Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
1 John 4:15 ESV
Someone might read this one verse out of context (as I expect that I have in the past) as a checklist of “Have I confessed that Jesus is the Son of God?” and try to use that as a singular proof or guarantee of someone’s “Christianity”.
Doesn’t it matter whether someone understands this as:
- If someone speaks aloud the right words “Jesus is the Son of God” one time, they can count on that for salvation.
- If someone speaks it aloud one time in a heartfelt plea “Jesus is the Son of God”, they can count on that for salvation.
- If someone for one moment in time mentally believes the logic and speaks “Jesus is the Son of God” aloud, they can count on that for salvation.
- If someone agrees with the logic and professes and teaches and lives sharing the message “Jesus is the Son of God” publicly for a period of time, they can count on that for salvation.
- If someone agrees with the logic and professes and teaches and lives out the evidence that “Jesus is the Son of God” both publicly in their words and actions, and privately in their innermost beliefs and thoughts, this is the clear evidence of God at work in them.
So let’s look into what it is actually saying in the word translated here in the ESV as “confess”, in KJV as “shall confess”, and in NLT as “declare”.
I’m going to ask you to bear with me through a quick dive into the Greek for this particular word, because I found it helpful to me in better understanding this verse in context and in meaning. This shows the original Greek along with an English KJV translation, and I’ve highlighted the key weird that we are taking about.
When we look into ὁμολογήσῃ, as English speaking folks, it helps to use our own alphabet transliteration of homologeo so that it isn’t quite as foreign to us as it is with the original Greek alphabet.
We can see that the word ὁμολογήσῃ is a combination of two Greek root words — ὁμοῦ and λόγος. Again, to make it easier for us in English, the word homologeo is a combination of homou and logos.
Regardless of whether we write this word in Greek or transliterate it to English, the math is the same ὁμολογήσῃ = ὁμοῦ + λόγος and homologeo = homou + logos
The first root word ὁμοῦ/homou is pretty straightforward. It means “the same“, or “together” or “agreed“. So we don’t have to dig very far to understand that concept. But the word λόγος/logos runs a bit deeper, so let’s dig in a bit with it. You’ll find this word in your Strong’s Concordance as G3056, used 330 times in the New Testament, and used to describe:
- Spoken words/utterances
- Continuous discourse, doctrine, or teaching
- Reason, the mental faculty of thinking, meditating, reasoning, calculating
- The essential Word of God, Jesus Christ, the personal wisdom and power in union with God, his minister in creation and government of the universe, the cause of all the world’s life both physical and ethical, which for the procurement of man’s salvation put on human nature in the person of Jesus the Messiah, the second person in the Godhead, and shone forth conspicuously from His words and deeds.
So, when considering homologeo = homou + logos, we can see that it matters a bit whether homologeo means:
- Same spoken words once
- Same public teaching/discourse (ongoing)
- Same mental reasoning once
- Same spirit of Christ consistently producing evidence in actions, thoughts and speech (ongoing)
Clearly the message isn’t “don’t confess”, or “don’t profess”, or “don’t preach”, or “don’t believe”, or “don’t use reason” — but it does matter the source of that speech and reasoning.
The study of Biology uses a term Homologous which is from the same two root words — and it means “having similar or corresponding features” and “structures with similar anatomical features but not necessarily with the same function”.
We can see homologous bone structure in different animals:
And whether you view homologous structures as evidence of intelligent design or of evolution is not the reason that I brought this up. It is to show how it seems that translating or understanding homologeo as “speak the words” in this passage falls pretty short of the mark.
This verse isn’t for me an “if you check this box of X, you are guaranteed Y” promise so that someone who has no speech that agrees with God’s speech, who has no reasoning that abides with God’s reasoning, who has no fruit that is the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit might say assuredly “But I’m saved because once upon a time, I said those words, or calculated in my mind it was true, or believed and preached it for a while — even though I don’t anymore. “
I do not share such things to shipwreck your faith — unless it needs to be dashed upon the rocks while there is still time for it to be rebuilt strong and firm, truly upon the foundation of Christ alone.
This section in 1 John 4 is about Loving One Another, and how better to love each other than to declare to you that it is true, that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He is resurrected, and that we who believe truly are the bearers of His Holy Spirit — traveling through this world as His ambassadors to proclaim such amazing things through the love we share for each other.
God bless you, friend. Believe, confess, and proclaim this Good News today — not as a checklist/requirement to “get there” but purely as a public testimony to what He has done and is doing in us. Amen.