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Confessions and the Church

March 2, 2017

I am not a creedal Christian. I have never led a church in the recitation of the Apostles Creed. I appreciate the ancient creeds. I have listened to Rich Mullens’ “Creed” many times and am conversant with the content of the major historic creeds. The creeds of the church are useful summaries of doctrine but are not authoritative.

I do not consider myself a traditional confessionalist. I do not cite the Westminster Confession, the Second London Baptist Confession, or the Baptist Faith and Message as an authority on any topic. I appreciate the historic confessions of faith. I appreciate them so much I have worked hard to acquire copies of all the historic confessions of faith. The historic statements of faith are instructive but not authoritative.

I do not consider myself a traditional confessional Christian but I am convinced every church needs to have a robust confession of faith. In this sense I am confessional: A statement of faith is necessary for the church as the doctrinal standard upon which the unity of the church is built. The local church should have a statement of faith that retains historic orthodoxy and meets the needs of the modern church.

The New Testament church was built on a substantial body of doctrine that started with the gospel and included truths about things like church life, future events and Christian growth. A full body of doctrine was recognized as essential for the development of the newborn church. The doctrine taught by the apostles was authoritative over the church. Those who refused to follow the apostle’s teaching, even in areas not obviously related to the gospel, were to be removed from the church. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-14)

Since the days of the apostles a primary aim of church ministry has been the growth of believers into “the unity of the faith”. (Ephesians 4:13) The unity of the faith is more than agreement on the gospel. True believers are already unified on the gospel. The unity of the faith is unity in the larger body of apostolic doctrine. A distinction between basic gospel truths and the full body of apostolic doctrine is found in the book of Jude. Jude contrasts the salvation all believers have in common and the faith which must be earnestly defended. A wise church will provide an understandable summary of the apostolic doctrines essential to unity and upheld by the church.

The doctrinal statement is a brief declaration of the core beliefs of a church. The doctrinal statement should declare the truths necessary to be believed to enter into the kingdom of God and the truths necessary to be believed to enter into the membership of the local church. A good doctrinal statement serves as the theological gateway for membership, sets the standard for all preaching and teaching, provides a platform from which to teach doctrine to the congregation and establishes doctrinal accountability for church leadership.

A well written statement of faith helps promote genuine unity within the local church by clearly teaching the doctrines essential to that church. A discussion of the statement of faith may seem more suited to a seminary classroom than a church service but the possession, instruction, comprehension and application of a good statement of faith can be a source of substantial benefit to the whole congregation.

I had intended to write more, but the entire article was well over 2,000 words long. You don’t want to read all that right now. I will be posting more about his topic in the weeks to come.

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