In the last post, we considered some introductory reasons for every local church to have a healthy confession of faith. In this post, I’ll give you 5 positive reasons for having a confession of faith.
We Have a Conviction
Robert Paul Martin wrote, “An unwillingness to define with precision the faith that it professes to believe is a symptom that something is desperately wrong with a church and its leadership.”
Local churches are not Milton Bradly. We are not inventing, producing, or playing games. We have a conviction regarding the truth of God. Here we stand; We can do no other!
We aren’t looking down at the ground kicking our foot saying “Ah shucks, I guess we sort of believe this or that…” No! It is the duty of every local church to boldly proclaim, this is what the Bible says!
Churches that embrace historic confessions of faith, like the 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession, declare, “While everyone is progressing and minimalizing and moving to the shallow end of the pool, we are going to regress. We are going to go backward to our roots. We are going to maximize. We are going to go deeper and fuller and more thorough.”
No matter your church’s confession, you must, in a world that is trying to customize and personalize truth, stand on God’s truth unapologetically.
No doubt confessions like the 1689 are thorough. But consider what Baptist B.H. Carroll wrote,
“A church with a little creed is a church with a little life. The more divine doctrines a church can agree on, the greater its power, and the wider its usefulness. The fewer its articles of faith, the fewer its bonds of union and compactness. The modern cry, ‘Less creed and more liberty,’ is a degeneration from the vertebrate to the jellyfish, and means less unity and less morality, and it means more heresy. Definitive truth does not create heresy—it only exposes and corrects. Shut off the creed and the Christian work would fill up with heresy unsuspected and uncorrected, but none the less deadly.”
Local churches should love thorough, biblical, Baptist confessions of faith because we love the truth. Because we have real conviction.
I love the first line of the 1689 because it sets the tone for everything else:
The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, and infallible standard of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.
This confession of faith serves the Bible. It is not equal to it. It is not above it. It’s an arrow that points to the Scriptures. If ever we find a conflict between the Bible and the Confession, we go with the Bible, since it is supreme.
Confessions of faith are important because we have a conviction. 2ndly, because
We Have a Commission
Here is the gospel: The Son of God took on human flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit., and was born of the Virgin Mary. He grew up in obedience to His earthly parents and His heavenly Father. He began His ministry around age 30. In everything He did He fulfilled all righteousness.
He proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God. He called sinners to repentance. He showed us the truth. He Himself is the truth.
He then died for the lawless sinners. Covenant breakers. He bore God’s wrath justly due our sins. He was buried and rose again on the 3rd day in victory. All who embrace this truth by faith and turn from their sins in repentance will be saved.
Upon His resurrection and before His ascension, Christ gave His church a commission (cf. Matt. 28:18-20). That commission is one of making disciples. We cannot make disciples apart from teaching.
Thus, a confession of faith helps the church fulfill this commission. It sets forth what we believe Jesus taught us to teach the nations. About the Bible. About God. Aboud sin. About redemption. About the church.
Because we take the Great Commission seriously, we have put down in writing what we believe so that we can teach it. A good confession of faith helps us do this rightly. It helps us form good ways to talk about the Trinity, the gospel, God’s governance of the universe, Christ, covenant theology, and the list goes on and on. All these precious truths we believe and hold so dear, we are to teach to others.
A confession of faith is useful because we have a Conviction, a Commission, 3rdly, because
We Have a Contention
The church today is the church militant. We are at war. We are contending for the faith (cf. Jude 1:3). We are contending for the truth. The world, flesh, and devil are constantly striving to minimize, change, or eradicate the truth.
New warped aphorisms are invented all the time that say things like: “Love over verses.”
You understand what that’s trying to do? Chip away at our foundation. It’s saying look past what God says in His Word and just “love” people. Ignore the Bible’s definitions and embrace a 21st century standard.
But this is where a good confession of faith comes in and helps us protect the truth. It helps us say, “Nope!” It helps us say, “Here is the faith once delivered that we are contending for.”
Individual Christians and churches are called to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. What is that faith? Someone may say, “Well, it’s what the Bible teaches!” Yes, this is true. But a lot of people say a lot of weird things about what the Bible teaches.
So, a confession of faith essentially says, here is what the Bible teaches. Here is the faith once delivered and passed down from generation to generation. Here is the truth that we are contending for.
5thly, a confession of faith is useful because
We Have a Commemoration
1 Samuel 7:12says,: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the LORD has helped us.’”
A healthy confession of faith is an Ebenezer. It is a rock of remembrance. It is a commemoration. It is a reminder that we have only arrived where we are today by God’s help, that He has helped generations past, and that by His sovereign grace He will help generations future.
Holding to a historical confession of faith says, we stand in a long line of godly men and women who have been anchored in the same truth. Furthermore, by God’s grace, our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren will continue to hold the line and continue to gird themselves up in truth.
We have a confession of faith because we have a conviction, a commission, a contention, a commemoration, and finally, because
We Have a Congregation
Every local church is to be a pillar and buttress of the truth (cf. 1 Tim. 3:15). We are not just a bunch of individuals, but a body and we are called to a corporate faith.
This is certainly not dismissing the necessity of an individual and personal faith in Christ. You cannot be saved by someone else’s faith. You must personally put your faith in the person and work of Christ. In His life, death, burial, and resurrection. There is no salvation without personal faith in Jesus.
But this personal faith is not a privatized faith. You confess what the church confesses because the church confesses the truth.
Ditches to Avoid
We have a conviction, commission, contention, commemoration, and congregation. This is why every local church should use a healthy and historical confession of faith. Practically, when it comes to a church using a confession of faith there are two ditches to avoid:
This is when a church treats a confession of faith in word or deed as on par with the Bible. Remember, a confession of faith is under the Bible’s authority and is to serve the Bible. A local church reserves the right to amend, reword, or add to a confession of faith as necessary, though it should do so with the utmost care. Yet, we can never amend, reword, or add to the Bible!
We must avoid hyper-confessionalism. But 2ndly, we must avoid:
- Nominal Confessionalism
This is when a church has a confession, like, say, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, but no one actually knows what it says. It is literally or metaphorically stuffed back in some ancient file in a closet somewhere in the church building that no one every uses anymore.
Thus, it has become a confession of faith in name but not practice. This is why confessional churches should be committed to reading, studying, teaching their confessions. In this age of religious pluralism, of the wild west where everyone can just believe whatever they want for whatever reason they want to, in this wicked age, every faithful church should have a confession of faith. And every member of the church should strive to know what that confession teaches and why. Truth matters.
Now, this doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements at times with members over portions of a confession of faith, and that’s okay.
At our local church, no one is required to be a 1689 scholar or in strict agreement with every single sentence to be a member of the church. Within the life of the church there is liberty of conscience on certain issues. Some people are going to look at things differently. Some are going to need to be taught better. And everyone must be seeking to mature in the faith.
However, the 1689 helps us because upfront it says, “This is what we believe.” This is how our elders are going to teach. If you desire to be divisive over issues or cannot accept the teaching, then this would not be the best place for you.
It’s one thing to disagree and be willing to learn or to disagree and be willing to strive for unity, it’s one thing to be like that and it’s a different thing to just seek to sow division among the Body.
The strategy of churches over the last few decades has been to be as “big tent” as possible so as to include the largest number of people possible in the church. What our world needs, though, is churches willing to be dogmatic over the truth.
We need to obey verses like Eph. 6:14. Stand firm. Gird yourselves in truth. These are not the days for minimizing truths. These are not the days for nuance and ambiguity.
It’s like those who profess to be in Christ’s army are trying to hide which side they are on. They are covering up their uniforms so as not to stick out.
But I’m saying, wear the armor of Christ boldly. Let’s take out the biggest, most visible, flag for Christ that we can and let’s plant that thing firmly and unapologetically in the ground.
This is not because we want division or brashness. It is because we know that Christ is worthy of a church that loves His truth. It is because we know the only antidote, the only hope, the only thing that will turn our communities, our homes, our nation around, is truth.
Gird up church. Let us protect. Let us proclaim. Let us perpetuate God’s truth.