All believers seek to interpret the Bible. But too often our personal understanding can be fuzzy and patchy. We don’t see how truths relate to each other and we struggle to articulate them. The Westminster Confession of Faith has helped many generations across the world to have a clear and orderly understanding of biblical truth. It helps us to share our faith together and respond with appropriate worship. Our Faith enables everyone to do this by removing difficulties and providing helpful explanations.
It putting in our own words what we understand God to be saying in His Word. Some people say they have no creed but the Bible. But they still have their own interpretation of what the Bible teaches. They just haven’t written down their beliefs in a systematic form. They do have a creed, just not a publicly available one. If we restricted ourselves to using only the words of Scripture, this would be an inadequate way of stating the truth. We still need explain what we understand a verse to be saying from the rest of Scripture. This is what a confession does, it's purpose is to simply state what Scripture already teaches.
As you work through Our Faith you will hopefully be able to see for yourself how tightly the Westminster Confession connects to what Scripture actually says. It is not a complete statement of what the Bible teaches—it does not spell out everything the Bible says. But it is an accurate statement of biblical doctrine. The Westminster Confession closely follows Scripture in where it puts the emphasis. The major themes of Scripture are the major themes of the Westminster Confession: who God is and what God does; the fall of man into sin and its consequences; how Christ rescues sinners from their sin; and how saved sinners are to live their lives towards God and in their church community.
The fact that the Westminster Confession is so detailed makes it a better basis for unity among Christians than a minimalist confession. Minimalist confessions disguise disunity because they simply avoid talking about areas of disagreement. When God reveals something in Scripture, then Christians do not have the option of ignoring it or acting as though it doesn’t matter. A detailed confession helps people to see what the Bible really does teach, and it helps to close down the vague generalities which would otherwise be loopholes for error.
The Westminster Confession covers very profound truths and uses very precise theological terminology. Yet it is not meant to go over the heads of ordinary people. It is accessible to people with no special theological training or particular interest in technical controversies. It serves the church well as both an outward-facing document—explaining to outsiders what the church believes, and an inward-facing document—articulating for ordinary believers the truths about the God we worship and His way of salvation. Our Faith aims to provide help for anyone approaching it for the first time in this way. We hope it will draw you into a deeper and more detailed understanding of the core truths of Scripture using the Confession.
Each individual believer who embraces the Westminster Confession today joins a community of believers all over the world spanning hundreds of years. The confession of faith also gives you something to share with your friends and your own children. It gives an objective content to your testimony when you share your testimony, and it gives a definite shape to your claim to be Bible-believing when you share Scripture itself. You can be confident that you are not simply transmitting some eccentric personal quirks when you pass on to the next generation of believers the contents of the Westminster Confession.
The Westminster Confession offers a precise articulation of the key doctrines of Scripture in a systematic manner so that you can be clear and orderly about the truth in your own mind. With a clear understanding in place, then you can respond with the appropriate worship. Our devotions can only be enhanced as we grow in an accurate knowledge of what God is like and what God has done. Our best devotional responses of praise and adoration spring out of our best grasp of the identity of our Saviour and the nature of the salvation He provides.
Justification is far from the only blessing given to those who belong to Christ. They are also brought into God’s family. Not only are they legally recognised as God’s sons and daughters and given an increasing family resemblance to their Father, but God takes them into His fatherly care and looks after them tenderly in every way.
All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption: by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him as by a father; yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption, and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation. (Westminster Confession, 12:1)
Everyone who is justified is adopted. God guarantees this in and for His only Son Jesus
Christ. When God adopts them, He includes them in the number of His children and He gives them all the liberties and privileges of His children. He gives them His name, His Spirit, access to His throne, and the ability to call, ‘Abba, Father.’ He also pities them, protects them, provides for them, and chastens them. Although He chastens them like a father would, yet He never disowns them. Instead the Holy Spirit certifies to them that they are indeed the children of God, and can look forward to the time when their redemption will be completely fulfilled. They can also look forward to inheriting all the promises of eternal salvation.
• Sealed to the day of redemption—a reference to Ephesians 4:30, which says that the Holy Spirit ‘seals’ believers, in the sense of certifying to them that they are indeed the children of God. The day of redemption is the time when redemption will be completed for all God’s people
• Ephesians 1:5. God has predestinated His people to the adoption of children by Jesus
• Galatians 4:4-5, Romans 8:17, John 1:12. They are included among the children of God and share the inheritance and glorification of Christ their elder brother.
• Jeremiah 14:9, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Revelation 3:12. They are called by the name of God.
• Romans 8:15. They receive the Spirit of adoption.
• Ephesians 3:12, Romans 5:2. They have access with boldness to the throne of grace.
• Galatians 4:6. The Spirit enables them to cry, ‘Abba, Father.’
• Psalm 103:13. The Lord pities them like a father pities his children.
• Proverbs 14:26. The Lord protects His children.
• Matthew 6:30, 32, 1 Peter 5:7. The Lord cares for His children and provides for their
• Hebrews 12:6. The Lord chastens His children.
• Lamentations 3:31. The Lord will not cast off His people.
• Ephesians 4:30. They are sealed to the day of redemption.
• Hebrews 6:12. They will inherit the promises.
• 1 Peter 1:3-4, Hebrews 1:14. They are heirs of salvation, an incorruptible inheritance.
1. What does God guarantee to everyone who is justified?
2. What two things are involved in someone partaking of the grace of adoption?
3. What four things do they get as adopted children?
4. What four things does God do for them as their Father?
5. What two things can God’s adopted children look forward to?
6. Once someone has been adopted by God, is it ever possible that He will disown them?
Cross-References for Chapter 12: Larger Catechism Q74; Shorter Catechism Q34.
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Understand Scripture in a deeper way with the Westminster Confession. Let’s make the Confession accessible for everyone as we teach, discuss and study it using Our Faith.
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