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Question and Answer

The Reformers and the Westminster Confession of Faith

Question:

The reformers decided upon the Westminster Confession of Faith 350 years ago. Where did they receive such revelation?

Answer:

In order to answer your question I need to make certain distinctions.

First of all, we cannot quite say that "the reformers decided upon the Westminster Confession of Faith [WCF] 350 years ago," unless it be clear that we are not talking about such men as Martin Luther and John Calvin, men greatly used of God during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The Westminster Assembly (during which the WCF was written) took place in the 17th century after such men had passed from the scene. In addition, it was only those later "reformers" living in England and Scotland who formulated this confession.

It is also important to acknowledge that the Westminster Divines (the word "divine" simply means "minister" or church "elder") owed a huge debt to others. The body of ministers and elders who met for years as the Westminster Assembly had the creeds and catechisms of those who had gone before them. This included such great formulations as the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism (which are still adhered to by many today).

But that is not all! They also had before them the Apostles' Creed, the Nicean Creed, and the Athanasian Creeds of earlier church history. And while the WCF is justly celebrated for the way in which that rich heritage is carefully preserved (and much more succinctly stated), it would not be right to give all the credit to the Westminster Divines.

You ask: "Where did they receive such revelation?" The answer to that is that they received it in the same way that the church of God has always received it. They received it through the inspired prophets and apostles. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul says the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets."

The Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, of course, received God's revelation directly from God. We (along with those who attended the Westminster Assembly) receive it indirectly through their inspired writings.

That is why the Apostle John says "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you" (1 John 1:3). And it is this which makes the WCF such an outstanding document.

Just recently our church has published this Confession in a hardback book, with all of the proof texts that support the Confession written out in full. I would suggest that you get a copy of this book. [It is available in PDF format here.] Then you can see for yourself why so many others have found—as I have—that it is the most consistently biblical creed that has ever been written.

Thanks for your interesting question.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

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You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

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