The persecution of Christians for various reasons and by various forces is a fact wellestablished
throughout much of the last two centuries. Almost immediately after the church was
established (Acts 2), Jewish persecution intensified in both manner and method. Officiallysanctioned
persecutions at the hands of men like Saul of Tarsus are well documented in the
Scriptures themselves, (cf. Gal. 1:13; Acts 8:3; 9:1ff; 1 Tim. 1:13). Hideous persecutions were
also conducted with impunity by the Roman authorities, including emperors like Nero and
Domitian. Jesus himself had warned about such atrocities, and prepared his disciples for them,
(Jn. 16:2, etc.).
Confessing their faith in Christ has often cost our Christian ancestors their lives. Refusal to
worship the various pagan gods of the Roman empire, or the refusal to participate in the cult of
emperor worship itself, led countless Christians to their executions—often in the Roman arenas
at the mouth of lions or by other forms of cruel torture. And, to this day, the persecution and
execution of Christians at the hands of Islamic and other extremists persists in various parts of
It can be dangerous to confess your belief in Jesus Christ. When the apostle Paul exhorted
Timothy to remember that he had made “the good confession in the sight of many witnesses,” (1
Tim. 6:12), he knew that he was recalling an act for which many had given their lives. Indeed,
the memories of Paul’s earlier atrocities haunted him throughout his life: I verily thought with
myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and this I also
did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority
from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. And
punishing them often times in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being
exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities,” (Acts 26:9-11).
How would we Christians hold up today under such persecution? Would we have the courage
to confess our faith, even in the face of certain torture and death? Would we maintain with
kindness our Christian faith until the end? Or would we try to hide it, attempting to practice some
form of “closet Christianity?”
There is an interesting historical note in John’s Gospel account concerning the fear of
persecution which crippled some early believers. In Jn. 12:42 it is said: “Nevertheless even of
the rulers many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, less they
should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the glory that is of men more than the glory
that is of God.”
When we hesitate to admit that we are followers of Christ, often it is for this very reason – we
love the glory that is of men more than the glory that is of God. We would rather be more popular
with people than with God. We don’t want to lose our “friends” or jeopardize our standing in
secular circles. We don’t want to be seen as an “extremist” or religious fanatic. We want people
to think we are reasonable and mainstream. But what we are really doing is betraying our fear to
confess the Savior.
This is a matter of eternal importance. How we handle this will determine where we spend
eternity. Remember that Jesus said, “Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him
will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men,
him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven,” (Mt. 10:32-33). We need to summon
and maintain the courage to speak up for Jesus Christ in this life, or else we forfeit the privilege
of living with him hereafter.
As songwriter Elijah Hoffman so memorably put it, “To Christ be loyal and be true, he needs
brave volunteers to stand against the pow’rs of sin, moved not by frowns or fears. To Christ, the
Lord, be true, and he will go with you, and help you all your conflicts through; to Christ, the
Lord, be true!”
– by Robert C. Veil, Jr.
Are You Willing To Confess Him?