5. If you’re not willing to confess Christ publicly, you cannot be saved.
This misconception comes in different colors, and there are those who carry it to different extremes. Some are simply talking about admitting personally and publicly that you’re a Christian. Some go so far as to say that one must walk forward in a church through what is commonly called the “altar call.” Either way, the understanding is given that if you don’t, you can’t be saved.
When addressing this misconception in a message, approach it positively, not negatively. Stress the importance of unashamedly telling people that you are a Christian. After all, if He was not ashamed of you, why be ashamed of Him? Such a confession plays a part in receiving eternal reward. A good passage to support this is Matthew 10:32-33, where Christ declares, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” The context clearly explains that the issue is not eternal life; the issue is discipleship.
Then show your people that confession is not an issue of salvation by pointing out three things.
The first is John 12:37-43. The miracles of Christ were designed to wave a flag before the Jewish people proclaiming Christ as God. Many refused to believe. John tells us “although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him.” Some, though, did believe. John 12:42-43 says, “Nevertheless, even among the rulers, many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees, they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” In the book of John, the words believe in are used consistently for saving faith. Jewish rulers had trusted in Christ the Messiah, who could save them from their sins. But confessing Him in public would have resulted in their excommunication.
You can also show them the many verses that condition salvation upon faith alone, apart from any public confession. For example, John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Romans 4:5 says, “But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”
You might also point your audience to the thief on the cross. The thieves on the cross were divided in their view of Christ. One extended the condition, “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us” (Luke 23:39). The other placed his faith in Christ, asking, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (vs. 42). Christ’s response was the best news a dying man can hear. “Surely I say unto you, today you’ll be with Me in paradise” (vs. 43). There was no way this dying thief could have told others of his salvation. He was saved by recognizing Christ as who He said He was—the only One who could save him from his sin.
Romans 10:9-10 is many times used to support the misconception that if you don’t confess Christ publicly, you can’t be saved. We read “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Above all else, it’s worth noting that the word righteousness in Romans 10:10 is a noun form of the verb translated “justify.” Romans 5:1 reads, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justified here means “to be declared righteous.” Therefore, the meaning of the first part of Romans 10:10 is “with the heart man believes and is justified before God.” But confession in Romans 10:9-10 is a part of what’s necessary to live a victorious Christian life. The context is arguing that one has to be willing to confess Him publicly in order to triumph over sin. For further explanation of this passage, I would direct you to my book Free and Clear, which has a chapter titled “If I Don’t Confess Him, Do I Possess Him?”
Regardless, the passage itself clearly says that believing is what justifies a person before God. A public confession of Christ is very important, but the importance is not related to our eternal salvation. Upon trusting Christ, we receive His gift of eternal life. By confessing Christ consistently and unashamedly, we experience victory over sin and gain eternal reward when we see the Savior face-to-face.
Misconceptions can be damaging and defeating. The above five can be a particular hindrance in our outreach to non-Christians. The result is a confusion of the message, the questioning of our own salvation and even a lack of boldness in speaking to others about the Lord.
Consider giving a series of messages addressing the above five things God never said. You may free people up to evangelize—and encourage them to do it out of grace, not guilt.