus also said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” [v.34]
This is so different—completely opposite, in fact—from what the world thinks. Listen to the world, even in the Christian world, and you might suppose that anything less than “peace” could not be Christ-like. But Jesus said He came not to bring peace, but a sword…division…strife. Jesus did come to bring peace between sinners and God—the peace announced by the angels at Christmas (cf. Luke 2). This peace comes from sins removed so that God and sinners are reconciled. Jesus came to bring that peace, but outward peace on earth? No. He came to bring the sword and not guaranteed peace.
Jesus describes a division of the most emotionally painful kind. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” [vv.35-38]
Jesus does not suggest that we should go out trying to look for division, or try to create it. Jesus tells us just the opposite in 2 Timothy, “…pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace…” (2 Timothy 2:22). In Romans, Paul encourages us to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…Be of the same mind toward one another…Repay no one evil for evil…If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:14ff).
Jesus wants us to pursue peace, to strive to live in peace with each other and with those outside the family of God. Jesus also says that even in pursuing a Christian life and dealing peaceably with one another, you may still face division. Doing what is right and God-pleasing does, at times, lead to hardship and division. As we confess Christ in a world that is completely opposed to Him, division will occur. Sadly, the division can even occur within families.
Cain and Abel are an example. Abel was ultimately murdered by his brother Cain. The division between the two brothers was a division because of Christ. Cain had rejected his Savior. Abel followed and served His Savior. Cain grew jealous because the Lord looked with favor upon Abel, jealousy grew into anger and hatred, and they led to murder.
Moses living among the Egyptians is another example of division because of Christ. Moses identified with the Israelites (cf. the Old Testament reading) because they were the people of the one true God. It created a division between Moses and his adopted family.
Judas and Jesus were divided because of who Jesus was. At one time, Judas and Jesus shared a close relationship. Jesus called Judas to be one of the 12 disciples—His closest companions and workers while on the earth. As Judas fell away and rejected his Savior there was division even to the point of betrayal.
In modern Christianity, there is a push to bring churches of all sorts and denominations together as one. The attempt is to avoid division because “Jesus would want it that way.” But Jesus says, “I came not to bring peace but a sword.” There does at times need to be division in the external church because Jesus desires unity only if it is built upon the truth. “I plead with you brethren that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Jesus does not want a supposed or artificial unity at the sacrifice of the truth.
Truth and falsehood are opposed to each other and that is where the sword of Jesus will cut. Because the Word of God is truth and thereby cuts itself off from any falsehood, there will of necessity be division between those holding to the truth and those holding to falsehood. There will always be division on this earth for those who follow Christ because the truth will always stand opposed to the falsehoods that are spread and encouraged in this world.
As we confess Christ, we need to prepare for division. Jesus says, “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.” It does not need not be limited to the familial relationships. If any human relationship, if any earthly circumstance would lead us away from Christ, we need to be prepared to confess Christ, stand on the truth, and recognize there may be division in that relationship and circumstance on the earth. Such is the nature of truth. Such can be the object of our prayers, namely, that God would work unity in the hearts of all who follow Him rather than division.
When there is unity on the truth of God’s Word, when we confess Christ as one, it is a glorious unity indeed! We pray for the strength to stand on the truth even in the face of division, as it may become necessary at times throughout our lives.
As we confess Christ, we also stand in righteousness. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” [v.39] Through our heartfelt, Spirit-worked confession of Christ we find life in Him. Jesus said that if we confess Him, He will confess us before the Father. Jesus “confesses us” as our Advocate. He is the one who pleads our cause before the Father’s throne. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous” (1 John 1:9; 2:1).
As confessors of Christ, putting our trust in Him, we have complete freedom from sin. This doesn’t mean that we don’t sin in our lives, but we are free from the guilt and condemnation. Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Apart from Jesus, we are slaves bound in slavery to sin. Slaves of sin follow and pursue the lusts and desires of the sinful flesh and are guided by this sinful world and the Devil himself. Jesus has set us free from such things. We are free to no longer be controlled and motivated by the wickedness that lies in our nature. We are free to no longer be led by “the rulers of the darkness of this age” and “spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12). We have the freedom, the righteousness of Christ and the light of His Word to guide us.
Consider just one example of the freedom we have in the righteousness which Christ gives: By nature we are completely self-centered. By nature we would see nothing more than: “What’s in it for me? What can I do to benefit me?—and I don’t care what I have to do in order to attain it!” Then when something failed for “me” we would be left in anger and dismay because of that failure and then move on to pursue an ever greater, yet destructive, resolve to serve “me” all the more! Though a “Me…me…me…all me!” attitude is pleasing to our flesh, it is ultimately tiring, unfulfilling, and empty. How liberating it is to instead “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind…esteem others better than [oneself]….[looking] out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
As we stand in the righteousness of Christ we are set free from all the self-centered sinful motives. We are set free from all the sin that once held us. We are set free to live for Christ and serve one another, to serve in love toward God, to serve one another in love for each other. Standing in the righteousness of Christ we have purpose in our lives. We seek to use the things we say and do to glorify God, to bring comfort to sinners—among ourselves and those yet outside our faith—we seek to let our light of faith shine in this dark world. As Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Confess Christ because as you do so and stand in righteousness your life has purpose here and you have the certain hope of life everlasting in Heaven.
Again, hear what Paul said, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” Confess Christ. Recall what He has done for you. Stand in that righteousness which He gives you and proclaim His name!
The psalmist captures our spiritual life-story in Psalm 40:1-3. It is a life story that confesses Christ and the grace of God given to us through Him: “[The Lord]…brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God!” (Psalm 40:1-3).
You have that new song in your mouth—the song of salvation. Proclaim it without fear! Be prepared for division should it come, but stand in righteousness CONFESSING CHRIST!! Amen.