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A Few Creeds Plus the Bible: How to Shepherd a Church toward the Use of Confessions

To do so is simply to obey the Bible, where we’re instructed to fill our minds with the knowledge of God:

  • Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).
  • Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2).
  • For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5).

The Bible tells us to fill and train our minds. The knowledge of God controls our minds so that we can think rightly about God. Thinking rightly about God encourages us to feel rightly about God and act rightly before God.

Creeds and confessions teach our people to fill their minds with right thinking about God, and right thinking creates praise and adoration for the Creator. So, Carl Trueman states,

We go to church each week in part to be reminded by that Word which comes from outside of us who God is, what he has done, and what he will do. The corporate recitation of a creed forces us to engage in the positive action of ascribing to him that which is his: glories of his nature; the marvelous details of his actions; and the great promise of the future consummation of the kingdom. That is worship: giving to God what is his.[3]

Affirming sound doctrine together unifies our congregation so that we can rightly praise the Creator together.

LESSONS LEARNED ALONG THE WAY

Though creeds and confessions can be read aloud on the Lord’s Day, reflected upon in small groups, and memorized by members, as pastors we must remember that casting a confessional vision requires patience. These moments of corporate confession create space for God to work as members learn to ask good questions of both the Bible and the doctrinal content the church ascribes to and teaches.

So, when a member says, “I agree with every word, but only Roman Catholics read creeds” or “I agree with every word, but I have no creed but the Bible,” it’s an opportunity for an elder to help them see that it’s not just Roman Catholics who use creeds but the church of Jesus Christ as she confesses “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Or if a member says, “I agree with every word, but reading creeds is repetitive,” it’s an opportunity for an elder to explain the value of catechizing. It’s an opportunity to avoid monotony by using a multitude of creeds and confessions that repeat the same truths—and confessing truth is always an act of worship.

Some creeds—like the Athanasian Creed—might be too long for any one worship service. That’s okay; you can divide the creed up to be read over the course of consecutive weeks.

Unfortunately, as a defined confessionalism emerges, some may leave. Others, however, will be drawn to the doctrinal content of Scripture. Therefore, as Wolfgang Capito urged his church when unsettled about the slow pace of reform, be calm and “let the Word work on.”

* * * * *

[1]John Calvin, The Institutes of Christian Religion, Book IV; Chp 1, Section 5, 1019.

[2]The New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833, Adapted).

[3]Carl R. Trueman, The Creedal Imperative (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 156.

This article originally appeared here.

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RaymondJohnson@churchleaders.com'
Raymond Johnson is the senior pastor of Christ Church West Chester in West Chester, Pennsylvania.