But Machen’s call for honesty does not apply only to others; it applies to us as well. Nothing is gained—either for our neighbors or for the effectiveness of our witness—when we hold back on what we believe. As followers of the God who loves truth and who is truth, we must be honest. Here are three things that can be helpful to remember in this regard.
the sovereignty of god
Failing to be honest about what we believe often comes from a desire to control the outcome of an encounter. But that is not in our power. It is, however, in God’s power, and He will direct the encounter as He sees fit according to His good purposes. Our part is to be faithful to Him. We cannot control someone’s reaction to what we say, but we can control what we say and how we say it. Let us strive to be faithful in our proclamation of what the Bible teaches, and let us do so winsomely, with love for our neighbor; not obnoxiously, lest the offense come from our presentation rather than from the teaching itself.
the advantage of a confession
A robust confession of faith states plainly and publicly what we believe. As a faithful summary of what the Bible teaches, a confession gives believers something to study and to use in encounters with questioners.
A confession also helps believers indicate that their statements are not simply their own but issue from a long and distinguished church tradition. It helps them say, “This is simply what the Bible teaches and what the church confesses.”
A confession gives weight to encounters with questioners and bolsters believers’ honesty. Confessional churches cannot hide behind platitudes or a bare-bones statement of faith on a website. Their beliefs are out in the open for all the world to see and to criticize. Having a confession helps churches and Christians be honest with the world.
the power of conviction
Many people today lack strong convictions. They are blown this way and that by the demands of the culture. We ought not to be like that. We are grounded in the unshakable, unchanging Word of God. We need not fear the culture.
When we show that we are not afraid, when we refuse to be cowed by the sinful demands of the culture, we demonstrate powerfully the worth of what we stand for and what we stand on. Standing on the solid rock of orthodox biblical teaching, in a world of shifting sand, is a compelling witness to the truth of what we proclaim.
Let us declare what we believe to all who ask and to all who will hear. Let us declare the whole counsel of God, and let us do so “from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully” (Westminster Larger Catechism 144), without fear, and with a clear conscience. When we do so, we show our trust in the Lord who has saved us and who promises that His Word will not return to Him empty (Isa. 55:11).