When the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formed in 1788, it adopted (with minor revisions) the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647), as its secondary standards (the Bible itself being the only infallible rule of faith and practice). As an officer in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I took a vow to “sincerely receive and adopt” these confessional documents “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.”
R.C. Sproul tells us that the Westminster Confession is the most precise and accurate summary of the content of biblical Christianity ever set forth in a creedal form. In the “Foreword” of the book, Sinclair Ferguson writes that the Westminster Confession was the anatomy of everything that Sproul preached and taught. He tells us that this book is not an academic, technical discussion of an ancient document. Rather, it is a book for every Christian home and family and one that will be especially valuable for younger Christians setting out on the way.
Here are 10 quotes from Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith: Of the Holy Scripture
- The Westminster Confession affirms the central importance and sufficiency of Scripture—a Reformational concept.
- We not only can but do know that the creation requires a Creator and that the Creator must be sovereign over His creation, both in terms of His authority and His power.
- The doctrine of inspiration, as mysterious as it is, declares that while humans were writing, God the Holy Spirit ensured that what they wrote was without error and was actually verbum Dei, the Word of God itself.
- The confession asserts that the Bible’s authority is so strong, so supreme, that it imposes on us a moral obligation to believe it. If we do not believe it, we have sinned. It is not so much an intellectual as a moral issue.
- The church no more gave the Bible its authority than the individual gives Christ His authority by embracing Him as Lord. He is Lord—we are simply called to recognize it.
- A person will not be fully persuaded or assured that the Bible is the Word of God unless and until God the Holy Spirit does a work in his heart, which is called the internal testimony of the Spirit.
- The Spirit works with and through the Word, never apart from or against it.
- As we read and study Scripture, the Spirit opens our eyes, not to add anything to what is already there, but to clarify what is there and to apply it to our lives.
- Always interpret the implicit in light of the explicit, the obscure in light of the clear. These underlying principles in the Reformed doctrine of hermeneutics presuppose that the Bible is the Word of God.
- What the Holy Spirit inspired in one passage helps us understand what He inspired in another. We must interpret Scripture by Scripture.
Next time we will look at Chapter 2: Of God, and of the Holy Trinity.