Biblical Confession

A statement on Biblical versus Positive Confession.

The Bible says, “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” (Romans 10:9). It also says “confess your sins to each other” (James 5:16). But does it tell us to practice ‘positive confession’ – the belief that we should confess all will be well, that we will be healthy, rich and successful? The answer is no, it does not!
Neither Jesus nor Paul practiced ‘positive confession.’ They confessed both positive and negative things on numerous occasions. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mt 26:38). This is a negative confession. Did this negative statement bring about his horrible death? No, it was his Father’s will that he die on the cross.
Contrary to the practice of ‘positive confession,’ Paul was quite outspoken about his weaknesses. In fact he preferred to speak about them more than his strengths. He said, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
When Paul was in Caesarea a prophet named Agabus took Paul’s belt and tying his own hands and feet with it he said, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the gentiles” (Ac 21:10-14). When Paul’s friends heard this they tried to stop him going to Jerusalem, but Paul said. “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die…for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Now I know many people today who believe in positive confession, and most would have rebuked Agabus for his negative statement. They would have seen it as a curse, and they would have said, “I don’t receive that Agabus! God does not desire that his children suffer!” But believers in Paul’s day were different; they saw it as an honour to suffer for Christ. In fact Hebrews 11:35 tells us that some who were tortured for Christ refused to be released ‘so that they might gain a better resurrection.’ They believed suffering now meant greater rewards in the next life. How shallow a gospel of comfort and wealth seems in comparison to the message that Jesus and Paul taught. The early church was not scared to receive negative things because they believed hard times helped to build their character, and they were not scared to confess negative things because it was all a part of being humble before God and one another.
Think of it; a forgiven sinner may need to confess he is righteous; but a self-righteous believer needs to confess he is a sinner. A believer with a low self-esteem may need to confess he is a child of the King, but a proud believer needs to confess he is nothing. A believing slave in Paul’s day needed to confess he was free, but a believing master needed to confess he was a slave. The poor in Christ need to confess they are rich, but if rich believers only have money, then they need to confess they are poor. The negative is needed for our health just as much as the positive is. New Testament believers saw this and used both positive and negative confession as needed. The ‘Positive Only’ gospel is not Biblical; it is a human ideology that has been imposed on scripture in some Christian communities. This ideology has led its followers to see things in Bible verses that are not there. Let take a look at three well known ones:-
Life and death is in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). The full verse in the NIV says “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Christians who believe in positive confession often quote this verse and similar ones to support their theory that you ‘have what you say’ – they believe if you say positive things they will happen, and if you say negative things they will also happen. A word of caution is needed here. This verse does not teach that our words have supernatural power; it teaches that our words have psychological power. Only God’s words have supernatural power. This verse is saying that our words form our thinking, and our thinking affects our behaviour for better or worse.  James 3:3-5 says the same thing another way, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.” So if you keep saying “I am bad at languages” you may never attempt to learn another language – your words form your thinking and your thinking stops you progressing. This is not supernatural, it’s psychological, and it takes time and habit for it to have an effect. We really need to reject the superstition that claims you will get sick if you say “I think I’m catching a cold.” That is not what this verse is claiming.
By his stripes we are healed (1 Peter 2:24-25). This verse and its context in the NIV reads like this, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.Many Christians who believe in positive confession quote this verse to ‘claim’ physical healing. But it has nothing to do with physical healing. Look at the context. What is the result of the healing? The result is that we no longer go astray; we follow the Shepherd of our souls. This is healing of the heart and soul – it’s spiritual and not physical. The verse is basically saying ‘you have a new heart; you are born again by the suffering that Jesus went through at the cross.’ The past tense ‘have been healed’ isn’t saying that sick believers are already physically healed; it’s simple: Peter is reminding believers, ‘You have been born again; your hearts are healed.’ We must remember that physical healing isn’t something that happens automatically by us standing on a Bible verse, it is a gift of the Holy Spirit that comes in his time and his way. Paul said, “To one there is given… gifts of healing…All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Co 12:8-11).
He became poor so you might become rich (2Co 8:9). The full NIV text for this verse says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Many Christians who believe in positive confession also believe that God wants all Christians to be materially rich, and they use this verse and similar ones to make this claim. But this verse has nothing to do with material richness; it is talking about positional richness, and there is a big difference between the two. Jesus left his position of rule in heaven to become a servant on earth so that we might be raised up to rule with him. Philippians puts it like this, “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place.” (Phil 2:5-9). Jesus did not give up material riches in heaven to become materially poor on earth, he gave up a high position in heaven to take a low position on earth; he became ‘nothing’ so we may become something. The context of the verse tells us to be sacrificial and give just like he gave. There is no promise of material riches in this verse, so we cannot use it to confess our way to material wealth.
Jesus preached good news, and so the Bible is full of good things that believers can confess. But these things are both positive and negative. We should not expect that only positive things are good for us. Many of the negative confessions made by Bible characters helped to improved them and the community around them. Think on this: Real wealth is not about having many things; it’s about having one thing. And real health is not about being comfortable; it’s about being content. Jesus said to Martha, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed” (Lk 10:41-42). The one thing is Christ; nothing else matters.

Other Illustrations used: New legs – with surgery | ‘I can’t speak to crowds’ | ‘And now let the weak say I am strong’

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