Biblical Doctrine, Plainly Stated

By William S. Plumer, 1875


I. The same word in the Greek Testament is translated both Confession and Profession. Both these words mean an avowal, an open declaration. To confess Christ is to avow friendship for him when it is considered dangerous to do so. To profess Christ is to avow the truth of his gospel and yield obedience to his precepts, whether men are pleased or displeased. Timothy "professed a good profession before many witnesses." "Christ Jesus before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession." 1 Tim. 6:12, 13. In the Greek we have the same word in both verses.

II. A profession of religion may be made in words. Thus the Ethiopian said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Acts 8:37. Or it may be made by deeds, as when Joseph of Arimathea begged the body of Jesus, and took it, and laid it in a new sepulcher. John 19:38-42. So Onesiphorus by noble acts professed his belief in Christianity, when he was not ashamed of Paul's chain, but diligently sought him, found him, and ministered to him. 2 Tim. 1:16-18.

Paul tells us of some, who "profess that they know God: but in works they deny him." The best profession is when both by words and deeds we own our Master and show our love to his cause. "All real Christians are professors, but all professors are not real Christians." Custom, conscience, education, vanity, novelty, lead many to a heartless profession. Study the case of Saul, Jehu, Herod, the stony-ground hearers, and the foolish virgins.

III. A good profession is:

1. Intelligent. A man must know what he affirms, and have a reason of the hope that is in him.

2. It must be sincere. Hypocrisy spoils everything. An insincere profession of love is very odious to any right-minded man. It must be infinitely odious to God.

3. It must be humble, not proud, not like those who, professing themselves wise, become fools.

4. It must be stable, not like that of some, who went back and walked no more with Him. John 6:66. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life." Rev. 2:10. Nor is this all.

5. A good profession must be made from love to Christ and his cause. It must flow from gratitude.

6. It must contain an unreserved surrender of soul and body, time and talents, to God. We must keep back no part of the price. We must give him all.

7. Such a profession is necessary; for "with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Romans 10:10.

IV. That it is a binding duty to profess Christ, and avow our love to him and his cause, is certain.

1. No man lights a candle, and puts it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it gives light unto all that are in the house. Let your light shine. Matt. 5:15, 16.

2. If we have found out a blessed secret, "the secret of the Lord," we ought to let others know what God has done for our souls. Psalm 66:16. The four leprous men, who found such abundance in the Syrian camp, rightly judged that they ought not to keep silence, when their brethren were perishing so near them. They were afraid some mischief would come upon them, and they were right. 2 Kings 7:9. Moreover,

3. Christ loved us openly, and why should we attempt to put him off with secret love? He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheek to them that plucked off the hair: he hid not his face from shame and spitting. Isaiah 50:6. Why should we study to avoid persecution by declining shame and reproach for Christ?

4. If all men should decline to profess love to Christ, he would soon have no known friends upon earth, and his church would become extinct. In the days of Elijah there were a hundred prophets, but they were hid away in a cave, and could do nothing publicly for God. And there were seven thousand men which had not bowed the knee to Baal; but, poor things, they were driven into silence. The power of their example was lost, except on a few who secretly knew their worth.

5. Then we have the command of God: "Come out from among them and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." 2 Cor. 6:17, 18. We are bound to hold forth the word of life, Phil. 2:16, and to hold fast our profession. Heb. 4:14.

V. The reasons why men do not profess love to Christ, and so espouse his cause, are such as these:

1. Some have no love to him; and they know that a profession of attachment to his cause would be sheer hypocrisy. And so it would. They have candor enough to say so, but they have not conscience enough to quit their sins and turn to God, and then make a true profession of love to him.

2. Some are restrained because they wish to indulge themselves in some course of conduct not consistent with a good profession. Herod was greatly affected with John's preaching, but there was one sin he would not give up.

3. Others do not profess love to Christ because in their case it would make them unpopular, or bring upon them some reproach; and they have no courage at all.

4. Yet others do not avow love to Christ because a profession of his name involves a confession of his divinity; and they claim to have doubts on that subject. But why should they doubt? "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" "Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God." "Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him, and he in God." 1 John 2:22; 4:2, 3, 15. "Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." 2 John 7. It is only ungodly men who deny the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Jude 4.

5. Some men, who have a work of grace begun in their hearts, have yet too weak faith to come out openly on the Lord's side. But where the heart is substantially right, there will surely be an increase of courage and an open avowal of love for Christ. See John 19:38-42. Those cases of Joseph and Nicodemus are very different from those mentioned in John 12:42, 43. The latter did not truly love the Lord. They were also very different from that man and woman mentioned in John 9:22. These were mere evasive triflers. But we must profess our love to Christ, however perilous it may seem to be. Christ commended the church in Philadelphia, which with its little strength still kept his word. Rev. 3:8.

VI. Well may saints be steadfast and intrepid in adhering to Christ Jesus because he is the High Priest of our profession. Heb. 3:1. "Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised." Heb. 10:23. We do not need, and we cannot have better support or encouragement than is thus given us through Jesus Christ.

VII. Let us also think of the exceedingly glorious reward laid up for those who sincerely and steadily avow their love to Christ's person and cause. It is expressed in such terms as these: "Whoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8. "He who overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." Rev. 3:5. Compare Heb. 2:11; 11:16.

VIII. But oh, the dreadful doom of those who are ashamed of Christ: "Whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 10:33; compare Mark 8:38; Luke 12:9. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us." 2 Tim. 2:12. Could words of greater terror be spoken! To be denied by Christ at the last interview with him and his saints, and to be cast out forever from the light of life--oh, horror of horrors!