Westminster Confession of Faith

Book Recommendation: Sacred Bond

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Over at the Modern Reformation website, you can read an interview of the authors of Sacred Bond: Covenant Theology Explored. (interview here)

I've included an excerpt from the interview in order to whet your appetite for this excellent book that we'd highly recommend to you! I (Pastor Norm) have used it as a teaching resource for a course on covenant theology and it was great to see the reception it received among lay-readers! You can buy a copy through Reformed Fellowship


MR: How will this book impact the way lay Christians read the Bible devotionally?

MB: Our prayer is that reading Sacred Bond will help you know how to read and interpret the Bible more faithfully. Studying God’s covenants has one primary goal: to know God and our relationship with him more fully. Studying the covenants should never be a dry academic exercise. It has immense pastoral and practical value for the Christian. It revolutionizes our approach to Scripture, providing us with helpful categories to understand the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. It shows us that the Bible is actually one book with one story, told on the stage of real human history. It highlights the plotline and central point of Scripture, setting every story in the context of the larger story about Christ. More importantly, it comforts us as we learn that God accepts us not on the basis of our covenant faithfulness but on the basis of Christ’s. It sweetens our fellowship with the Father as we come to know his oath and promises to us, promises that are “yes” and “amen” through the Mediator of the new covenant. It changes our view of the local church as we discover that we are part of God’s covenant community and worship him in a covenant-renewal ceremony every Lord’s Day. It transforms the way we see our children—namely, as the baptized members of God’s covenant of grace. It helps us understand that covenant is not a means to an end, but it is the end itself—the communion between God and his people.


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What this means for us is that we are persuaded that the Word of God describes a doctrinal stance and a practical stance that we are compelled to uphold in all we do! We believe that the church is to be led by elders and preachers with connection to other churches who can hold us accountable and bring encouragement to us in our labours. We believe that the church is to be fed by the Word of God and that this is our sole authoritative standard for faith and practice in our church. We won't be carried away by the whims or fads of any given decade. We believe that the Westminster Standards (the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Westminster Shorter & Larger Catechisms) are true and excellent summaries of the doctrine of Scripture. We are therefore confessional in our understanding of scripture because we confess (believe) in common ways of articulating the glorious truths of God's Word!

The rich history of the Protestant Reformation has especially deep roots in the Scottish Presbyterian churches that flourished in previous centuries. We are striving, in dependence upon the Lord, to maintain this rich heritage with its immense treasuries of devotional writings, doctrinal teaching, and scriptural study! We want our lives to be impacted by the lives of godly believers from the past and therefore our Sunday services are places where you'll hear voices from the past and our Wednesday night study is a place where we are very carefully studying church history!

Are you looking for a Presbyterian church or want to know more about Presbyterianism? We'd love to talk with you about it!

(Thanks for the photo, Aaron Burden on Unsplash)

"Fresh Reasons for Doxology" in the "Details of His Saving Plan"

In his recent book on the Westminster Confession of Faith, Dr. Chad Van Dixhoorn writes,

"Many of the topics raised in this confession of faith have deterred the faint-hearted, such as the problem of evil, the divine decrees, and the freedom or bondage of the will. The [Westminster] assembly offers careful sketches on each subject as well as clear counterpoints to associated errors; both new initiates to Christianity and seasoned theologians will find these outlines helpful."

"Why is it not enough to speak simply about being 'saved' or being 'in Christ'? Why must the confession also define 'justification' and 'imputation' and 'forgiveness'? If I am to be candid, it seems to me that one reason for the specificity of the confession has to do with the simple pleasure of its authors. Thoughtful Christians sometimes develop an appetite for God that can become an insatiable desire to discover fresh reasons for doxology.... We are told to rejoice in the details of his saving plan and in the distinct blessings we receive from God and his gospel. Serious students in Christ's school become instinctively equipped to enjoy every brush stroke on the canvas of God's revelation of redemption, and not simply the final effect that the Master has produced."

"The other reason why we see a careful attention to precise terminology in this confession is that labelling can promote learning. We see this in chemistry or grammar. We see this in theology too. Take the doctrine of justification as an example. The Scriptures tell us about a true righteousness being credited to those who do not deserve it and a free gift of forgiveness purchased for sinners. Sometimes the Scriptures tether this credited righteousness to justification, sometimes they tie forgiveness to justification. The authors of this confession, like many Bible readers before and after them, noted these frequent associations of words and ideas and, in this case, concluded that 'justification' must be the Bible's umbrella term for credited righteousness and divine forgiveness, two distinct but united aspects of the one doctrine of justification."

(Quotes from Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014) Available online here: https://banneroftruth.org/us/store/theology/confessing-the-faith/

Van Dixhoorn's argument that "labelling promotes learning" and that there is a simple pleasure to be found in the careful study of God's Word really resonates, doesn't it?! Do you rejoice in the "details of his saving plan"? Do you enjoy seeing the various brush strokes being laid down in Scripture to describe the ministry and work of our Saviour? Do you find something deeper than curiosity and stronger than wonder at work in your heart as you see the previews of our Saviour's work in the shadows of the Old Testament people, events, and places? 

Let me (Pastor Norm) be one of the many who recommends this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Westminster Confession of Faith and the background to each of the articles of the Confession! It's a great resource and tool for growing in your understanding of sound biblical teaching. Highly recommended!