When thinking of “confessions,” one could go in several directions. I think of criminal confessions, where someone “fesses up” to some wrongdoing. In crime dramas, it’s the turning point; the cathartic “We got ‘im! Bring ‘im in!” moment. Sometimes, confessions are false, and the supposed criminal has been coerced into saying something untrue. It reminds me of then Cmdr. Jeremiah Denton who, after being shot down by the Vietnamese in 1965, was frequently tortured by his captors. The goal was, in one particular case, to get him to give a favorable accounting of the Vietnamese when independent reporters came to inquire about American prisoners. Denton “confessed” to the reporters that he was being well taken care of, but during the televised interview, he used morse code to blink out “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” with his eyelids.
One could also think of more positive things, like when someone confesses their love to another. I’ll always remember the socially awkward but wonderful first time I told my wife I loved her. Obviously, it worked out though, because she is indeed now my wife. Being open with someone who may or may not reciprocate is hard. But how will you know if they love you in return unless you confess it? When pondering confession, I also think of a duty-bound knight or soldier who confesses his allegiance to his master. He would rather die than be made out to be a fairweather servant and liar.
These examples can help us understand what the Scripture means when it talks about “confession.” Like when Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate,” (1 Tim. 6:12-13). Or like when Paul told the Romans, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). Biblical confession is several things. Specifically, it is a public declaration of our allegiance to Jesus the King. Built into it is a humble admittance that we need Him. It is an expression of love in the realization that He first loved us. It is a denial of the world and its façade of pleasure that is actually torture. In all those things sown together, we see the salvation that God has promised to all those who love Him. The person who honestly makes the good confession won’t turn back now. Just like when Jesus confessed to Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”