Last week, we took a look at one way that we confess, namely when we confess our sins. But confessing has another meaning, one that I believe is just as important. “Confessing” is also a way that we take our stand about what we believe as Christians.
Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
We won’t worry about that whole denial business today. I mean, it’s there, but I want to focus on the whole “acknowledging Jesus” business. Being a Christian is a public thing. I heard it put this way once: there’s no such thing as private faith. Either the privacy destroys the faith or the faith destroys the privacy.
But what is the content of our confession? What, precisely, are we to confess?
Well, the simplest confession and perhaps the earliest can be found tucked away in the book of 1 Corinthians. It’s three little words: “Jesus is Lord.” This may seem too little, but those three words would have been profoundly countercultural in a world where most people would confess that “Caesar is Lord.”
1 Corinthians also contains what might be another early confession:
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Since those early days, other statements of faith have been crafted for Christians to use as a part of their public confession. Three have stood as pillars for the majority of Christianity: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. These three, short (except for the last one) statements sum up what the Christian faith is all about.
While different groups of Christians have come up with additional confessions (here’s a handy page that has the confessions of my particular flavor of Christianity), most of us have taken our stand on those three and for good reason. They summarize what we believe, teach, and confess about God in a concise way.
Now I know that some people look askance at creeds. They say things like, “deeds, not creeds.” And I’m not denying that the way a Christian lives is a kind of creed to shows whether or not what we believe is put into action. But I still believe that creeds serve a necessary purpose.
For example, they connect us to and remind us of the rich history of the Church and the struggles that went before. When I confess in the Nicene Creed that I believe in Jesus Christ, who is “begotten, not made,” I can’t help but think of a certain presbyter who got things badly twisted. By remembering the long discussions and deliberations of the past, we can stand on more solid ground and not be fooled by resurgences of old heresies.
So if you haven’t connected with the creeds, I encourage you to do so. Check out what they have to say and then join us in taking your stand. Confess your faith boldly, publicly, and with the great cloud of witnesses surrounding you!