Every believer confesses his Lord Jesus Christ. He does this in the things that he says and in the way that he lives. If the believer is one in truth, and not a believer in name only, confessing Christ is the most important pan of his life. It is his basic concern. Confessing the Lord Jesus
Christ is something that the believer learns as he grows and matures. As a small child he understands that Jesus is his Savior, and that he must love God. As the child of God grows older, he learns that he must say “no” to sin and “yes” to God in every part of his life, that is, at school, at home, at play, and in things that have to do with the life of the church. Eventually the young believer reaches what is called the “age of discretion.” That is the age at which the child of God realized that his faith must be a conscious and purposeful faith. He must of himself believe all of the truths given in the Scriptures and of himself pray daily. He must of himself confess the Lord Jesus Christ in all of his life. The young believer does that no longer because his parents have told him that he must, but because that faith of his parents is now his own faith. It is at that time in his life when the believer stands up before the congregation and makes the profession of his faith. That is an important part of the believer’s confession of his Lord Jesus Christ. It is that particular aspect of confessing Christ, the profession of faith, that I want to discuss with you in this article.
Do you know why it is that our church requires you to make a public profession of faith? Why not simply allow you to partake of the Lord’s Supper whenever you feel ready without a public ceremony? The reason is to be found in the Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches. Article 61 of the Church Order reads:
“None shall be admitted to the Lord’s Supper except those who according to the usage of the church with which they unite themselves have made a confession of the Reformed religion, besides being reputed to be of a Godly life. . . .”
It is the responsibility of the elders of each congregation to oversee the Lord’s table. In other words, the elders must be as sure as possible that when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, each participant takes Communion out of a sincere faith and is free of outward or public sin. If the elders did not do that, the congregation as a whole would be guilty of desecrating the Lord’s Supper. That is a great sin. The elder requires a public profession of faith, then, so that they may examine the young believer who aspires to take part of the Lord’s Table. The elders must know that as you begin to share the churches’ life in Christ at the Communion table, you do so with a heart-felt faith, and with a sincere resolve to live a godly life. You will stand up before your congregation so that all may see as you take your vows before God. All will be assured of your sincerity, and believe that as you take your full span in the life of the congregation, you will do so for the good of the church and not for her detriment.
The entire process by which confession of faith is made is designed to serve that end. Often, after a young man or woman has announced his desire to profess his faith, he must take a pre-confession class. This pre-confession class may give an overview of one of the Reformed creeds and is meant to assure a basic acquaintance with the Reformed religion on the pan of those who profess their faith. Then the young person must appear before the elders in order to give a
testimony of his faith and his life. The elders will ask questions to assure themselves that the person does honestly believe the Reformed truth. They will also want to know that the young man or woman already lives as a member of the party of the living God, and is aware of how important a Godly life is to a sincere confession of Christ. Probably the most important question they will ask will be, “Do you love God?’’ and “Do you know that God loves you?’’
After that the name of the person who wants to profess his faith must be announced to the congregation. This is done two weeks before profession of faith is made. The purpose is so that any member of the congregation who feels it is necessary will be able to go to the elders and explain why the young person should not be allowed to make profession of faith. Again, it is absolutely necessary that every person who partakes of the Lord’s Supper be free of public sin. If any member of the congregation knows that such a sin exists, that sin must be repented of before the young believer can be allowed to the Lord’s Table.
Then the profession of faith is made before God’s people. The young person is asked to stand up and answer the three questions that are found in the back of the Psalter. The intent of the questions is something like this. Do you sincerely believe the Truth that is given to us in the Old and New Testaments and as it is taught in the congregation of which you are a member?” and “Do you intend, by God’s grace, to hold to the Truth, to reject all unbiblical lies, and to live by the Word of Salvation?” and finally “If you should fall into sin, will you heed the elders, who, as Christ’s representatives, bring God’s Word, “Repent and be saved?” When the young person answers yes to those questions, he has taken his vows before God. He has assured God’s people that as he takes his part in the life of the congregation, he will not introduce any strange doctrine or cause sin to arise. The young believer has acknowledged what was signified in his baptism: that he has been washed clean of his sin by the blood of Christ, that, by God’s election, he is and shall remain a member of Christ’s church.
I am afraid that many young people put off the profession of their faith because they do not understand what it is all about. Some think that they cannot profess their faith because their faith is weak, as if, when a person confesses his faith, he is saying that he has a great faith, and is no longer troubled by temptations and doubts as other people are. If that is the case with you, you must realize that those who confess their faith are not claiming to have great faith. Instead they testify that Christ is all of their strength. Weakness of faith plagues believers, old and young. To confess Christ is to acknowledge that when you are troubled by sin you will throw that trouble on Christ and look to Him for your help.
Other young people think of professing faith as “joining the church,” as if they were not members of the church before. They are now going to accept church membership with all of its obligations. Often, the young people who feel this way also have a sin that they want to hold on to for a while yet. Perhaps they listen to rock-and-roll, dance, attend movies, or drink illegally. Whatever the sin is, they are not ready to give it up. They think that as long as they have not sinned, they are not ready to give it up. They think that as long as they have faith, they are still classified as “kids” and are allowed a good deal of license in their behavior. The full obligations of membership in the church do not fall on them yet, and they do not intend to accept those obligations until the time of life for having fun has passed. Young people, you must know that God will not be dealt with that way. God will not be mocked, even by those whom He loves. He will not have it that His young people live in sin and then profess their faith only because it is a matter of social course. God will visit a chastisement on you if that is the attitude that you take. He will chastise us, your elders, if we allow that to happen among the covenant seed. Confession of faith is not a boast of great faith, not is it “joining the church.” It is a humble testimony of you dependence on God. It is an assurance to God’s people of your deep sincerity.
The Old Testament gives us a beautiful picture of what it is to confess Jesus Christ. I am thinking now of Deuteronomy 26:1-11.
“And it shall be, what thou art come in unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and possesses it, and dwells therein; That thou shalt take of the first of all the fruit of the earth, which thou shalt bring of thy land that the Lord thy God gives thee, and shalt put it in a basket, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name there.
And thou shalt go unto the priest that shall be in those days, and say unto him, I profess this day unto the Lord thy God, that I am come unto the country which the Lord sware unto our fathers for to give us.
And the priest shall take the basket out of thine hand, and set it down before the altar of the Lord Thy God.
And thou shalt speak and say before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down unto Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage:
And when we cried unto the Lord God of our fathers, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labor, and our oppression: And the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:
And he hath brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey.
And now, behold I have brought the firstfruits of the land, which thou, O Lord, hast given me. And thou shalt set it before the Lord thy God, and worship before the Lord thy God:
And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thine house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you.
Notice that the text is describing the offering of the firstfruits that the men of Israel made each year, right after the harvest. The offering was a thanksgiving offering, but with it every Israelite man made a profession of his faith.
We see, first of all, that each man brought a basket containing the first, and best, part of the harvest. Before any of the fruits of the harvest were stored or eaten, acknowledgement was first made of God’s saving mercy. When the New Testament believer confesses his Lord, in particular, when he professes his faith, he brings to God a most pleasing sacrifice. The child of God presents a contrite and a sincere heart, and he brings the testimony of his mouth. He takes hold of the promise given by the Word of God in Romans 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’’
At the offering of the firstfruits, the Hebrew confessed that God was the salvation of His people. God has taken a people of no significance and made them a great people, delivered them from the bondage of Egypt, and brought them into the promised land that flowed with milk and honey. When the New Testament believer confesses his faith, he acknowledges what was signified and sealed unto him in his baptism. That is, that he was washed clean of his sin by the blood of Christ, delivered from the bondage of sin and given a new and sanctified heart.
Finally, the Old Testament saint received the promise of God that he would enjoy all of the good things that the Lord would give him in the promised land , plenty, and abundant harvests. As the New Testament believer confesses his Savior, he receives the promise that he will enjoy all of the blessings of citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven. These blessings are the forgiveness of sins, communion with God in Christ and with His people, freedom from the bondage of sin, and justification. The believer has the assurance within himself that as he confesses Christ before men on earth, so Christ will confess him before the Father Who is in Heaven. That is what making the profession of your faith is all about. It is not to declare that your faith is now unshakable, nor is it a social ceremony in which you graduate from a fun-filled adolesence into a dreary adulthood. To profess your faith before God’s people is to give public testimony to the fact that you have consciously laid hold of that salvation that was prepared for you in eternity, and that you now intend purposefully to live a new and godly life.
There is no specific age at which all covenant young people ought to make profession of their faith. Certainly, though, by the time a Christian young man or woman has reached high school he should be asking himself very seriously if he is ready to profess his faith. It is not something that can be done lightly. Preparation is necessary. Young people, you should read your Bibles daily, alone, and examine yourselves to see if you do sincerely believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God and that Christ is your salvation. Just as important, you must pray to God in order to find out His will for you in this matter. And you must ask Him to prepare you to profess your faith before the congregation. In that way, you will mature in your faith, and you will not be afraid to take your full share in the life of the church as God’s people live out of Christ.