Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds Pt. 4 - (Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 1 — Matters of Faith Necessary for Salvation)
Confessionalism and the Need for Creeds
(Creeds and the Matter to be Confessed 1—Matters of Faith Necessary for Salvation)
That if thou shalt confess (ὁμολογήσῃς) with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession (ὁμολογεῖται) is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (Rom. 10:9-11)
Question.—Why is the act of confessing so important?
Answer.—Just as we are told that faith without works is dead, Jas. 2:17; so, too, Paul makes it clear that belief without confession does not save, Rom. 10:9-11.
The context and the verb used, ὁμολογέω, imply several things: 1.) It is an external and objective act, spoken with the mouth, Rom. 14:11. 2.) It employs intelligible words arranged to form a single interpretation expressing the substance of the revelation (λόγον), Heb. 13:7. And this interpretation presents an understanding that may be evaluated, 1 Thess. 1:5. 3.) It expresses a substance of words that is the same as (ὁμοῦ), which implies the existence of like confession, Ps. 34:3. Confessing presumes a shared point of reference, 1 John 1:9.
Christ placed so much emphasis upon confession, which is the outer declaration of the inner conviction, that He makes an acknowledgement of Himself in His person and work as the great test of true membership in Him, Luke 12:8. A confession is man’s answer to the question of true religion as defined by the person and work of Christ and an acceptance of the correct interpretation of the Word of God, Matt. 16:15, 16. It is the revelation of the Spirit of God persuading the private judgment of man of this truth, Matt. 16:17. Most importantly, according to Jesus, this very act of confession, carrying with it a profession of identity, is the very foundation of His church, Matt. 16:18.
Question.—What are those matters of faith necessary to salvation which need to be confessed?
Answer.—That there are matters necessary to salvation included in this confession should appear from the fact that there are things foundational (θεμέλιον) to saving faith, 1 Cor. 3:11. These are primary foundational articles which if either unknown or denied constitute a repudiating of salvation itself, 1 Tim. 6:19.
First, we must acknowledge that some foundational, or fundamental, articles are such that they actually constitute the very basis upon which saving faith is possible, John 5:24; these are such as must be known and accepted by anyone that would be saved, John 8:24. These doctrines all have an immediate necessity grounded on and founded in Christ, Col. 2:19.
Amongst these doctrines must be included: 1.) That Jesus is the Son of God, John 6:40; 1 John 3:23. 2.) That Jesus is Savior, Matt. 11:27. 3.) That we must have faith in Christ, John 3:15. 4.) That redemption is in Him alone, Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14. 5.) That by Him alone we are justified before God, Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:28. 6.) That in Christ we see manifest the gracious working of the Trinity, Matt. 28:19; 1 Pet. 1:2. These things, at least, constitute the ground without which it is impossible to please, or be well-pleasing to (εὐαρεστῆσαι), God, Heb. 11:6.
These doctrines are the sine qua non, those without which, of an ordinary saving profession of the truth, John 14:6. Without these fundamental truths, which constitute the substance of the Gospel, no man can be saved, Acts 4:12. In these primary fundamental truths there is a fusion of certainty of salvation with certainty of truth, John 14:17. These are the doctrinal fundamenta, or foundations, which constitute the very basis of saving faith and its vital union with God which is confessed, 1 John 4:15. Furthermore, these doctrines are not available to unaided reason of the natural man, Isa. 54:13; because faith is occupied with those things not seen, or apprehended, by the senses, Heb. 11:1.
Second, we must acknowledge that there exists another category of fundamental truths that, while not constituting the basis of saving faith, yet are necessarily implied in those articles which do constitute matters of saving faith, 1 Cor. 15:12-17.
Among these doctrines should be included are those concerning: 1.) Original sin, Rom. 5:12. 2.) Eternal election and predestination, Rom. 9:11, 12. 3.) Justification without meritorious works, Rom. 3:27. 4.) Sanctification, Eph. 2:10. 5.) The worship of God, John 4:23. 6.) Sacraments, Acts 2:38. 7.) The church and its government, Eph. 4:11, 12. 8.) The resurrection of the body, 1 Thess. 4:13-16. 9.) Eternal life, 1 Thess. 4:17.
These secondary fundamentals do not constitute, but they do conserve, those primary articles of faith, Heb. 12:14. Although a lack of acquaintance with these doctrines will not prevent our salvation, yet, a stubborn denial of, or hostility to them can endanger the very foundation of faith and subvert saving faith, 2 Tim. 2:18. It is of ignorance concerning these doctrines that one may pray like the father of the demoniac, Mark 9:24.
Question.—How do we know that these doctrines all ought to be embraced by our confessionalism?
Answer.—That these doctrines all comprise matters fundamental (θεμέλιον) is apparent from the apostolic record, Heb. 6:1-3. They are also referred to as the first principles of the oracles of God which are milk (γάλακτος) for babes, Heb. 5:12. Milk, γάλα, connotes those less difficult doctrines necessary for salvation, or the life of grace, 1 Cor. 3:2. As such, these are the very kinds of doctrines Peter tells us are necessary for Christian newborns to grow, 1 Pet. 2:2. Thus, these kinds of matters—incarnation, atonement, angels, ministry, church and ascension—are all included in the Christian confession, 1 Tim. 3:16; which is teaching (lit. catechizing, κατηχήσω) in simplicity of understanding, 1 Cor. 14:19. For this reason, we can say that teachers really lay the foundation (θεμέλιον) of the church, 1 Cor. 3:10. Holding primary and secondary fundamentals as part of our confession is what moved Paul to testify against the Sadducees, Acts 23:6-8.