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Can We Talk About The Lord’s Supper?
I ask us to reexamine our traditions concerning the Lord’s Supper.

Profession and Confession

There are two words that have overlapping meanings, but are given different direction by their prefixes. They are, profession and confession.

These english words have been used to translate a single Greek word homologeo which be translated either as profess or confess. Two passages from the Bible show this:

For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:10)

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) (Hebrews 10:23)

Profession has more of the sense of freely stating forth, while confession has more of the sense of agreement. One states forth one’s opinion to others, or professes it . In contrast, one agrees with others, or confesses. One might profess one’s ideals but confess that one doesn’t live up to them. One professes innocence, but confesses guilt.

The character of a profession is public, voluntary, outward, telling others, declaring what one thinks or believes. It might be looked on as a freely expressed statement of opinion, or a claim we make about something.

Confession on the other hand has more of the idea of agreeing about something, it can be looked at as a statement of agreement, a response. Confession has the sense of admitting something about oneself, agreeing with the truth about ourselves. Sometimes there is the aspect that confession is done in response to questioning, or maybe reluctantly or under pressure. It has a less active aspect, one is asked a question about faith in Christ for example, “Is this true about you, are you a Christian?”, “Do you believe this?”, and if one responds that they do, then their answer is a confession of faith.

For example, suppose that you are preaching the Gospel to others, you are making a profession of not only the facts, but also telling how them that you personally believe it. And if in the crowd someone is convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and you ask them, “Do you believe this?”, they would confess that they do.

The two words have overlapping meaning but the distinction is useful. These words describe two closely related aspects of the Lord’s Supper that can help get us thinking about these aspects.

When we eat and drink, we shew the Lord’s death until He returns. As we’ve seen in previous chapters, that word shew is an antique word, very picturesque to us nowadays, it could be translated as proclaim, profess, preach, announce, or other similar words.

In the chapter titled, “Proclamation”, we explained that when the Church comes together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, it is making a congregational proclamation of the mystery of the faith: Christ died; Christ rose; Christ will return. We could say that the Church professes, but proclamation seems appropriate because is a more grandiose word.

However when we think of an individual partaking, eating and drinking, profess is a more apt word. One professes the tenets of the faith, Christ’s death and return, when one partakes of the elements. One is openly displaying what one’s faith is to others, one is telling others about it. That is the nature of profession.

One is also confessing one’s faith. By partaking, one is saying, “I believe this to be true.” One is agreeing with the truth of God’s Word. For example, Paul says of confession,

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

There is the sense of admitting one’s belief upon being presented with God’s Word, responding in faith to the Gospel.

The opposite of confess is deny, ultimately it has dire consequences. Jesus says,

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33)

One can picture someone professing to be a believer, and when questioned by those hostile to Christ, admitting they are, confessing, not denying. The other side of that coin is denial as opposed to confession. Peter denied Jesus, he did not confess Him when confronted the night of Jesus’ trial. But we know that Peter was restored by the Lord. And we must be gracious with those that deny the Lord, because while it is still today (see Hebrews 3:12-19), they may yet come to faith.

So we see that profession and confession have subtle differences that are useful. By profession we state what our faith is, by confession we state that we believe it. I profess the tenets of the faith and confess that I believe them.

When you celebrate the Lord’s Supper by eating the broken bread, and drinking of the cup, you are personally, openly, freely, publicly, professing that the Lord died on the cross for your sins, that He was buried and rose again on the third day, and that He has ascended into Heaven and that you are waiting for His return. You are confessing what your own individual faith is: you are in effect saying that “Jesus died for me”. It is in the most literal sense doing the work of an evangelist. You are declaring the tenets of your own faith, essentially Christ and Him crucified. You are professing, and confessing, the same Gospel that Paul preached:

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Paul is not only professing the Gospel, but he is confessing his faith in it. Romans Chapter Ten uses the word confess. No doubt at that time it almost amounted to a confession of guilt, Christians were often thought to be a dangerous sect. To confess faith in Jesus was not easy, the Jews despised you, the Romans distrusted you, and the Greeks often saw you as a threat as well. Paul wrote,

… that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from among the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)

This points out that we are called to make public confession of faith as part of our salvation. Which is just what we are doing at the Lord’s Supper. There one makes a confession of faith by eating and drinking; one is saying,

Amen, I believe this to be true: The Lord Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, crucified, died, and risen, and I am awaiting His return. And I believe that His blood was shed for the remission of my sin.

One is confessing their faith by eating that bread and drinking that cup. It is a public testimony of one’s faith. It affirms and celebrates one’s own faith in a very public act of worship. We are openly owning our faith. We are joyfully confessing that this is our faith, for all to see and hear, and we are confessing that we believe it to be true.

When we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are openly and freely professing what we hold to be true, and confess our dependence on, and faith in the Lord. We are alternately pulled away by this world’s promises and pushed away by this world’s threats, our public stand on the rock of faith helps hold us in place.

David wrote in Psalms, which prophetically applies to the ministry of Jesus,

I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest. I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation.” (Psalms 40:9-10)

The Lord’s Supper gives us an opportunity to imitate, as well as to obey, the Lord. This strengthens, and expresses, our faith. To act on faith, to exercise it causes it to grow, become stronger. In our worship as God’s Word is held up before us: Jesus is proclaimed; and as we read and speak and sing God’s Word, we are both professing and confessing our faith. And in this expression of faith we are hearing God’s Word, whereby faith comes. The faith we are professing is Christ and Him crucified, according to the Scriptures. To dwell upon the Lord this way strengthens our faith. Paul tells us that ,

faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by God’s Word (Romans 10:17)

What is more, our profession, in congregation, will help build up others in our faith. This is not the least of reasons we are told to not forsake gathering with other Christians regularly. We build up, and are built up, when we say, and hear others say that Jesus is the Son of God:

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)

Partaking of the elements of the Lord’s Supper is an adumbrant (a wordless action that makes a statement) summary of our faith, because to partake, by eating and drinking, is to both profess the mystery of the faith, and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. The unspeakable brilliance of this action, simple eating and drinking, speaking as eloquently as words, was planned to be so by the Lord Himself. This is one reason why we say that it is God’s work and that we should prefer nothing to it.

©FH 2012

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