The written Word of God is our final authority for belief and practice.
Nevertheless, it is vital for a church to summarize its teaching so that the church can confess it together.
Our church’s confession of faith is the London (Baptist) Confession of Faith of 1689. The confession can be summarized by the Abstract of Principles from 1859 (updated by the Reformed Baptist Network):
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by inspiration of God, and being inerrant, are the only sufficient, certain and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience.
There is but one God, the Creator, Preserver and Ruler of all things, having in and of himself, all perfections, and being infinite in them all; and all creatures owe to Him the highest love, reverence and obedience.
In the unity of the Godhead, there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; each fully God, and yet the Godhead is one and indivisible; each with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and perpetually upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; but not in any manner to be the author or approver of sin, nor to violate the free agency or responsibility of created beings.
Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons to everlasting life—not because of anything foreseen in them, but by his mercy alone in Christ. As a result of God’s choice, the elect are called, justified and glorified.
The Fall of Man
God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; by which his descendants inherit a corrupt nature, wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and, in bondage to sin and Satan, have lost all moral ability to convert themselves, prepare themselves, or do any spiritual good acceptable to God.
Christ, the Mediator
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the divinely appointed mediator between God and man. Being eternal God, the second person of the Trinity, He took upon Himself human nature, yet without sin. He perfectly fulfilled the Law, suffered, and died upon the cross for the salvation of sinners. He was buried, and rose again on the third day, and ascended to His Father to sit at His right hand and make intercession for His people. He is the only Mediator, Prophet, Priest and King of the Church, and Sovereign of the Universe.
Regeneration is a work of the Holy Spirit by which the hearts of those dead in trespasses and sins are brought to life, and their minds are enlightened to spiritually understand, savor, and savingly embrace by faith the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone. It is the duty of all who hear the gospel to instantly believe on Christ without looking for any qualification from within. However, none will do so apart from regenerating grace.
Repentance is a gracious gift of God by which a person being, by the Holy Spirit, made aware of the evil of his sin against God and of the mercy of God freely offered to him in Christ, does with godly sorrow and hatred of his sin turn from it to God seeking to walk before him in unqualified obedience.
Saving faith is the belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.
Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal of sinners, who believe in Christ, from all sin, through the satisfaction that Christ has made; not for anything wrought in them or done by them; but on account of the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith.
Those who have been regenerated are also sanctified, by God’s word and Spirit dwelling in them. This sanctification, having begun in conversion, is progressive through the continuing supply of divine strength by which the children of God are enabled to grow in grace and pursue holiness in the fear of God.
Perseverance of the Saints
Those whom God has elected in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never totally nor finally fall away from the saving grace of God, but will persevere to the end; and though they may fall, through neglect and temptation, into sin, whereby they grieve the Holy Spirit, bring reproach on the Church, and temporal judgments on themselves, they shall yet be renewed again unto repentance, and be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
The Lord Jesus is the Head of the Church and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to his commandment, Christians are to join themselves with local churches in which the duties of preaching the word, the administration of the ordinances, and discipline are carried out.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of positive and sovereign institution, appointed by the Lord Jesus, the only lawgiver, to be continued in His church to the end of the world.
Liberty of Conscience
God alone is Lord of the conscience; and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in anything contrary to His word, or not contained in it.
However, liberty of conscience must at all times be governed by an earnest desire to walk in the fear of God, a loving regard for the conscience of fellow brothers in Christ, a sensitivity for the unregenerate and regard for the health of one’s own soul.
The bodies of mankind after death will return to dust, but their spirits return immediately to God — the righteous to rest with Him; the wicked to be reserved under darkness to the judgment. At the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised.
God has appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, when everyone shall receive according to his deeds; the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment; the righteous, into everlasting life.
Several creeds and confessions have served God’s people for centuries. Creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed (ca. 3rd or 4th century), the Nicene Creed (A.D. 325 and 381), and the Athanasian Creed (ca. early 5th century) all succinctly summarize our beliefs alongside the church in earlier generations. These creeds are in agreement with our confession of faith.
Going back to the earliest Baptists, churches and families have used catechisms. A catechism is simply a set of questions and answers that succinctly teach Bible doctrines to children and adults alike. Excellent Baptist catechisms include A Puritan’s Catechism (C. H. Spurgeon) and An Orthodox Catechism (Hercules Collins).
The following historic creeds summarize our beliefs alongside the church in earlier generations.
These creeds are in agreement with our confession of faith.
The Nicene Creed
Third or fourth century
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the prophets.
And I believe one holy catholic* and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
The Apostles’ Creed
A. D. 325; revised at Constantinople in A. D. 381
I believe in God the Father Almighty
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into Hell [lit., Hades];
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic* Church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Early 5th century
1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith:
2. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
3. And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship One God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
4. Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance.
5. For there is one Person of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Spirit.
6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
7. Such as the Father is: such is the Son: and such is the Holy Spirit.
8. The Father uncreated: the Son uncreated: and the Holy Spirit uncreated.
9. The Father incomprehensible: the Son incomprehensible: and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.
10. The Father eternal: the Son eternal: and the Holy Spirit eternal.
11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.
12. As also not three uncreated, nor three incomprehensibles, but one uncreated: and one incomprehensible.
13. So, likewise, the Father is Almighty: the Son Almighty: and the Holy Spirit Almighty.
14. And yet they are not three Almighties but one Almighty.
15. So the Father is God: the Son is God: and the Holy Spirit is God.
16. And yet they are not three Gods but one God.
17. So likewise the Father is Lord: the Son Lord: and the Holy Spirit Lord.
18. And yet not three Lords: but one Lord.
19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity: to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord:
20. So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say: There be three Gods, or three Lords.
21. The Father is made of none: neither created nor begotten.
22. The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created: but begotten.
23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten: but proceeding.
24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers: one Son, not three Sons: one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
25. And in this Trinity none is before or after another: none is greater or less than another.
26. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.
27. So that in all things, as aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.
28. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.
29. Furthermore it is necessary to eternal salvation: that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
30. For the right faith is, that we believe and confess: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
31. God, of the substance of the Father: begotten before the worlds: and man, of the substance of His Mother, born in the world.
32. Perfect God: and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.
33. Equal to the Father, as touching His Godhead: and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood.
34. Who although He be God and Man; yet He is not two, but one Christ.
35. One; not by conversion of the GodHead into flesh: but by taking of the Manhood into God.
36. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance: but by unity of Person.
37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man: so God and Man is one Christ;
38. Who suffered for our salvation: descended into hell: rose again the third day from the dead.
39. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth at the right hand of the Father God Almighty.
40. From whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;
42. And shall give account for their own works.
43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting: and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire.
44. This is the Catholic* Faith: which except a man believed faithfully, he cannot be saved.
* “Catholic” refers to the universal church, and is not a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.
We are led by elders and deacons.