What Do You Mean By “Profession of Faith”?
The Bible teaches that it is through faith in Jesus Christ that sinners may be saved. Faith means belief, but that is not a sufficient definition. There are many ways in which a person might believe something that fall short of biblical faith. The faith which saves may be said to have three aspects.
First, and most obviously, faith involves knowledge. In the world today people use the word “faith” to mean a vague hope. This is not the idea the Bible has in mind. To have faith is to believe something, and first one must have knowledge of it. Saving faith involves knowledge of the facts of the gospel that Jesus died for sinners and rose again.
Secondly, faith involves the belief that these facts are true. Many have heard the story of the gospel but have either misunderstood it or not accepted it as true. To have saving faith one must agree that the gospel is true and that this is the way of salvation.
Finally, faith involves trust. To put faith in Jesus, or to believe on Him, is to trust Him to save. The person who has saving faith has stopped relying on anything else either in himself or in the world. He is trusting entirely in Jesus to save him from his sin.
The church is to be made up of those who have saving faith in Christ. They are the ones who may be baptized and participate in the Lord’s Supper, and they are the ones who may become members of the church. The problem faced by the church is that we cannot see into the hearts of men to know who truly has this faith. Anyone can say they believe, but some may be hypocrites. How are we to tell the difference between true believers and those who make a false profession?
When we speak of a “credible profession” of faith, we mean that a person says that he believes in Christ, and that this is credible, or believable, to the church. The reason we may credit one person’s faith as believable while doubting another is that the Bible teaches that faith has fruits. It has an impact on the life and conversation of a person which should be observed.
This of course does not mean that no false believer will enter the church. We still cannot see the heart, and outward signs of faith can be counterfeited. We know that the Bible teaches that wolves will come into the flock, but it does not tell us to invite them in! The church has a responsibility to look to the lives of those who profess faith in Christ and to observe the signs that this faith is real. The church can never be certain it has judged rightly. However, if it receives those who appear to demonstrate their faith, and if it admonishes and exhorts those who do not, then it will minister to the needs of all.