An Unspoken Faith is No Faith at All

Question

Do I have to speak about my faith, or may I just keep it a secret?

Answer

An unspoken faith is no faith at all. The Bible tells us, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Rom. 10:9-10). John says, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15; cf. 1 John 4:2). Indeed, “No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23).

While one is not regenerated because they confess Christ, confession is natural to conversion. Genuine confession of Christ is spiritually born in one who has been really regenerated by the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). Why? Because their heart has been transformed (Rom. 10:9-10). They are new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17). In short, while not all professors are possessors, all possessors are professors.

After the Lord healed the lame man through Peter and John (Acts 3:6-8) and they preached the gospel (Acts 3:11-4:2), what did they say to the Sanhedrin they were forced to answer? Acts 4:16-20 states:

What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.

Even in the midst of persecution, Peter and John had to speak. They couldn’t help themselves. They were changed men holding the keys of life and so great a salvation (cf. Heb. 2:3). God was at work both in them and through them.

An example may help. In life how could one keep quiet about just being married, graduating from the University of Oxford, or winning the Nobel Peace Prize? While these are times of great celebration, every one of these events is not nearly as grand as being saved by almighty God. The genuine Christian just can’t keep quiet. He’s got to tell somebody what Jesus has done for them (cf. Acts 1:8). Christians are witnesses and witnesses speak (cf. Isa 43:10; Matt. 5:15-16; Acts 22:15; 2 Tim. 2:1-3; 1 Pet. 3:15). We are ambassadors for Christ, which means we represent him, and we speak his words to those around us that they might be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20).

However, there are some scenarios when one may not speak up. This takes wisdom to discern (cf. Matt. 10:16). There are some cases where the Holy Spirit may not desire a believer to speak up but disappear for a time (cf. Acts 16:6). In some countries there are underground churches (the catacombs of old [1]) to help escape persecution. [2] As long as one doesn’t deny Christ, there are some situations where there would be nothing wrong with a believer making attempts to escape being harmed or killed for their faith (John 8:59; Acts 9:24-25).

This said, the true believer should never deny the Lord (Matt. 10:32-33; Luke 12:9; 2 Tim. 2:12; 1 John 2:23; cf. Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26).

Footnote

[1] Subterranean passageways that were used as place of burial until the 5th century. In Rome, there are over sixty catacombs each forming labyrinths that are several miles long, along which rows of rectangular niches were dug out for burials. Christians often congregated in the catacombs to worship as the Romans feared death and normally stayed away from the areas.

[2] At times the church shoots its own wounded and persecutes its own. In some cases, churches have mammoth multi-million dollar buildings, tapestries, paintings, extravagant wood-work, great pulpits, organs, etc. Could this money be better used in the kingdom of God? I know of one church that in six weeks’ time acquired 12.5 million for an educational building in the midst of the COVID-19 world-wide pandemic. While they set aside some funds for the needy, COVID-19 relief wasn’t even a line item in their budget! This brought and still brings me to tears.

America and others need to take the warning of James seriously (Jas. 5:1-6). I have sincere difficulty seeing ivory church towers built of “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw” (1 Cor. 3:12) when on the other hand I observe others losing their lives. Many of the elderly need avenues for getting – and in some cases even affording – their medications and groceries. Parents need assistance feeding their children, paying their rent, buying food, and receiving medical aid – and in some cases transportation to the same. Yet others need a job. Where’s the church? It seems MIA, or missing in action, in many cases.

In many ways the church seems to have lost the way of “the Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; cf. Matt. 25:34-40; Acts 4:32).

Would the churches in America even stand up against persecution like that existed in the early church? Many Christians in America expect and live in a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. We are what I would refer to as “comfortable.” We live on the plains of plenty and the land of luxury. As the song, "America the Beautiful," makes clear:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! ...

It is indeed beautiful, majestic and overwhelming. We own the American dream. We have the best of doctors and colleges, we have financial security, our family is doing well, and we have a quality of life unequaled in other nations.

But early Christians were at odds with the Roman Empire. Under the likes of Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, Decius, Valerian, Maximinus the Thracian, Aurelian, Diocletian and Galerius, etc. Christians were tortured and many were murdered. And when I look at the Apostle Paul I wonder even more. 2 Corinthians 11:23-27 (NLT) states:

I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

There seems to be a huge disconnect between America’s version of Christianity and Paul’s! I wonder how the faith of many in the U.S.A. would survive under such intense persecution? One day soon we may find out.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).