WHOEVER DENIES ME BEFORE MEN, I WILL ALSO DENY HIM BEFORE MY FATHER
We read in Matthew 10:32-33 and Mark 8:38, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” 2 Timothy 2:12 makes it clear that, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.” To deny Christ means to reject Him and His claim to be the Son of God and saviour of all those who believe in Him. This denial is a life-long denial, where there is no repentance and no acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. To those whose lives deny the Lord, the Lord will also say to them one day, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” as we read in Matthew 7:23. If we live lives in denial of who Christ is and what He has done, He certainly will deny us before His Father. However, if we trust Christ as our saviour, and seek to glorify Him on the earth, He will confess us before His Father.
If persecution or the threat of persecution makes us draw back from speaking and preaching God’s word, then in some measure Satan has won a victory. His threat of persecution may not have succeeded in harming us, but in holding back the work of the Word of God. When a person took a cross in Jesus’ day, it was for one reason: to die. The ancient Roman cross did not negotiate, did not compromise, and did not make deals. There was no looking back when you took up your cross, and your only hope was in resurrection life. Jesus promised His persecuted followers that the truth of their honourable sacrifice would be known, even if the persecutors did their best to hide it among the pages of history. God would reveal all and justify His servants and reveal the crime of those who thought they had hidden it.
In order to understand Matthew 10:32-33 and Mark 8:38, we need to look at the larger context of these verses. Here are the verses surrounding Matthew 10:32-33 and Mark 8:38:
The context clearly shows that Jesus was revealing His disciples about him being the Christ (Jews long awaited Messiah); and what was going to happen with Him in coming days. He was instructing His disciples about principles of discipleship, not justification. He warned them that men would persecute and possibly even kill them. Yet, they were not to be afraid. The context is acknowledging the Lord before others. The overall principle is that one’s actions has rewards or consequences. When one is under religious persecution or duress, a believer may and can renounce or deny Jesus as Saviour and Lord and or to pledge allegiance to another deity or king. That person faces a decision to either save his physical life by renouncing Jesus on earth or by affirming one’s faith despite the threat of death. A person may love his life, family and or possessions more than God, the kingdom of God, and the rewards of the kingdom. Jesus declares that those who place self, family, or possession is not worthy of him. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Death comes to everyone whether sooner or later. If a person denies the Lord and thinks that he has prolong his life, family or possession may live with guilt when he sees others dying for Jesus. What will that person say to Jesus when he stands before him?
Jesus is encouraging his followers that they should not fear those who can kill the body but can’t kill the spirit. There is one who can kill both the soul and the body, that is God. He encourages his followers that if they are not ashamed of being identified as a follower of Jesus, God will reward each person for their action. “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple. I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Thus, one can’t expect Jesus to praise a person who refuses to identify himself as a follower of Jesus. That person was ashamed of admitting that he is a follower and thus Jesus will be ashamed of calling him a follower of Jesus. The action is renouncing before others on earth. There is no indication that person renounces Jesus in heaven. The passage is clear that there is a denial or renouncing of that person before the Father in heaven. The question is renouncing the person as to a loss of salvation or the person’s action as to the absence of rewards.
3.0 MEANING OF MATTHEW 10:32-33 AND MARK 8:38
Why not to deny? Because:
- We are bound for heaven no matter what pain we might experience here (Luke 10:20; John 13:10).
- We would be rewarded in heaven for any suffering we endured here for Jesus’ sake.
Earlier in Matthew chapters Jesus is recorded as having taught His disciples that their reward in heaven would be great if they suffered persecution on account of Him (Matthew 5:11-12). Getting into heaven is not a reward for suffering. It is a gift freely received by faith alone in Christ alone. However, Jesus also said, not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21) We notice in Matthew 10 immediately after the verses in question that Jesus spoke of being “worthy of Me” by willingly suffering for confessing Him. This is clearly a rewards idea. No one is worthy of Christ in terms of entrance into the kingdom. We are all unworthy. However, there is a common New Testament teaching that by serving Christ faithfully now we can in a sense become worthy to be a co-ruler with Him in His kingdom (2 Thessalonian 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 2:19; 4:13; Revelation 2:26; 3:4-5, 21). We also notice that verses 41 and 42 deal with the idea of rewards for faithfulness. Giving food, shelter, and financial help to one of God’s true spokesmen means that we will share in his ministry and his reward (Matthew 10:41). Giving even a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is rewardable (Matthew 10: 42). Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me. (Luke 10:16) Clearly, then, confessing Christ, especially when persecution is likely to result, is very rewardable. Jesus is talking about rewards for faithfulness, not redemption for faithfulness.
What, then, did Jesus mean in Mathew 10: 32-33 and Mark 8: 38 when He said that He would confess before the Father those who confessed Him and deny before the Father those who denied Him? He meant simply that. At the place where disciples are to be judged, the Judgment Seat of Christ, Jesus will praise or confess before the Father those who consistently by their words and deeds confessed Him before men. However, disciples who failed to consistently confess Him before men by their words and deeds will find that He will deny him something before the Father. What? Rewards. He will deny faithless disciples’ treasure in heaven and / or the privilege of ruling with Him. (Luke 19:11-26; 1 Corinthian 3:10-15; 9:24-27; 2 Corinthian 5:10; 1 John 2:28)
There is a verse which is conceptually parallel to this one, 2 Timothy 2:12. The verses on either side of it strongly assert eternal security. However, verse 12 shows that ruling with Christ is not guaranteed for every believer. If we endure in confessing Christ in our words and deeds, we will reign with Him. If we deny Him by our words and deeds, He will deny us that privilege. The context of 2 Timothy 2:12 makes it clear that what Jesus will deny faithless disciples is ruling with Him, not kingdom entrance. (2 Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”). Moreover, Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:1, But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.
They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. (Titus 1:16) Here is a powerful passage. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (2 Timothy 1:8). If we deny Christ by our words and deeds, He will deny us the opportunity to reign with Him. John says in 1 John 2:22-23, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also”. Confessing Christ may lead to persecution and loss now, but ultimately it leads to blessings and gain forever. Oh, how long we to please Him and have Him confess us before the Father! What a day of rejoicing that would be!