Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:32-33 Introduction
Samuel Johnson’s parents, knowing he was a child prodigy, worked hard to give him every advantage. His dad, to make extra money, stood on a street corner at night to sell matches. He would ask his son to come help, to spend time with him, but Samuel was too proud to be seen selling matches. When old, Samuel grew ashamed of being ashamed at what his dad had done for him. As an act of penance, Johnson, a wealthy, famous celebrity, disguised himself in the clothes of a beggar, went to the same corner his dad had sold matches on, and sold matches.
I tell you this story because it has a painful application for your pastor as he approaches verses 32-33. My preacher-dad is the best personal soulwinner I ever knew, rarely having a conversation without mentioning his faith in Jesus. When young, I was, to my shame, embarrassed by this. As a youth, I essentially had one goal in life–to be popular. Being with a soulwinning dad did not fit into the plan.
I feel like a grown-up Samuel Johnson, sensing a need to rectify the past. Dad was right. I was wrong. Verses 32-33 are forcing me to revisit personal one-on-one evangelism, my worst weakness as a person, my biggest failure as a pastor.
As a church family, we need to approach these verses humbly. Most of us have had painful experiences sharing our faith. Many have taken an unconscious oath never to share their faith again, yet we know we are to tell unbelievers about Jesus. Please join Pastor in being open to what God may say to us in these verses.
Matt. 10:32a “Whosoever therefore. . .”
When we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we need to see what it’s there for. The truth following it is based on, drawn from, and given its rightful meaning, by what preceded the “therefore.” Jesus here uses “therefore” to encourage us to be bold in dealing with those who have not yet chosen to become Christ-followers.
The logic is flawless. A kind Father loves us more than He loves sparrows, numbers our hairs, watches us, extends a great invisible hand (Maclaren) over us, and guards us. “Therefore,” we can bravely do what He commands us here to do.
Matt. 10:32b “. . .shall confess. . .”
The command is to profess Jesus, to acknowledge our relationship with, and adherence to, Him. Paul told Timothy, “Do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord” (2 TM 1:8 NAS). Open identification with Jesus is an essential part of being a Christ-follower. The Christian life must not be hid in a corner. It has to be broadcast on the stage of life’s theater. To confess, by definition, entails open declaration. We must tell others what Jesus has done for us, and means to us. Had faith of the heart sufficed, God would not have given us a mouth (Chrysostom).
Asking us to verbalize loyalty to Jesus is a reasonable request. We should have no qualms identifying ourselves with what is generally conceded to be the best and loveliest life ever. Jesus is beautiful, precious, altogether lovely, nothing mars His memory, His sweet perfume wafts stronger than ever 2000 years later. Confessing Him should be easy and natural, obviously the right choice. Then why do we have so much trouble doing it? The next word in our text gives our answer.
Matt. 10:32c “. . .me. . .”
Confessing Jesus is difficult because His own person is the crux of Earth’s most intense argument. Jesus is controversial. Acknowledging Him can anywhere anytime spark an explosion of rancor and contention. It is safer to talk about other things connected to Christianity, but Jesus is to be our main topic of conversation.
Not a denomination. In our free society, Christianity can take on as many forms as it desires. We could easily confess our faith if all we had to do was find a denomination whose watered down doctrine could be discussed with prechristians without controversy. We are not given this easy way out. We must confess Jesus.
Not a local church. We do need to enfold people, to woo them to share our fellowship, but this is not the ultimate issue. It would be much simpler if to confess our faith we could talk to people solely about the wonderful programs we have at Second, about how all ages can be happy here. We have had unbelievers who wanted to join Second, to enjoy its benefits, without becoming Christ-followers. Bragging on our church is good, but not the litmus test of our loyalty.
Not a creed. We Baptists give allegiance to the Bible, not creeds. We do have the Baptist Faith and Message, a statement of beliefs Southern Baptists hold in common, so that outsiders can better understand what we generally believe.
Faith would be easier to profess if we could find a creed 90% acceptable to unbelievers. We could spend time with them talking only on the noncontroversial parts. But this is disallowed as our way of stating to the world we belong to Jesus.
Not the Bible. I love inerrant, infallible Holy Writ. My life is devoted to teaching it, but even the Sacred Page is not to be our ultimate topic of discussion.
Years ago, a famous lady who lived an unholy life, showing no evidence of being a Christ-follower, claimed to read the Bible daily. We can brag on the Bible and read it, yet have no relationship with Christ. Bible thumping is not enough.
The ultimate topic of conversation is not denomination, local church, creed, or Bible, but a Person, Jesus. The old hymn is right, “Stand up, stand up for Jesus.” And therein lies the rub, because Jesus is history’s most divisive figure.
Jesus divided the Bible, earth’s holiest book. The Old Testament predates His incarnation, the New Testament records it and sets forth its ramifications.
Jesus divided Judaism. Those who rejected Jesus as Messiah separated themselves from those who received Him. Even today, to become a citizen of Israel, applicants must have a Jewish mother, and not believe Jesus is Messiah.
Jesus divided time. B.C. means before Christ. A.D. means anno Domini, in the year of our Lord. Rather than admit Jesus truly is the Christ, God’s anointed, some replace B.C. with B.C.E. (before Christian era). Jesus is controversial, hot.
Jesus divided the world. Western civilization has lived in the echo of His thunderous influence. Eastern culture has heard only the whisper of His voice.
Jesus divides lifestyles. He interferes with our desires and lusts. For those close to becoming Christ-followers, the final decision is often determined not by intellectual argument, but by a lifestyle choice. A loved sin can be the last barrier.
Jesus divides the heart. Once Jesus is received as Master, one’s innermost being is torn asunder, separated from what it once was, and riveted to a new life.
Jesus divides people. For Him or against Him, love Him or hate Him. He claimed to be God, thus must be worshiped or cast aside. Neutrality is not an option. Indifference about Him occurs only if one is ignorant of His demands. To study His teachings, to know His claims, forces one to support or oppose Him.
If at Jesus’ name, someone shrugs their shoulders or yawns, they are clueless about Him. But if they scream, they at least have a grasp of the situation.
Jesus divides eternity. When deciding what we think about Jesus, the stakes are high. Heaven and Hell hang in the balance. Many are nonchalant about life after death, but Jesus was in dead earnest about eternity. He took it very seriously.
Jesus claimed to be the only way to Heaven. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). When Titanic sank, names of passengers were listed in the Cunard Line office in only two columns, headed “Saved” and “Lost.” As Jesus appraises people to determine eternal destinies, the same two categories are the only ones that exist, saved and lost. The saved are those who receive Him, the lost are those who reject Him.
Jesus is divisive, controversial. Confess Him anyway. Don’t use substitute titles or circumlocutions. Say Jesus. It is the name at which every knee shall bow. Thus, let every heart hear it now, thereby having adequate opportunity to believe.
Samuel Johnson sold matches. I regret being ashamed of Dad. Working on this lesson jogged a memory. When I was a boy, Dad often sang in church as a solo a song worth repeating in this context: What will you do with Jesus? Neutral you cannot be; someday your heart will be asking, What will He do with me?