Confessing Christ, Good for the Soul

Church history is littered with examples of the importance of regular, public, and faithful confessions of faith.

Confessing the faith is necessary, not only at conversion, but in all of life, in words and deeds. Herman Bavinck’s The Sacrifice of Praise was written to encourage and challenge readers towards deeper reflection of the nature of their confession, to tether the reader to Scripture and to the rest of the church. It was written as a deeply thoughtful theological work, but also as a tender pastoral hand to educate and comfort believers, leading the young Christian further up and further into the beauty of Christ and Gospel.

 

The importance of confessing the faith can be seen from the earliest days of the church to the present. It was on the occasion of Peter’s confession of who Jesus is that Christ said to him:

“Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:17-19).

Stephen in Acts 7, made his public confession of who Jesus is, what he had done, and is doing, and for that, the Jews stoned him to death. Rather than recant the faith, Polycarp testified, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?” The split in the church that prompted Augustine to write On Baptism related to the question surrounding those who recant their faith in the face of persecution but later come back to the church. The works of Anselm, Aquinas, and Bonaventure, are works of public confession of the person and work of Christ. The reform movements of the Waldensians, Wycliffe, and Hus, were all born out of efforts to both purify and call for a faithful confession of faith. The Reformation was, in large part, a call for and a test of the Reformers confessions of faith. The list could go on. Church history is littered with examples of the importance of regular, public, and faithful confessions of faith.

While a vital part of the Christian life, it is one aspect which does not receive much attention in the projects of many contemporary systematicians. However, one exception stands out. The short and often overlooked work by Herman Bavinck, The Sacrifice of Praise. He originally wrote it for people in the Netherlands, who had been baptized and were ready to make their faith known publicly. After a person had made their public profession of faith and had for the first time been admitted to the Lord’s Supper, it was customary to give the gift of a book. At the turn of the twentieth century this book was among the most popular of gifts. Confessing the faith is necessary, not only at conversion, but in all of life, in words and deeds. It was written to encourage and challenge them towards deeper reflection of the nature of their confession, to tether the reader to Scripture and to the rest of the church. It was written as a deeply thoughtful theological work, but also as a tender pastoral hand to educate and comfort believers, leading the young Christian further up and further into the beauty of Christ and Gospel.

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