Confessionalism and Why It’s Important
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9-10).
It seems as if believing in something––that is holding to a set of propositions with the utmost of confidence––always comes part and parcel with confessing said belief. Believing and confessing are like two peas in a pod. This is, I suppose, why confessions of faith have always been important to the church and a part of being a Christian.
The history of Christianity is marked by these confessions or creeds. The word creed is derived from the Latin word credo, which simply means “I believe.” Thus, all the historic Christian creeds––confessions of faith––begin with this simple line: “I believe…” But why is confession so integral to belief? Because we live in community with God and with one another, yet we don’t always agree with God or with one another. When we believe something important, maybe even something life-changing, an explanation is often required to provide lines of demarcation between where we once were and where we now are.
Regarding our relationship with God, let’s use an example from Scripture to get the point across. The Scriptures tell us that apart from Christ we are at war with God, literally opposed to his will in thought, word, and deed. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy” (Romans 1:29-31).
If you are a Christian, God, in His mercy, sent Christ to die for us and has brought us to faith both saving and justifying us even though we are ungodly. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). When the message is proclaimed, we hear, and the Holy Spirit brings us to saving faith. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word about Christ” (Romans 10:17).
This is a life-changing miraculous shifting of our status before God, whereby through His Grace we go from God-haters to children of God. With that change in status comes a change in our confession. Where once we confessed reliance only in ourselves and our own power, now we confess reliance on Christ alone. So, for our relationship before God, our confession of faith matters. It matters because our new confession identifies us as part of God’s family and with Christ, co-heirs to the kingdom. What could be more important?
Regarding the necessity of confession in our daily lives lived in community with one another, confession is also important. It is important because it identifies both those who are part of the family as well as those who are on the outside and need to be brought in. Our confessions of faith, when they are as they ought to be, simply reflect the truths of Scripture; truths that we rely on for life eternal. Think of the Apostle’s Creed. There, we confess that God is our Creator and our Sustainer, Christ is our Savior and that the Holy Spirit is our Faith-Giver and Comforter. This is our confession, and it flies in the face of those who confess that there is no creator, that they save themselves, and that they need to have faith in only themselves.
When we confess the Gospel, the truth of the Scriptures, and Christ for us, the world and those who are outside of Christ are extremely offended. We confess and preach Christ crucified for our salvation, and to the world, this is foolishness and a declaration of war. “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Yet, the foolishness that provokes also identifies. Identifies what you may ask? Identifies those who need to hear and keep hearing the Gospel of Christ. They need to keep hearing the confession that offends because only that confession can bring them to life, settle the war once and for all, and change their confession from that of an enemy of Christ to that of a child of God.
We confess to identify where we put our trust. Or rather, with whom we put our trust. He who has given us trust in what He has already accomplished for us is the same One we confess. We confess to identify ourselves as family and combatants. We confess to share the Good News and defend it. We confess because Scripture tells us we ought to. We confess because Christ comes with confession. Our salvation is a game-changing and lifesaving event, what else could we do? We must confess!