Question #13

What is confession before baptism?

Question: What is the church of Christ views on, the confession before baptism is: “God has pardoned me”? Please list scriptures if you belief is for or against.

Question: I am searching for the truth, a person of the Baptist faith told me that the confession before baptism is “God has pardoned me.” I have been studying with the church of Christ and I rebuke what they are teacing on this subject. The little knowledge I have learned so far (1 John 4:15) states “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him and he is God. Also Acts 8:36-37; Romans 10:9-10.

The Answer:

The confession to which you refer is most likely that of some denominations prior to administering baptism, “I believe that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned my sins.” While similar words are contained in scripture (Ephesians 4:32, K.J.V.), they are not used in conjunction with baptism. They are used to describe the Ephesian Christians’ position in Christ and put forward as a standard by which Christians are to be governed in their relationship with one another.

The purpose of confession of Christ is stated in Romans 10:10. “ For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” While it is true that the Christian confesses Christ all the days of his or her life, the confession to which reference is here made is “unto” salvation. The parallel in the passage is that one “believes unto righteousness.” Both belief and confession occupy the same position to righteousness and salvation. Righteousness and salvation both refer to the saved stated. Thus, both the belief and the confession referred to here precede salvation.

Since the confession here precedes (is “unto”) salvation, it cannot be the confession, “I believe that God for Christ sake has pardoned by sins.” This confession is the only confession that can be called for by those who believe that baptism is not essential to salvation. The only confession actually recorded in scripture is in Acts 8:35-37, K.J.V.). While it is true that many scholars classify v. 37 as an interpolation, not being contained in later and supposedly better manuscripts, it is also true that early Church Fathers quoted or referred to this verse. This includes Irenaeus (born 120-140 A.D.) and Cyprian (born about 200 A.D.). Thus, in the second and third centuries, long before the oldest existing manuscripts, the entire verse appears to have been in the codices of both the Greek and Latin churches.

However, even if it were not in the original text, it was undoubtedly interpolated based on some practice of the early church. The confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” is certainly the confession that would have been made. After all, confession is not a condition of salvation, per se. Baptism is only for the believer (Mark 16:16, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.). Confession is an expression of faith that qualifies one for baptism “unto” the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). That baptism is necessary for salvation is discussed at numerous other places on this web site.

This confession is known as the “good confession” based on 1 Timothy 6:13: I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed “the good confession” (Matthew 27:11; John 18:33-37. That confession was the acknowledgement that He was indeed the King of the Jews, i.e., the promised Messiah. It is that confession that we are called upon to make before our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)