Confession of Faith (3)

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven. 

But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. “ 

Matthew 10:32, 33

We introduced our last article by pointing out that confessing our faith is a fruit of the grace of God. It is God finishing the good work of salvation in us which He began. (Phil. 1:6) We continued by examining the actual contents of our confessions. In this connection we discussed at some length the first question asked those who confess their faith publicly before the Church. Confession of faith means: “we acknowledge the. doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian Church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation.” Confessing our faith implies that we know the doctrines of the Scriptures, the objective, timeless, always relevant truth of the infallibly inspired Word of God. That doctrine is the doctrine summed up and set forth in systematic fashion in the Articles of the Christian faith, i.e. the Three. Forms of Unity: the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic or Netherlands Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dordt. Still more, we confess before the Church that the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures as set, forth in the Confessions is taught here in this Christian Church.” In other words, most emphatically that means we are confessing that the Protestant Reformed Churches teach the true and complete doctrine of salvation! A knowledge of that doctrine and a commitment to that doctrine are absolutely necessary before one may confess his faith in Jesus Christ. 

But that is not all there is to confessing our faith. Correct doctrine and a commitment to the same—that is first, and that cannot be emphasized enough in our day of apathy, insensitivity, and downright dislike of doctrine. We live in the day of which Paul warned Timothy when he spoke of people having itching ears and not enduring sound doctrine. The popular preacher is not the “doctrinal preacher,” sometimes we fear not even in Protestant Reformed circles. That is too bad! That will yield a bitter fruit in days to come! Without being firmly rooted and grounded in the doctrines of the Bible we will be tossed to and fro by every wind of false doctrine that blows (Eph. 4). And how many of those destructive winds are not blowing today?! But doctrine is not all. There must also be godly living. 

There is of course an inseparable connection between doctrine and godly living. The connection is this: doctrine must be the foundation of our Christian life. It must be the principle that motivates and guides us in our daily living. To put it still another way, the true and complete doctrine we acknowledge must be expressed in our daily life. 

This is precisely why our wise church fathers formulated question number two for Public Confession of Faith which reads: “Have you resolved by the grace of God to adhere to this doctrine; to reject all heresies repugnant thereto and to lead a new, godly life?” (Psalter, p. 59). To appreciate the seriousness of this godly life take your Bibles and turn to the second, chapter of James. Here the Bible speaks of the relationship between faith and works and makes the point that faith without works is dead. In verses 14 to the end of the chapter James asks the question: “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?” Suppose you say you have faith; you make confession of your faith in the Church of Jesus Christ. You acknowledge the doctrine of the Bible as set forth in the Creeds and taught in the Church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation; but as a matter of fact the new and godly life is not there. Your faith is not expressed in your everyday life. Your doctrine is not, put into practice. Can that kind of faith, a faith without the works of faith, save you? Obviously not! James illustrates the point when he writes: “If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works is dead, being alone.” (vss. 15-17). You say you have faith, but when a brother or sister comes to you for clothing and daily food you simply say to him or her, “Be warmed and filled,” but you give them neither clothing nor food; what good is that? Does your word, “Be warmed and filed,” put clothes on your brother’s back and. food in, his hungry stomach? Of course not! Your words are profitless, empty, meaningless. And that’s the way it is with faith without works. That kind of, faith is dead; it’s alone. 

So it is with confessing our faith. We acknowledge the truth of Holy Scripture. The new and godly life must follow. If it does not, it only means that our confession of faith is profitless. You believe the doctrines of the Bible? That’s fine and that’s necessary. But you fail to live the new and godly life? James would say to you: “The devils also believe, and tremble.” (vs. 19)! James concludes the chapter by citing two examples of living faith out of the Old Testament. That Abraham’s faith was living is evident from the fact that “he offered Isaac, his son upon the altar.” And, that Rahab the harlot had living faith is evident from, her “receiving the messengers and sending them out another way.” 

Thus confession of faith involves a resolving to, adhere to the doctrine of Scripture, to reject all heresies repugnant to the same, and to lead a new, godly life. By the grace of God we resolve to do that! By the grace of God, because we cannot do it in our own strength, we resolve to do that. To make that confession means we acknowledge our own inability and sinful weaknesses and commit ourselves totally to the care of God. That certainly implies a resolve to attend the worship services of the Church faithfully. The faithful pulpit is the fountain out of which that grace of God flows, enabling us to lead the new, godly life. It pleases God by the means of the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe! (I Cor. 1) By preaching, God puts to nothing the wisdom of the world. Preaching is Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. To confess a resolve to lead a new, godly life by God’s grace and then to despise God’s means of grace, the preaching of the Word is to put the lie to our confession! And, you understand, this is the ONLY way! Of course God can save by other means; but the point is, the Bible teaches God will not save by other means! God chooses to save by THIS means and this means alone. 

It is precisely for this reason that young people who confess their faith and declare agreement with and commitment to the doctrine of the Scriptures as “taught in this Christian Church” and then who leave that Christian Church commit serious sin. How is it possible to “adhere to this doctrine and reject all heresies repugnant thereto” in a church that does not preach it? Perhaps it is true that one who leaves the church for another will never forget the Protestant Reformed truth and always believe it (this is invariably the rationalization of such a move) but his or her children will not. There are grieving parents who once left and now have returned whose children are to this day in other churches, who will be the first to warn against exactly this. Confessing our faith, then, means a firm resolution to use faithfully the means of grace in order to be enabled to grow in the truth and in the Christian way of life. 

Once more the question: do you know and love the truth? Are you resolved to lead the new, godly life? Then, confess that! Perhaps you refrain because you are afraid of not being able to lead a new, godly life. Personally, this pastor has encountered young people who say that they cannot make confession of faith because they know they will not lead a new, godly life. Somehow they seem to think they have no sacred obligation to lead Christian lives until they have confessed their faith! That’s bad thinking! Read the Baptism Form! When we were but infants the water of baptism was sprinkled upon our foreheads, marking us for Christian living as the children of God’s gracious covenant! “Holy baptism witnesseth and sealeth unto us the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives!” And, through baptism, we are “by God admonished of, and obliged unto new obedience, namely that we cleave to this one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that we trust in him, and love him with all our hearts . . . . that we forsake the world, crucify our old nature, and walk in a new and holy life.” That’s the Bible’s teaching too. Paul says in Romans 6 that we are buried with Christ by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in. newness of life.” (vs. 4). Baptism signifies and it seals this to us. Baptism means that we are dead to sin, no longer the slaves of sin. The admonition of baptism then is in terms of Romans 6: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” (vs. 12). 

That then is our calling! Whether we have confessed our faith or not, our calling is to lead the new, godly life. And that, very simply, means that the truth of the Word of God is expressed by us in all of our living. Our lives are characterized by true piety and godliness. In our homes, at school, in our daily work, as husbands and wives, parents or children, in our recreation, always and everywhere we live as those bought with the precious blood, of Christ, born again to newness of life, elect strangers in the earth who are inspired and moved by a living hope of everlasting glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. Then we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and do not even worry about what we are going to eat, drink, or put on (Matt. 6). We lay up treasures in heaven and not on the earth; serve God and not mammon; pray, preach, worship, eat, drink, sleep, work, and play in a godly manner looking for the city which has the foundations! That is the new, godly life! Is it your resolve to lead that kind of life by the grace of God?