Together in the Truth (Part 2)

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Pastor Eugene shares reasons why we corporately recite creeds and confessions, and offers examples of how we use our statement of faith as a church.

In a previous article, I explained what is a statement of faith. Here, let me offer four reasons why we corporately speak the truth to one another. I will also cite three examples of how we use the statement of faith in our life together as a church. So, four “why’s”, then three “how’s’”.

Why we use the statement of faith

Why #1: To know the truth

In Ephesians 4, Paul says the goal of ministry is to build up the body of Christ with the knowledge of the Son of God. For this reason, God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherd-teachers to equip the saints. Such equipping takes place in a variety of ways including preaching, Bible studies, biblical counselling, reading the Bible one-to-one, etc. Corporately reciting creeds or confessions is another teaching instrument in our equipping toolbox.

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Creeds and confessions are helpful because they summarise key biblical truths in a systematic and pithy way. By distilling what the Bible says about foundational topics like the character of God, the nature of man, the person and work of Christ, and the gospel, creeds and confessions provide an accessible means of knowing and understanding what we believe. Our statement of faith consists of eleven sections, which provide a useful overview of crucial Christian doctrines:

  1. The Scriptures
  2. God
  3. Humanity
  4. Salvation
  5. God’s purposeful grace
  6. The church
  7. The ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper
  8. The kingdom
  9. The mission of the church
  10. Family
  11. Last things

By monthly reciting excerpts, we will go through most of our statement of faith by the end of this year. Coupled with last year’s use of the New City Catechism, this will give us a comprehensive grasp of the Christian faith.

While creeds and confessions are not on par with Scripture, they can strengthen our confidence and trust in God’s word. We live in a world where the notion of objective truth is increasingly being undermined or even denied. Creeds and confessions help us see Scripture’s coherence and clarity. Regularly speaking the truth to one another in our worship services reminds of how God’s truth is our steady anchor in a sea of subjectivity. Knowing the truth prevents us from being tossed to and fro by every wave and wind of false doctrine (Eph. 4:14).

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In this way, making creeds and confessions a regular part of our life together arms us to guard the truth. As God’s people, we are all responsible for protecting the faith from being corrupted by error or falsehood. Knowing the truth enables us to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jud. 3b).

Why #2: To gather around the truth

Scripture warns us against fighting over opinions and preferences. How do we avoid conduct that causes friction and fractures among God’s people? One way is to regularly remind ourselves that we have God’s truth in common. By affirming the faith together, we are stating with one voice that Jesus has made us one. The truth of the gospel has gathered us as the one people of God.

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Worldly wisdom claims we must compromise our beliefs and convictions for the sake of togetherness. But this is not biblical unity. Our unity has not come at the expense of the truth; rather, it is founded upon the truth. It is “the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph. 4:13). For most of its existence, the church has identified itself as a confessional community, united in the truth.

We also express our unity with believers in other times and places. The truths we confess are not unique to our local church. Christians through the ages and in diverse geographies have held fast to these same truths. Therefore, we speak the truth to show that we stand in solidarity with countless other saints who are one with us in the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Why #3: To grow in the truth

By regularly reciting creeds and confessions, we are encouraging one another to grow in the truth. We are embarking on a church-wide plan to build up our doctrinal foundations. Therefore, don’t simply thoughtlessly mouth the words we recite. Think about and reflect on what is being said. If you have questions, feel free to approach any of the elders. We would be glad to help.

Some of us wrestle with doubts about the faith. Growing in the truth together deepens our assurance because it shows us that we are not alone. We speak the truth with other brothers and sisters, who spur us on when we waver. We did not discover this truth within ourselves, for it has been revealed to us by a gracious God who speaks. Our assurance is primarily objective, not subjective, because we have a clear and certain word that has come to us from outside of us.

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Theologian Carl Trueman writes in The Creedal Imperative, “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 marvellous details of his actions; and the great promise of the future consummation of the kingdom. That is worship: giving to God what is his.”

Why #4: To go with the truth

Who should we cooperate with in the work of making disciples? Obviously, we cannot partner with anyone who diminishes or denies biblical truth. The work of evangelism and missions is held together by a shared belief in the gospel and God’s word.

Therefore, when we recite the truth together, we are affirming that we are gospel partners because we share common beliefs grounded in God’s word. By clearly delineating what we believe, creeds and confessions spur us on to be faithful witnesses of these truths in the world.

In an article explaining the importance of confessing the faith in church life, Pastor Kai Soltau says, “By confessing our faith with one voice each Lord’s Day, we make this unity palpable. The confession of central truths of the Christian faith reminds us of our uniqueness as the Lord’s kingdom of priests in the midst of a predominantly anti- Christian society.”

Having touched on the reasons why we corporately speak the truth, here are three examples of how our church uses the statement of faith.

How we use the statement of faith

How #1: Membership

At our Church Matters membership class, we review important excerpts from our statement of faith, such as the sections on Scripture and salvation. The statement is a succinct summary of key truths concerning the nature of God’s word and the gospel of Jesus Christ. We explain and clarify what we believe to prospective members, so that they understand the doctrines we hold to. When they join the church, we ask them to affirm our statement of faith. This cultivates like-mindedness and helps ensure that we are gathering around God’s truth.

Being a member of GBC also means that we continue affirming these same truths together. Our members’ covenant commits us to “sustain (the church’s) doctrines” to ensure that our ministry as a church continues to be biblically faithful. We have an individual and corporate responsibility to keep “walking in the truth” (2 Jn. 4).

How #2: Discipleship

Scripture stresses how crucial sound doctrine is for the health of the church. Hence, Paul exhorts Timothy to be a good servant of Christ Jesus by “being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Tim. 4:6). We can use our statement of faith to disciple one another in the truth. Read it through with another Christian. Look up and unpack the various Scripture references together. Or, if you have questions about a particular topic of theology, you can refer to the statement of faith as a quick guide to what the Bible says. For instance, what does the Bible say about who Jesus is? The statement of faith summarises the biblical teaching in this way: “Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ, He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin.” There is plenty of truth we can mine here to nourish our souls.

We also use the statement of faith to disciple and evaluate potential elders and deacons. Before we affirm them for service, we assess their grasp of sound doctrine, as summarised in our statement of faith. Elders and deacons are to be faithful examples of holding fast to sound doctrine.

How #3: Partnership

When it comes to partnering with other churches and organisations in the work of the gospel, this is a good rule of thumb: The more theological alignment, the greater the extent of our partnership. How do we assess such doctrinal like-mindedness? Our statement of faith provides a helpful theological touchstone. We discern how we cooperate with potential partners based on how their doctrinal affirmations line up with ours.

Our statement of faith also allows other individuals, churches, and organisations to evaluate us. I’ve had many visitors tell me that one of the first things they did before deciding to visit our church was to read through our statement of faith. They found it to be a useful means of getting to know us and what we stand for. In a similar way, other churches and organisations can also refer to our statement of faith to work out how they can partner with us.

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Our statement of faith plays a vital role in our life as a church. We are together in the truth. So, let’s continue speaking the truth to one another in our corporate worship, as well as in our personal ministry to our brothers- and sisters-in-Christ.