by C.W. Powell
“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before me, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32,3
“A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” Matthew 12:35-37
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Romans 10:9, 10
Why is it essential for a church to have a written creed, and why must Christians confess one?
Because Faith Is Not Ashamed.
(Romans 10:11) Understanding this clearly, the early church was fearless in their confession, and encouraged one another to be faithful. Only the pagans around them believed that there were many paths to God: the church of the martyrs knew better. Jesus had claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, and the believers were ready to die for that.
Jesus said that what you say is important.
Evil words are spoken by evil men, and good words are spoken by good men. Eventually, what you say will reveal what kind of person you are. Pilate showed what kind of person he was when he responded to Christ, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). By this he showed that he was not a child of the truth and had no faith, even though what he said was the politically correct thing to say.
The devil hates certainty.
It doesn’t matter to him what lie a person believes, as long as he does not believe the truth. Truth is one, and there is only one version of the truth. Lies take many forms. For example, it is true that God created the world and man in his image. There are many lying versions of how this happened. As another example, there is only one standard of ethics, and this is to seek the glory of God in obedience and faith. There are many man-made systems of ethics.
This brings us to confession.
The words of Christ take away all neutrality from us. Modern men and women do not like commitment and run from it. This may be the very definition of irresponsibility. Modern man lives his life in terms of this lack of commitment. People choose churches in terms of their own irresponsibility. “We have no creed but Christ,” they say, thinking they have said something very religious and pious. What they do not realize is that they have said something religious, but it is not Christianity. We are called to confession, not evasion and irresponsibility.
The highest form of the expression of ideas is in words.
Birds sing to communicate, but it is easy to misunderstand. You may think the bird is happy, but in reality he is staking out territory by his songs. The songs sound beautiful, but they are really saying, “Come over here, and I will tear your heart out.” The early church realized that the great ideas of Christianity needed to be expressed clearly. They took truth and responsibility very seriously: hence, the creeds. The Holy Spirit said to “confess with the mouth, believing in the heart.” The confession was to be in words that came from the heart. There was to be content in the words, and the words were to express the truth.
Man cannot escape confession, for he is in the image of God. He either confesses the truth, or he confesses a lie. He cannot escape by silence, for Jesus said that we will be justified by our words. No words, no justification.
No Creed But Christ?
A church may boast, “No Creed But Christ,” but people may be unaware of the true message. It may sound as beautiful as the song of a bird, but the real message is ugly. What they mean is, “What is true about the Bible is not important.” Some may go so far as to say that anything a person wants to believe about Christ is permitted. Hence, they are denying Christ, by refusing responsibility to confess the truth. Jesus is the Son of God. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. The Son is not just another name for the Father. He took a true human nature, that in that human nature he could suffer and die for the sins of his people. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He established his church, and appointed officers to bring his people to the fullness of the faith and maturity as the body of Christ. He appointed the observing of the Lord’s Supper and Holy Baptism until his return.
The Bible is God’s record concerning His son, and must be believed.
All these things, and much more about God and the world are absolutely necessary for a Christian to confess and believe. Irresponsible churches, just like irresponsible individuals, do not want to entangle themselves with confession and vows, because they want to leave their options open, so that they can serve themselves later if they so desire. The faithful confession of individual members is no substitute for the confession of the church as an institution.
If a church does not have a confession of faith, then it is no honest church of Jesus Christ. There may be fine Christians there, they may do many good works, but it is dishonest, and it leads to a dishonest fraudulent message. The church of Jesus Christ is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (I Timothy 3:15). An honest church will not pretend that truth is unimportant in order to get members to support their “ministry.” If the ministry is not of the truth, then it is no ministry of Christ. It is not noble and “spiritual” to refuse to say what you believe. Paul said that he “had renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully….”
The crooked seducer says to his target: “It is what we have in our heart that counts. We do not need a piece of paper to prove our love.” After he has satisfied his lust, he goes on to other conquests. Commitment and vows are scorned only by the naive or the dishonest.
Put It in Writing!
A few years ago I was in a lawyer’s office. The man is a friend of mine, and he was in despair because a client of his had entered into an oral agreement with someone and had been defrauded of a great deal of money. “How many times have I said to get it in writing,” he moaned. Business has to be in writing, because men are crooked. For the same reason God put the words of His covenant in writing, and honest churches will put their confession in writing. There are as many crooked people in religion as anywhere else. The church or minister who will not confess a creed has an agenda that he keeps hidden in order to attract people who might not come if they understood the agenda. Dishonest preachers like this because they do not have to be accountable to anyone for their behavior or practices. In other words, they want to be responsible to none but themselves. This is no responsibility at all. Because of this we have home-made churches, self-appointed preachers, and the Christian people are continually taken in and defrauded.
All Things to All Men?
But didn’t Paul say “I am all things to all men?” Didn’t he say he had caught them with “guile?” Paul was not speaking of concealing his true beliefs, but of appearing before them as a servant, and not raising issue that did not really matter. He was as a Jew to win the Jews, and as a Gentile to win the Gentiles. But he did not pretend that confession, ideas, and truth did not matter. Just the opposite. He labored tirelessly among the churches and wrote letters to bring them to the unity of the faith of Jesus Christ.
To Paul, there was only one faith, and he was not ashamed to express it in words. If you want to be part of a real church, find one with a creed. These are the honest ones.