“Justified freely.” Romans 2:24
Finally the moment came in which you could make your confession. The moment came in which you could confess before God and his holy angels, before men, and before Satan, that you had turned to Jesus and that you now acknowledge that he is the Son of the living God. In a sense you could have made that confession even if there had been no church. You can testify of the hope that is in you and you can plead for the holy cause of your Lord and King at any time and place in which those with whom you associate are willing to listen. In fact, readier courage and more fervent zeal are needed in order to testify boldly and heroically for Jesus in the shop, in the office, in the journal, at school, or among your associates, than is needed to confess your Mediator in the midst of God’s people at church.
Your public confession in church differs from that in your daily experience. It cannot be said of your confession in the church that it represents an act of heroic courage. Everyone in church expects to see you rise with the other catechumens who desire the holy supper. All expect to hear you answer affirmatively to the questions that are directed to you. Your action before the congregation is not really a confession in the usual sense. It represents a joining of yourself with those who already confess. Is that not what the congregation of the Lord really represents? It is a group of confessors together with the children they hope to educate to a confession with them and to a confession after them. The congregation is a host of champions for Jesus, but a host whose ranks are always being depleted by death or delinquency, and to which new recruits must constantly be added. The congregation is like a plant. Some of the flowers of a plant are in full blossom; others are still enfolded in buds. When the blossoms wither and fall away, the buds burst into bloom in their stead. The buds belonged to the plant all the while, but they were not yet blooming. The baptized child is analagous to such a bud: it already belonged to the congregation, for it had been baptized. The bud bloomed. The baptized child made his confession.
The public confession before the congregation is less an act of heroic courage than a joining oneself with those whose duty it is to confess Jesus. It is that, and a promise on your part to confess him always, and always with equal loyalty and trust.
Whoever enlists for services in the army of a king must swear an oath binds him and makes loyalty obligatory. True, it requires courage to take that oath, for although it is made in peace, it must be kept in battle and sometimes at the sacrifice of life. Yet the moment the oath is taken provides no opportunity for one to display one’s courage. It means that on some other day—the morrow, perhaps—one must rush to the king’s defense when one hears the bugle call or sees the banner wave. Then one must rally to the defense with the others, and in perfect obedience to one’s oath, must be willing to sacrifice life and limb for the king.
Your public confession is analogous to that. It represents the occasion on which you swear allegiance to your king, the day on which you enlist for service under his banner, the moment in which you arm yourself with his holy armor. When you make your confession, you swear to be always loyal to him who called you.
In one sense therefore it is a public confession, for by it you assure your fellow believers that yours is the same faith as is theirs. But more particularly it represents a promise to confess throughout your life. It is in no sense a promise that has once and for all been completed. Unfortunately it has been that for too many. With a sigh of relief, these exclaimed after their public confession: “There! Now I have done with it.” But theirs was a false confession. The true confessor, on the contrary, exclaims: “There! Now I may begin.” He means that now he may begin to defend Jesus and may begin to put his fullest and best efforts unstintingly into the master’s service.
A confession such as that offsets the pride that is very imminent at such a time. Whoever supposes he has already attained exalts himself, but he who knows he has taken only the first step feels rather tremulous. It is the tremulous attitude of the soul that best becomes a young confessor. That does not mean that, half-dazed by dread at the immensity of his obligation, he ought to feel inclined to retreat from it. There is no need for remorseful tears at confession, and although it would be an untoward symptom not to be intensely stirred by the experience, yet there ought not to be an emotional display. We read of Jesus that he was often touched by experiences, but only once do we read of him that he wept. By a tremulous attitude of the soul, the, a flagrant emotional display is not meant. By it is meant the quiet, holy tremulousness that is engendered by one’s having a low opinion of himself and a high opinion of the mercy of God. It is engendered by the still, small voice that whispers to the soul, “I am not worthy to be called thy child. Who am I, Lord, that thou art willing so to anoint my soul with thy Holy Spirit? Yea, Lord, I am less than all these spiritual benefits that thou in thy mercy dost manifest to me.”
How different is that desirable attitude from the haughtiness that says, “Others oppose the Christ, but I do not. I will rally to Jesus’ defense, and so restore honor to his cause.” As though Jesus needed any man for that—Jesus, to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth!
Believe it wholly, confess it continually, and let it be your comfort on your deathbed that in yourself you are leprous and wanting altogether, but that in Christ you are justified before God and freed from all sin. In Christ you are so free that if you were to die in this moment, you would be found in eternity to have an immaculate purity like that of the angels. Satan could find no cause for charging uncleanness against you. You are justified and are justified freely.
Bring that confession to the congregation of believers, and begin to fight one identical warfare with them. They too have nothing of which to boast in themselves. Yes, they are being satisfied with a heavenly nourishment, but it is a milk and wine that is given them without money and without price. They too are justified, and they too are justified freely. Now that you come to make your confession, they praise God. They praise God because another bud has blossomed, because another baptized child has indeed found Jesus to be a Savior, and has therefore desired to remember Jesus’ death. None can boast of anything. All are freely justified. God’s is all the praise and honor.