Saturday, January 18, 2014

Confession of faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 16:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the son of the living God.'" - Matthew 16:15,16

Peter's statement here is called a "confession" ("Peter confessed Jesus as both the promised Messiah and divine" - J. Lyle Story, notes on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1320).

Though in our everyday usage of the word we think of confession as admitting we are guilty of a crime or misdeed, its religious meaning is far richer. An Encyclopedia of the Bible* article on confession tells us these interesting things about a biblical confession:

"A Biblical confession … involves one or more of three elements: God is praised, or sin is acknowledged, or faith is declared."

It goes on to name eight ways in which a confession can be viewed:
1. Antithetically: "It is the believing 'Yes' which stands over against every unbelieving 'No,' the negation of denial" (e.g. Matthew 10:32).

2. Doxologically "… a testimony to God's goodness and mercy, an expression of thanksgiving for His deliverance or help, a celebration of unmerited faithfulness" (e.g. Romans 15:9, quoting Psalm 18:49).

3. Soteriologically - as it relates to our experience of sin and forgiveness (e.g. Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9).

4. Pneumatologically - "It is the Spirit who reveals Jesus Christ and produces faith in His Person and Work" (e.g. 1 John 4:2; 1 Corinthians 12:3).

5. Eschatologically - i.e. from the perspective of the future  (e.g. Matthew 7:23; 25:12).

6. Ecclesiologically - as in "the corporate and public attestation of the Christian community" (e.g. Hebrews 4:14; 10:23). This is probably where the confessions, statements of faith and creeds of church history would fit in.

7. Existentially - A confession is more than an affirmation in words; it must be backed up with one's life (e.g. Titus 1:16).

8. Therapeutically - As we confess our sins and beliefs we experience a form of therapy that leads to healing (e.g. James 5:16).

What does all this mean for you and me?

For one thing, we see that a confession can be as simple as Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah and divine, and as complex as some of the church creeds.

It's likely that each one of us has a confession of our own—perhaps unwritten but still a set of things we claim to believe and by which we seek to live.

Writing out a personal confession of faith, using the eight ways of viewing confession as a guideline, might be a good exercise.

What is your favourite confession or creed? (Is there a difference between the two? Yes. No.)

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the gospel which stands up under scrutiny from so many angles. Help me to live what I believe.

MORE: The Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter

Today the church celebrates the Confession of Saint Peter. The liturgy for the day begins with this collect:
"Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

*To access the "Confessions" article, type the reference  Matthew 15:16 in the search line of, click on "Show Resources," and in the text box that opens, scroll down to "Confession" under Encyclopedia of the Bible.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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