Matthew 10:32-37  How to Confess Christ

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 11 Mar. 2012


10:32 Therefore, whoever will confess being with me in front of men,
            I will also confess being with him in front of my Father in the heavens.

10:33 But whoever shall not speak up for me in front of men,

            I will also not speak up for him in front of my Father in the heavens.

10:34 Don’t y’all start assuming that I came in order to drop off peace onto the earth;
            I didn’t come in order to drop off peace, but rather a sword!

                        10:35 For I came to divide

                                    a man against his father

                                    and a daughter against her mother

                                    and a bride against her mother-in-law,

                        10:36 and the man’s enemies will be those of his household.

10:37 The one who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me,

            and the one who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me.

10:38 and he who is not accepting his cross and following after me is not worthy of me.


Art Doolittle expounded on what it means to take up your cross and endure persecution from this passage, so I have no need to go over that topic again, but as I meditated on verses 32 and following, another topic emerged that I believe is worth understanding, and that is what it means to confess Jesus.


Mat 10:32  Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων…

o       οὖν “Therefore/soESV” – As we saw in the previous verses, because you are commanded not to fear men but rather to fear God and announce His message, therefore there will be blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience.

o       ὁμολογήσει “confess”

a.       This Greek verb is a compound word, homo=same + legw=say, so the idea is to “say the same words” as someone else.

b.      The KJV translated the word as “confess” which is also a compound of “con=with” and “fatus=admit or say”

c.       It is what we do with our confession of faith in our worship services when we say aloud together the Biblical truths we believe.

d.      As time has gone on, the English word “confess” has been less frequently used to mean “speaking in agreement” and more often used to mean “admitting a fault,” so, I suppose that’s why the NIV tried a different translation of the word, “acknowledge,” which the ESV copied.

e.       In doing this, however, they ran another risk that readers would misunderstand this passage and think that Jesus is calling for His followers to merely acknowledge that He exists. Jesus is not calling for mere acknowledgement, but as we’ve seen in the context of this chapter in v.27, this is public “speaking” and “preaching” the good news about Jesus.

o       ἐν ἐμοὶ “confess in me”

a.       The object of this verb is curious. It is thought to be an Aramaic idiom[1], the words of which are literally “say the same in me.”

b.      The preposition “in” is explicitly there in the Greek text, although most translators consider it too awkward to include in English.

c.       This is NOT the normal Greek way to say “confess the existence of me.” Nowhere else in the Bible does the preposition “in” occur after the word “confess.”

d.      I believe therefore, that this is emphasizing not just a belief in the existence of Jesus, but also a personal relationship to Jesus. I am in Him, and it is from being with Him that I speak His words.

e.       Marvin Vincent, in his Word Studies of the New Testament, commented that this is speaking of “confessing Christ out of a state of oneness with him… the true confessor of Christ is one whose faith rests in Him.”

o       ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων  In saying that they should confess “before men,” Jesus is preparing His disciples for the trial of their faith that would come soon.

a.       The Gospel of John tells us that the Pharisees “agreed that if anyone confessed [Jesus] to be the Messiah, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (9:22).

b.      This would have been a real difficulty for a Jew. John Gill, who was a great scholar of the Jewish law wrote that an excommunication from the synagogue like this meant that he could, “neither teach others, nor they teach him… and he might neither hire, nor be hired; and they did not trade with him… the goods which he… possessed… were confiscated,[2]” he could not be buried in Israel, and his wife could be given to another man.

c.       Now you can see why the lame man’s parents “were afraid of the Jews” when asked to comment on Jesus’ healing of their son, and you can see why John says in 12:42 that “many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue.”

d.      Jesus is putting steel into His disciples’ resolve, telling them that being aligned with Him instead of with the Jews – and declaring Jesus openly – would have far greater and lasting rewards than being cowed into silence by the Pharisee’s intimidation tactics.

o       Do you ever feel intimidated against talking about Jesus?

a.       A friend once complained to us that her doctor had the audacity to ask her what her faith was. She thought he had no business asking about her faith because it was a deeply personal matter between her and God.

b.      A lot of people today say that religion is a private matter – that it shouldn’t be talked about, but that is a cop-out; it is not what the Bible says.

c.       Sure you should pray in your inner room and not parade your religious traditions in front of everybody, but you should also confess your faith before men.

d.      If we want Jesus to stand with us on judgment day, we need to let people know that we stand with Him:

                                                  i.      I’m a Christian. The Bible tells me “do not be filled with alcohol, but rather be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Eph 5:18), would you like to try a different kind of Spirit that gives you God’s words, cleans all the bad out of you, and gives you joy and peace that will never fade away?

                                                ii.      I’m a Christian, so I’m part of another government besides the United States of America. It’s a government run by a guy named King Jesus who bought me out of slavery to my sin by offering to die instead of me. Believe it or not, God raised Him from the dead after that!

                                              iii.      Have you heard the good news? I believe in God the Father who made heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ His only son who was conceived by a virgin named Mary, suffered under a Roman governor named Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, but after three days He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven… From there He will come to judge the living and the dead. Are you ready for that judgment? Have you heard of the forgiveness of sins?

                                              iv.      Dear God, let us not be intimidated by other people’s disapproval. Let us be a confessing church!

e.       Romans 10:9-10 NASB …if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

f.       Hebrews 13:15 NASB  Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess His name.

g.       “[Jesus] states categorically that no man’s faith is to be stuffed away secretly in his heart, but is openly to be produced in the sight of men. If a man runs away or keeps silence, is he not , by frustrating the word of the Son of God, taking himself out of the family of God?” ~J. Calvin

o       v.32b …ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοις+B,C,f13] οὐρανοῖς·
The result: “I will also confess being with you before my father in heaven[3]!”

a.       This has that same strange phrase “confess in…” as the first half of the verse. Vincent wrote, “It shall be as if I spoke abiding in him.”

b.      This parallels the judgment day scenario Jesus describes later on in Matthew 25:31-34 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (NASB)

c.       Jesus is in heaven as one of the three persons of the one true God, before the person of God the Father, promising to draw us into fellowship with God!

d.      This is part of Jesus’ role of intercession which is mentioned throughout scripture:

a.       1 John 2:1b …we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous

b.      Hebrews 7:24-25 Jesus… holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (NASB)


Mat 10:33  ὅστις δ᾿ ἂν με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοις+B,f13] οὐρανοῖς.

10:33 But whoever shall deny/disown me in front of men, I will deny him also in front of my Father in the heavens.

o       Luke 9:26 || Mark 8:38 “Whoever shall be ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of Man shall be ashamed of him when he comes in glory…

o       1 John 2:22-23 Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?... Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father … (NASB)

o       There is a cost to denying Christ, and that is the loss of recognition with God.

o       2 Timothy 2:12-13 …If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (NASB)

o       The picture again is of the judgment day in the future. We will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ and give an account for every deed done in our body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5). Every sin we’ve kept hidden will come to light then, and the verdict will be inevitable: you have violated God’s law, and even if you have only violated the law in one point, you will be condemned (James 2). There will be a terrible silence as God says, “Well, justice demands that this person be condemned to hell.” And in that silence, Jesus will utter those horrifying words from Matthew 7:23, “Never did I know you; depart from me, workers of lawlessness!”

o       αρνήσηταί “deny/disownNIV

a.       The root in this Greek word is rew “to speak up,” and it begins with an alpha privative, so literally it means to “not speak up for”

b.      Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines the word as “deny… disregard his own interests or to prove false to self… reject, refuse something…”

c.       Only occurrence in the O.T. is Genesis 18:15 Sarah denied having laughed at God’s promise of a son when the angels confronted her about it.

d.      Peter denied Christ three times. He said he didn’t know Jesus! (Matt. 26:70-72, Mark 14:68-70, Luke 22:57, John 13:38, 18:25-27) This brings up an important point: Denying Christ is not an unrecoverable failure. Have you ever failed to speak up about your alignment with Jesus? We may repent and be forgiven for denying Christ just like Peter.

e.       Repentance means changing your mind and doing the opposite thing. The opposite of indulging yourself and denying Christ is confessing to be in Christ and denying that we are aligned with our flesh. Luke 9:23 “…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (NASB) We’ll see the parallel a few verses later in Matthew.

f.       One more point: The scriptures teach that it is possible to confess Christ with our words, but deny Him with our actions. This is just as bad as denying Him with our words:

o       Titus 1:16 They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. (NASB)

o       1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (NASB)

o       Jude 1:4 …marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (NASB)

o       Make sure that if you are confessing God’s word with your mouth that you are also obeying God’s word with your hands and feet! That’s part of confessing Christ, and He promises to bless those whose walk matches their talk:

o       Revelation 3:8 I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. (NASB)


  Μὴ νομίσητε[4] ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν· οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην, ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν.

10:34 Don’t y’all start assuming that I came in order to drop off peace upon the earth; I didn’t come in order to drop off peace, but rather a sword!

o       Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην It would be natural for the disciples who were familiar with the teachings of the O.T. to assume that Jesus’ role as Messiah was to bring world peace starting in Jerusalem. After all, isn’t that what the prophets said? (quotes below are from NASB)

a.       Isaiah 9:6-7 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness...

b.      Jeremiah 33:6 'Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them; and I will reveal to them an abundance of peace and truth.[5]

c.       Ezekiel 37:26  "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them...

d.      Micah 5:4-5 And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He will be great To the ends of the earth.  This One will be our peace…

e.       Nahum 1:15 Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; Pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; He is cut off completely.

f.       Haggai 2:9 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts."

g.      Zechariah 9:10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea...

o       But Jesus said He came to drop a sword instead. This Greek word Ballein which is translated “send” or “bring” in most English Bibles literally means “throw” or “drop.” It’s a dramatic word, creating the picture of Jesus dropping a bombshell or throwing a wrench in the works. Here people are expecting Jesus to inject peace into world history, but instead he delivers a sword.

o       Now, there are two ways to create peace:

a.       one is to compromise to the point that the enemy gets what he wants,

b.      but the other is to conquer the enemy so that he can no longer disagree with you!

o       Yes Jesus was bringing peace, but it is not the kind of peace that Marx and the Muslims have demanded of Christians – that is, compromise/lack of resistance to evil. No, the kind of peace Jesus brings is nothing less than the total eradication of evil, but His plan is to do it gradually, and with much struggle. He came to bring a sword.

o       The sword that Jesus brings is associated with His word. In the book of Revelation, He is pictured with a sword coming out of His mouth, the sword representing His word by which He “judges and fights His battles” with evil. (Rev. 19:21)

o       When we share His words with others and tell them about how Jesus died to save sinners, we are pulling that sword out of its scabbard and using His sword!

o       Eph. 6:17  And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

o       Heb. 4:12  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

o       A sword works by cutting things in two. That’s the main thing a sword does. It’s just another way of picturing Jesus’ call here to align with Him rather with men.

a.       The call of Christ to follow Him instead of the world creates a dichotomy – there’s the world and there’s Christ, the sword of His word cuts mankind into two groups: those who confess Him and those who deny Him.

b.      On the one side, there is peace. By offering His life on the cross to pay for our sins, Jesus purchased peace between God and all who believe in Jesus. He also gives peace to our minds (Phil 4) and peace between believers, so He has inaugurated peace.

c.       But the division still exists, and there is no peace between the deniers of Christ and the confessors of Christ. That’s where the tension lies, and that gap is the one into which He is calling His disciples to step to confess and proclaim Him before men so that more might be saved and brought into His kingdom of peace.


Mat 10:35  ἦλθον γὰρ διχάσαι ἄνθρωπον κατὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγατέρα κατὰ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφην κατὰ τῆς πενθερᾶς αὐτῆς· 36καὶ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οἱ οἰκιακοὶ αὐτοῦ.

10:35 For I came to divide a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a bride against her mother-in-law, 36and the man’s enemies will be those of his household.

o       This word translated “set at variance/turn” simply means to divide in two, to part asunder. This follows the concept of the sword and of the division into two categories of Christ confessors and Christ deniers.

a.       Luke 12:52 adds that a household of 5 will be divided 2:3

b.      Here we see son divided over against father (Luke 12:53 adds “and father against son”), daughter against mother, and a newly-married daughter-in-law against her husband’s mother. We also see from I Cor. 7:15 that this bifurcation can also come between husband and wife.

c.       In Communist China and the Soviet Bloc, it was made illegal for parents to teach Christianity to their children. The children were all placed in public schools where they were taught strict atheism. In that “sinful and adulterous generation” it was the Christian parents who had to deal with rejection from their children and who had to have the courage to speak up for Christ when everyone else was denying Him.

d.      It’s been the other away around in most Muslim conversions. Typically it is the disillusioned young men and women who become Christians first and who have to take the courageous stands against parents who try to get them to deny their faith in Christ.

o       Note, however, that this is not prescriptive, but rather this is information shared to prevent more grief than necessary.

a.       Jesus is quoting from Micah 7, where it is not describing a desirable situation, but rather a situation where relationships are broken due to rebellion against God: “For the godly is perished from the earth; and there is none among men that orders his way aright: they all quarrel even to blood: they grievously afflict every one his neighbour: they prepare their hands for mischief, the prince asks a reward, and the judge speaks flattering words… the son dishonours his father, the daughter will rise up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: those in his house shall be all a man's enemies. But I will look to the Lord; I will wait upon God my Saviour: my God will hearken to me. (Micah 7:2-7 Brenton)

b.      Jesus is not saying that families should be disunified and broken up; He is just saying that we need to prepare to deal with the fact that when people start hearing the Gospel and responding to it, some families will go through heartbreaking strife. Those who have to go through those separations need not despair, since Jesus says it is to be expected and it is much better to be with Him than to stay on the side of any human who doesn’t want to be with Jesus – even if it’s a close family member. Allegiance to Jesus comes first before all other relationships.

Mat 10:37  ῾Ο φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστι μου ἄξιος· καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστι μου ἄξιος·

10:37 The one who loves father or mother above me is not worthy of me, and the one who loves son or daughter above me is not worthy of me.

o       Lk. 14:26 adds that followers of Jesus should prioritize Him above their spouse, their siblings, and even their own life!

o       The first half of this verse is directed to children.

1.      My little one year old’s world revolves around his Mama. He loves Mama as much as his selfish little toddler heart can love anyone. But God calls children to a shift in their thinking:

2.      Children can you grow to love Jesus more than Mommy and Daddy?

3.      Can you be like Levi who was blessed by Moses because he “did not consider his father and mother or acknowledge his brothers or regard his own sons, but observed God’s word and kept His covenant!” (Deu 33:9)

o       The second half of this verse is for you parents.

1.      As a parent, I understand the love a parent has for a child. I think my kids are the cutest, most wonderful kids in the world, and I would do anything for them. But how many times have I prioritized them above God? 

2.      Jesus said in Luke 14:26 that our love for God should be so much greater than our love for our children that you could say that in comparison you hate your children. (Now, I think that is comparative language, not that we should actually hate them.)

3.      Parents, can you grow to love Jesus more than you love your precious children?

o       If not, you are not worthy of Christ.

1.      Compare that with the parallel statement in Luke 14:26-27 which substitutes “you cannot be my disciple” for you “are not worthy,” and you see a little more of what Jesus means here.

2.      Now, none of us are truly “worthy,” but some are made “fit.” We are changed by God’s grace to fit the image of Jesus and then (Romans 8:29) we are fit to be His.


So you see, the stakes are high – acceptance or rejection by God forever and ever.


Understanding what it means to confess Jesus is very important. The great puritan commentator Matthew Henry summarized this passage by saying, “It is our duty not only to believe in Christ, but also to profess that faith in suffering for it when we are called…” In his comment, we see the three components of confession: 1) belief, 2) verbal proclamation, and 3) consistent actions.


This requires a total life alignment to be with Christ instead of with the world:

o       Prizing His eternal glory over the approval of people and looking forward in faith to His righteous verdict on judgment day.

o       It includes speaking up about your alignment with Christ, taking up the word of the Spirit which is the word of God, and repenting of the times you did not speak up for Him.

o       It also requires obedience to His word so that our verbal confession is not undermined by rebellious acts.

o       It also means being willing to be severed from any human being who is not also with Jesus.


Let us be people who confess Christ before men, loving Him more than we love anybody else!


[1] See Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament and Hendricksen’s Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew

[2] John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, John 9:22

[3] Parallel passage Luke 12:18 says “before the angels of God” instead of “before my Father”

[4] Same as Matt. 5:17

[5] Jer. 4:10 and Jer. 12:12, however speak of God bringing a sword instead of peace, and Jesus may have had these prophecies in mind as He spoke.