The Elements of Public Worship Part VI
Public Confession of Our Faith
“The first part of 1 Timothy 3:16 runs: “Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our religion’ (R.S.V). The Apostle then proceeds to quote the hymn in which the mystery of the Gospel is enshrined – a wonderful truth about the Person and place of Jesus Christ, formerly kept secret but now fully revealed by God – and, in this way, to trace the career of the Church’s Lord from His pre-existence, through His incarnate life upon earth, His resurrection and ascension, to His final glory in the Father’s presence.
But his Specimen of Christian hymnody is much more than a canticle, composed to fill a place in services of worship: the hymn of 1 Timothy 3:16 is a clear instance of an early confession of faith by which the Church gave expression to the fundamental facts and truths of the Gospel. The first words, which are quoted above, tell us explicitly: ‘Great indeed, we confess…’ At this point hymns and creeds meet and overlap.” – Ralph P. Martin, Worship in the Early Church
The members of the Apostolic church freely confessed their faith at several points in their worship using creeds. The word creed comes to us from the Latin word credo, meaning “I believe”. Creeds are summaries of Christian doctrine that may be long and complex Confessional documents or the simple confession that “Jesus is Lord” that Paul reminds Timothy of in His exhortation in 1 Timothy 6:11-12: “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
Timothy would necessarily have made his “good confession” at his baptism. But it is the duty of Christians not only to confess their faith on their entering the visible Church, but to continue to freely confess and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3) throughout their entire lives.
In keeping the Apostolic practice, we confess our faith publicly in our worship, declaring to all the world what we truly believe the word of God teaches. In that moment we are professing our faith before God and man and solemnly stating that this is the saving truth that we believe, that we are eager to share with world, and that we would be willing to lay down our lives for.