What does it mean to be a confessional church and why is it important? In this day and age most people do not even know what being a confessional church is, in any shape or form. This article will address a very important issue in the Body of Christ that most Christian leaders have neglected for generations. We will review what ‘confessional’ is referring to, why it is important, discuss statements of faith, and clear up common misconceptions about historic Creeds and Confessions.
What is a Confessional Church?
Being a confessional church is actually pretty simple. It is simply what the church believes to be true that which has been handed down from the Apostles. Then you might ask, ‘but we have the bible, we don’t need anything else’. That sounds good but if that was true, than we would not have Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and other splinter chrstianish -‘isms’ that have branched off from the Christian faith- all of whom use ‘the bible’ as their source. Confessions keep the church unified in its understanding of what the Apostles taught in scripture. It solidifies true and sound doctrines but also guides the future generations into these same doctrines. Confessions also helps the church resist and expose false doctrines before they corrupt the church as a whole. Not only does it resist false teachings but also maintains the supreme value and authority of the truth in holy scripture. Also read What is ‘Doctrine’ and does it matter?
What is “confessional” referring to?
Throughout Church history, there have been a number of times where the church body from around the world have come together to discuss exactly what scripture is saying and what it means specifically. The Council of Jerusalem in 50AD was called and the Apostles attended where the debate of circumcision was addressed. Thus, formulating a fundamental, universal, unifying truth, for the body of Christ. Then in 325AD The Council of Nicaea met to address the three persons of the one God and addressed, what is now called, the Trinity. The Nicaea council, together, unified, then authored a ‘creed’ describing the fundamental, universal, unifying truth, for the body of Christ. These two councils set the church apart from heretical unchristian teachings and more clearly made known what the Apostles taught. “Confessional Churches” refers to churches that agree with and adhere to the ‘creeds’ and ‘confessions’ declared that define exactly what they believe the Bible teaches.
What makes confessions important?
The Apostles had Jesus’ example. The Disciples of the Apostles had the Apostles examples through the Holy Spirit. The Disciples of the Disciples of the Apostles had all the explanations, elaborations, from the first hand eye witness accounts. The 4th and 5th generation Church only had the divinely inspired writings from the Apostles and the writings from the disciples of the apostles who elaborated what the Apostles taught them. As time went on, some people from with in the church started teaching their own version of what the apostles meant. False teachings sprang up everywhere. The councils came together and detailed exactly what the Apostles meant in a confession to keep the true church on track in sound doctrine. The same is true for the church now. “No creed, but the bible” is an ignorant phrase that opens the door for misinterpretations of the bible, thus leading to believing false doctrines about the bible. Also read Why The Disciples of The Apostles Matter Today
Its Bigger Than Just You
Confessions link you to all the brothers and sisters of the past. It links your church community the all the previous churches throughout history. It is a continuation all the way to the 70 apostles themselves. It is you and your modern church community contending for the faith that was once delivered form the saints (Jude 3). It is you and your modern church community following the pattern of sound words given by the Apostles (1 Tim 1:13-14). It is you and your modern church community being rooted and established in the true faith that was taught by the Apostles (Col 2:6-7). So that It is you and your modern church community will always remember what was taught from the very beginning from the Apostles themselves (1 John 1:1). When a church wants to do its own thing, teach is own thing, in its own way, they fail to remember the church is not theirs but Christ’s and the corruption of the human heart has already began leading them away. Confessions continually remind the church as a whole where it came from what was passed down to them.
What are the core Christian confessions?
- The Council of Jerusalem in 50AD denounced legalism and established Apostolic authority in Acts 15:7-29.
- The Council of Nicaea drafted the Nicene Creed in 325AD which simplistically summarizes exactly what Christianity believes as a whole (The Nicaea Creed ).
- First Council of Constantinople in 381AD affirmed the Nicaea Creed and Athanasian Creed to further detail Christianity and distinguish itself from common false teachings of that time.
- The Council of Chalcedon in 451AD explained Jesus’ two natures of being fully God and fully man (The Chalcedonian Creed).
- The Belgic Confession, written in 1567AD to clarify what Christianity is in relation to the Arminius heresy. It consists of 37 articles which deal with the doctrines of God (1-2,
8-13), Scripture (3-7), humanity (14), sin (15), Christ (18-21),
salvation (16-17, 22-26), the Church (27-36), and the end times (37). It is known as One of the Three Forms of Unity. (Read it here)
- The Heidelberg Catechism written in 1563AD is the Second of Three Forms of Unity. It is a teaching tool which also addressed false teachings in the Roman Catholic church. It consists of 129 questions and answers with proof Bible references that span over all major areas of Christian teachings. (read it here)
- The Canons of The Synod of Dort, completed in 1619AD is known as the Third of Three Forms of Unity. It settled the heresy of Arminianism and unite the international Protestant church. It affirmed The Heidelberg Catechism and The Belgic Confession. The Canons incorporate them and address false teachings of Roman Catholicism and Arminianism. (read it here)
“Non-denominational”, Non-confessional churches
With the rise of non-confessional churches, we have also seen a rise of false teachings developed in our modern time. The Word of Faith movement and the Prosperity Gospel teaching churches are all non-confessional. They teach things that were not taught by the Apostles and attempt to use the Bible to justify their teachings; the exact reason and need for churches to affirm the past confessions.
Now not all non-denominational churches are teaching corrupted doctrines. Some are not affiliated with any one denomination but are confessional affirming. But when a church rejects being confessional the heart of the church leadership comes into question. Are they scared to ‘scare’ people away from their church or offend anyone? Church, is for believers. That is a time and place where believers come together to worship God. Is the church leadership attempting to appease man instead of God to fill seats and get more donations? All these questions come up when a churches leadership reject affirming historical confessions of what exactly the Apostles taught. If a church is unwilling to make it publicly known what they believe, do they even teach what the Apostles taught openly and publicly leading to their martyrdom? What is the source for their hesitation, fear of the opinions of man? To be fair, some churches just keep it simple, and generate “Statements of Faith”.
Statements of Faith
Another thing more modern churches are doing is crafting their own “Confession” or making a public ‘statement of faith’. They will have it posted on their websites or give out booklets at their churches. Scanning through the statements of faith you can see some times the church actually affirms a traditional confession (but too ashamed to openly admit it some times). When they state they believe in the Trinity or Jesus having two unique but separate natures, fully God and Fully man; they are affirming what was detailed at The Council of Nicaea and The Council of Chalcedon. If they state they believe that we are saved by Grace through Faith, they are affirming parts of the Canons of Dort and the Three Forms of Unity. The unnecessary thing of it all, is churches don’t need to continually write their own Statement of Faith if all they are doing is rewriting what has already been written in previous historic universal confessions. Gospel4All.com makes a statement of faith with proof verses and ties in a supporting universal Christian confessions and church father; as multiple verified statements supporting the truth from Apostolic teachings. The Bible makes absolute statements of truth, traditional confessions and church father support help make sure the biblical statements of truth are correctly understood the way they were meant to be.
The Apostles Creed
This is the most simple and famous of Creeds for the Christian Faith. It contains the fundamental teachings from the Apostles. Irenaeus wrote what is known as the ‘rule of faith’ around 180AD after false teachings were springing up distorting what the late Apostles taught (read it here). It continually developed as Christianity became more uniform and set apart from all the centuries of false teachings. As the Arian Heresy grew, it developed closer to the form we have today.
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic [universal] church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
Set The Record Straight
First of all, these Creeds and Confessions are NOT equal to scripture. Second, they are NOT divinely inspired by God directly. They are NOT a dos and do not list and is NOT legalistic. They are NOT meant to be divisive! These are all misconceptions put forth by those in the church who want to teach things that the Apostles did not teach.
These Creeds and Confessions DO aid the universal church to ‘rightly divide‘ (2 Tim 2:15) what was taught at the beginning. They DO help the universal church stay in the unified pattern of sound doctrine that which was taught by the Apostles (1 Tim 1:13-14). By knowing what the Apostles meant in their writings, the church can contend for the faith (Jude 3). We can hold fast to what has been taught and expose what is false (Titus 1:9). Truth brings people in to the church because Jesus Christ is truth. Thus, by knowing and maintaining what is true that which was taught by the Holy Spirit through the Apostles; the creeds and confessions lead to unity and community edification.
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