Part 1: Confession of Faith
Editor’s note: Since it is coming to that time of the year when young people across our federation think about standing and making profession of faith before the church, I thought it would be good to look at this topic. Mostly I will be using an article first written by the Rev. Lawrence Bilkes (Sr.) for the Youth Messenger. I have divided it into several parts and organized it for easier reading, with some minor edits.
The first thing to realize about public profession of faith, is what it is. You can’t ask the question: “Should I do it?” unless you know what “it” is. This is what it is: It’s confessing before “many witnesses” ( 1 Timothy 6:12) that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and trust in Him for your salvation.
Where to Start: You Are Confessing Faith, Not Just Truth
There have been statements throughout the history of our Free Reformed (and earlier Seccesion) churches. A report adopted by our FRC Synod of 2001 refers to a number of them and expresses how our churches continue to view public confession of faith:
1836: “No one is to be recognized as a confessing member of the Church of Christ except those who have made confession of faith and not merely those who have memorized some truths” (italics as in the 1836 Acts, p. 194).
1913: For confession of faith one must require a living faith, even though one must admit that man cannot see what is in the heart before God (p. 204). Only “the Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19)
1950: “Making confession means to confess one’s faith and not merely of the truth of God’s Word. The same criteria should be used for making confession of faith as is used in preparation for the Lord’s Supper. If a consistory would be satisfied when an applicant would make confession of an historical faith and nothing more, then it is acting contrary to the teaching of God’s Word and the fundamentals of the Reformed faith” (p. 204).
The 1950 Synod also pointed to the inseparable connection between making confession of faith and the use of the sacrament. God’s Word demands this view. Confession in Scripture is always a matter of the mouth and of the heart. The foundations of Reformed doctrine also demand this. Doctrine is not merely to be conceived of intellectually but personally. The truth of God is at stake here. John 8:32 proves that the concept of truth is never merely a matter of historical faith. “…Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). “I am … the truth….” (John 14:6). These Bible passages preclude an intellectual restriction of truth.
This clear consistency throughout the history of the church does not take away all pastoral difficulties. On the contrary: These need to be addressed in a faithful and balanced ministry. Yet, these problems are inseparably connected to the nature of faith itself. The church has followed the above-described practice, because she believes that the Holy Spirit works in the church by means of the preaching of God’s Word and catechism given to the youth. It pleases the Lord to work in the hearts of young and old in the way of the means of grace.
Editor’s note: So the question to ask yourself before you make public Confession of Faith is: Do I believe? Do I believe that Jesus Christ is Savior, do I trust in Him for my salvation, and will I, have I, repented of my sins and begun to follow Him?