************ Sermon on 1 Timothy 6:12b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 10, 2005
1 Timothy 6:11-21
1 Timothy 6:12b
"The Good Confession"
Today we would probably call them Nick and Joe. Nick and Joe believed in Jesus but they were too scared, at first, to let anyone know this. They were secret disciples of Jesus. Nick wanted to talk with Jesus but he didn't dare to do this until it was night time – when no one could see him. Joe kept quiet about his faith in the Lord too. In fact, it took a death before these 2 men dared to be open about their faith. You can read about Nick and Joe in John 3 & 19. We know them as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
Nicodemus and Joseph were wrong when they kept silent about Jesus. In John 12 we can read the apostle's commentary about a secret faith in Jesus:
(Jn 12:42) Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue ...Nicodemus, Joseph, and other leaders were scared to publicly confess their faith in Jesus. John's final comment on them is devastating:
(Jn 12:43) for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.
How we praise God today that this is not the case with all those professing their faith today. Praise God that theirs is not a secret faith. Praise God that they have dared to confess their faith publicly. Praise God that, in the words of our text, they have made the "good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
I The Confession
A What does it mean to confess your faith? What is confession? What does the apostle have in mind in our text?
Let's first answer this question from a negative point-of-view by saying what confession is not. Confession is not a graduation ceremony. Many students can hardly wait to graduate from high school or college because then they are finished with studying, reading books, and writing exams. Many times, young people look at confession of faith as a graduation ceremony after the many long years of Church School and Catechism training. Actually, the Christian never graduates. There never comes a time when the Christian is finished with studying the Scriptures and learning from the doctrines of the church. The Bible pictures the Christian life as having continuous growth in the knowledge and instruction of the Lord. This means, those of you who confessed your faith this morning, that confession is not an end to your Bible Study; rather, it is just a beginning – a beginning to a lifetime of studying God's holy Word and the doctrines based upon that Word.
Confession is also not just one more hurdle that has to be overcome as we go through life. Sometimes baptized members want to confess their faith so they can be married in the church, have a baby baptized, take part in the Lord's Supper, or get the elders and parents off their back. Confession is not a hurdle. It is a joyful, meaningful sign that your faith is real, that it means something to you.
Confession is also not a rite for the perfect. If that was the case then none of us could ever confess our faith. In confessing your faith, you are not claiming to be perfect or even close to perfection. Rather, you are admitting – publicly – that you are a sinner who needs God's grace. Confession does not mean perfection. And, confessing your faith won't make it easier to live the Christian life either; in fact, you might have to struggle more and harder against sin than ever before. That's why, in the immediate context, Paul can tell us to "fight the good fight of the faith" (vs 12). He also talks of flight and pursuit (vs 11). He want us to realize that the Christian life is NOT like a walk in the park for those who confess their faith.
B What does it mean to confess your faith? Let's now answer this question from a positive point-of-view.
Confession is your Spirit-directed answer to God's grace. Confession is your Spirit-led response to God's amazing, wonderful, undeserved grace in Christ.
In confession you publicly let people know where you stand. You stake out what you believe, what you think is important, what you believe is worth living and dying for.
In confession, those who are covenant children respond to their Christian upbringing and publicly claim for themselves the promises of baptism. No wonder Christian parents take such a delight in the confession of their children.
C Paul tells us in our Scripture reading that Timothy made the good confession. What exactly did Timothy say? What was it that Timothy confessed? Paul answers this a little bit further on when he tells us that "Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession" (vs 13). Timothy confessed what Christ confessed. And what was it that Christ confessed before Pilate? We have to turn to the Gospels to answer this question, to find out the content of the good confession.
Jesus was dragged before the Sanhedrin and the high priest said to Him,
(Mt 26:63) "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."Pilate picked up on this and asked Him, "Are you the king of the Jews" (Mt 27:11). To both the Sanhedrin and to Pilate, Jesus replied, "Yes, it is as you say" (Mt 26:64; 27:11). And then He adds this:
(Mt 26:64) "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
What is the good confession? The first thing we notice is that it is about Jesus. Jesus lies at the very center of what we confess and what we believe. Jesus is central to our faith.
The second thing we notice about the good confession is that it concerns the person and work of Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. As I said a couple of weeks ago, the Old Testament Scriptures give us three different pictures of the Messiah. First, He is presented as a Man of Sorrows Who will save His people from their sins (Is 53). Second, He is presented as part of the triune Godhead: the Immanuel, the God with us, the Son of God, Almighty God (Is 7:14; Is 9:7). Third, He is presented as the almighty King Who will sit on the throne of David and rule forever (2 Sam 7:14; Is 9:6-7; Ps 2; Ps 89:26-27; Ps 110). In other words, in the good confession Jesus is confessed as the only Savior from sin, as the second person of the Trinity, and as the ruler of heaven and earth.
II The Good Confession
A To confess Christ – to confess Him as Savior, as God, as King – is called the "good" confession. Why is it good? What makes it good? This kind of confession is good because it takes hold of eternal life. This kind of confession, says Paul, put Timothy in possession of eternal life.
This is nothing new. We all have been taught that there is salvation, eternal life, only for those who know and confess Christ.
(Jn 3:16) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. To have eternal life it is necessary, vitally necessary, to believe in Jesus. Consider also the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:
(Mt 10:32-33 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (33) But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Again, the teaching of Scripture is clear: there is salvation only for those who publicly declare themselves for the Lord. Finally, listen to what Paul says to the church at Rome:
(Rom 10:9) ... 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. Again, confession and belief are necessary to put us in possession of salvation.
This morning, we have had 8 people confess Christ as Savior, God, and King. How we thank and praise the Lord for that. You have made the good confession. Your confession has put you in possession of the salvation that Christ has earned for you.
During the second world war in the Pacific, 3 young Christian men came to their chaplain the evening before the scheduled landing on one of the occupied islands. Everyone knew that the number of casualties would be very high. The chaplain was hardly prepared, however, for the purpose of their visit.
"Chaplain," one of them began, "we have come because we want you to pray with us. We know that tomorrow many will die in the battle and that casualties are going to be heavy. But we are not afraid. We know and confess Jesus Christ and are prepared for death. We also know that there are a lot of the men who are not prepared to die, and for whom death will mean judgment and not eternal life in Christ. We want to pray that if some must die, and if it please God, that our lives be taken. Pray that our lives may be taken so that others may live and have yet another opportunity to hear about and confess Jesus. Will you pray this with us?"
The next day their prayer was answered--all 3 of the young men lost their life in the battle. But they had made the good confession. So they were not afraid of death. And, theirs was the assurance, by grace, of life everlasting.
B Too many times we think of life everlasting as lying in the future. But do you hear what Paul says to Timothy? He says,
(1 Tim 6:12) Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession ...Paul uses the present tense. He says, "Take hold." He doesn't say, "You will take hold." In other words, eternal life is now; it is a present reality. You see, the moment we – by grace – confess our faith, eternal life enters our possession.
A Sunday School class was given a lesson on the rich man and poor Lazarus. The children were asked, "Who would you rather be--the rich man or poor Lazarus?" The idealists in the class said, "Lazarus"; the realists said, "the rich man." But one boy had the perfect combination: "Right now I want to be the rich man," he said, "but in heaven I want to be poor Lazarus."This Sunday School incident shows a misunderstanding that is far too common among the Lord's people. Like the little boy, many people believe that eternal life lies in the far distant future, that it is theirs only after they have passed through the valley of death. They figure that eternal life is connected with heaven, a place where everyone would like to end up.
It is true that in many places the apostle speaks of eternal life as a blessing which the faithful Christian reaps at the end (Rom 6:22; Gal 6:8). But here, in his first letter to Timothy, the apostle has a different outlook on eternity. Timothy, and all of God's children, are called to take hold of eternal life right now, today. And, they do so by confessing Christ right now, today.
C There are so many who don't make the good confession. Some just cannot bring themselves to believe in the Lord. The Gospel message does not grab them. So they, like the scribes and Pharisees, end up rejecting the Lord.
And, then, there are those who put off making the good confession. It is not that they have rejected Christ or salvation. They have merely neglected or ignored it, putting it on the back burner for a while. Some say they aren't ready to make such a commitment. Others say they want to live it up for a while before they are ready to settle down. And still others wrongly think they have to get their wayward lives under control before the Lord is willing to accept their confession.
Whatever the reason for this neglect, the response of Scripture is the same: "how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" Or, as another translation puts it (RSV): "how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation" (Heb 2:3). The fact is, there is no escape from the fires of hell and the damnation of sin if we, all our life, neglect, postpone, put off, a decision about Christ.
Dr. Martin, a pastor in Texas, had a friend George, who was a rich, unsaved lawyer. George had an accident and was dying in the hospital. Dr. Martin visited him, and pleaded with him to become a Christian. George raised his hand and whispered, "Ah, Martin, I am sorry, but it's too late, it's too late." Even then, at the end of his life, he put if off until it was too late.
When he died, Dr. Martin, with tears pouring down his cheeks, said, "The best friend I had in the world lived a Christless life. He died a Christless death. We put him in a Christless coffin. We had a Christless funeral. We buried him in a Christless grave. He will face a Christless judgment. He will sink into a Christless hell. All this because he kept putting it off."
We can say many wonderful things about God's covenant mercies, but they offer little comfort in the case of those adults who die without acknowledging Christ. Yes, God does love us; and, He did send His one and only Son to die on the cross for us. However, only those who believe in Christ, only those who acknowledge Christ, only those who make the good confession about Christ, are saved.
We rejoice with those who have stepped forward and have made the good confession before many witnesses. We rejoice that they have laid claim to eternal life.
How I pray that all of God's children would do this!
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