Editor’s note: We wish to welcome Mr. Marvin Kamps as our new associate editor. His first editorial appears in this issue. We wish him the Lord’s blessing in his labor’s among us.
When this article appears or shortly thereafter, your church bulletins will carry an announcement to the effect: “Anyone desirous of making public confession of his or her faith must contact the consistory….” Have you been thinking about it? You should be!
When considering whether or not to make public confession of our faith, we must not allow mere custom and tradition to be the deciding factor. Frequently it seems, we have the idea that if we are not yet in our late teens, it would be presumptuous and bold on our part to make public confession of faith; or if we are nearly twenty or even in our twenties and still have not made public confession of faith, we feel compelled by tradition to do so. These considerations and all other like thoughts we must, of course, ignore. To make public confession of faith is deeply spiritual, therefore, only those thoughts that are of a truly spiritual character may guide us in making our decision.
One may ask the question, isn’t public confession of faith a strictly personal matter between the believer and Christ? And, therefore, not a proper subject to write about or to discuss publicly! We can agree with this only to a point; but remember, we are not discussing our personal confession as such, but rather our public confession witnessed by all God’s people in the local Church. Our public confession, therefore, has some very serious ramifications to which we ought to give prayerful consideration.
What does it mean to make public confession of faith? Usually we give the following answer; firstly, it means that we acknowledge that we are wretched and miserable sinners in ourselves. Secondly, we acknowledge that Christ has died for us, thereby, covering our sins with His blood and imputing His righteousness to us. And, thirdly, since we are in Christ righteous, we lay claim to all the benefits of salvation. Right here we generally stop listing what it means to make public confession of faith in Christ. This is a serious error. Not that we have answered wrongly, but we have not given a complete answer.
We must not forget that that which we are about to make is a public confession of faith. By public confession of faith we become responsible members in a definite communion of believers in a federation of churches. Consequently, we should consider the following aspects of our public confession. Further, it means in the first place, that we covet the fellowship and the unity that believers have in Christ; that we are willing always to suppress our petty personal differences; that we will strive to walk godly in this present world, in order that the unity of the faith which the church expresses may be preserved. Let us not forget that sin always has a disruptive power and destroys the fellowship that believers have in Christ. We must be very conscious of this fact, otherwise, untold misery awaits us as individuals not only, but also as churches. Secondly, public confession of faith means that we will submit to the rule and government of our office bearers, office bearers who have been called to the office by the Church of Christ and even by Christ Himself. We should carefully reflect upon this aspect of our public confession, for we live in a day when open rebellion and disregard for authority is the order of the day. Thirdly, our public confession means that we intelligently and willingly accept the “Confessions” of our churches as the purest and complete doctrinal expression of the teachings of the Scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are the sole rule for our lives and our “Reformed Confessions” are systematic formulations of the teachings or doctrines of Scripture, and therefore, must be honored by us all. This is frequently disregarded by those who make public confession of faith in our churches. Soon after they have made public confession of faith they leave us and join another denomination. Don’t think of these things lightly, for it is in the doctrines or dogmas of our churches that you will find the direction and guidance to walk acceptably before God.
Let not these thoughts frighten you, however, for your strength is from on high through the grace of God. You will find that the way of the believer is extremely difficult, yet it is blessed. Find your delight in this promise; “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”
Originally Published in:
Vol. 29 No. 6 October 1969