The Good Confession
Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6.12
In his first epistle to Timothy, the apostle Paul admonished Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” He then reminded Timothy that he was called for this very reason. He mentioned that Timothy made a profession or confession to that end “in the sight of many witnesses.” It is significant that Paul used the past tense (“didst confess”). Whatever this confession was which Timothy made, it was done in the past. Let us consider what this confession was, and when it was made.
Paul connects this “good confession” with the “good fight of faith.” Then he states that Timothy was “called” to fight this “good fight.” Timothy made the “good confession” when he responded to the gospel call (cf. 1 Corinthians 4.15; see also Romans 10.10; 2 Corinthians 9.13; 1 Timothy 6.13).
While this “good confession” is to be upheld, there is an initial confession to be made. From Hebrews 3.1, we know that this is a confession about Jesus rather than about ourselves.
Most all denominational preachers tell sinners to confess their sins. A text often cited in support of confession of sins is Romans 10.10,13: “For with the heart man believers unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This mistake made in citing this text is a misuse of who is being addressed in this context. The epistle was written to Christians, not sinners (see Romans 1.7). The confession that is to be made is clear from the text, for in v. 9, we read, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
Another text that is cited for support of confession of sins is 1 John 1.9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Again, this passage is written to Christians, not sinners (cf. 1 John 2.1,18,28; 3.1,18; 4.1,7,13-21). Every New Testament epistle was written to those who already had “called upon the name of the Lord.”
The “good confession” about Jesus is initially made by an alien sinner. It is found throughout the book of Acts. It was never an admission that one is a sinner. The first time we find this “good confession” being made was by those Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Notice the example of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.26-40. His confession is clear. The eunuch (a sinner) wanted to be immersed in water. Philip told him that he had to confess something about Jesus. His confession was the same as the Jews’ confession on the day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2.36 with Acts 8.37).
This confession that the Jews and the eunuch made about Jesus could not be confessed prior to Jesus’ being raised from the dead, for Jesus was neither Lord nor Christ prior to his resurrection. This is why those examples of sinners being saved prior to Jesus’ resurrection are not applicable today. While on earth, Jesus spoke forgiveness to many:
- The crippled man (Luke 5.16-24) — “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee” (v. 20).
- The sinner woman who anointed his feet (Luke 7.36-50) — “Thy sins are forgiven” (v. 48).
- The thief on the cross (Luke 23.43) — “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
In all of these cases, forgiveness was merely spoken. These people, as sinners, were healed of physical infirmities, and had their sins spoken away. But these instances were prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
What about now? Is this how people are saved today? Had God’s eternal purpose been accomplished before Jesus shed his blood? None of the three individuals above could believe and confess what Paul stated in Romans 10.9-10, because Jesus had not even been put to death at this time, much less raised from the dead.
We cannot look to any example prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our example of how to be saved today. A sinner must confess Jesus as Lord and Christ, possessing all authority. The commands that Jesus meant for those who desire his saving blood to be applied to their sins are the same commands that he gave to the apostles shortly before his ascension. They are recorded in Matthew 28.18-20, Mark 16.15-16, and Luke 24.44-47. It was these commands that the apostle Paul was referring to when he mentioned a “form of doctrine” that must be obeyed by the sinner to reach Christ’s blood now that it has been shed (cf. Romans 6.17-18). Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 reflects this. “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Acts 2.32). “God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2.36).
Neither of these things could be believed or confessed of Jesus by the sinner woman, the crippled man, or the man on the cross. In each recorded case of conversion, following belief, repentance, and confession of faith in Jesus, each sinner was commanded to be baptized in water for remission.