To know what is true, yet confess a falsehood; the forsaking of self in wholehearted consecration to Christ and in service to his kingdom. The latter meaning of the term is related to the godly pursuit of true faith and piety. Christian spirituality is the fruit of the Spirit's sanctifying work in the life of every believer. This work of inner spiritual transformation stands in sharp contrast to mere outward conformity to the ethical and moral standards of biblical Christianity and those practices associated with so-called Christian asceticism ( Rom 12:1-2 ; Col 2:20-23 ). Self-denial is the sum and substance of Christ's call to true discipleship, daily taking up his cross, and following him ( Matt 16:24 ).
The biblical terms for denial (Heb. kahas [v;j'K]; Gk. arneomai [ajrnevomai], aparneomai [ajparnevomai]) more frequently employ the former meaning. Denial of godly faith or conduct is expressed in various degrees or intensities of conviction (compare, e.g., Peter's denial of our Lord and the denial of Hymenaeus and Alexander). Denial may take the form of deception, lying, or rejection of the truth on evidence to the contrary, as when the spies reported falsely about the land of Canaan (Num. 13) or when Sarah lied to conceal her lack of faith in the promise of God ( Gen 18:15 ). The ninth commandment prohibits false witness specifically against one's neighbor, although this commandment applies more broadly to one's duty to speak the truth in all circumstances (cf. Exod 20:16 ; Lev 6:2-7 ). Other examples of denial of Christian faith and practice include the Sadduccees' rejection for the doctrine of the resurrection of the body ( Luke 20:27 ), and the believer's failure to care for relatives, especially members of the immediate family ( 1 Tim 5:8 ). Such false belief and conduct arise out of a willfull suppression of truth and denial of the power of godliness ( Rom 1:18 ; 2 Tim 3:5 ; cf. Titus 2:12 ). Convenantal obligation requires that the servant of the Lord render faithful acknowledgment of God, the world, and oneself, knowing that God the Judge will render to us according to our words and deeds ( Matt 10:26-33 ; 12:37 ; Rom 2:6-8 ). Denial as an act of covenant faithlessness contrasts with the abiding faithfulness of God as Savior ( 2 Tim 2:12-13 ).
Israel's unfaithfulness her denial and rejection of God and of his law resulted in the breaking of the covenant relationship ( 2 Kings 17:15 2 Kings 17:20 ; Jer 9:6-9 ; 11:10 ; cf. Joshua 24:27 ). Israel serves as a warning and example to us of God's ultimate judgment against the denial of true faith and godliness ( John 12:48 ; Heb 12:25 ).
That Christ had to be rejected by humankind, including those who were of his own kindred and race, was in fulfillment of the Father's plan and purpose to achieve the redemption of God's elect seed in Christ ( John 1:11-13 ; Luke 9:22 ; 20:17 ). Subsequent to the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven as our eternal high priest, unmitigating denial of Christ is identified as the sin of antichrist ( 1 Jo 2:22-23 ).
Mark W. Karlberg
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Denial'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".