There seems to be a trend in Christianity to decry the use of creeds and confessions. Some claim that they promote a dead orthodoxy. Others reason that the use of creeds and confessions undermine biblical authority. Even so-called Bible-believing churches appear to be moving away from creeds. Why hold on to creeds when we have the Bible as our sole and supreme authority and faith and practice? Are not creeds written by errant men? Why should we learn from them?

The word “creed” comes from the Latin word “credo” which means “to believe” or “to trust” in something. A creed is thus a formal statement of religious belief. They function as an official confession of faith of what a person or a body of people be-lieve that the Word of God teaches. Being a confession, creeds do not override the Scriptures.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) makes it clear that only the Word of God is inerrant and infallible. Concerning synods and councils, the WCF says in Chapter 31 Section 3:

All synods or councils since the Apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred; therefore they are not be made the rule of faith and practice, but to be used as an help in both (Ephesians 2:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Corinthians 2:5; 2 Corinthians 1:24).

Since synods and councils can err, how do we know which creeds and confession to hold on to? Answer: By checking these creeds with the inerrant and infallible Word of God. Why then does Tabernacle BPC hold on to the WCF? Because we find the WCF to be closest to the truth of the Holy Scriptures.

When we use creeds, we are heeding the biblical injunction to confess our faith. Romans 10:9-10 tells us that our salvation is evidenced by our confession of faith. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath 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.” Matthew 10:32-33 adds, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” It is thus imperative for every Christian to give an honest and clear answer to what he believes. It serves as a testimony to the entire world of the reality of his faith in Christ Jesus and the Holy Scriptures.

The Old Testament also contained several instances of formulary statements of faith. The first is the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4, of which the children of Israel confess, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD”. The second is found in Deuteronomy 26:1-11 which contains the confession which the children of Israel had to make as they present their first fruits. A third example would be the psalms which are various expressions of faith of God’s people put to song.

What then are the benefits of holding on to biblical creeds and confessions?

  1. They serve as an official and formal declaration of what a church believes. The world will thus have a clear understanding of the common confession of the church. It serves also as a clear standard of truth of which the people of God can stand firm on and confess with one voice (Rom. 15:5-6; Phil 1:27).
  2. It serves as a tool to guard the flock of God. The Bible speaks of the danger of being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (c.f. Eph. 4:14). A clear standard of truth thus serves to inform God’s people concisely of what the Word of God teaches, and what they ought to hold on to. When a person makes a confession contrary to that of the church, the alarm bells should sound. Read 1 John 4:1-3 for one such litmus test. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” A confession of faith also serves as a guard for the pulpit and teaching ministry of the church. If there is no confession of faith, a man is free to teach anything! However, if there is a confession of faith, it serves as an instrument whereby we can use expediently to evaluate the orthodoxy of the teacher.
  3. It serves as a help to instruct God’s people. Since the confession of faith is a systematic presentation of doctrine, it can serve as a tool to instruct believers concerning the Christian faith. We have used this with profit in the instruction of young Christians who have sought baptism and reaffirmation of faith in Tabernacle BPC. They do not supplant the Bible, but serve as a guide to point others to what they need to know from the Scriptures.
    However, there are some who contend that these catechisms, creeds and confessions should not be used because they are not inerrant and infallible. Of this we contend simply by pointing to a common fact of life. When a person wishes to study Mathematics, does he study under fallible men, and use books written by fallible men? If a person is consistent in his argument, then he should stop using these helps unless he can be certain that they are inerrant and infallible! Why does he not do so? Thus, to say that we should not avail to any helps to understand Scripture simply because they are written by fallible man is a fallacious argument.

    Creeds are not meant to be a replacement of the Scriptures, neither are they to be used to usurp the authority of the Scriptures. Rather, they are meant to be a clear confession of the system of faith of a community of believers. They serve as a help to instruct and guard the flock of God in the Biblical faith. Do you know what the church believes in from the Word of God?

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew