Question: In “Romans 14:11”- It says every tongue shall confess. The word “confess” can mean to “acknowledge openly and joyfully.” I know this is a verse that Universalists share, especially considering that the word “confess” indicates a joyful (not coerced) confession. I know we should not build our belief on one verse. I just wanted to see your thoughts on this.
Answer: You really did not ask a question in your Romans 14:11 inquiry, but if you are asking if all men, “saved” or “lost,” will today, or someday in the future, bow to Jesus and call Him “Lord,” my answer would be that this passage does NOT talk of this. In context, Paul is asking Christians from different backgrounds to get along with each other. He admonished them to allow Jesus to judge what is correct or wrong. He wasn’t addressing different “Christian” beliefs (like Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, etc.), but rather the differences New Covenant saints from an Old Testament Law background had with non-law keeping gentile saints, and visa versa. Paul talked about these Christians ‘bowing before Jesus and confessing He is Lord’ in effort of reminding them of their dedication to Jesus, instead of to their old ways.
This “bowing” and “confessing” adage originates in Isaiah 45:21-25:
“Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ “Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the LORD all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”
Isaiah is here speaking of a time when the true “offspring of Israel” would acknowledge that “righteousness and strength” is found only in the Lord. To know when this time was to begin, we need look no further than the time of Jesus Christ. After all, He is the one that the Bible says “fulfilled all things” written in the Law, Psalms, and prophets.
Paul confirms this fulfillment in Jesus Christ when he mentions ‘all bowing before Jesus and confessing He is Lord’ in Philippians 2:9-12. There, Paul tells the church to “work out their own salvation….” He then uses that statement in conjunction with ‘bowing before Jesus and confessing Him as Lord,’ to show a believer’s dedication and adoration to Jesus. Paul similarly used the “bowing” before Jesus as an expression showing his commitment to his apostolic call in Ephesians 3:14. Besides, the Bible says no unbeliever could truly confess Jesus is “Lord” without first having the “Holy Ghost” (see 1 Corinthians 12:3). If they did have God’s Spirit, they certainly would not qualify as an “unbeliever.”
Copyright © 2011 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.