A Faith to Confess: The Baptist Confession
of Faith of 1689
Rewritten in Modern English
©1975, Carey Publications, Ltd., 75 Woodhill Road, Leeds, U.K., LS16 7BZ
Reprinted here by permission
THE catholic or universal church is invisible in respect of the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace. It consists of the whole number of the elect who have been, who are being, or who yet shall be gathered into one under Christ who is the church's head. The church is the wife, the body, the fullness of Christ, who 'fills all in all'.
Eph. 1:10,22,23; 5:23,27,32; Col. 1:18; Heb. 12:23.
All persons throughout the world who profess to believe the gospel and to render gospel obedience unto God by Christ are, and may be called, visible saints, provided that they do not render void their profession of belief by holding fundamental errors or by living unholy lives; and of such persons all local churches should be composed.
Acts 11:26; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:20-22.
The purest churches under heaven are liable to be troubled by mixture and error, and some have so far degenerated as no longer to be churches of Christ at all, but 'synagogues of Satan'. Nevertheless, Christ always has had a kingdom in this world of such as believe in Him and profess His name, and He ever will have such a kingdom to the world's end.
Ps. 72:17; 102:28; Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thess. 2:11,12; Rev. 2; 3; 12:17; 18:2.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the head of the church. By the appointment of the Father, all authority requisite for the calling, establishment, ordering and governing of the church is supremely and sovereignly invested in Him. It is impossible for the Pope of Rome in any true sense to be the head of the church, for he is the antichrist, described in Scripture as 'the man of sin', 'the son of perdition,' who 'exalts himself' in the church against Christ and 'above all that is called God', whom 'the Lord shall destroy with the brightness of His coming'.
Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11,12; Col. 1:18; 2 Thess. 2:2-9.
In the exercise of the authority which has been entrusted to Him, the Lord Jesus, through the ministry of the Word and by His Spirit, calls to Himself out of the world those who are given to Him by His Father, that they may live in His sight, rendering Him the obedience prescribed by Him for them in the Scripture. He commands those thus called to form particular societies or churches to promote their common welfare, and to engage in the public worship which He requires them to carry on while they continue in the world.
Matt. 18:15-20; 28:20; John 10:16; 12:32.
The members of these churches are saints by reason of the divine call, and in a visible manner they demonstrate and declare, both by their confession of Christ and their manner of life, that they obey Christ's call. They willingly consent to hold fellowship together according to Christ's instructions, giving themselves to the Lord and to one another as God wills, and yielding full assent to the requirements of the gospel.
Acts 2:41,42; 5:13,14; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 9:13.
To each of these churches thus gathered according to the divine will made known in His Word, the Lord has given all the power and authority requisite for the carrying on of the form of worship and discipline which He has appointed for their observance. This extends to the provision of such commands and rules as are needful for the rightful and proper use of the power conferred on the churches.
Matt. 18:17,18; 1 Cor. 5:4,5; 5:13; 2 Cor. 2:6-8.
A local church, gathered and fully organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members. By Christ's appointment the officers to be chosen and set apart by the church as called and gathered, are bishops (otherwise called elders) and deacons. It is their special responsibility to arrange for the carrying out of what the Lord has ordained, and to use the powers entrusted to them for the execution of their duties; and such arrangements are to continue in the church until the world ends.
Acts 20:17,28; Phil. 1:1.
By Christ's appointment, any person who has been qualified and given the necessary gifts by the Holy Spirit for the work of bishop or elder in a church, must be chosen and called to that office by the common suffrage of the church itself. He must be solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with the laying on of the hands of the existing eldership, if there be such. Similarly, deacons are to be chosen by the common suffrage of the church, and set apart by prayer and the laying on of hands.
Acts 6:3,5,6; 14:23; 1 Tim. 4:14.
Pastors are required to give constant attention to the service of Christ in His churches; they are to be engaged in the ministry of the Word and in prayer, and to seek the welfare of men's souls as those that must give account to the Lord. It is therefore imperative that the churches to which they minister should give them, according to the churches' ability, not only all due honor, but such abundance of this world's material good as will enable them to live in comfort, without the need to entangle themselves in secular employment, and which will also suffice to enable them to exercise hospitality towards others. Such an arrangement is required by the law of nature itself, and by the express command of our Lord Jesus, who has decreed that 'they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel'.
Acts 6:4; 1 Cor. 9:6-14; Gal. 6:6,7; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17,18; 2 Tim. 2:4; Heb. 13:17.
Although it is the duty of the elders or pastors of the churches, according to their office, to be constantly active in preaching the Word, yet such a work is not to be regarded as confined wholly to them, for the Holy Spirit may qualify others for the same work by giving them the necessary gifts. In this case, when such men are approved and called to the work by the church, they may and ought to perform it.
Acts 11:19-21; 1 Pet. 4:10,11.
All believers are under obligation to join themselves to local churches when and where they have opportunity to do so. It follows that all who are admitted to the privileges of church fellowship also become subject to the discipline and government of the church in accordance with the rule of Christ.
1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess. 3:6,14,15.
Any church members who have taken offense at the behavior towards them of other church members, and who have obeyed the instructions laid down in Scripture for dealing with such cases, must refrain from disturbing the peace of the church, nor should they absent themselves from church assemblies or the administration of church ordinances on account of their being offended by certain of their fellow-members; but they must wait upon Christ in the further proceedings of the church.
Matt. 18:15-17; Eph. 4:2,3.
All members of each local church are engaged to pray continually for the good and the prosperity of all churches of Christ, wherever located, and upon all occasions to assist all other believers, within the limits of their own areas and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces. It follows, therefore, that churches should seek fellowship one with another, so far as the providence of God provides opportunity for the enjoyment of such benefits.
Ps. 122:6; Rom. 16:1,2; Eph. 6:18; 3 John 8-10.
When difficulties or differences occur in respect of doctrine or church government, and peace, unity and edification are at risk, one church only may be involved, or the churches in general may be concerned. Again, a member or members of a church may be injured by disciplinary proceedings not agreeable to truth and church order. In such cases as these it is according to the mind of Christ that many churches in fellowship together should meet and confer together through their chosen representatives, who are able to give their advice on the matters in dispute to all the churches concerned. It must be understood, however, that the representatives assembled are not entrusted with any church power properly so called, nor have they any jurisdiction over the churches themselves to exercise discipline upon any churches or persons, or to impose their conclusions on the churches or their officers.
Acts 15:2,4,6,22,23,25; 2 Cor. 1:24; 1 John 4:1.