Confession and Creed

The 'good confession" of the new creature in Christ centers on what it means to be a Christian: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation" (Rem. 10:9-10). There is no sharp distinction here between confession and belief. A person cannot truly confess what he or she does not believe.

The church was immediately hit with contrary creeds. For some, the gospel of grace was not enough. Good works had to be added to the sacrificial death of Christ. The Apostle Paul was "amazed" that the Galatians were "so quickly deserting Him who called" them "by the grace of Christ" (Gal. 1:6). It was a "different gospel" that in reality was no gospel. Paul then proceeds, in his letter to the Galatians, to outline once again the basics of the gospel message reminding them that "if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" (2:21). Justification by grace through faith was a test of one's orthodoxy. You could not claim the name of Christ and deny justification by the grace of God. A denial of it meant the repudiation of the faith. Not even "an angel from heaven" has any authority to preach and thus alter the gospel message (1:8).

Paul's disciples at Galatia were not alone in their confusion of what the Christian message was all about. All those who claim Christ should be aware of false doctrine. The Apostle John warns the church with these words:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).

So then, a creedless Christianity will not do. In fact, a creed-less Christianity is a contradiction, an impossibility. There must be a constant appraisal of what the Bible teaches about itself and about what it means to be a Christian. We are to "test" everything by the standard of truth. Confessions and creeds are expressions of unity, demonstrations of a common faith that help the church gather around truth and fight against error. What a person professes to believe about Jesus Christ separates him from all competing faiths. Without a creed there is no difference between belief and unbelief, saved and lost, truth and error, and salvation and damnation. A creedless church is no church at all since it has nothing to distinguish it from the rest of what the world believes. Church historian Philip Schaff writes that the Christian church has never been without a creed, for it has never been without con fession of faith in Christ. There has never been a time in which church members were not required to say, credo, "1 believe."

There would have been creeds even if there had been no doctrinal controversies. In a certain sense it may be said that the Christian Church has never been without a creed (Ecclesia sine symbolis nulla). The baptismal formula [Matt. 28:19-20] and the words of institution of the Lord's Supper [1 Cor. 11:23-34; cf. 15:1-8] are creeds; these and the confession of Peter [Matt. 16:16] antedate even the birth of the Christian Church on the day of Pentecost. The Church is, indeed, not founded on symbols, but on Christ; not on any words of man, but on the word of God; yet it is founded on Christ as confessed by men, and a creed is man's answer to Christ's question, man's acceptance and interpretation of God's word. 17

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The Basic Survival Guide

The Basic Survival Guide

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