For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about why we confess our faith. We have mentioned two reasons so far. The first week we mentioned that it is a form of oath taking. It is our “pledge of alleigence” so to speak. Last week I suggested to you that it is a form of instruction. As my seminary professor used to say, “Repetition is the mother of learning.” And as we recite these things from week to week, we are etching them deep within our hearts and minds.
This week I want us to note one last reason why we confess our faith. Today I want us to understand that our confession of faith is a means of mutual edification.
In the book of 1st Thessalonians the Apostle Paul has a lengthy discussion of the end times. The Thessalonians were worried about some of their brethren who had passed away. They were wondering “what happens to them?” Paul essentially tells them that their bodies rest in the grave for a time and their souls go to be with Jesus. Then, on the day when Christ comes again, they will be rejoined to their resurrected bodies.
But at the end of that section Paul says, “Encourage one another with these words.” The Thessalonians were to speak of these things to each other so that they might strengthen one another and console one another in the faith.
That is something that ought to happen when we confess our faith together. When we recite the creeds and confessions, it is supposed to be a time of corporate encouragement.
Think about it, after a long week of being in the world—rubbing shoulders with a lot of unbelieving people, maybe even people who are hostile to the faith, what could be better than standing in a room full of people who are confessing the same thing that you believe?
I know that for myself, I get a real charge out of it, knowing that there are some other freak-o’s who believe the same thing I do and are willing to stand up and say it. That should be a means of encouragement to you to help you face another week.
If you would, allow me to tell you of another time when the Creed was a means of encouragement for me. It was on the occasion when a dear saint had passed away. We were standing at the graveside, ready to lay our sister to rest. It was a somber moment as this lady had meant so much to the congregation. She had given an incredible testimony through her battle with cancer and we all had grown to admire her. So, you can imagine that bidding our last farewell was a solemn and tear-filled moment.
At the end of the service the pastor had us all recite the Apostle’s Creed. Throughout the service there seemed to be a sad gray that overshadowed the whole of the proceedings. However, when we came to the end of the creed, all of that was whisked away. We all recited the words, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.” I don’t know if I can speak for everyone there. But I know that, for me, those words were like bright rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds. I walked away from that moment with a renewed feeling that my God was the God of the resurrection. And one day, I would see this dear sister again.
All of this, of course, was because the brethren around me recited the creed together. Even though I was in seminary at the time, and even though I was thoroughly trained the truth of the afterlife—all that was nothing, compared to the encouragement I received through the corporate witness of the body of Christ.
That was the essence of what Paul intended when he said, “Encourage one another with these words.”
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.