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The Nicene Creed: We Believe in One Holy Catholic Church & One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

We have a custom at Emmaus Christian Fellowship to confess the faith together before we partake of the Lord’s Supper. We typically do this by reading the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed in unison. Sometimes I (or another Elder) will read the Creed and the congregation will respond, saying “Amen”.

Both of these Creeds are very old. The Nicene Creed was adopted by the Church in 325 A.D.; the Apostles Creed existed before that. Both Creeds were penned to give a summary of the essential truths of the Christian faith brief enough to be memorized by the people of God. Historically the Church has used these Creeds to defend against heresy, to teach new believers, to confess the faith before baptism, and in the worship of the church.

There are many benefits to using the Creeds in our worship. In uttering these ancient sayings we keep the essential truths of the faith always before us. This is helpful, not only for those who are young in Christ, but also for those who have been walking with the Lord for some time. I believe it will become more important as the divide widens between the Christian Church and the American culture. The Church will, in the decades to come, labor to preserve the faith as the world presses against her more and more strongly.

Using the Creeds in our worship is not without challenges, though. One of the challenges is that both the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed contain phrases that can be difficult for Christians to understand if they are not first instructed.

I would like to take a moment to deal with two phrases in the Nicene Creed which have raised questions.

We Believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

First of all, lets examine the phrase, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”

The word catholic means universal. When we say “we believe in one holy catholic… Church” we are not pledging allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. Instead we are confessing that there is a universal Church which has been made holy by Christ’s blood.

How important it is for us to remember that Emmaus Christian Fellowship Church is not the only true Church on the planet! No, we are but one small part of the body of Christ universal!

Christ’s Church is a universal Church. This is not to deny the significance of the local, or visible Church. Christ commissioned the Apostles to make disciples of all nations. They were to accomplished that task through the preaching of the gospel, the establishment of local churches, and the appointment of Elders and Deacons within those local churches, as the book of Acts so wonderful displays. The local Church is essential. Christians are to belong to local Churches where they will be cared for by Elders and Deacons, hear the Word preached, receive the sacraments, extend brotherly and sisterly love, use their spiritual gifts, etc. All of these things are to take place in the local Church, but we must never forget the catholic Church. Local Churches are to associate with other local Churches. Individual Christians are united in Christ no matter where they fellowship of the Lord’s Day. We should pray for other local congregations and care for one another in practical ways, as opportunities arise.

This is what it means to be kingdom minded. We are to labor to advance God’s Kingdom. Never should we seek to build little kingdoms of our own. Confessing that “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church” helps guard against growing self-centered and prideful in our allegiance to a particular local Church or denomination.

The word apostolic is also important. I will say less about this. When we confess that the Church is apostolic we are saying that she is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Christ himself being the chief cornerstone Ephesians 2:20). Though it is true that the universal Church is beautifully diverse, and that we ought to rejoice in that diversity, we ought never to celebrate when the Church strays from the foundational teaching of the Apostles of Christ.

We Acknowledge One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

Secondly, let us examine the phrase, “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

Some take pause at this statement because it seems to say that it is water baptism which washes away our sins.

Notice that the Creed is simply using the language of scripture. Acts 2:38-39:

“And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’” (Acts 2:38–39, ESV)

The clear teaching of scripture is that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. To trust in Christ truly also involved repenting of sins. To repent involves confessing that we have sinned, crying out to God for mercy through Christ Jesus, and turning from our sins to a newness of life. Faith and repentance are, therefore, closely connected – they go hand in hand.

The sacrament of Baptism signifies, or symbolizes, the inward and invisible reality brought about by Spirit wrought faith in an external and visible way. The waters of baptism do not wash away sin – Christ’s blood does. Salvation is not earned by our obedience in the waters of baptism – it is has been earned by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We receive salvation, not by being baptized, but by the instrument of faith. Baptism, however, is a sacrament. It is a sign. It is an external and visible symbol of internal and invisible realities.

The Creed and the scriptures can speak of being “baptized for the forgiveness of sins” not because the act of baptism saves us, but because the sign and the thing signified are so closely connected that they can spoken of as one and the same. In other words, to say that we are “baptized for the forgiveness of sins” is to say that we are forgiven by all at the baptism signifies. This is how sacraments work. They are signs and symbols which point to other realities – spiritual, inward, and invisible realities. The same could be said of the Lord’s Supper and the language surrounding the institution of the Lord’s Supper in Mathew 26, though we will not go there for the sake of time.

When a person is baptized he is receiving “a sign of his fellowship with [Christ], in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life” (Second London Confession, 29.1). To say that we believe in “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” is to say that we believe that we are forgiven of ours sins through all that the sacrament of baptism symbolizes, namely, the things mentioned in the above quote. As you can see, sacramental language manages to communicate a whole world of doctrine in just one word.

I will close with this thought: Perhaps the reason the language of the Nicene Creed (and Acts 2) cause us to give pause is because we have given to little significance to the sacraments. We have been so concerned (at least in our tradition) to guard against the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration (and also the doctrine of transubstantiation) that we have opened up a wide gap between the sign and the thing signified. We do not want them to be confused. We do not want people treat the sign of baptism and the Lord’s Supper as if they were the substance of our salvation, and so we draw with heavy lines. Though our intentions are good, perhaps we have made the gap to wide. While we must guard against these errors, and others like them, we should not be afraid to use the credal and scriptural language concerning the sacraments which point to a tight link between the sign and the thing signified. Can a person be saved if he has never been baptized or taken the Supper? The thief on the cross was! But the scriptures compel in this way: “Take, eat; this is my body”, and “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”

The teaching of the Creed is this: there is salvation in no one or no thing other than Christ. If we are to have the forgiveness of sins it must be through spiritual  union with Christ, the thing that baptism signifies. To take the sign of baptism truly and by faith is to have that which the sign signifies, all by the grace of God and to the praise of his glorious grace.

Pastor Joe


The Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son
he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

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The Christian Sabbath: The Law is Good

My objective in this short series on the Christian Sabbath is to persuade you to believe that the fourth commandment – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8, ESV) – applies to the Christian today just as the other nine commandments do.

It is true that we are not justified by the keeping of the law – no one ever was (Galatians 2:16). And it is true that we are not under the law in the way that Old Covenant Israel was, or those not in Christ are (Galatians 5:18). But it is a mistake to assume that the moral law, as well as the moral principles contained within the civil and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, do not apply to those in Christ (Matthew 5:27; 1 Timothy 5:18).

We wouldn’t dare claim this concerning the other nine commandments. Most Christians would acknowledge, for example, that, the seventh command – “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14, ESV) – still applies. It applies in that it reveals God’s moral standard for us. We can not be saved by the keeping of it  – we are not legalists. And we cannot keep it apart from the work of the Spirit in us – we are not moralists. But it is as true and applicable for us today as it was in the day it was given. My question is this: Why would we approach the fourth commandment any differently?

Some might object, saying, but the law is written on the hearts of Christians, not on stone! This is indeed true (Jeremiah 31:31-33). But why would we think that the moral law written on the heart of the Christian would differ in substance from the moral law written on stone and given to Moses? It is the same moral law for God’s people under the Old and New Covenant!

It is true, the civil and ceremonial laws do not apply to Chritsians in the same way as they did to those under the Old Covenant. And why is that? It is because they have been fulfilled in Christ (Acts 10:13). But the moral principles remain unchanged and intact (Matthew 5:17). If you are interested in this I would recommend that you read Chapter 19 of our Confession.

I made a case (very briefly) in my last post for the permanence of the fourth commandment. I argued like this: One, the fourth commandment is at the heart of the ten commandments, which is a summery of God’s moral law. Two, the Sabbath principle appears, not first in the ten commandments, but at creation. Both of these facts point to the Sabbath principle as something that transcends the Old Covenant made with Israel. It contains a moral principle applicable to all people at all times and in all places.

Here I emphasize this point: many Christians are opposed to the continued validity of the Sabbath command because they approach the issue with a predisposed aversion to the law of God. They object to the idea that we are to observe the Sabbath today saying, that is legalism! We are not under the law! Our response would be, no, you are guilty of antinomianism! You have gone to far in your rejection of the moral law!  

We are not legalists. We do not believe that a person can be saved through the keeping of the law. No one ever has been, and never will be (actually, if I had the time I would develop this point: all are saved through the keeping of the law in this sense –  Christ has kept it for us, and we are saved through faith in him!). Furthermore, we are deeply opposed to adding anything to the law of God as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were guilty of doing (this is why I am opposed to forbidding the drinking of alcohol, for example. While drinking may be unwise (especially for some), it should not be forbidden for the simple fact that the scriptures to not forbid it (John 2)). We are not legalists.

But neither are we antinomians. We believe that the law of God is useful for the Christian. We agree with Paul that “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12, ESV).

Traditionally the church has confessed that the moral law has three uses for the Christian. R.C. Sproul summarizes this nicely:

“The first purpose of the law is to be a mirror. On the one hand, the law of God reflects and mirrors the perfect righteousness of God. The law tells us much about who God is. Perhaps more important, the law illumines human sinfulness. Augustine wrote, ‘The law orders, that we, after attempting to do what is ordered, and so feeling our weakness under the law, may learn to implore the help of grace.’ The law highlights our weakness so that we might seek the strength found in Christ. Here the law acts as a severe schoolmaster who drives us to Christ.

A second purpose for the law is the restraint of evil. The law, in and of itself, cannot change human hearts. It can, however, serve to protect the righteous from the unjust. Calvin says this purpose is ‘by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice.’ The law allows for a limited measure of justice on this earth, until the last judgment is realized.

The third purpose of the law is to reveal what is pleasing to God. As born-again children of God, the law enlightens us as to what is pleasing to our Father, whom we seek to serve. The Christian delights in the law as God Himself delights in it. Jesus said, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ (John 14:15). This is the highest function of the law, to serve as an instrument for the people of God to give Him honor and glory.” (R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith)

If you are having trouble with the Sabbath command you may need to back up and reconsider your view of the law in general. Perhaps you have misunderstood what it means to not be under the law in Christ. Whatever that means (that is another discussion for another time) it does not mean that the moral law no longer applies to the Christian.

The Sabbath command is at the heart of the summery of the moral law, the Ten Commandments. If it is still wrong to worship other gods, make graven images, take the name of the LORD in vain, dishonor parents, murder, commit adultery, steel, lie, and covet, then it is also wrong to fail to rest and worship one day in seven.

Questions remain. Who changed the day? What are we to do and not do on the Christian Sabbath? These, and other question will have to wait for another time. For now, may I simply encourage you to see the law of God as holy and righteous and good.


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The Christian Sabbath: Our Confession

The fourth of the Ten Commandments is this: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8–11, ESV)

How are we as Christians to understand this command? Even a brief glance at it reveals that it was originally given to a people living in a time different than our own. They were to rest on the seventh day. We, if we rest at all, rest on the first. They were to provide rest for their male servants, female servants, livestock, and to the sojourners who dwelt in their midst – all of this sounds very foreign to us, doesn’t it?

It is indeed tempting to brush the Sabbath command to the side reasoning to ourselves, “that was for a different time and for a different people, it does not apply to us anymore.” But is this true? Are we really to say that one of the Ten Commandments no longer applies? I think not.

Consider that the principle that binds each of the Ten Commandments together is the fact that they contain moral principles of universal significance. Idol worship is wrong – murder is wrong – adultery is wrong – not just for a select people living in a particular time, but for all people in all times. These things are forbidden because they are violations of God’s moral law which emanate from his being. The Ten Commandments are the Ten Commandments because they contain moral principles which apply to all people at all times.

Notice also the reason given for the fourth command. The text reads, “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The significance is this: The Sabbath command was given, not first to Israel, but to Adam and Eve who represent the entire human race. The Sabbath is a picture of something. It reminds of of the fact that God created the heavens and the earth, of the promise of eternal rest found in him, and that he alone is worthy of our worship.

It is our conviction that the Sabbath principle remains in effect for us today. It ought to be obeyed by all people in all times. In other words, to fail to rest and to worship the one true God according to the pattern established by him at creation is to sin.

Now in the moment you read these words you probably have a dozen or more questions flood your mind: Which day? Can it be any day? If it must be a particular day, then why do we rest and worship on Sunday, and not Saturday? What can I do on that day? What must I not do? Isn’t this legalism? Wasn’t Jesus against Sabbath keeping? Didn’t Paul say that the Sabbath was done away with? What is the reason for all of this anyways? I intend to address questions like these in future posts. For now I would simply like to remind you of what we confess.

Would you please take a moment to read chapter 22 of the London Baptist Confession (below)? Notice that the sabbath principle is addressed within the context of a larger section dealing with worship, for that is the real question: how are we to worship God? The answer given is that we are to worship him, not according to our preferences, but in the way that he has prescribed in his word.

My prayer for you, church, is that you would grow convinced that this is indeed the teaching of scripture. God has given us six days to work, but he has invited us to rest and worship him one out of seven. The Sabbath is a gift. It ought to be a most joyous thing as we orient the rhythm of our lives around the worship of the God who made us, who saved us, and who will one day bring us into the fullness of his rest when he makes all things new.

The Baptist Confession of Faith
Chapter 22 – Worship and the Sabbath Day

  1. The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures. ( Jeremiah 10:7; Mark 12:33; Deuteronomy 12:32; Exodus 20:4-6 )
  2. Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creatures; and since the fall, not without a mediator, nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone. ( Matthew 4:9, 10; John 6:23; Matthew 28:19; Romans 1:25; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5 )
  3. Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one part of natural worship, is by God required of all men. But that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son, by the help of the Spirit, according to his will; with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance; and when with others, in a known tongue. ( Psalms 95:1-7; Psalms 65:2; John 14:13, 14; Romans 8:26; 1 John 5:14; 1 Corinthians 14:16, 17 )
  4. Prayer is to be made for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death. ( 1 Timothy 2:1, 2; 2 Samuel 7:29; 2 Samuel 12:21-23; 1 John 5:16 )
  5. The reading of the Scriptures, preaching, and hearing the Word of God, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord; as also the administration of baptism, and the Lord’s supper, are all parts of religious worship of God, to be performed in obedience to him, with understanding, faith, reverence, and godly fear; moreover, solemn humiliation, with fastings, and thanksgivings, upon special occasions, ought to be used in an holy and religious manner. ( 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2; Luke 8:18; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19; Matthew 28:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 11:26; Esther 4:16; Joel 2:12; Exodus 15:1-19, Psalms 107 )
  6. Neither prayer nor any other part of religious worship, is now under the gospel, tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed; but God is to be worshipped everywhere in spirit and in truth; as in private families daily, and in secret each one by himself; so more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly nor wilfully to be neglected or forsaken, when God by his word or providence calleth thereunto. ( John 4:21; Malachi 1:11; 1 Timothy 2:8; Acts 10:2; Matthew 6:11; Psalms 55:17; Matthew 6:6; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42 )
  7. As it is the law of nature, that in general a proportion of time, by God’s appointment, be set apart for the worship of God, so by his Word, in a positive moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men, in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a sabbath to be kept holy unto him, which from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ was the last day of the week, and from the resurrection of Christ was changed into the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s day: and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath, the observation of the last day of the week being abolished. ( Exodus 20:8; 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Revelation 1:10 )
  8. The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy. ( Isaiah 58:13; Nehemiah 13:15-22; Matthew 12:1-13 )
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Of Adoption & Of Sanctification – Emmaus Essentials Episode 20

Episode 20 of Emmaus Essentials is up! This episode covers chapters 12 & 13 of the Confession on the topics of adoption and sanctification. The doctrine of adoption is indeed a beautiful one! Here we explore the fact of our adoption in Christ, along with the blessings and result of it. Understanding sanctification is helpful in a practical way. Here we answer the question, what is sanctification? and also discuss the difference between positional and personal sanctification. I hope you are strengthened and encouraged by the teaching!

Pastor Joe

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Emmaus Essentials – LBC 1689 – Episode 19 – Of Justification

Episode 19 of Emmaus Essentials – LBC 1689 is up and ready for your consumption. The subject is chapter 11 of the Confession – Of Justification. This is truly a vital doctrine and I would highly encourage you to listen in. Questions considered are: What is justification? How is justification received? What is the basis for our justification? When is a person justified? What is the relationship between justification and sanctification? And, how were those who lived before Christ justified? I hope your are blessed by it!

Pastor Joe

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A Child’s Call to Conversion: Faith as a Christian Mark

I came across this article, “A Child’s Call to Conversion: Faith as a Christian Mark” by Tedd Tripp and thought it complements what Joe discussed a couple Sundays ago regarding a child’s confession of faith.

“The clear desire of all Christian parents is the spiritual well-being of their children. We want our children to be saved, to be part of the company of the redeemed. We yearn for the blessing of God’s covenant grace to be on our children.

While we recognize God’s sovereignty in salvation, this longing to see one generation follow another in knowing God motivates the training and instruction of our children. Psalm 78 captures it: “Things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders he has done. He established a testimony … which he commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and teach to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commands” (vv. 3–6). Because we long for our children to know the grace we have known, we declare God’s mighty acts to the next generation (Ps. 145). We teach God’s ways so that our sons and our son’s sons will follow God (Deut. 6).

We want our children to have faith in God. But what does it mean to have saving faith? Starting with Martin Luther and further explicated by Philip Melanchthon and others who followed them, Reformed theology has traditionally used a threefold definition of faith as notitia (knowledge),assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust). Our major confessions of faith show this understanding. The Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2 maintains that saving faith joins believing in God’s Word, accepting Christ’s claims, and “receiving and resting on Christ alone” for all that salvation provides.

The answer to question 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism — “What is saving faith?” — provides perhaps the clearest description of saving faith found in any confession: “True faith is not only sure knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also firm confidence which the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.”

As a parent who desires his children to exercise saving faith, I am concerned with all three aspects of saving faith. Therefore, my shepherding must intentionally promote notitia, assensus, andfiducia.

Notitia. Our English word notice comes from this Latin word. It conveys the basic informational content of the Christian faith. Our children must understand the basic content of the gospel. That’s one of the reasons the practice of family worship is so essential. There is truth to be known. It is not possible to exercise faith without content. “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” (Rom. 10:14).

We know that knowledge does not save, but faith must act on knowledge. Faith is not a “blind leap in the dark.” If our children are to put their faith in Jesus Christ, we must provide reasons for faith. They cannot trust in Jesus Christ without knowing truth about Him. There is a corpus of knowledge about themselves, God, and God’s created order that they must know and in some sense understand if they are to be children of faith. They can believe only in that which they know.

This was the burden that drove Paul’s concern for the communication of truth: “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1–4, emphasis added).

Without knowledge, faith is not possible since we must know something of the One in whom we are to believe. It is not enough to merely be sincere. Correct knowledge matters, yet knowledge is not faith.

Assensus. The common English word assent comes from this Latin term. To assent means to believe something to be true. It is possible to know (notitia) something and not personally believe it (assensus). Our children must both understand the content of the gospel and believe it. To know all the historical facts about Jesus Christ, to possess thorough knowledge of the facts about salvation, will do our children no good if they do not believe those facts to be true.

Saint Paul, in his defense before King Agrippa, asserted that Agrippa knew and even believed the facts about Jesus Christ. “King Agrippa,” asked Paul, “do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe” (Acts 26:27).

Yet mere knowledge and even assent to the truth, while essential, are not sufficient for our children to have saving faith. Knowledge enables our children to say, “Christ died and rose from the grave.” Assent takes the next step: “I am persuaded to believe that Christ died and rose from the grave.” According to the Reformers, these two are not enough. These two, someone has said, qualify one to be a demon; demons possess both right knowledge and even belief in its truth. One thing more is needed for saving faith.

Fiducia. The best English word for fiducia is trust. Our children must have knowledge, they must believe that it is true, and they must trust in it. It is one thing to know Christ died for our sins. It is another to add to that knowledge belief that Christ died for our sins. It is essential to take the next step, to place my trust in Christ to save me from my sins.

The difference is captured brilliantly by Charles Wesley’s hymn “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”:

He breaks the power of reigning sin,
He sets the captive free;
His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.

The final phrase captures the idea of trust. Our children can know and even believe that salvation is found in Jesus Christ, but “His blood availed for me” expresses trust, trust that is essential to saving faith. Saving faith involves internal change — regenerating grace — that enables our children to trust Christ for salvation.

There is an element of saving faith that is not merely an objective embrace of truths about God. It is not enough to say Jesus is the Savior of sinners. Our children must be able to say, “He is my Savior.” They must trust Him for salvation. They must embrace Him and rest in Him as He has freely given grace through His holy life and sacrificial death.

Trust in Christ alone for salvation is described in scores of Bible passages. The prophets often describe it as “turning to” God (Ezek. 33). John 1 explains it as “receiving” Him. In the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus describes it as “eating” Him (John 6). The writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 6 that we are “to hold fast” to the hope. However it is expressed, our children must trust in Jesus Christ if they are to be saved.

How does this impact shepherding our children? We must always set before them the gospel truth. Every family should have some intentional and structured times in which the children are taught about what the Scriptures contain. We must faithfully urge them to believe the things we have taught. Some basic apologetics will inevitably be essential as we persuade them to believe the truth.

None of this will be enough unless they entrust themselves to Jesus Christ. If they are to be partakers of eternal life, they must trust in this Jesus Christ who saves. Our children must receive Him, turn to Him, hold fast to Him, and rest in Him alone for salvation. Ultimately, the work of the Holy Spirit must transform our children into people who rest in Christ alone for salvation. Our role is to bring them the gospel and urge them to embrace Christ the Savior.

I used to tell my children about the man who watched a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls pushing a wheel barrow. After seeing the feat performed repeatedly, he was asked by the performer, “Can I walk across the falls pushing this wheelbarrow.” “Yes,” was the answer (notitia). “Do you believe that I can do it again?” “Yes” (assensus). “Would you jump in the wheelbarrow and let me push you across?” (fiducia). This is the question of trust.

Our children must know that Jesus is the Savior who died for sinners. They must believe that He will save sinners who come to Him. But to cross from death to life they must believe that Jesus is their Savior. They must get into the wheelbarrow. What they will find is that He is willing and able to get them safely to the other shore.”

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: Email: [email protected]. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343.

"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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