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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.