While the divines were building upon the central doctrinal formulations to which the church had long adhered they were also correcting and refining existing theological formulations as a result of their polemics with the Roman Catholic Church. One cannot understand the importance of the Westminster Confession of Faith without recognizing the pervasive engagement with and refutation of many of the doctrinal errors of Rome. One very clear example of this aspect of the Confession of Faith is found in the divines’ chapter, “Of the Lord’s Supper.” In the second paragraph of that chapter, they wrote:
In this sacrament Christ is not offered up to His Father, nor any real sacrifice made at all for remission of sins of the quick or dead, but a commemoration of that one offering up of Himself, by Himself, upon the cross, once for all…so that the popish sacrifice of the mass, as they call it, is most abominably injurious to Christ’s one only sacrifice, the alone propitiation for all the sins of the elect. (WCF 29.2)
Insomuch as it preserved and built upon foundational Christian doctrines, while refuting and refining other widely accepted erroneous doctrines, the Westminster Confession of Faith is recognized as one of the most doctrinally careful and precise Creeds and Confessions of the Protestant Reformation.
The Westminster Confession of Faith is no cold or sterile theological document. Rather, it is full of experiential application of biblical doctrine. One cannot read the divines’ chapters on adoption, sanctification, saving faith, repentance unto life, good works, perseverance, and assurance of grace and salvation (chs. 12–18) without noting the deeply practical and pastoral ways in which the doctrinal truths of Scripture have a bearing on the lives of God’s people. These chapters contain ample examples of experiential Calvinism. While the Confession of Faith is not a devotional document per se, there is a consistent devotional component to its doctrinal expositions.
This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.