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By Anthony D. Palma
Words can be misused or misappropriated. Sometimes a biblical word is used in an unbiblical way. One such word is confession (homologia) together with its verbal equivalents (homologeo and exomologeo).
Just what is the biblical usage of these words? The basic meaning of this word family is that of saying (logia/logeo) the same (homo) thing — in other words, agreement or consent. In most New Testament passages the words admit, confess, and acknowledge could be used interchangeably wherever the verb appears.
In a few passages the word has the meaning of praise, which goes back to a usage in the Septuagint where it translates the basic Hebrew word for praise — yadah. For example, we read about giving thanks to God’s name (Hebrews 13:15). Jesus said, “I thank (exomologeo) thee, O Father” (Matthew 11:25).
Another infrequent usage is that of making a promise. Herod “promised with an oath” to give Herodias’ daughter whatever she wanted (Matthew 14:7). Stephen mentioned the promise God made to Abraham (Acts 7:17).
But the main part of this study is an examination of the most frequent usage of this word family — the ideas of confession, acknowledgment, or admission. This is important because of a current usage of the word confession that has no basis in the New Testament. To be specific, nowhere is any mention made of “positive” or “negative” confession, and especially as those expressions relate to divine healing.
In the New Testament the objects of confession are twofold. First, the Scriptures speak about confessing sin or sins. The followers of John the Baptist were baptized by him, “confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:6). The apostle John says, “If we confess our sins” God will forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9). James speaks of confessing our sins to one another (5:16).
Second, the Lord Jesus Christ is the object of our confession. Jesus himself spoke about confessing Him before men (Matthew 10:32).
More specifically, there are two things about Him that must be confessed. He must be acknowledged, or confessed, as having come in the flesh (1 John 4:2,3,15; 2 John 7). The New Testament places considerable emphasis on the Incarnation. Jesus was truly man. But the complementary emphasis is also there. Therefore he must also be confessed, or acknowledged, as Lord (Philippians 2:11; Romans 10:9).
Acknowledgment or confession of one’s sins and of Jesus Christ as truly God and truly man — these are the New Testament requirements for confession. Our sins are a fact, as are the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ. But God’s Word nowhere tells us to state publicly as fact something for which there is no evidence.
This does not at all detract from the biblical teaching that God can and does heal by His power. What it does say is that there is no biblical warrant for “confessing” something as fact which in reality is not. Nor does it militate against the appropriation of healing by faith and believing prayer. Let us not use biblical terms in a manner foreign to their biblical usage.
Anthony D. Palma, Th.D., a longtime Assemblies of God educator, lives in Springfield, Missouri.