Jesus makes one thing clear in Matthew 10:32-33. A man can either confess Jesus beforemen, or he can deny Jesus before men. Both the confession of Jesus and the denial of Jesus in this life have eternal consequences, as Jesus makes clear in the same verses: 32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” Jesus will be ashamed of the man who is ashamed of Him or His word when He returns to judge the living and the dead (Luke 9:26). The person who confesses Jesus and His word, Jesus confesses that man before the Father in heaven. That man has been given saving faith as a free gift, and Christ confesses to the Father that his sins are forgiven. True faith always confesses in this way, as Scripture says in Romans 10, “ 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
This is a reality that the Lutheran church ought to remember every year on June 25th when she commemorates the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. In the year 1530 the Holy Roman Empire had assembled for a meeting to discuss two chief problems: the threat of invasion from the Ottoman Turks, as well as the disagreements in religion between the Roman church and those who followed Martin Luther. In the end, a Confession was produced by Philip Melanchthon called the Augsburg Confession. All LCMS Pastors continue to swear that they will conduct their ministry in accordance with this Confession. The importance of this confession to the identity of the Lutheran church is difficult to overestimate. In many cases following this presentation, those congregations that followed its teachings were not called, “Lutheran,” but rather, “churches of the Augsburg Confession.” Furthermore, many of our older LCMS Congregations have the acronym: UAC (Unaltered Augsburg Confession) inscribed on their cornerstone.
What does this mean for the Lutheran church in our day? Is this merely an interesting piece of historical trivia? Absolutely not. The most salient historical detail from the presentation of this confession is that it was not presented by the theologians who wrote it. The brave men who boldly confessed were not pastors or professors. They were Lutheran laymen. They were princes and nobles who had no standing in the church, no formal theological education. They not only were bold enough to sign and present the confession as their own, risking the loss of their titles and lands, they offered their lives to the emperor. All of them following the presentation of the confession kneeled and offered their heads to the emperor. They confessed Jesus before men and were willing to lose their life rather than forsake this Christian faith they had learned. They didn’t need to be experts in every detail of Christian doctrine in order to confess Jesus. They simply recognized what God’s Word plainly taught, and had the boldness to let God be true even if everyone else is a liar.
We certainly have the same injunction from our Lord in our own day: “Whoever confesses Me before men,him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” And just as in the 16th century, many opportunities to boldly confess the Christian faith are given, not to pastors and professors, but to laypeople. We have come off the heels of what the American media and government have renamed, “Pride Month.” The world is not ashamed of its doctrine. It confesses it boldly to anyone who will listen. It is, “proud,” of its unrepentant sin and its failure to fear God. Many institutions which Christians once comfortably inhabited, including corporations, civic groups, and public schools, are complicit in the rejection of God’s created order. We are forced to interact with these and similar institutions in a different way than we are accustomed if we would confess Christ’s doctrine and teach it to our families. When faced with this difficulty, we have two options, as Jesus said. We can confess clearly what His word says, and courageously face backlash and consequences, or we can deny Him. We can lose courage, avoid conflict above all else, and attempt to preserve a status quo that has passed us by. The choice is clear. No matter what consequences we might face in this life, we dare not deny the Lord who bought us. Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. While the future is uncertain, let us pray that God would strengthen us by His grace, and open our lips that we might declare His praise. As we sing in Martin Franzmann’s hymn, “Thy Strong Word”,
“Give us lips to sing Thy glory, tongues Thy mercy to proclaim, throats that shout the hope that fills us, mouths to speak Thy holy name. Alleluia, alleluia! May the light which Thou dost send fill our songs with alleluias, alleluias without end!”