Throughout history the church has produced confessions, some to counter certain heresies, at other times to set a standard for membership or demonstrate denominational orthodoxy. Accordingly, the authors of a confession complete two major tasks while generating a confession:
Here at Westminster Baptist Church, we align ourselves with the London Baptist Confession, a confession generated in the 17th century; its first version completed in 1644, rewritten in 1677, and published in 1689 after the passage of the Toleration Act. This confession is an eminently valuable gem of systematic theology, and one we are privileged to access and be encouraged by in the 21st century
What does this mean:
Why do we align ourselves with this confession
Although we appreciate the eminent value of this confession, a caveat must be elucidated. And that interjection is this - the confession is still a man-made resource by which we can learn and teach.
I am not fond of the following objection to confessionalism - ‘I just believe the bible’. Indeed, the intention of most confessions is to set out what the Bible says.
However, we must emphasis the unique purity of the Word of God. Proverbs 30.5 says every word of God is pure. Indeed, the bible is infallible, unlike man-made resources.
It should therefore be our chief aim in our confessions, preaching and writing to be grounded in the scriptures. Confessions, as noted, are an excellent means of succinctly iterating our beliefs in a systematic way, though they are not comparable with the scripture itself. As with all man-made resources, they should be viewed with a modicum of skepticism - tested against scripture, ruminated upon. Indeed, confessions are more like a commentary - an aid to scripture - never to be equivocated with scripture itself. Indeed, to quote the 1689, ‘scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience’.
It is my hope that Westminster’s members will continue to grow in knowledge and appreciation of the Second Baptist Confession, given its immense value, while also continuing to ruminate upon all the truths it contains, test them with scripture, and consider their veracity for themselves.
Recently I completed a year in the ministry. Reflecting on the past year I would say being a Pastor convinces you of your own inadequacy, your need of reliance on Christ and requires much patience from your family. Two of these are matters the 'how to do' Pastoral books (at least ones I have read) say little about.
It is a great weight to have the tremendous task of declaring the whole counsel of God and to have under your Pastoral care, a flock, a group of God’s people (of even a small number). Yes, I had some training (though not as much as some). Yes, I felt a calling (as did the church). Yet when the magnitude of such a responsibility dawned on me I recognised my own adequacy.
I believe this is something of what Paul sought to express in 2 Corinthians.
To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2.16
This is a tremendous comfort. Even the great apostle Paul when confronted with preaching the Gospel, with its vital message and divisive impact being (according to God's grace) a savour to life or death, concludes with this phrase 'who is sufficient for these things?' I think that is what I mean when I say I have felt my own inadequacy. It is not a questioning of my calling but the result of a firmer grasp of the importance of the task of preaching and pastoral care.
John Gill comments on the verse above: ‘who is sufficient for the preaching of the Gospel? no man is sufficient of himself, very insufficient in the best sense, and none so but by the grace of God, and gifts of his Spirit; or who is sufficient to give success to the Gospel when preached? none can do this; Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but it is God alone that gives the increase.’
A Pastor has no room for arrogance given the immense task of the ministry and our personal weakness, yet as faithful servants called to such a privileged office in the New Testament church we would do well to heed the psalmist.
Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies. Psalm 108.12,13
Who is sufficient for these things? No one, without the Lord's sustaining hand.