I was baptized into Christ on a cold, January night in 1973.  I remember so very well the feeling of conviction that I experienced during the sermon that Sunday morning, the deep yearning that I had for the blood of Jesus to wash away my sins, the conversation with my father that afternoon, and, after services that evening, the drive to a nearby town where there was a church building with a heated baptistery.  I remember in great detail nearly everything about that joyful night, except my confession of faith in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the expression of my desire to receive Him in obedient faith as my Lord and Savior.  Why doesn’t my profession of faith in Christ stand out more clearly in my mind?  I imagine it is because my confession most likely consisted of a one-word, affirmative response to a question from the minister.  The question was probably asked much like the following:  “Do you believe with all of your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?”

According to Jesus and His apostles, our confession of Christ is a vitally significant part of our faith response to the grace of God and our acceptance of His salvation.  In keeping with Peter’s confession that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), Jesus said that our unashamed, public confession of Him would result in Him owning and confessing us before His Father in heaven (Matt. 10:32-33) and before the angels of God (Luke 12:8).  Early Christian converts not only confessed their belief in Jesus as God’s Divine Son, but also professed their acceptance of Him as “Lord” (Master, Ruler, Sovereign) of their hearts and lives (Rom. 10:9-10; I Cor. 12:3 ).  Their confession was intrinsically connected with the concept of “calling on the name of the Lord” for salvation (Rom. 10:9-13), and so it is only natural that this profession would be made at the time of their baptism (Acts 22:16).  Paul recalls how Timothy had “made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses,” (I Tim. 6:12).  How did something so significant, powerful, courageous, and convicted get reduced, formalized, and ritualized into saying, “Yes,” in response to a question?

The words of the question that I was asked before my baptism can be found in Acts 8:37 in the King James Version.  If you are reading an NIV or one of several other newer English translations, you will be hard pressed to find verse 37.  In fact, you will notice that the sequence of the verse numbers in this section of the chapter is … 35, 36, 38, 39…!  You may have verse 37 in a footnote or perhaps bracketed within the text, as in the NASB.  Bottom line: some well-meaning copyist in the second century felt like a confession from the Ethiopian treasurer would certainly have been appropriate before his baptism, so he either wrote verse 37 in the margin of the manuscript or maybe just boldly inserted it directly into the text as he wrote.  The overwhelming evidence from early manuscripts of Acts indicates that verse 37 was not original in Luke’s record.  Still, the confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” undoubtedly reflects a common, accepted, historical baptismal confession.  But, even then, notice that the words are not framed in the form of a question that was asked; it was a confession that was made! 

In many of our churches, we commonly refer to “taking” someone’s confession before they are baptized.  When did we start “taking” confessions instead of “making” them?  It is not unusual for the one facilitating a baptism to talk (sometimes at great length) about the significance of the believer’s decision, the joy of the occasion, and what it means to them as a father, minister, elder, or friend to be able to baptize the person, while the one who is putting their faith into action, trusting in Jesus, being buried and raised with Christ, forgiven of sin, redeemed, added to God’s church, and indwelled by the Holy Spirit gets to say, “Yes.” 

For many years now, I have asked those who desire to be immersed into Christ to “make” their confession of faith in Him.  The power of tradition being what it is, I will still honor their desire to merely answer a question if that is what they expressly request, but I always explain what I believe to be the Biblical example of early Christians.   “Yes” just seems to be a far inferior substitute for the opportunity to proudly and enthusiastically “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord,” (Rom. 10:9).

What is the most common practice where you worship?  Why do you think we started “taking” confessions instead of “making” them?