Tuesday 14 July 2015

Recovering the Westminster Confession of Faith

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) was one of the primary documents produced by the Westminster Assembly. The WCF was first published in 1646 in English, but since then it has travelled around the world and it has been translated and used by Church denominations in many languages. Why? Well, as Psalm 100:6 reminds us that "God's truth (also translated faithfulness) endures to all generations". Truth is eternal and so are biblical doctrines, such as justification, when they are grounded in Scripture as their expression. There is a rich enduring quality of the truth in the WCF.

The WCF was designed to codify and put in writing a summary of the Apostles's Doctrine for the church to subscribe to and adhere to. The Westminster Assembly cleared matters concerning the church's doctrine, but also in matters of worship and church government.

What are some of the significant reasons for recovering the Westminster Confession of Faith?

1. Its expression of biblical doctrines is outstanding. We could say, it is "without peer" as John Murray believed. Its contact within a church enriches us, so that we can express much better, biblical truth.

2. It provides a standard by which preachers and church office holders are to be trained, examined and ordained. If we do not have the WCF, then what will we use instead? It was not uncommon at the time of Charles Haddon Spurgeon for church's to replace a commitment to a Reformed Confession with a 8-10 point Statement of Faith. A doctrinal minimalism which asserts simple truths in matters such as the Trinity, Scripture, the church, baptism and so forth. However, a Statement of Faith is wholly insufficient for the church in my view. You cannot call yourself a Reformed Church if you only hold a Statement of Faith. You cannot call yourself a Reformed church if the ministers and elders are not bound to uphold a Reformed Confession. The church needs to be protected and a robust and enthusiastic commitment to the WCF goes a long way for this to happen.

3. The WCF is an open document, therefore, if a church subscribe to it, they can hold preachers and office bearers accountable. This is important to "walk in the light" before people. One person said during membership classes at Sheffield Presbyterian Church, that they had been in a church for 6 years before they really found out what the pastor really believed. He had obviously kept his "cards close to his chest". When we subscribe fully to the Westminster Confession, everything is out in the open.

4. The WCF provides a platform for church unity and stable church government. If all the elders confess the WCF, it builds harmony and unity, not division.

5. It provides security for church members. They know what is the basis of the church, something that is often not made clear to church members.

Would you like to know more about congregations committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith? If so, do contact us through the church website (www.sheffieldpres.org.uk). However, this is not my main point for writing this blog post. My main aim is exactly and unashamedly what this blog title says. My aim is for a recovery of the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Ps For further reading: G. I. Williamson, The Westminster Confession of Faith (P & R).

R. Scott Clark, Recovering the Reformed Confession, (P & R).

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