Blogmatics—On Confessions of Faith

Blogmatics (i.e. what we at Ancient Paths believe)

You can find my own articulation of our beliefs in this post. But, the title of this blog being Ancient Paths, I thought it appropriate to also point to some of the old historic confessions that accurately represent the doctrinal beliefs we hold. So then…

Ancient Creeds

Though I take some exception with the specific wording here and there, I think the creeds have tremendously valuable formulations that, sadly, have been forgotten and ignored in much of modern Christianity. And, for that reason, we no longer have any moors by which to define historic Christian orthodoxy.

Confessions of Faith

I come from a tradition that typically has some rather considerable disdain for confessionalism. This is unfortunate for various reasons, and not necessarily characteristic of the older tradition of which I am a beneficiary. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself confessional, simply because of some of the connotations that term now carries. However, I think the historic confessions are indispensable to a robust understanding of theology, and I would consider myself to be more or less in line with these four confessions.

Some Modern Declarations

Again, with some minor differences in preferred wording, I have found the following declarations on specific topics (and two modern confessions) to be of considerable public value, and of tremendous personal benefit as well.

Extra Reading

I’ve found these confessions to be particularly helpful in their wording, for the most part, but unfortunately have some significant disagreements with the views expressed in one or more places.

  • Helwys’ Confession (1611) (with the exception of article 7 on falling from grace; but I especially appreciate his wording on election in article 5; particularly relevant to our day is article 16 on the appropriate size of a congregation—as Voddie would say, if you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch)
  • The Standard Confession (1660) (a helpful Baptist confession, but my discomfort lies primarily in articles 12 and 14)
  • The Orthodox Creed (1679) (This is an important confession, but it’s problematic when it comes to the Adamic Covenant, and thus the active obedience of Christ)
  • A Short Confession or a Brief Narrative of Faith (1691) (This confession has some unfortunate wording concerning original sin and justification. Despite this, the sections on the extent of Christ’s death, providence, and election, are especially helpful)
  • New Hampshire Confession (1833) (This is a well-written Particular Baptist confession based loosely on the 1689; I disagree with their wording on Perseverance, and the Christian Sabbath, but the majority of the confession is solid)

For the Uncomfortable and/or Curious

If the idea of subscribing to historic confessions is new to you, you may find these articles from Founders Ministries helpful. Of course, Founders subscribes to the 1689 Second London Confession, which I disagree with at various points; however, their arguments and explanations are still valid and a very valuable introduction to the importance of utilizing the creeds and confessions.

 


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1 Timothy [Theology Matters]

Last time, we looked at the context of the book of First Timothy. Now let’s get into chapter one.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, my true child in the faith. Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Just as I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus, so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine, and not to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan which operates by faith. But the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

After Paul’s customary greeting, he immediately launches into the reason for why he left Timothy in Ephesus in verse three: “so that you may instruct certain people not to teach different doctrine.” It’s fitting that Paul begins his letter with the issue of doctrinal purity, for a solid, sound understanding of Scripture is foundational to the life of the church. The false teaching that had begun to lead the Ephesian church astray was more than simply an apologetic hurdle for Paul. It was a deadly cancer that had to be removed if the church was to remain healthy and continue its mission.

If Christians become grounded in the truth of their faith, false teaching is often stopped before it spreads. If we learn what the Bible says and learn to obey it, we’re less prone to deception. Otherwise, we fit Paul’s description in Eph. 4:14 of the immature believer who is “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of doctrine.”

Of course, it’s become trendy for churches today to equate “humility” with theological timidity. If a church takes a strong stance on an issue, they are viewed as brash, arrogant, aloof, uncompassionate. The sad truth is that it is very easy for churches to become that way. But the fact remains, whether we like it or not, that without the will to fiercely guard sound theology, the church will be crippled, eventually to the point that it can no longer be recognized as an assembly of Christ’s disciples. So it is no wonder that Paul felt it necessary to leave Timothy in Ephesus, in order that Timothy could set things right: to confront the false teaching, and teach the Ephesians to guard boldly the truth of God’s Word.

1 Timothy [Context]

The story goes that, as he was preparing for one of his Antarctic expeditions, the famous explorer, Earnest Shackleton, put an ad in the London newspaper that read something like this: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.”

Warren Wiersbe, commenting on Shackleton’s ad, said this, “If Jesus Christ had advertised for workers, the announcement might have read something like this: ‘Men and women wanted for difficult task of helping to build My church. You will often be misunderstood, even by those working with you. You will face constant attack from an invisible enemy. You may not see the results of your labor, and your full reward will not come till after all your work is completed. It may cost you your home, your ambitions, even your life.’”

I think that we are now facing the question, of whether or not we are really willing to accept this kind of challenge… to invest our lives in the service and community and growth of the church. And the 1st century church in Ephesus faced a very similar challenge, only 30 years after the earthly life of Christ.

Let me just give you a little bit of context for the book of 1 Timothy. Timothy was from Lystra, a city in the Roman province of Galatia, (part of modern-day Turkey). Paul led Timothy to Christ (1:2,18; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:2) during his ministry in Lystra on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:6–23). When he revisited Lystra on his second missionary journey, Paul chose Timothy to accompany him (Acts 16:1–3), because, although Timothy was very young (probably in his late teens or early twenties at that time), he had a reputation for godliness, as we see in Acts 16.

Timothy would become Paul’s disciple, friend, and co-laborer for the rest of Paul’s life, ministering with him in Berea (Acts 17:14), Athens (Acts 17:15), Corinth (Acts 18:5; 2 Cor. 1:19), and Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). Paul frequently mentions Timothy in his letters to other churches (you see that in Romans, 2 Cor, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thess, and Philemon), and Paul often sent Timothy to churches as his representative, as we see in 1 Corinthians, Philippians, and 1 Thessalonians — and that’s the role we find Timothy in at the church in Ephesus, when Paul writes this letter.

1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, and Titus are referred to as the Pastoral epistles, and so it is often assumed that Timothy and Titus were regular pastors of their respective local churches; but technically, they were really left in Ephesus and Crete as Paul’s personal representatives, in order to temporarily oversee and aid in the work of the churches there.

Since Timothy’s theology was solid—(he had been traveling with and learning from Paul for almost 15 years now)—Paul doesn’t seem to have a need to give Timothy extensive doctrinal instruction. Rather, this letter is pastoral because Paul is giving practical instruction to Timothy regarding how Timothy (who is in many ways functioning like a pastor) can shepherd the church in Ephesus in several important, but easily neglected, practical matters of church life.

About 10 years before the writing of this letter, Paul and Timothy met with the elders of the Ephesian church, and Paul warned them (at the end of Acts 20) that “savage wolves” would enter the church, wreaking havoc and luring away disciples (Acts 20:28-30).

Fast-forward 10 years and, after being released from his first Roman imprisonment (Acts 28:30), Paul revisited several of the cities in which he had ministered, including Ephesus. When Paul and Timothy came to Ephesus, they saw that Paul’s predictions had not been exaggerated, and false teaching was staring the church at Ephesus square in the face. Therefore, Paul left Timothy behind to deal with problems that had arisen in the Ephesian church, and Paul went on to Macedonia. And it’s from Macedonia that he wrote Timothy this letter to help him carry out his task in the church. We’ll get into the first chapter in the next post.