In the last section of Luke 12, we discussed hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending to be something that we’re not. There are lots of people who profess to be Christians. There are those who like to say things like, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” but they do not really pray. They do deeds of kindness and say, “God bless you,” but they do the deeds of kindness only to make themselves feel good.
To these hypocrites, Jesus will one day say,
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22–23)
Why would Jesus chase away people who had done wonderful deeds and even cast out demons in His name? Because they were hypocrites. They were only pretending to love Jesus. They were only pretending to be Christians because it made them look good or feel good.
In this next section, Jesus goes further in destroying hypocrisy. How does He that in Luke 12:8-9?
8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: 9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8–9)
A hypocrite will only pretend so long they are not in danger or inconvenienced. When they are put in danger because of Jesus, they will deny Him. When it might prove embarrassing to know Jesus, they deny Him.
But a true believer will stand up for Jesus in good times and in trial.
1) IF WE CONFESS JESUS BEFORE MEN… (12:8)
Luke 12:8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
Usually, when we talk about confessing, we are talking about confessing our sins. That’s not what it means here. Jesus is talking about confessing Himself.
How are those two things different? Let’s go back to the meaning of the word, “confess” (homologeō). The Greek word breaks down this way: to be of the same mind. To confess something—anything—means that you are of the same mind with another person about that thing. For instance, you might say to a person that you’ve been debating with, “I confess that you are right.” You mean that you have come to agree with the other person.
How does that work when we confess sins? Simple. We come to be of the same mind as God concerning our sins. He hates sin. When we confess our sin, we are saying, “Lord, I hate this sin like You do.” We agree with God about our sins.
When we confess Jesus Christ, it’s the same sort of deal. We come to be of the same mind as God about His Son, Jesus Christ. God loves His Son. When we confess Jesus, we agree with God about that. We say, “I love Jesus!”
We need to understand, however, that we confess the Jesus of the Bible, not a Jesus of our own making. The Father loves the Son is that is displayed in the Bible—the true Jesus. Some people make up their own Jesus and go around saying, “Oh, how I love Jesus…He lets everyone into Heaven, no matter what.”
Why, that’s like someone walking up to me and saying, “I love your son, Noah…I love his red hair and chubby cheeks and how he toddles around.” I’d stop them and say, “Who are you talking about?”
Who is Jesus? What do we need to confess Him to be? Let’s take a quick tour of some of the things that the Bible says about Jesus:
1.1) Jesus is God
The apostle John stated,
15 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)
Being the Son of God means that Jesus is the same essence as God. Noah, for instance, is my son, and he is the same essence as I am. We are both humans. If he were a kangaroo, he wouldn’t be my son. But he is human, and he has my DNA. In the same way, Jesus being the Son of God means that He is God because He is of the same essence as His Father.
Believing this about Jesus is not optional. John says that those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God in them and they are in God. In other words, they are saved.
And it means that anyone who wants to know who God is must come to Jesus. You can’t ignore Jesus and say, “Allah is all I need to know to know God.” The apostle John says,
23 Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. (1 John 2:23)
The Father and the Son are the same God…you can’t know God without knowing His Son Jesus Christ.
1.2) Jesus is Human
In John’s day there were people who believed that anything of material substance was evil. Therefore, God would have never came in the flesh, because the flesh is material and therefore evil. They said that Jesus would have remained spiritual and appeared as a ghost in human form.
Despite their good intentions of trying to keep Jesus separate from sinful flesh, John has harsh words for them:
7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7)
Today there are those who say that Jesus never actually existed as a human being. That He is a legend made up by men to teach some good values. Liberal Christianity is full of this sort of teaching. Many liberal Christians deny that Jesus was a real, historical person. Rather, they say that He is spiritually risen in the hearts of men.
We must confess that Jesus is fully God as well as fully human. But why is it important that Jesus is fully human? Jesus had to be fully human to die for humanity’s sins on the cross. He had to be human to die for human sins. He had to be human to be able to die.
Jesus had to be fully God to be able to pay for the sins of the whole world. If He had been only human, He would have been one more sacrifice on the altar. But He also had to be fully human to die for us!
1.3) Jesus is Lord
9 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. (Romans 10:9)
The phrase “the Lord Jesus” is not just a throwaway title. To confess the Lord Jesus is to acknowledge Him as ruler in your life. What does it mean that Jesus is Lord? Listen to what the apostle Paul says about Jesus in Colossians 1—
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [of first position] of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:15–18)
Many today want to relegate Jesus to a small corner of their lives. They think about Him for an hour on Sunday morning—if He even comes up at the church that they attend. And then, the rest of the week, Jesus is locked in His closet in their heart.
But someone who confesses Jesus as Lord is someone who desires to have Jesus run their lives. They want Him on the throne of their hearts, even if they might fail from time to time to submit to His lordship.
There are, of course, more aspects of Jesus that we could explore, but right now, let’s consider this question: How do we confess Christ before men? It could take many forms:
- It might be outright speaking about who Jesus is. Flat out telling someone about Christ. Or praying before your meal in a restaurant.
- It could be in how we respond to situations differently than unbelievers…for example, showing someone forgiveness instead of taking revenge.
- It could be how we live our lives. In the Spirit’s power, we try to live holy lives like Jesus and, when we fail, we ask forgiveness.
What are all these things? They are evidences of our faith in Christ. It’s not that we need to do these things to be saved. Jesus isn’t saying to confess Him before men to be saved. He is saying, “If you truly believe in Me, then show it by confessing Me before men.”
If we confess Jesus before men…
2) JESUS WILL CONFESS US BEFORE THE ANGELS (12:8)
Luke 12:8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
Imagine standing before God, the Judge of the universe. Ten thousands of ten thousands of angels fill the courtroom of Heaven. Alone you approach the throne. In awe of God’s holiness, all the sins you have committed flash through your mind. How could you ever be good enough to be here?
To make matters worse, Satan strides into the courtroom and takes his position at the prosecutor’s table. He avoids looking at God, but stares at you instead. “I have,” he says in his serpent-like voice, “a complete deposition listing all the sins of this individual has committed during their life. I think you find the first page alone worthy of condemning this individual to Hell forever!”
You glance over at the accuser and see that he has a thick stack of papers in his hand—hundreds of pages! And there are even more stacks on his table! You’ll never be able to defend against all that.
Things aren’t looking good. But just then, you feel a hand on your shoulder and you hear a voice say, “I’ve got this.” You look at the hand on your shoulder and see the hole where a nail once pierced the flesh. It’s Jesus!
“Father, I am here to say that this person confessed My name before men. He acknowledged Me as his only God, his only Savior, and his only Lord. He believes that I died and rose again to pay for his sins. So before You and before these angels, I am delighted to testify on his behalf.”
If we stand up for Jesus now, it’s evidence that we have the faith that he will honor by standing up for us later.
Why would anyone want to try and go it alone before God the Judge and Satan the accuser? If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, then Jesus will confess you before the court of Heaven!
But what will happen if we deny Jesus?
3) BUT IF WE DENY JESUS BEFORE MEN…WELL, JUST DON’T DO IT! (12:9)
Luke 12:9 But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
Obviously, if a person such as an atheist, denies Jesus by not believing, then he would be denied by Jesus in Heaven’s courtroom. The full charges of their sin would be leveled against them and they would be condemned to an eternity in Hell.
For a Christian, however, denying Jesus is definitely not something we want to do. Jesus says in the next verses that God will give the Christian strength to not deny Jesus in a time of persecution. One of the many stories of God doing that happened to Kamil Kiroglu.
On a Sunday morning in January 2006, five young men attacked and threatened to kill a Protestant church leader in Turkey. Kamil Kiroglu [cam el kiro glue], twenty-nine, had just left his church in Adana when he was ambushed and beaten so severely that he fell unconscious twice.
“They were trying to force me to deny Jesus,” Kiroglu said. “But each time they asked me to deny Jesus and become a Muslim, I said, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ The more I said, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ the more they beat me.” One of the attackers pulled out a long knife and threatened to kill Kiroglu if he did not deny his Christian faith and return to Islam. Kiroglu refused.
After the incident, he said, “I am praising God—not because he saved me from death, but because he helped me not to deny him in the shadow of death.”1
But what happens, because of the weakness of our flesh, we fail to depend on God’s strength and end up denying Jesus? Turn to Mark 14, where we find Peter doing exactly that.
Before we read about Peter’s denial, remember that Peter understood who Jesus was. In Matthew 16:16 he confessed Jesus to be God. He said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is one of the strongest confessions of faith that I can find in the gospels.
It’s not that Peter was unsure that Jesus was God when he failed. He understood who Jesus was, and still denied Him.
66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: 67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. 68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. 69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. 70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. 71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. 72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept. (Mark 14:66–72)
It was a terrible thing what Peter did. He had walked with and learned from Jesus for nearly three years. Then Peter denied Him when Jesus was at the lowest point in His life. If someone had done that to one of us, a daresay that we would find it impossible to forgive. We’d say, “How could you abandon me when I needed you most?”
But while Peter did deny Jesus in the heat of the moment, he did not deny Jesus permanently. He spent his life being a powerful witness to the risen Jesus Christ.
When a professing Christian denies Jesus out of fear for their life, or just plain embarrassment in front of family or coworkers, it could be a temporary lapse like Peter’s. It’s forgivable. They need to repent of that denial and resolve, in the Spirit’s power, to do better next time.
But if denying Jesus is a pattern in their life, it could be evidence of a lack of true faith in the person’s heart.
A close examination of our hearts might reveal that we are denying Jesus more often than we thought. J.C. Ryle warns us:
We must be careful not to confine “denying Christ” to such open acts as Peter’s denial of Him. We deny Christ when from unbelief, or [laziness], or love of the world, or fear of man, we shrink from confessing Him as our Saviour and our King.2
We don’t want to leave such a thing alone. We don’t want denying Jesus to become the pattern of our life. We must repent of our denial and resolve to be like Paul, who said:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
1. “Convert Christian Beaten Unconscious,” Compass Direct (January 20, 2006) qtd in Craig Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof, 1001 Illustrations That Connect (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 445.
2. J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1879), 69.