CONFESSION AND RECOMPENSE

Scripture Reading: Lev. 6:1-7; Matt. 5:23-26

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD, and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” (Leviticus 6:1-7)

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:23-26)

I. A CONSCIENCE VOID OF OFFENSE

After we have believed in the Lord, we must build up a habit of confessing and recompensing. If we have offended anyone or have come short of anyone, we should learn to confess or to recompense. On the one hand, we have to confess to God, and on the other hand, we have to confess to and recompense man. If a man does not confess to God nor apologize or recompense man, his conscience will easily become hardened. Once the conscience becomes hardened, a serious and fundamental problem develops: It becomes difficult for God’s light to shine into a man. A person must build up a habit of confessing and making recompense so that he can maintain a sensitive and keen conscience before the Lord.

There was once a worker of the Lord who used to ask others, “When was the last time you confessed to someone?” If it has been a long time since a person’s last confession to another person, there has to be some problem with this person’s conscience. We often offend others. If a person has offended someone yet has no feeling about it, his conscience must be sick or abnormal. The length of time since your last confession is an indication of whether or not there is a problem between you and God. If the period of time is long, it proves that there is a lack of light in your spirit. If the time is short, that is, if you recently have made a confession to others, it proves that the feeling of your conscience is still sensitive. In order to live under God’s light, we need a sensitive conscience, and in order for our conscience to remain sensitive, we need to continually condemn sin as sin. We need to confess to God, and we also need to make confessions and recompenses to man.

If we have offended God and the offense has nothing to do with man, we do not need to confess to man. We should not overdo anything. If a brother or sister’s sins are unrelated to man, having only offended God, he or she only needs to confess to God; there is absolutely no need to confess to man. I hope that we will pay attention to this principle.

What kind of sins offend man? How should a person apologize to another person or recompense another person when he offends him or comes short in his dealings with him? In order to be clear about this, we need to carefully study two portions of Scriptures.

II. THE TRESPASS OFFERING IN LEVITICUS 6

There are two sides to the trespass offering: One is revealed in Leviticus 5 and the other in Leviticus 6. Chapter five tells us that we should confess to God and offer up sacrifices for forgiveness of our miscellaneous sins. Chapter six tells us that it is not enough to offer up a sacrifice to God if we have offended a person materially; we should also restore something to the offended party. Chapter six says that if we have offended anyone in material things, we should take care of the matter with men. Of course, we also need to confess to God and ask for His forgiveness. But just dealing with God is not enough. We cannot ask God to forgive us on behalf of the ones whom we have offended.

How should we take care of the matter from man’s side? Let us look at the trespass offering in Leviticus 6.

A. Some Sins That Are Trespasses against Man

Leviticus 6:2-7: ” If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the LORD,”—All sins are ultimately trespasses against Jehovah—”and lie unto his neighbour in that which was delivered him to keep, or in fellowship, or in a thing taken away by violence, or hath deceived his neighbour; Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest: And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” A person who has offended anyone or transgressed against anyone in material things has to settle it with men before he can be forgiven. If he does not settle it with men, he will not be forgiven.

There are six kinds of transgressions against man in these verses:

(1)Lying to one’s fellowman in regard to a deposit: This means to be entrusted with something and then to purposely withhold the good and costly portions while surrendering the inferior portions. This is lying, and it is a sin before God. We should not lie to others in regard to their deposit but rather guard it faithfully. God’s children should always guard faithfully the things that others have entrusted to them. If we cannot guard it, we should not accept such a deposit. Once we accept it, we should do our best to guard it. If anything happens to it through our unfaithfulness, we have trespassed against man.

(2)Lying to one’s fellowman in regard to a security: This means to deal falsely or to lie in business transactions or to profit through improper means or to usurp something that is not yours in trade. This is to sin before the Lord, and it should be dealt with in a strict way.

(3)Robbing a fellowman:  Although this may not happen among the saints, we still have to say something about it. No one may acquire anything by way of robbery. Anyone who tries to usurp the possessions of others by means of his status or power has committed a sin.

(4)Extorting from one’s fellowman: It is a sin to take advantage of anyone through the influence of one’s own position and power. In God’s eyes His children should never do such a thing. This kind of conduct must be dealt with.

(5)Finding what is lost and lying about it: New believers must pay special attention to this matter. Many people have lied about the things which others have lost. To turn something into nothing, to reduce much to little, or to exchange what is bad for what is good is the same as lying. Something is there, yet you say that nothing is there. There may be much, but you say that there is little. Something may be good, but you say that it is bad—all this is lying. Others have lost something, and you take advantage of them, extorting some gain and benefit out of them; this is sin. A Christian must not take possession of others’ belongings and make them his own. If you have picked up something by accident, you have to guard it well and return it to the owner. Never claim lost items as your own. It is wrong to keep lost articles; it is more wrong to usurp the possessions of others by illegal means. To turn other’s possessions into one’s own by any unrighteous means is wrong. A believer should not do anything that profits himself at the expense of others.

(6)Swearing falsely: It is a sin to swear falsely concerning any material thing. You know something, yet you say that you do not know. You have seen something, yet you say that you have not seen it. Something is there, yet you say that nothing is there. Anyone who swears falsely has sinned.

“….for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.”—this refers to transgressions against men in terms of material things. God’s children should learn and always remember this lesson—they should not make the possessions of others their own. The possessions of others belong to them. Do not make their possessions yours. Whoever swears falsely in any of the things mentioned above and transgresses against others has sinned.

Brothers and sisters, if there is any dishonesty in anything you do, if you have acquired anything at the expense of others, or if you have acquired anything by means of these six ways, you have sinned. You have to deal with these sins thoroughly.

B. How to Return

Our manner of life has to be righteous, and our conscience must be void of offense before God. God’s Word says, “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away…” (v. 4). The word return is very important. There are two aspects to the trespass offering. On the one hand, there is the need of propitiation before God. On the other hand, there is the need to “return” to man that which has been taken. Do not think that propitiation before God is sufficient. You must also return to man that which has been taken. If you do not return it, something is lacking. The trespass offering in Leviticus 5 deals with sins that do not involve material transgressions against people. Of course, there is no need to return anything in that case. But the sins spoken of in chapter six involve material loss, in which case one must return something. Propitiation through sacrifice was not enough. One still had to “return” that which was taken. This is why verse 4 says, “Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away….” Everything acquired through sinful means must be returned. One must return what was taken by robbery, what was gained through extortion, what was deposited with him, whatever has been found, and whatever has been falsely sworn. All of these things must be returned.

How does a person return these things? “…he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering” (v. 5). Here are three things that we need to take note of.

First, we have to make restitution in full. We are wrong if we do not make any restitution. We are equally wrong if our restitution is not made in full. No one should consider an apology as being sufficient. If the object in question remains in our house, it proves that we are still wrong; we have to return it in full.

Second, God wants us to not only return in full, but also to add one-fifth more when we make a recompense. Why must we add one-fifth? According to this principle, we have to return abundantly. If we have taken money or things from others, God wants us to add one-fifth to the full amount when we return it. God does not want His children to return the bare minimum. In printing books one has to leave margins at the top, bottom, left, and right of a page. Similarly, we should not be stingy in apologizing to people and returning what has been taken from them. We must be generous and liberal.

Some people do not add one-fifth to their recompense. In fact, they return much less than one-fifth of what was owed. They apologize by saying, “Although I offended you in this matter, I was not wrong in other matters. In other matters I did not offend you; rather, you offended me.” This is a settling of accounts, not a confession. If you want to confess, do not be that stingy. It is all right to apologize more than you need to, but do not apologize less. Why did you sin in the first place? Since you have to recompense now, be more generous. Do not take things away from others and then return only that much to them. You have to return generously.

God’s children should behave in a way that is worthy of their dignity. Even in the matter of confession, we should do it in a way that is worthy of our dignity. An apology that is in the way of settling accounts is not the kind of confession that God’s children should have. God’s children should confess their transgressions thoroughly and add one-fifth to the recompense. No one should be calculating and unwilling to make the smallest of sacrifices when confessing. If you are concerned about how much each party owes the other when you apologize, you are not behaving like a Christian. Some people say, “I was not angry at first, but your words made me angry. Since I have confessed my wrong already, it is your turn to confess your wrong.” This is altogether a matter of settling accounts; this is not a confession. If you are making a confession, you should go an extra mile. Be more generous in the matter of confession. Do not withhold anything in your confession; instead, try to be liberal in it.

Adding one-fifth to our confession or recompense reminds us that offending others is a losing proposition and that we should never do it again. When a new believer offends others, he should realize that he will suffer loss eventually, even though he may gain something temporarily. He took five-fifths, but he has to return six-fifths. It is easy to take something from someone. But when you return it, you have to not only return it in full but also add one-fifth.

Third, we should make our confession and recompense as soon as possible. Verse 5 says, “…he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.” If it is within our ability to return the object, or if the object in question is still in our hand, we should return it on the day we learn of this sin. It is easy for people to delay in this matter. But the more God’s children put off confession and recompense, the more their feeling will become dull. As soon as we receive the light, we have to act upon it. We have to return it that very day. Hopefully, our brothers and sisters will take a straight path from the day they become a Christian. We should never take advantage of others and never be unrighteous. The basic principle of the Christian life on earth is not to take advantage of others. Taking advantage of others in any way is wrong. We must not take advantage of others. Instead, we must be righteous from the very beginning.

We have to give back to others. But this is not all. We should not think that everything is settled after we have made our apology and recompense. The matter is not settled. “And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest.” (v. 6).  After we have confessed to and recompensed others, we still have to go to God for forgiveness. The trespass offering in chapter five deals with just God because no material loss is involved. But chapter six speaks of transgression against man. Therefore, one must deal with man first, before going to God to ask for forgiveness. Before a matter has been settled with man, one cannot go to God to ask for forgiveness. What happens once one has settled the matter with man and has asked for forgiveness before God? “And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.” (v. 7). This is what the Lord wants. Whoever has transgressed materially against man should try his best to make recompense. Then he can come before God and ask for forgiveness through the Lord’s blood.

We should not consider this as a trivial matter. Once we are careless, we take advantage of others and transgress against them. God’s children should remember this point and pay attention to it all their lives. In whatever matter they have transgressed against others, they should return these things to them and ask God for forgiveness.

III. THE TEACHING OF MATTHEW 5

Now let us turn to another portion—Matthew 5. This chapter is different from Leviticus 6, which speaks of transgressions against man just in terms of material things. Matthew 5 deals with more than just transgressions in material things.

Matthew 5:23-26 says, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” The farthings (one quarter of a penny) spoken of here do not refer to just physical farthings. They refer to the principle of coming up short in something.

The Lord says, ” Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee.” This specifically refers to disputes among God’s children and among the brothers. If you are offering a gift at the altar, that is, if you are offering something to God, and suddenly remember that your brother has something against you, this remembering is God’s leading. The Holy Spirit often gives you a necessary thought and reminds you of necessary things. When you remember something or are reminded of something, do not put the thought aside and think that it is merely a thought. As soon as you remember something, you should carefully deal with it.

If you remember that your brother has something against you, this means you have transgressed against him. Your transgression may or may not be in material things. Perhaps you have offended him by acting unrighteously towards him. The emphasis is not on material things but on that which sets others against you. A new believer should realize that if he offends a person and does not apologize and ask for forgiveness, he is finished as soon as the offended party mentions his name and sighs before God. Whatever he offers to God will not be accepted. Whatever he prays will be turned down. We should not allow any brother or sister to sigh before God because of us. Once he or she sighs, we are finished before God. If we have done something wrong or if we have offended or hurt someone, the offended party need not accuse us before God. All he has to say before God is, “Oh! So-and-so…” or, for that matter, he just needs to utter an “Oh” and whatever we offer to God will be rejected. All he has to do is sigh a little because of us before God. We must not give any brother or sister the reason or the ground to sigh before God because of us. If we give him or her a reason to sigh, we will lose all our spiritual prospects and all our gifts to God will be annulled.

If you are offering a gift at the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you or has any reason to sigh because of you, do not offer up your gift. If you want to offer to God, “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” God wants the gift, but you must first be reconciled to others. Those who are not reconciled to men will not be able to offer a gift to God. You must “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Do you see the proper way? You must first go and be reconciled to your brother. What does it mean to be reconciled to one’s brother? It means to remove the brother’s wrath. You may need to either apologize or recompense. However, the point is to satisfy your brother. It is not a matter of adding one-fifth or one-tenth; it is a matter of reconciliation. Reconciliation means satisfying the other’s demand.

When you have offended and transgressed against your brother, when he is disturbed and feels that you are unrighteous, and when you have caused him to sigh before God, your spiritual fellowship with God is interrupted; your spiritual prospects are gone. You may not have the slightest feeling that you are in darkness, and you may feel that you are all right, but the gift you offer at the altar has become void. You cannot ask anything of God. You cannot even give anything to God. You cannot offer anything to God, much less receive any answer from Him. You may have offered up everything on the altar, but God is not pleased with any of it. Therefore, when you come to God’s altar, you must first be reconciled to your brother. Whatever demands he has, you must try your best to satisfy him. Learn to satisfy the righteous requirement of God as well as the righteous requirement of your brother. You can offer your gift to God only after you have done this. This is quite serious.

We should not offend others easily. In particular, we must not offend a brother or a sister lightly. If we offend a brother or a sister, we immediately fall under God’s judgment, and it is not easy to be recovered. In verse 25 the Lord emphasized, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him;” Here is a brother who has suffered injustice at our hand; he is not at peace before God. The Lord’s words to us are in human terms. Our brother is like a plaintiff in a court of law. The expression while you are with him on the way is wonderful. Today we are all still on the way. Our brother has not died and neither have we. He is here, and we are here. He is on the way, and we are also on the way. We have to be well disposed quickly with him. It is very easy for us to not be here someday; it is very easy for us to not be on the way. It is also very easy for our brother to not be here and to not be on the way. No one knows who will go first. By then it will be too late to do anything. While he and we are still on the way, that is, while both parties are still here, there is the opportunity to speak to one another and apologize. We should be reconciled to each other quickly. The door of salvation will not be open forever. The same is true with the door of mutual confession among the brothers. Brothers have often regretted that they lost their opportunity to confess to each other; the offended party is no longer on the way. If we have any offense toward men, we should seize whatever opportunity we have to be reconciled to them quickly while we are both still on the way. We do not know whether or not others will be here tomorrow. We also do not know whether or not we ourselves will be here tomorrow. Therefore, we have to be well disposed with the brothers while we are still on the way. Once one party is no longer on the way, it is impossible to settle the matter.

We have to realize how serious this matter is! You cannot be nonchalant or careless about it. While there is still today, be well disposed with your brother quickly! If you know that a brother has a complaint against you, you have to deal with it. You must try your best to apologize lest there be no opportunity to reconcile later.

Following this, the Lord speaks again in human terms, saying, “…lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison….” We will not go into biblical interpretation concerning the paying of the last farthing. We are only pointing out the practice of paying the last farthing. We have to see that this matter must be resolved properly. If we do not resolve it properly, the case will not be settled. The Lord is not speaking of a future judgment or of being thrown into and being released from an actual prison. The Lord’s emphasis is not on these things. His concern is that we would be reconciled today, that we would pay every farthing today, not putting the matter off until later. We must do this while we are still on the way. We must not put off the matter today and hope that it will be resolved later. This is unwise, and it does not pay to leave the matter to the future.

God’s children should learn this lesson well. We must make recompense when recompense is due and confession when confession is due. We should make recompense again and again and apologize again and again. We should not allow a brother or sister to harbor any complaint against us. If our conscience is pure, and the wrong is clearly not on our side, we can be at peace. Otherwise, if there is any wrongdoing on our part, we must confess. We must be above reproach in our conduct. We should not always think that others are wrong and we are right. It is certainly wrong to ignore the complaints of others and to instead insist that we are right.

IV. A FEW PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Repentance Confession List

First, the scope of your confession should be as wide as the scope of your offense. You should do everything according to God’s Word and should not take the extreme way. Do not overdo anything. Once you overdo, you will come under Satan’s attack. If you offend many people, you must confess to many people. If you offend only one individual, you should confess only to that individual. To confess to an individual when you have offended many people is to under-confess. To confess to many people when you have offended only one individual is to overdo. The scope of confession depends on the scope of offense. The scope of testifying is another matter. Sometimes you have offended one individual, but because you want to testify to the brothers and sisters, you tell them about it. That is another matter altogether. As far as apology and confession is concerned, it should only be according to the scope of the offense. We should not go beyond that scope. We have to pay particular attention to this point.

Second, our confession must be thorough. We must not hide anything to save our “face” or our interest. There are, of course, times when we have to exercise due care in the way we confess; we have to take care of the interest and benefit of others. Perhaps we only should confess that we have offended others in a general way without going into detail. If we have difficulties in making decisions in complicated situations, it is best for us to fellowship with some experienced brothers and sisters so that they can help us do the right thing.

Third, there may be times when you are unable to make the necessary recompense. However, the ability to recompense and the desire to recompense are two different things. Some may not be able to recompense, but at least they should have the desire to recompense. If one is unable to make recompense immediately, he should tell the offended one, “I want to recompense you, but I cannot do it today. Please bear with me; I will do it as soon as possible.”

Fourth, the law in the Old Testament states that if the rightful recipient of one’s recompense has passed away and has left no relatives to accept the recompense, it should go to the priests who serve Jehovah (Num. 5:8). According to this principle, if the recipient of your recompense is no longer available, the recompense should go to his relatives. If he has no relatives, you should give it to the church. If you can make recompense to someone, you should give it to him or to his relatives. You cannot give it to the church for the sake of convenience. However, if someone wants to make confession but the offended party has passed away and there seems to be no opportunity to confess, he can confess the matter to the church according to this principle.

Fifth, after making confession you need to make sure that you are not condemned in your conscience. It is possible for one’s conscience to suffer repeated condemnation even after he has confessed. We must be clear that the Lord’s blood has cleansed our conscience. His death has given us a conscience that is void of offense before God and has enabled us to draw near to God. All these are facts. However, we must see that in order to be clean before man, we need to deal with many sins. We need to settle all offenses in material things as well as in other matters. But we should not allow Satan to condemn us excessively.

Sixth, confession is related to physical healing. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The result of confession is often God’s healing. Sickness often comes in when there are hindrances among God’s children. If we confess our sins one to another, our sickness will be healed.

Hopefully, the brothers and sisters will be thorough in the matter of confession and recompense. This is the way to maintain their purity. If anyone has transgressed against man, he should confess his sins to God on the one hand, and he must deal with the matter seriously with man on the other hand. Only then will his conscience remain bold. When the conscience is bold, a person can make considerable progress in his spiritual pursuit.

(Note – this lesson is probably one of the most important of all the lessons that we have posted in BORN AGAIN LESSONS.  It is a principle that has prevailed in every revival I have ever read about, from the revival of the Hebrides to those great revivals in America of Jonathan Edwards and Charles G. Finney.  I know Christians that have offended a friend or family member and their attitude is “we will leave it up go God in heaven one day.”  These people are totally wrong and that attitude causes the offended person to suffer and sigh daily  before  God.  Sadly enough, sometimes the one who offended will die suddenly and never have a chance to make things right.  I truly believe that if that is the case and a family member knows of the offense, that family member should act in behalf of the one who has gone on to Heaven and try as best they can to make things right before God and to the one or ones offended.  One of the biggest reasons why revival does not come in America or in other countries is because of the stubborn attitude of Christians that causes them to think that if they confess to God in private that they don’t need to confess to the offended party.  Little do they know that God cannot answer their prayers or bless them in this life until this matter is settled and it must be settled as soon as it can be done or there may not be another chance to settle the matter.  I pray that anyone reading this will look back at your life and try to remember if there is any person that is offended by something you have done or said, or by something you wrote or shared with another person that was then relayed back to the offended party.  Take care of it today and you will not regret it.  I will never forget a message that was preached by Dr. Jack Hyles while he was alive.  He said that at the end of our lives we will say one of two things,  either “Would God I had…” or “Thank God I did….”  Don’t let yourself come to the end of life saying, “Would God I had made things right with the offended party.”)

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.

CONFESSION WITH THE MOUTH

Scripture Reading: Rom. 10:10; Prov. 29:25; Matt. 10:32-33

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:10)

The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.  (Proverbs 29:25)

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.  (Matthew 10:32-33)

 

I. THE IMPORTANCE OF CONFESSING WITH THE MOUTH

Once a person has believed in the Lord, he should not keep the matter a secret; he has to confess the Lord with his mouth. Confessing the Lord with our mouth is a very important matter.

A. Opening the Mouth as Soon as One Believes

As soon as one believes in the Lord, he should confess the Lord before men. Suppose a person gives birth to a child. What would we think if the child could not speak by the age of one or two, or even three? Would we say only that he is slow in speech development? Is it possible for such a person to begin saying, “one, two, three, four,” at the age of thirty and then learn to say “daddy” and “mommy” at fifty years of age? No. If a person is dumb in his infancy, he probably will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot say “daddy” and “mommy” when he is young, he probably will not be able to say it for the rest of his life. Likewise, if a new believer does not confess the Lord immediately after he believes in the Lord, I am afraid he will be dumb for the rest of his life. If he cannot speak when he is young, he probably will not be able to speak when he grows up.

Some have been Christians for ten or even twenty years. Yet they remain dumb. This is because they did not open their mouth during the first and second week of their Christian life. They will continue to be dumb until they die. Confessing the Lord begins at the time a person believes. If you open your mouth the day you believe in the Lord, the way of confession will be opened to you. If a person is dumb in the first weeks, months, or year, he is likely to remain dumb for the rest of his life. Therefore, as soon as a person believes in the Lord, he should endeavor to speak to others about the Lord. Even if he finds it hard to speak and even if he dislikes speaking, he still must speak. He must speak to his relatives and friends. If he does not learn to speak openly, I am afraid he will be a dumb man before God for the rest of his life. We do not wish to see dumb believers. This is why we must learn to open our mouth from the very beginning. If a person fails to do this in the beginning, he will find it more difficult to do it later. Unless God grants special mercy or there is a revival, these ones will never open their mouth. It will take a great effort for them to open their mouth at a later date. Every new believer should seek the opportunity to confess the Lord before men. Such a confession is a great matter and reaps much profit.

B. Confession with the Mouth unto Salvation

Romans 10:10 says, ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” ” For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” This is something before God. “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This speaks of salvation before man. Whether or not you have believed is something before God; no one can see it. If you have sincerely believed, you are justified before God. However, if you only believe in your heart, but do not speak with your mouth, others will not recognize you as a saved person; they will still consider you an unbeliever. They will not see any difference between you and them. This is why the Bible strongly stresses the need to confess with the mouth in addition to believing in the heart. We must speak with our mouth.

Every new believer must look for opportunities to confess the Lord. Among our classmates, colleagues, friends, relatives, and all those who come into contact with us, as soon as an opportunity arises, we should say to them, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus.” The sooner we open our mouth, the better it is. Once we open our mouth, others will immediately know that we have believed in the Lord Jesus. In this way, we will be delivered from the company of unbelievers.

We have seen some people who hesitated in their acceptance of the Lord, but once they stood up and proclaimed, “I believe in Jesus,” they became sure. The worst thing that can happen to a Christian is for him to keep his mouth shut. Once he speaks, he takes a firm step forward and becomes secure. Many believers hesitate initially, but as soon as they say, “I believe,” they become certain.

C. Confession Saving Much Trouble

There is great profit when one confesses with his mouth after he has believed in his heart. It saves him much trouble in the future.

Suppose you do not open your mouth and say, “I have decided to follow the Lord Jesus; I am His now.” Others will still consider you the same as they. When they sin or indulge in lustful things, they will consider you to be one of them. In your heart you realize that you are a Christian and that it is wrong for you to be among them. But you cannot reject them, because you want to please them. You may come up with an excuse to turn them down. But the next time they will still drag you along, and you will have to think of another excuse to refuse them. You may come up with excuses once or twice, but the pressure will always come back. So why not put the signboard out from the very first day and confess that you are a believer? You only need to confess once or twice, and others will give up trying to persuade you.

If you do not confess with your mouth, that is, if you are a Christian secretly, you will experience much more difficulty than those who are Christians openly. Your temptation will be many times greater than the temptation of those who openly confess the Lord. You will be bound by human affections and past relationships. You cannot excuse yourself from others every time by saying that you have a headache or that you are busy. You cannot use excuses every time. This is why you must declare from the first day, “I have believed in the Lord Jesus. I have accepted Him.” Once you put out this signboard, your colleagues, classmates, relatives, and family will know the kind of person you are. This will save you much trouble. Otherwise, you will have all kinds of frustrations. If a person confesses the Lord with his mouth, he will be saved from much trouble.

D. Not Confessing the Lord
Leading to Accusations in the Conscience

There is another serious problem for a person who does not confess the Lord with his mouth. Many of the Lord’s believers experienced this when the Lord was on the earth.

The Lord Jesus was rejected by the Jews. They vehemently opposed and rejected Him. In John 9 the Jews made a decision: Whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ would be put out of the synagogue (v. 22). In chapter twelve the Bible says that many Jewish rulers believed in the Lord Jesus secretly, but they dared not confess Him because they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue (v. 42). Do you think that these people had peace in their hearts? Perhaps they felt uneasy about confessing the Lord, but they felt even more uneasy about not confessing the Lord. What kind of place was the synagogue? It was a place where people opposed the Lord Jesus. They plotted, conspired, and discussed plans to trap the Lord there. Such were the dark things that went on in the synagogue. What should a genuine believer do among such people? How much strength would he need to keep his mouth shut? Under such circumstances it would be difficult for anyone to confess the Lord with his mouth, but it would be even harder for him to not confess the Lord with his mouth.

The Jewish synagogue is a picture of the world’s opposition to the Lord. The world always criticizes the Lord Jesus. It always considers Jesus of Nazareth a problem. It has all kinds of things to say against our Lord. In a place like this, can you listen to the people and pretend to be like one of them? To pretend is painful; to pretend is also difficult. You have to muster enough strength to control and repress yourself before you can pretend. Under such circumstances, is it not true that something within you will want to cry out, “This man is the Son of God; I believe in Him”? Is there not something within you that wants to proclaim, “This man is my Savior, and I have already believed in Him,” or, “This man can deliver me from my sins. You may not believe in Him, but I do”? Is there not something within you that wants to make such a declaration?

Are you going to force yourself to be quiet just because you want man’s respect and position? It seems to me it would have been easier for the Jewish rulers in John 12 to simply be put out of the synagogue. They would have felt much better if they had confessed the Lord. If you are a false believer, it probably will make no difference whether or not you confess. But as a genuine believer, you will surely offend your conscience if you pretend and sympathize with the Lord’s opposers. When others oppose the Lord, you have no peace in your heart, yet you must force yourself to say, “What you are saying is interesting.” Is this not the most painful thing to do as a human being?

There is nothing more painful than not confessing the Lord. The greatest suffering is to refuse to confess the Lord before men. I would not want to trade places with those rulers. Their suffering was too great! If you are not a believer, there is nothing to say. But if you have believed, the easier and more joyful and happy thing to do is come out of the synagogue. You may feel that there are many obstacles, but past experience indicates that the obstacles will be greater and your heart will suffer more if you do not go this way.

Suppose you hear someone maliciously slander your parents, saying this and that about them. Suppose that you try to sit still and listen to them or, worse still, pretend to sympathize with them. If you do this, I would wonder what kind of a person you were. Our Lord has given His life to save us. If we do not say something for the very Lord whom we worship and serve, how much more timid are we? We must be bold to stand up and proclaim for the Lord, “I belong to Him!”

II. COMMON MISTAKES

A. Replacing Confession with Good Behavior

Some new believers are influenced by traditional teachings. They think that having good behavior is the most important thing for a Christian and that confession with the mouth is not that crucial. They think that a change in what one says is not important, but that a change in what one does is important. We must correct this wrong concept. We are not saying that it is not necessary to change our conduct. If one’s conduct is not changed, it is useless to confess with the mouth. But changing what one does without confessing with one’s mouth is equally futile. A change in conduct can never take the place of confession with the mouth. After one’s conduct is changed, his mouth still has to confess.

Every new believer must seize the earliest opportunity to tell others about his faith in the Lord Jesus. If you do not confess with your mouth, others will make many conjectures about you. They will try to explain your behavior with speculation. They will say all kinds of things about you, but they will not touch the Lord Jesus. Therefore, you must tell them the reason for the change in your conduct. No good conduct can take the place of verbal confession. It is necessary to have good conduct, but it is equally necessary to confess with the mouth. You must tell others, “Jesus is my Lord; I want to serve Him.” No matter how good your conduct is, these words must come out of your mouth.

We have heard people say that if they have good outward conduct, there is no need for them to say anything with their mouth. Please remember that no one will bother to criticize those who say this if they fail slightly in their personal conduct. But if a man stands up to proclaim that he is a Christian, others will immediately criticize and rebuke him when there is any slip in his conduct. Hence, those who say that good conduct is enough and that there is no need to confess with the mouth are in reality giving themselves an excuse to fail in their conduct. They are leaving a back door for themselves to escape from the judgment of others. Never believe that just a change in conduct is sufficient. Confession with the mouth is needed; in fact, it is absolutely indispensable.

B. Being Afraid of Failing to Persevere to the End

Some people think, “If I confess with my mouth and then fail to persevere in my Christian conviction, will this not become a joke to others? Suppose I can no longer make it as a Christian after three or five years, what should I do then? It is better for me not to say anything now. Let me wait for several years, until I find out whether or not I can make it.” We can tell such ones that if they do not confess because they are afraid of stumbling or failing, they will surely fail. They have already opened a back door and are trying to avoid the front door. They have already made preparations to back out of their own confession. They want to wait to have assurance before they confess. We are sure that such ones will fail. It is better to stand up and say, “I am for the Lord.” If you close the back door first, it will become much harder for you to back out or backslide later. Consequently, you will have a much better chance of going forward than of sliding backward. In fact, this is the only possible way for you to go forward.

If you want to wait until you have good behavior before you confess, your mouth will never open up. You will always be dumb. Even after you have good conduct, you will still be dumb. If you do not open your mouth at the beginning, it will be much harder to open your mouth later. If you open your mouth, the chance of having good conduct will be greater. If you want to wait until your behavior is good before you confess, you will lose both your chance of opening your mouth as well as your chance of having good behavior; both will be lost, and you will fail in both.

One assuring thought is that God is not only the God who redeems us but also the God who preserves us. What should we liken redemption to? Redemption is like buying something. What then is preservation? Preservation is like putting the purchased object in one’s own hand. How many people in this world buy things with the view of throwing them away? When we buy a watch, we want to use it for five or ten years; no one buys a watch with the view of throwing it away. God is saving people everywhere. He does not save them and then throw them away. He wants to preserve what He has saved. Since God has saved us, He will preserve us. Since God has redeemed us, He will preserve us until that day. God loves us so much that He was willing to forsake His Son to redeem us. If He had no intention of preserving us, He would not have paid such a great price. It is God’s purpose as well as His plan to preserve us. Do not be afraid to stand up and say, “I believe in the Lord.” You may say, “What happens if I fail in a few days?” Do not worry about this; God will be responsible for it. It is better for you to stand up and say, “I belong to God.” Commit yourself to God. God knows that you need support, comfort, and protection. We have the assurance to say that God preserves man’s salvation. This preservation makes redemption meaningful.

C. Fear of Men

Some people dare not confess because they are afraid of men. Many people can honestly say that they have no other reservation in their heart; they are willing to stand up and confess, but when they see the faces of others, they become afraid. When they look at their parents’ faces or their friends’ faces, they feel too shy to speak up. This is where many people are stumbled; they are afraid of men and do not have any boldness to open their mouth. Some people are naturally timid; they are timid not only in confessing the Lord but also in other things. If you want them to tell others about their faith, you are asking them for their life. They simply dare not open their mouth.

However, this kind of person needs to hear what God has to say. Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man bringeth a snare.” If you are afraid when you see someone, you will fall into a “snare.” As soon as you become afraid, you fall into a snare. Your fear becomes your snare. Whenever your heart is afraid of men, you are creating a snare for yourself. Once you are afraid, you fall into a snare. This snare is created by your own fear. Actually, the person you fear may be very willing to listen to you. Even if he is not inclined to listen, he may not be as fearsome as you think.

There is a story about two persons who were colleagues. One was a believer and the other was not. The one who believed was very timid; the one who did not believe was also very timid. The timid believer did not dare tell his colleague that he was saved. The one who did not believe was puzzled by the great changes that were happening to his colleague. His colleague used to have a quick temper but had now changed. He dared not ask his colleague the reason. The two of them shared a table and sat face-to-face every day. One was too timid to speak, and the other was too timid to ask. Every day they just looked at each other. One was afraid to speak, and the other was afraid to ask. One day the believer could not hold back any longer. After praying about it, he went to the other one and shook his hand tightly and said, “I am a very timid person. For at least three months I have been struggling to tell you something. Now I am going to tell you. I have believed in Jesus.” After saying these words, his face turned pale. The other one said, “I too have waited for three months. I wanted to ask why you have become so different, but I was too afraid to ask.” The believer mustered enough courage to open his mouth. From that time on, the opportunity opened up, and he was able to bring his friend to the Lord.

Those who are fearful of men will fall into a snare. Please remember that while you are afraid of others, others may be afraid of you too. We must never have a fear of men. We who follow God should not fear men. If you have a fear of men, you cannot be a good Christian and you cannot serve God. A Christian must be bold to speak to his relatives and friends. He must be bold to confess the Lord both in private and in public. We must take this way from the beginning.

D. Being Shy

Some people are shy. They feel that it is a shameful thing to be a Christian. It is true that this kind of shame may exist when we face unbelievers. If you tell others that you are engaged in technical research, they will congratulate you for having a good future. If you say that you are studying a certain philosophy, others will also say that you are a thoughtful person. You are not ashamed to talk about doing many things. But if you say that you are a Christian, many will say that you are too simple-minded or not intellectual enough. They will not esteem you highly. You are not ashamed to talk about other things, but as soon as you confess your Christian faith, you feel ashamed within. It is unavoidable for a new believer to feel shameful when he opens his mouth to confess his faith. However, we must overcome this feeling. It is true that the world feels shameful about someone becoming a Christian, but we must overcome this feeling.

How can we overcome this feeling of shame? We must deal with it from two aspects:

On the one hand, we have to realize that when the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, He bore our sins as well as our shame. When our Lord bore our sins, He suffered great humiliation. Today, in the eyes of God, it is only proper that we suffer humiliation from men. The humiliation we suffer before man can never be compared with the humiliation our Lord suffered on the cross for us. Therefore, we should not be surprised at humiliation. We should know that we belong to the Lord.

On the other hand, there is a good hymn which says, “Our shyness is like the early morning sky disowning the sun! But the Lord radiates the divine light which illuminates our consciences which are as dark as the night.” Since the Lord has been gracious to us and has redeemed us, being ashamed of confessing Him is like the early morning sky being ashamed of the illumination of the sun. Today the Lord has graced us. He has redeemed us and preserved us. He will even bring us to the heavens. Yet we consider it a shame to confess Him! If that is a shame, then all the grace we have received should also be considered a shame to us, and we should deny it all! The Lord has done so much for us, and yet we feel ashamed of confessing Him! How can this be?

We should feel shameful for such things as carousing, drunkenness, unrestrained dissipation, works of darkness, sinning, and evil works. The Lord has delivered us from all these. We should feel glorious. How can we have a sense of shame? It is not shameful for us to confess the Lord; it is glorious and joyous for us to confess Him! We are those who will never perish, who will never be condemned or judged by God, and who will never have to depart from the glorious face of God. We are those who follow the Lamb and who will always be with Him (Rev. 14:4). It is altogether wrong for others to plant the seed of shame in us. We should stand up boldly and say that we belong to God. We should rejoice and glory in Him.

By nature Peter was a strong-willed person. He wanted to distinguish himself among the disciples and to be ahead of others in everything. But one day he denied the Lord and became like a little mouse. When he was questioned, he was afraid. Humanly speaking, Peter was a “hero” and a born leader among the disciples. Yet he trembled even before others tried to take his life. He trembled and swore when all that was said to him was, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” This was indeed too poor. All those who refuse to confess the Lord are poor. Peter was most shameful; it was a shame for him to deny the Lord (Matt. 26:69-75).

All those who are too shy to open their mouths are full of shame. The really noble ones are the ones who confess their allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth, even at the point of being burned at the stake or thrown into the sea. They may be beaten, burned alive, or thrown into the lions’ den, but they still proclaim, “I belong to Jesus the Nazarene.” This is the most glorious thing in the whole world. The most shameful ones are those who are ashamed to confess the Lord. This kind of people are useless. They will even loathe themselves and be ashamed of themselves! The most shameful thing is for a person to despise himself and be ashamed of what he has.

Therefore, we should not have any fear or shame. All those who learn to follow the Lord should learn to confess Him boldly before man. If light is shameful and darkness glorious, if holiness is shameful and sin glorious, if spirituality is shameful and carnality glorious, and if following the Lord is shameful and following man glorious, then we would rather choose shame. We would rather suffer humiliation with Christ as Moses did, which humiliation is far better than the glories of men (“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.”  Heb. 11:26).

E. Love of Man’s Glory

Why did the rulers in John 12 not confess the Lord? They did not confess the Lord because they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God. Many people dare not confess because they want both; they want Christ, and they also want the synagogue. They want Christ; this is why they believe. But they also want the synagogue; this is why they will not confess Him. If a person wants both, he will not be absolute in either.

If you want to serve the Lord, you must make a choice between the Lord and the synagogue. Otherwise, you can never be a good Christian. You must make a choice between the Lord and man. The rulers were afraid of losing men’s favor. They were afraid that if they confessed the Lord they would be put out of the synagogue. But a person who chooses the Lord in an absolute way will not be afraid of being put out of the synagogue.

If people do not persecute you after you have believed in the Lord, you should say, “Lord, I thank You.” If people persecute you after you have confessed the Lord with your mouth, you should also say, “Lord, I thank You.” What is so strange about this? We cannot be like those rulers who, for the sake of their love for the synagogue, refused to confess their faith in the Lord Jesus. If everyone in the church had been like them, there would be no church on earth today. If Peter had returned home and remained silent after he believed in the Lord, if Paul, Luke, Darby, and the rest had remained silent after they believed, and if everyone in the church had remained silent and dared not confess the Lord, their troubles definitely would have been less, but there would be no church on earth today!

One characteristic of the church is that it dares to believe in the Lord. Another characteristic is that it dares to confess its faith in Him. To be saved is not just to believe in the Lord Jesus; it is to believe and to confess that one is a believer. The confession is important. Christianity is not only manifested in one’s conduct but also in one’s mouth. The mouth must confess. One must confess, “I am a Christian.” It is not enough for a Christian to just have good conduct; he must also confess with his mouth. If you take away the mouth, there will be no Christianity. The Scripture is very clear. The heart believes unto righteousness and the mouth confesses unto salvation. Christianity is believing in the heart and confessing with the mouth.

III. CONFESSING THE LORD
AND THE LORD’S CONFESSION

The Lord said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32). Thank the Lord that if we confess the Lord today, on that day He will also confess us. The Lord also said, “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (v. 33). “But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9). What a great contrast! All we have to do is confess that this excellent One, this chiefest among ten thousand, is the Son of God. He will then confess us before the heavenly Father and the angels of God. If you think it is difficult to confess such a Lord before men, the Lord will find it difficult to confess such a person as you when He descends in the glory of the Father. Today we must not shrink back from confessing the Lord through fear of men (“I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;”

Isa. 51:12). If today we find it difficult to confess Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, then on that day, when our Lord comes back, He will find it difficult to confess us before His Father and all the glorious angels. What a serious thing this is!

In reality, it is not difficult for us to confess the Lord. It is especially easy when we compare our confession with His confession of us. It is difficult for Him to confess us because we are prodigal sons who have come home, and there is nothing good in us. Since He will confess us in the future, let us also confess Him well before men today.

May all the newly-saved brothers and sisters be bold to confess the Lord from the beginning. We should never try to be Christians in secret.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  The illustration in the first lesson was created by me after a study of the Greek word “eis” which means “into.”  David Williams – site Admin.

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