Unforced Acclamation

by C. F. Dalmus

WHAT KIND of fulfillment of Philippians 2:10-11 may be expected according to the Scriptures?

The usual interpretation given to this important passage of Holy Writ--to which I held for many years myself--runs like this: "Yes, it is true that in the end all will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. But here is the difference: Some will confess willingly and joyfully; others (the great majority) will confess because they must."

Let us see by the help of God and in the light of His own Word if such a contention will stand the test. There are various reasons that speak against it.

1. The above given interpretation contradicts every known linguistic law. There isn't any language in the world in which by one and the same word two ideas may be expressed which are directly opposed to each other. Supposing I had two horses before me, the one white, the other black. Suppose a child, pointing to the white horse, would ask me, "Uncle, what's the color of this horse?" I would naturally say, "It's white!" But if the child asked me about the color of the other horse, I would not use the same word "white" to designate its color.

And yet such an absurdity is forced upon the Holy Spirit, the real Author of the Scriptures when it comes to the interpretation of our passage. It is assumed that the Holy Spirit used one and the same word to designate a willing, joyous confession on the one hand and a forced, unwilling confession on the other hand. Is it possible? Are these not two contrasts as great as, for instance, light and darkness, or life and death? I, for my part, cannot concede that the Holy Spirit can ever make such a blunder.

If--as is stated here--every tongue will acclaim Christ as Lord and as Such every knee bow before Him for God the Father's glory--that certainly includes the confession of all true believers. Now, if there were such an essential difference between those who confessed out of faith and with a willing heart and those who confessed merely because they were forced to do so, not one and the same word could be used to designate these two kinds of confessions of which one is just the opposite of the other. The word used here in the original is exomologeeseestai. The Greek language is not so deficient in words and forms that it could not clearly set forth such a vital difference.

2. In 1 Corinthians 12:3 Paul declares definitely that no one is able to say "Lord Jesus" except by (the) Holy Spirit. In His discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, the Lord Jesus maintains that the Father wishes to have such worshipers only as worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:23). And we may be sure that such worshipers only will be the ripe fruitage of the redemptive and conciliatory work of God's Beloved Son who "tasted death for every man."

3. When it was announced to Joseph to whom Mary was betrothed, that she should give birth to a Son, he was told "And thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matt.1:21). That had already been proclaimed by the name of one of the personal types of our blessed Saviour, for "Jesus" is the Greek of the Hebrew "Jeschua" (Joshua) which signifies "Jehovah is salvation." Therefore, if Paul by inspiration says that in the name of Jesus every tongue will confess and every knee bow, it is self-evident that all of these thus bowing before Him, have recognized and experienced Him as their personal Saviour and confess Him as such.

4. All of us know that God, the Holy One of Israel, always looketh at the heart and that mere formal lip-service ever has been an abomination before Him (Amos 5:21-23). Can we imagine that He would ever favorably accept a confession and make it redound to His glory, if the confessors only by force reluctantly confessed Christ as Lord with their lips, while inwardly their hearts were foaming in venomous hatred against Him?

When Christ walked on the earth in the flesh, the demons openly confessed Him as the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). But the Lord Jesus rebuked them and did not allow them to speak. At that time He refused recognition out of such an unclean source. Would it ever be acceptable to Him?

5. But the strongest reason for the conviction that the confession announced in our passage as coming, to pass, will be a joyous willing and God-pleasing one, is found in this fact: This verb "Confess homologeoo occurs in many other passages of the Scriptures. From these it may be ascertained beyond the shadow of a doubt what kind of confession this will be.

In Matthew 10:32 and Luke 12:8 the Lord Jesus promises: "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father Who is in heaven." No one will be in doubt as to the nature of such confession.

In John 1:20 John the Baptist "confessed and denied not, but confessed, `I am not the Christ.'" Not a trace of reluctance or coercion is to be noted.

In John 9:22 we are told that "the Jews had agreed already that if any man did confess that He (the Lord Jesus) was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue." Most assuredly, if anyone under such circumstances dared to confess Christ, he was not forced to do so, unless compelled by the inner urge of God's spirit

In Acts 24:14 Paul confesses before Felix, the Roman governor, his unwavering faith in "Christ and the hope of a future resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust." And he so confessed with great boldness and without fear of coercion.

Romans 10:9,10 speaks twice of confessing with the mouth that Jesus is the Lord (similar phraseology as in Philippians 2). And it is added that such confession is made unto salvation. A confession that brings salvation can certainly not be a forced one nor one reluctantly given.

In Acts 23:8 it is stated of the Pharisees in contrast to the Sadducees, that they confessed both: a resurrection and also the existence of angels and spirits. I do not see any reason why we should not believe that they did so out of conviction.

In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul asserts of his (spiritual) son Timothy that he had "confessed a good confession before many witnesses." Could Paul, the great champion of the cross, have called Timothy's confession "good" if it had been given reluctantly or under compulsion?

Not to become wearisome in our presentation--you may also compare the other passages for yourself: Matt.7:23; 14:7 (where homologeoo is rendered "promised"); John 12:42; Heb.11:13; 13:15 ("giving thanks"); 1 John 1:9; 2:23; 4:2,3,15; 2 John 7; Rev.3:5.

As to the noun "confession" homologia the following passages are to the point: 2Cor. 9:13; 1 Tim.6:12,13; Heb.3:1; 4:14; 10:23.

For the sake of the ordinary reader who has not access to the Greek original, be it noted that the verb homologeoo is composed of two words. The first one is the adjective homos which means "alike." The second one is the verb legeoo, "say" or "speak." Thus results the significance: "to speak alike" (in harmony with another) therefore "to confess."

By studying all the passages cited, you, dear reader, are in a position to convince yourself that in all of these cases, the word is used of a willing, obedient and joyful confession.

From this rule I can find only one exception, and that is Titus 1:16. Here Paul says of some Jewish Cretians: "They profess (confess) that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." Their confession evidently was a feigned one only.

I am quite sure that now some one will be ready to jump at me and sneeringly retort "that this one exception is sufficient to knock out your whole argument." It at least admits the possibility that the confession of some of those in Philippians 2:10,11 may not be genuine.

To this I reply: It does not state in Titus 1:16 that those Cretians confessed "that Jesus Christ be the Lord" but that they "knew God." And they certainly were not forced to make such a confession, which is the point so strongly stressed in the usual interpretation of our passage. It is true that there is plenty of feigned worship in our days and there may be some even in the next eon under the rulership of the Son of Man. But forced worship has never been one of God's methods and the thought is foreign to Scripture.

But so far we have been dealing with the simple form only of the verb homologeoo. The fact is that this verb (confess) appears frequently in a "strengthened" form in the New Testament. In all these cases a so-called prefix precedes the verb in its simple form. That prefix is the preposition ex, "out" or "out of." Thus we have exomologeoo in the active and exomologeomai in the middle voice (of which a little more, later).

In the strengthened form the little prefix ex denotes the fact that the confession came out of the innermost (heart). And that's the form used in our passage and it is never used of any feigned, or reluctant or forced confession. Can that leave any doubt as to the nature of the confession here?

We find this form in passages that deal with confessions of sins. So in Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18 and James 5:16. Here the usual form homologeoo is preceded by the prefix ex to emphasize the fact that these confessions came out of the heart.

Twice the Lord Jesus Himself makes use of this verb (Matt.11: 25; Luke 10:21), and in the latter passage it is preceded by the assertion, "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit and said..." Accordingly in these two passages exomologeoo has been rendered "I thank or praise Thee, O Father that..."

This same jubilant, rejoicing note is sounded by this strengthened form in Romans 14:11 (where we have the same phraseology as in Philippians 2) and in Romans 15:9. Can there be any doubt as to the nature of the confession in our passage?

And last--but not least--it must not be overlooked that in our passage the verb exomologeoo appears in the so-called "middle voice" exomologeomai. In modern languages we have the active and the passive voices only. But in the Greek there is a third--an intermediate between the active and the passive. Winer in his grammar says that the Greek used this middle voice, when they wanted to convey the thought that a person did something by himself, out of his own volition. And that's the form used in our passage.

We have cited every verse in the New Testament where this verb is used and we have found but one instance where in its simple form it is used of a feigned confession and that in an altogether different environment. In all other cases--even in its simple form it denotes a willing, obedient and joyful confession.

And the strengthened form of homologeoo clinches our argument, for it is never used of any feigned or forced or reluctant confession.

When by God's grace this blessed truth dawned upon me, a sense of deep gratitude welled up in my heart. Methinks, by this chain of positive evidence, the Holy Spirit wants to remove the last particle of doubt as to the nature of the future confession of "those in heaven and of those on earth and of those beneath" (under the earth).

How glorious that we have a God Who, through His only beloved Son, is more than able to deal in grace and judgment with all of His creatures so long, until the will of every creature belongs to Him. And He can and will reach His goal through His Son, according "to the energy by which He is able even to subject all things to Himself" (Phil.3:21).

In the light of these facts you learn to understand Romans 11:32-36, and all you can do is to fall down on your knees and worship Him and glory in His Name!

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