Your public profession
The goal of this class is to prepare you for your public profession of faith. You will stand up in front of God and his church, and declare that you believe in you Saviour, Jesus Christ. You will make a life-long vow to dedicate your life to him. This is the most important promise you will make in your life!
In the Reformed churches, public profession of faith is a simple ritual. During a worship service, the minister will ask you to stand. He will read a short form that the churches have adopted for this purpose. You can find it on pages. 602-3 of the Book of Praise. This form contains four sets of questions, to which you will answer “I do.” The minister will then proclaim a blessing over you. Usually, the congregation will stand and sing, and the minister will pray for you.
The most important reason to make public profession of faith is stated at the beginning of the form: “to receive admission to the holy Supper.” You become a communicant member, who may eat the bread and drink the wine of communion. The Bible make clear that this special celebration is only for believers. The church order of the Canadian Reformed Churches therefore says:
The consistory shall admit to the Lord’s Supper(CO art. 61, BoP p. 657)
only those who have made public profession of the Reformed faith
and lead a godly life.
When you make public profession, the whole church knows that you have dedicated your life to the Lord, and that you are therefore allowed to participate in communion.
Before you make public profession of faith in church, a few things must happen first. The minister and elders of the church take responsibility for your profession of faith. They make sure that you understand what it means, and that your faith is mature enough to take this important step.
This is one of the reasons why you went to catechism class: you must know the basic doctrines of our faith, know who the Lord is, what he has done, and how you must serve him. The pre-confession class gives us an opportunity to review the basics, and to teach you about the expectations of communicant membership in the church. During this time you can also expect one or more visits by an elder of the church, to talk with you about your faith and why you want to make public profession of faith.
After completing the pre-confession class, the consistory (minister + elders) of the church will invite you for an interview in one of their meetings. The minister will ask you questions, to show that you understand the basics of the Christian faith. The elders may also ask questions about your beliefs and your life.
When the consistory is satisfied that you are ready to make public profession of faith, they will announce this to the church. After a few weeks, the ritual will take place in a Sunday worship service.
How do you know if you are ready to take a pre-confession class and make public profession of your faith?
What are some personal preparations that you can and should make during this time?
A member of the church
From the beginning of your life
People sometimes think that public profession of faith makes you a “real” or “full” member of the church. But if that were the case, we should not baptize people until they made profession of faith; that is what Baptist and Pentecostal churches do. If you grew up in a Reformed church, you were probably baptized as a little child. That baptism shows the reality that children of believers belong to the church from the beginning of their lives.
The Heidelberg Catechism says it as follows (q&a 74):
Should infants, too, be baptized?
Yes. Infants as well as adults
belong to God’s covenant and congregation.
Through Christ’s blood,
the redemption of sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith,
are promised to them no less than to adults.
Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant,
they must be incorporated into the Christian church
and distinguished from the children of unbelievers.
This was done in the old covenant by circumcision,
in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.
If you are a child of believing parents, you were a full member of the church from the very beginning. (If not, then you become a member of Jesus’ church when you first believed in him.) The public profession of faith does not make you a church member.
Answer to your baptism
We often say that public profession of faith is an answer to your baptism. When you were baptized, God entered into a relationship with you and made great promises to you. But as a little child, you could not understand this, let alone make promises back to him! It was your parents’ duty “to instruct you in these things as you grow up”: they told you about the Lord Jesus; they gave you a Christian education; they taught you how to live as a Christian. The elders of the church helped by organizing a catechism program for you.
But now that you are an adult, you can understand what your baptism means. You can now give a proper response. It is not enough to be baptized; you need to have real faith. You must make a deliberate choice and commitment to serve the Lord. That is the right answer to the promises he first made to you when you were baptized. When you make public profession of faith, God and the church hear your answer to the baptism that was administered many years ago.
As a communicant member, you will have access to the Lord’s Supper. Are there other things that change when you become a communicant member? (Privileges, duties, expectations, …?)
A first glance at the Form
This class follows the Form for the Public Profession of Faith. Let’s have a first glance at this form. It starts as follows:
We thank the Lord our God for the grace given us
by adopting us to be his children
and receiving us into his covenant.
We acknowledge his love and power,
by which he instills in his children
the desire public to profess their faith in him
in the presence of his holy church,
so that they may receive admission to the holy supper.
When you make profession of faith, the focus is ultimately not on you, but on God’s grace! We believe that he (through his Holy Spirit) gave you faith, and the desire to make your profession. The church is all about worshiping God for his work, and your public profession of faith is no exception!
The four sets of questions you will be asked are as follows.
- Do you wholeheartedly believe the doctrine of the Word of God,
summarized in the confessions and taught here in this Christian church?
Do you promise by the grace of God
steadfastly to continue in this doctrine in life and death,
rejecting all heresies and errors conflicting with God’s Word?
- Do you acknowledge God’s covenant promises,
which have been signified and sealed to you in your baptism?
Do you truly detest and humble yourself before God because of your sins
and seek your life outside of yourself in Jesus Christ?
- Do you declare that you love the Lord God
and that it is your heartfelt desire to serve him according to his Word,
to forsake the world, and to crucify your old nature?
- Do you firmly resolve to commit your whole life to the Lord’s service
as a living member of his church?
Do you promise to submit willingly
to the admonition and discipline of the church,
if it should happen (and may God graciously prevent it)
that you become delinquent either in doctrine or in conduct?
When you say “I do” in response to these questions, you make a serious promise to God himself. People say “I do” when they get married, and that is an official, lifelong commitment to their spouse. In the same way, when you say “I do” at your public profession, you make a profound, lifelong commitment to the Lord as your God. Like a marriage vow, this is at the same time a very solemn event and a joyful thing to be celebrated.
May the Lord give you the wisdom and eagerness to really desire this. May his Holy Spirit prepare for making this most important commitment of your life!
Heidelberg Catechism, q&a 1
What is your only comfort
in life and death?
That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood,
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.
Therefore, by his Holy Spirit
he also assures me
of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for him.