Category: Confession

  Positive confession is the practice of saying aloud what you want to happen with the expectation that God will make it a reality. It’s popular among prosperity gospel adherents who claim that words have spiritual power and that, if we speak aloud the right words with the right faith, we can gain riches and health, bind Satan, and accomplish anything we want. To confess positively is to speak words that we believe or want to believe, thus making them reality. This is opposed to negative confession, which is to acknowledge hardships, poverty, and illness and thus (supposedly) accept them and refuse the ease, wealth, and health God has planned for us.

There are several things wrong with this philosophy. The most dangerous is the belief that words have a kind of spiritual, magical power that we can use to get what we want. The practice borrows not from biblical truths, but from a new age concept called the “law of attraction.” It teaches that “like attracts like”—a positive statement or thought will draw a positive reaction. Everything is imbued with God’s presence and power—not “God” as the omnipresent Creator, but “god” in a Hindu/pantheistic way. The net result is the idea that our words hold the power to force God to give us what we want—a heretical belief. Additionally, the results attributed to positive confession are powered by the faith of the individual. This leads to the old belief that illness and poverty are a type of punishment for sin (in this case, lack of faith). John 9:1-3 and the entire book of Job refute this soundly.

The second problem is that the prosperity gospel misinterprets the promises of God. “Confession” is agreeing with what God has said; “positive confession” is demanding human desires. People who push positive confession say that the practice is merely restating God’s promises as given in the Bible. But they don’t differentiate between universal promises God made to all His followers (e.g., Philippians 4:19) and personal promises made to individuals at a certain time for a particular purpose (e.g., Jeremiah 29:11). They also misinterpret the promises God does give us, refusing to accept that God’s plan for our lives may not match up with our own (Isaiah 55:9). A carefree, perfect life is the antithesis of what Jesus said the Christian life would look like—and the lives that His followers lived. Jesus didn’t promise prosperity; He promised hardship (Matthew 8:20). He didn’t promise that our every want would be fulfilled; He promised we’d have what we need (Philippians 4:19). He didn’t promise peace in a family; He promised that families would have problems as some chose to follow Him and some didn’t (Matthew 10:34-36). And He didn’t promise health; He promised to fulfill His plan for us and grace in the trials (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Another issue with positive confession is that, although the “confessions” are understood to refer to things in the future, many of the statements are simply lies. Certainly, verbally affirming one’s faith in God and deliverance by the sacrifice of Jesus is good. But proclaiming, “I always obey God,” or, “I am wealthy,” is deceptive and possibly against the very will of the God we are to cling to. Especially disturbing are the “confessions” about other people. God has given each of us the freedom to serve Him or rebel against Him in our individual ways; claiming otherwise is foolish.

Finally, the Bible is very clear that “negative confession” does not negate God’s blessings. The Psalms are filled with cries to God for deliverance, and Psalm 55:22 and 1 Peter 5:7 exhort us follow that example. Even Jesus went before the Heavenly Father with a clear eye on the situation and a request for aid (Matthew 26:39). The God of the Bible is not a cosmic Santa Claus (James 4:1-3). He is a loving Father who wants to be involved in His children’s lives—the good and the bad. It is when we humble ourselves and ask for help that He gives us either release from the circumstances or strength to get through them.

Does positive confession have any value? In a way. Those who are confident they can solve a problem are generally more relaxed and creative. An optimistic mood has been shown to improve health. And happy people often have enough emotional distance between themselves and others to pick up on subtle clues which could lead to successful personal and business transactions. In addition, consistently voicing one’s goals keeps those goals on the forefront; those who constantly think about getting more money will act accordingly.

The dangers of positive confession far outweigh the benefits. All of the advantages we’ve listed are psychological and somewhat physiological—not spiritual. The only spiritual benefit to be had is the fact that people who expect God to move are more likely to see God’s hand in situations. But words are not magic. Our role with our Heavenly Father is not to demand, but to ask for help and to trust. And to realize that our blessings are not dependent on the strength of our faith, but on His plan and His power.

  Romans 10:9-10 is a passage which is often used by many a well-meaning Christian in his/her endeavor to bring someone to a profession of faith in Christ. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

This passage is not to be understood to mean that one is brought to salvation by means of an audible profession. We know that salvation is by grace through the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), not by confession. Therefore, as with all Scripture, context is of critical importance if we are to understand this passage.

At the time of the writing of the book of Romans, as a nation, the Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah. For an individual to accept Christ and confess that He was the Messiah would typically result in persecution and ultimately death. At this time, for a Jew to embrace Christ and subsequently confess Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to come, was an indication of true salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. Outward professions of faith are rare when one’s life is at stake, and no more so than in the early church. The phrase “you will be saved,” is not intended to reveal a condition for salvation by public confession, but rather a definite fact that no one facing death would confess Christ as Messiah, unless indeed he/she was saved.

This is further backed by verse 10, wherein we read, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” The Greek can be rendered in view of an acknowledgment by confession in the attitude of thanksgiving. But why would an individual give thanks for something which he/she has not yet received? When we get to verse 13, we read that “…whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Verse 14, however, indicates that calling upon the Lord is the privilege given to those who are already redeemed: “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in?” Further, in verse 12, we read, “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek – for the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” Clearly, the phrase “richly blesses all who call on him” cannot be speaking of salvation, as those that were called were already saved by faith. Thus, it refers to the provisions enjoyed following salvation.

To conclude, Romans 10:9-10 is not establishing public confession as a prerequisite for salvation. Rather, it is asserting that when a Jew embraced Christ and subsequently confessed Him as Lord, knowing that persecution was sure to come, one could rest assured that individual was indeed saved. For us today, the passage is equally true. Those who are saved will confess Christ as Lord because He has already instilled faith in their hearts. As with baptism and all good works, public confession is not the means of salvation; it is the evidence of salvation.

The concept of confession of sin to a priest is nowhere taught in Scripture. First, the New Testament does not teach that there are to be priests in the New Covenant. Instead, the New Testament teaches that all believers are priests. First Peter 2:5-9 describes believers as a “holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood.” Revelation 1:6 and 5:10 both describe believers as “a kingdom of priests.” In the Old Covenant, the faithful had to approach God through the priests. The priests were mediators between the people and God. The priests offered sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. That is no longer necessary. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can now approach God’s throne with boldness (Hebrews 4:16). The temple veil tearing in two at Jesus’ death was symbolic of the dividing wall between God and humanity being destroyed. We can approach God directly, ourselves, without the use of a human mediator. Why? Because Jesus Christ is our great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15; 10:21) and the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5). The New Testament teaches that there are to be elders (1 Timothy 3), deacons (1 Timothy 3), bishops (Titus 1:6-9), and pastors (Ephesians 4:11) – but not priests.

When it comes to confession of sin, believers are told in 1 John 1:9 to confess their sins to God. God is faithful and just to forgive our sins as we confess them to Him. James 5:16 speaks of confessing our trespasses “to one another,” but this is not the same as confessing sins to a priest as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Priests / church leaders are nowhere mentioned in the context of James 5:16. Further, James 5:16 does not link forgiveness of sins with the confession of sins “to one another.”

The Roman Catholic Church bases their practice of confession to a priest primarily on Catholic tradition. Catholic do point to John 20:23, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” From this verse, Catholics claim that God gave the apostles the authority to forgive sins, and that authority was passed on to the successors of the apostles, i.e., the bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic Church. There are several problems with this interpretation. (1) John 20:23 nowhere mentions confession of sin. (2) John 20:23 nowhere promises, or even hints, that the authority to forgive sins would be passed on to the successors of the apostles. Jesus’ promise was specifically directed to the apostles. (3) The New Testament nowhere states that the apostles would even have successors to their apostolic authority. Similarly, Catholics point to Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 (binding and loosing) as evidence for the Catholic Church’s authority to forgive sins. The same three above points apply equally to these Scriptures.

Again, the concept of confession of sin to a priest is nowhere taught in Scripture. We are to confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9). As New Covenant believers, we do not need mediators between us and God. We can go to God directly because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:10-13

Sometimes we set ourselves up for defeat by letting adversity dictate our decisions. Christianity would’ve lost a great leader and teacher if the apostle Paul had stopped serving the Lord because of his difficulties. Paul endured a shipwreck, persecution, beatings, and poverty. Instead, Paul made a bold proclamation from prison. In Philippians chapter 4:13, Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Paul prepared himself to perform any service or face any trial for the Lord. His willingness was rooted in the belief that God would always be faithful. He could’ve regarded prior difficulties as a run of bad luck and chosen to give up. Instead, the apostle viewed his experiences as proof that the Father would provide what was required in any circumstance. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:12, he had learned to be content in every situation. He says God always met his physical, spiritual, and emotional needs at the right moment.
The apostle tackled each new challenge with the confidence that Christ would equip him to do the job well. Too often people ignore a new opportunity that feels unfamiliar. Never having tried it, they anticipate being unable to meet expectations. But the Lord’s call to a fresh area of service means He’s about to do good work through His child.
If a believer is willing to serve God in any capacity, he’ll make an impact for the kingdom. Remember, Paul’s proclamation is also ours. We can do all things through Christ, who’s our strength.