Thank you so much for checking into my youtube channel. Today. I want to talk about the westminster confession of faith. This will serve kind of as an introduction to people that really aren’t familiar with what the westminster confession is or what its purpose is. So my name is: matt i’m, the pastor of gospel, fellowship pca, a presbyterian church, just north of pittsburgh. If you’re anywhere near the area feel free to come check us out before i go into the history of the westminster confession, i am going to post a couple of links for you in the description below. First of all, you might want to actually get the westminster confession of faith right here. I have it in a hardback edition and, second of all, i want to recommend my own devotional commentary on the westminster confession of faith. It’S, a book called the hold fast. The faith by by yours truly so let’s get into it um. This might be a little bit longer video than i normally do, but that’s okay. So i remember kind of an interesting story, a while back where, in our church um, we actually had the apostles creed being ripped out of our hymnals. We had a visitor come one day and the visitor was trying to find the apostles creed in the hymnal. This is back when i was a pastor in florida, and one of our elders was trying to help the visitor find the apostles, creed and uh turn to the page and it wasn’t there.

So he grabbed the next hymnal over turned to that page. It wasn’t there sure enough. The apostles creed had been ripped out of every page of the hymnals in that entire row and uh it’s kind of a funny story, because what we think happened is that there was somebody who had been attending our church for a while. Who was against the idea of having creeds or confessions at all in the church, and so they were? They were sort of passive aggressively, demonstrating their discontent with our using a creed in a confession. So why would they do that? Well, probably because in some churches, in some circles, there is a concern that if you were to use a confession of faith or a creed of any type whatsoever, that you are adding to the scriptures and that you’re trying to say that there’s something out there that’s Equal to the authority of the scriptures, after all, doesn’t, the bible warn us that we are not to add to the word of god or take anything away from it. So while i appreciate that concern – and i think that that person was probably trying to be helpful in some way by getting us to not use creeds and confessions in our worship services, i do think that that assumption is fundamentally misguided for the very reason that all Who attend confessional churches, that is to say, churches, that use creeds and confessions as part of their doctrinal heritage? All of these confessional churches would clearly tell you that our confessions and creeds are obviously subservient to the holy scriptures themselves.

After all, we do believe and confess the doctrine of sola scriptura. So whatever else the westminster confession of faith is, it is clearly not supposed to be in addition to or replacement of, the word of god. So yes, the scriptures are the final authority for doctrine and faith and in practice, and if you actually read the westminster confession of faith, it actually makes that very, very clear from the very get go so know. We confessional churches, whether you’re, lutheran and use the augsburg confession, or whether you’re anglican and you use the ‘ articles or whether you’re presbyterian and you use the westminster confession of faith. We would all agree that these are. These are what we call the subordinate authorities underneath the word of god. So why do we have them at all? Then, if we all agree that the word of god is ultimately authoritative? Well, the reason that we have confessions and creeds is because sometimes we find it to be very helpful to summarize what it is that we christians believe, and so, if a visitor were to come to your church and ask you what you believe as a congregation. Of course, you could start with genesis 1, and you could recite the entire bible all the way to the end of revelation by memory, and that would be an adequate explanation of what it is. You believe, but it certainly wouldn’t be brief, and not only that, but there are occasions in which we need to state clearly what it is.

We believe so that we can be unified with those who are like us and draw clear distinctions to separate us from those for whom we are different. So, for instance, we are not jehovah’s witnesses at gospel fellowship. We are not mormons or latter day saints. We have distinctions, and so just as good fences make good neighbors, so also good confessions and creeds make clear and helpful distinctions to both unified those who are of like faith and to separate those who are of completely different understandings all right now, if you’re concerned that The idea of creed making or summarizing scripture in general is wrong. Let me just throw out there that the bible itself has summary statements of its own content, so, for instance like in deuteronomy 6, we find the shema hero, israel, the lord, our god. The lord is one we have summaries of the law, for instance, in the ten commandments uh. We even have what we might call proto creeds or confessions in certain places, such as philippians chapter, two verses, six to eleven and there’s, a couple of them also in first timothy and ii. Timothy and those would be the places where paul says. This is a faithful teaching and worthy to be received, and then he says a few words a few lines that would in some way summarize the christian faith so also in first corinthians 16, when paul says of first importance. According to the scriptures, christ died and rose again, that’s a summary statement of what christians believe, but it’s not intended to be exhaustive of absolutely every detail that christians believe so confu creeds and confessions serve the purpose of briefly stating in a concise form, exactly what it Is that a church or denomination believes? Okay? Now, if you’re from the reformed tradition or the protestant tradition as i am from, we have a number of creeds and confessions and we share some of them amongst churches, for instance, our church uses the apostles creed and the nicene creed uh.

We value the chalcedonian definition and the athenasian creed. All of these were helpful and in fact, in the reformed tradition in particular, we tend to be a creator confession making body of people, and we have any number of creeds and confessions that we have found to be helpful throughout time, including the westminster, the heidelberg, the Scots confession: the cannons of dort belgic confession so on and so forth. Now, normally what happens is a creature or confession comes up in church history because it’s needed at that time, and usually there are four kinds of needs that prompt the writing of a new creed or confession. Those would be some kind of crisis, a crisis related to doctrine, a controversy that needs to be resolved, something that needs to be clarified or possibly, conciliation between bodies of of believers. And so, if you look through some of the historic creeds and confessions, the nicene, the chalcedonian, the heidelberg, etc, what you usually find, if you do a little searching in history, is that there’s, some particular historical context that has prompted that creator confession to be needed at That particular point in time, so what then was the historical context or prompting of the westminster confession? Well, if we go back to england in the 1640s, what we’re going to see is that england was actually experiencing a civil war. That’S right, the king was actually going to war with parliament. Can you believe that it would almost be like the president of the united states having his army and going to battle with congress and outright warfare on the battlefield? Well, that’s exactly what happened in the 1640s? In england there was a civil war and part of that war was for the life and faith of the church.

There were those who believed that the church should be more or less roman catholic. There were those who believed that it should be more or less anglican. In perspective – and there were more some who believe that should be more presbyterian than it had been to that to that time and more like some of the reformed churches on the continent. So you have this kind of a controversy going on the king actually goes to war with the parliament, and during that time a great council was called that would become the westminster assembly. Now, if you like committee meetings, this was the ultimate committee meeting, because it lasted for several years and believe it or not. England had an agreement with scotland, which was called the solemn league and covenant by which both of these two nations agreed that they would abide by the doctrinal conclusions of the westminster assembly. And so it could have been that the westminster confession of faith might have been appropriately called the confession of the three kingdoms: england uh scotland and ireland – would have been nice if they had tied together. Those three under one confession: ireland, had the confession of ireland or the irish confession, which was an excellent confession. Actually, the westminster divines consulted it as well as the ‘ articles, and so the westminster assembly was comprised of 151 ministers who were invited to participate in this, including anglicans presbyterians. Some independents and a delegation from scotland was also invited to participate amongst those.

There were also 20 members from the house of commons and 10 landowners as well, and this committee, this westminster assembly, met for believe it or not, multiple years between 1643 and 1648, they worked on the confession. They also came to a directory of public worship, as well as a larger and shorter catechism to supplement the confessional materials, and so the goals of the westminster assembly were really three. First of all, they wanted to clarify what was going to be going forward. The doctrine of the church of england, as well as to establish its church government. How was it going to function? Hopefully again, it was going to unite england, scotland and ireland under one confessional statement, and certainly the churches in england wanted to strengthen their reputation with the churches on the continent, especially those reformed churches on the continent, which had had kind of a a better more thoroughly Reformed or thirdly, protestant reputation than the church of england had had at that time, at least according to the opinion of the presbyterian delegation. So what did they come up with through all these years of working through committees? The westminster divines produced a confession of faith right here. The westminster confession, consisting of 33 chapters of doctrine, it’s short enough, that you could read it in one sitting, but probably long enough, that you should read it over multiple sittings and it also came up with two confessions. Sorry catechisms, as i mentioned, the shorter catechism was for children and young people, 107 question answers and then the larger catechism of 196 questions, more design for ministers, elders, deacons and more educated lay people okay.

So the general outline of the westminster confession goes something like this. It starts off with god, the creator and in the first five chapters of the confession, and focuses primarily on the trinitarian god and his revelation in holy scripture, his sovereignty and providence over all that he has made in chapter 6 through 10. Then it begins to work through the fall of man, sin total depravity and then it turns the corner in chapters 11 through 17, where it really begins to work in a very detailed and helpful manner through the doctrines of grace and redemption christ and salvation, and then In chapters 18 through 23, it moves into worship the regulative principle of worship, the sacraments of the church and some other things as well related to the civil magistrate and then, finally, concluding with the restoration of all things, the return of christ, the judgment of the living And the dead and and heaven and hell so if you ask for whom does the westminster confession apply today, we could say that there are a number of biblical faithful, protestant denominations that still adhere to the westminster confession of faith, including my own denomination, the pca, as Well, as other presbyterian denominations like the epc, the opc, the rpcna, the church of scotland, the free church of scotland and believe it or not. The westminster confession of faith served as the basic template for two other non presbyterian revisions name, namely the london baptist confession of 1689 yeah, believe it or not.

That started off with the westminster and modified it to becoming a baptist statement of faith 1689.. Just put them right next to each other, you’ll see that that’s true and the congregationalists also modified it in 1658, in what was called the savoy declaration. So there you go there’s an overview of the historic context of the westminster confession of faith. Some people, including yours, truly believe that it is truly the most beautiful, profound and sublime of all of the reformed confessions, and i would heartily commend it to you for your study so again here it is the westminster confession of faith and hardback i’ll put a link To this in the description of this video, this version by the way is fantastic. It has tons and tons of scripture references for you to look up every statement that the westminster divines make and then also, let me just throw this out there. My own devotional commentary on the westminster confession hold fast the faith by yours. Truly, i wrote that for people that are just now getting acquainted with reform doctrine, so that may be helpful as you for you as well. Well, thank you so much for checking in to my youtube channel, uh love.