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Sermons & Study Guides

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds Pt. 8 - (Creeds and Confessions and their Relation to Individuals)

James Dodson

Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds

(Creeds and Confessions and their Relation to Individuals)

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. (Rom. 1:8)

Question.—What is the basis upon which the responsibility of individuals to join the confession of the church arise? Answer.—For those who are born within the pale of the church, their baptism as infants calls them to join this profession, Ezek. 16:6.  To be born into the church of  God  is  a  great  mercy for  those  who  make  proper  use  of  it,  Ezek.  16:4,  5.  Baptism is an external symbol of that purification of the soul by the holy Lamb of God,  1  Cor.  6:11.    This  sacrament  of  purification  seeks  its  fulfillment  in  the sacrament of nourishment, in the Lord’s supper, John 6:53-57.  This requires an awareness of both the historical testimony (why it was ordained) as well as the confessional  stance  (what  it  meant)  of  the  church,  Ex. 12:26.    This  joining  of confession is to be preceded by a period of catechization which ends no earlier than the onset of adulthood, Prov. 22:6. For  adult  converts,  their  profession  is  joined  to  their  reception  into  the church,  Acts  8:36,  37.    Their  baptism  is  postponed  to  a  time  and  state  of knowledge that will make them able to partake of the holy supper immediately afterwards, Acts 2:42.  This, too, requires a period of catechization, or instruction in  righteousness,  prior  to  joining  the  confession, even  as  Theophilus  was instructed (κατηχήθης), Luke 1:3, 4.  This catechization is to be conducted in terms of the confession of the church, (κατέχωμεν τὴν ὁμολογίαν), Heb. 10:23. It is the end of all catechization to bring communicants into a right relation to each other with respect to the holding of the truth in faithfulness and holiness, 1 Cor. 11:27-29.  This communing in the sacrament of the supper is the highest pitch and proof of unity of confession (both with regard to matters of faith and order) in the church, Luke 2:40-42, 46, 47, 52. Question.—What does it mean to make a public profession or confession?  Answer.—Public confession involves and entails an obligation that is historically grounded and rooted in an acknowledgement of the covenant of grace held forth in Christ, Ezra 10:11.  Responsibility for this confession begins early and never ceases as long as one lives, Matt. 19:14; Ps. 146:2; especially for those born of one or both believing parents, 1 Cor. 7:14. Having  attained  maturity,  it  belongs  to  the  child  to  make  this  growing confession a public and formal one, taking hold of the covenant, in order to full rights and privileges of the church, Isa. 56:4.  It taking up the church’s confession publicly, one enters into the responsibilities which were previously inculcated in the process of catechizing, through a public remembering, Deut. 32:7. 
True confessing requires a positive attitude, Rom. 12:2; thus, it takes up the voluntary obligation of the covenant for one generation to praise another, Ps. 145:4. Question.—How do we come to possess this confession of the church which we are to profess publicly? Answer.—First  of  all,  it  is  important  that  the  catechumens  gain a  thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:15.  Furthermore, they should be trained in that form of sound words which holds forth the true doctrine of salvation, 2 Tim. 1:13.  Yet, all the external cultivation accomplished by the catechizing will avail nothing if the Holy Spirit does not cause the seed of faith to germinate and grow, 1 Cor. 3:5-7.  Children, and catechumens in general, need to learn that they must make a two-fold confession; a confession of one’s own sins, 1 John 1:9; and a confession of the Saviour, Rom. 10:9.  Particularly, in the case of children, this spirit of confession is most naturally imbibed from their mothers, 2 Tim. 1:5.  To this end, the period of catechization is to be improved through due preparation to the end of making confession by prayer, Dan. 9:4. The command to acknowledge the Lord in all our ways, Prov. 3:6; extends to making public confession and joining our profession to that of the church of God, even in imitation of Christ, John 12:49. Question.—Why should the confession of the individual come to encompass the confession of the church? Answer.—The common confession of the church ought to bear an affect upon the individual confession because it is rooted in a common Saviour who stands at the head of all confessing (ὁμολογίαν), 1 Tim. 6:13.  Our very rationale for holding a common confession (ὁμολογίας) is to found in His priestly work, Heb. 4:14.  He Who is the Word of God, John 1:1; learned to speak as a man, Heb. 5:8; in order that man might learn to speak as God, Isa. 50:4. The  church  has  been  taught  to  declare  the  Word  of  God  in  the  face  of contendings, 1 Cor. 11:19; its speech is that born of contention for the faith once delivered, Jude 3; 2 Pet. 1:12.  It is this that constitutes the language of the church taking hold of the covenant of grace, Isa. 19:18. This language, or confession, should be the concern of everyone who wishes to be a faithful child of the church, because the church is commanded to have a common confession which expresses its singleness of mind and judgment, 1 Cor. 1:10.    The  church  is  not  to  be  a  community  joined  by  common  feeling,  or emotional experience, but to be of the same mind and judgment so that there might be a walk (στοιχεῖν) that demonstrates its fundamental agreement, Phil. 3:16.  In this way, the mouth confesses, or speaks the same words (ὁμολογεῖται), in  the  matter  of  salvation,  Rom.  10:10.    The  church  is  so  constituted  that ordinarily  children  must  reaffirm  the  confession  of  their  fathers,  voluntarily taking up the formality of the covenant from hearts moved by the same Spirit, Ps. 78:1-8.