A few days ago, a specific phrase in the book of Hebrews caught my eye. When I think of this verse, I usually picture the King James translation (or one of the many which follow it closely), which says, “let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb. 13:15). This time though, I read it in the World English Bible, which says, “the fruit of lips which proclaim allegiance to his name.”
“Proclaim allegiance” seems like quite a different thing than “give thanks,” so I looked up the Greek word this phrase is translated from. It’s homologeo (G3670), which comes from two root words: homou (G3670), “together with,” and lego (G3004), “to say.” Put together, this word means “to assent, consent, admit,” confess, and/or “be in accord with someone” (Zodhiates’s dictionary). It can also mean “to say the same thing as another” or “declare openly,” often specifically in the sense that you’re proclaiming yourself a worshiper of someone (Thayer’s dictionary). It’s about more than saying “thank you” or even “confessing” (LEB for Heb. 13:15) or “acknowledging” (NET) God’s name. There’s also an element of aligning yourself with God and agreeing with Him.
A Deep, Relational Commitment
How we speak about God–particularly whether or not we align ourselves with Him in our words–matters deeply to Him and affects our relationship with both the Father and Son. Jesus made this very clear early in His ministry.
Whoever, then, acknowledges me before people, I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever denies me before people, I will deny him also before my Father in heaven.Matthew 10:32-33, NET
There ought to be a “togetherness” in how we speak about God and with God. If we are acknowledging, confessing, and proclaiming allegiance to Christ, then He does the same for us, claiming us before His Father and “before God’s angels” (Luke 12:8-9). It can’t just be words, though. Our acknowledgement has to hit a deeper level than mere lip-service.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned that those who just say, “Lord, Lord” without doing God’s will won’t be in the kingdom of heaven. To them, Christ says, “I will declare (homologeo) to them, ‘I never knew you'” (Matt. 7:21-23, NET). Speaking together with God is not about good-sounding words that aren’t backed-up with actions. It’s about a confession that changes your life. It’s a commitment so deep that it can even be dangerous (which is what held some people back from aligning themselves with Christ when He walked on his earth, see John 9:22; 12:42).
Aligning with God for Salvation
Confession of this deep, aligning together sort is something that’s connected to salvation. Homologeo is the word used, for example, in this famous scripture:
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation.Romans 10:9-10, NET
John makes a similar observation in his first epistle. First, he points out that “If we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, WEB). John goes on to talk about the fact that “Whoever denies the Son doesn’t have the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also,” and that we can “know the Spirit of God” by this criteria: “every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 2:23; 4:2, WEB).
If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God.1 John 4;15, NET
In a footnote on 1 John 4:15, the NET translators say, “Here μένει (menei, from μένω [menō]) has been translated as ‘resides’ because the confession is constitutive of the relationship, and the resulting state (‘God resides in him’) is in view.” For these translators, homologeo is a key component of relationship with God.
Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk
The idea that this sort of confession is a life-long process of speaking and living together with God does not just come from a dictionary or a translator’s footnote. Paul connects Timothy’s “good confession” with fighting “the good fight of faith” and taking hold of eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12, WEB). Hebrews links homologeo to the people of faith who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims in the earth” and lived accordingly (Heb. 11:13, WEB). When done right, our confession is a life-long, transformative thing that involves the fruit of our lips matching our deeds, unlike the people Paul speaks of in this passage:
They profess to know God but with their deeds they deny him, since they are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good deed.Titus 1:16, NET
We want to live very differently than this–as people who profess God and also by our deeds “proclaim allegiance to his name.” Throughout his letters, Paul uses homologeo to talk about salvation and the importance of our verbal confession turning into an allegiance manifested in how we live. It’s about relationship, and choosing to use our words and our lives to align with God and let other people know that we walk with Him.
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