The “pre-con” catechism class is designed to prepare you for making your public profession of faith. Before the entire church you will vow that you believe in the Lord Jesus, and that you will live for him the rest of your life. In Reformed churches it is customary to spend a few months to prepare you for this step.
If you were baptized as a child, the public profession of faith is a simple, short ceremony. This is deliberate. You are already a member of the church; all you do is make a grown-up response to your baptism and receive the full privileges and duties of adult membership. If you haven’t been baptized yet, your public profession of faith will be part of the ceremony of baptism.
In the Dutch Reformed churches, the profession of faith means that you say “yes” to a number of questions asked during a worship service. These questions can be found in your church book; in the Canadian Reformed Book of Praise (2014) it is the Form for the Public Profession of Fatih on p. 602-603.
In this pre-confession catechism class, we will roughly follow the topics brought up in the questions of this form. As an additional resource, I encourage you to obtain and read the book Response to your Baptism by K. Deddens.
A first look at the form
In this first lesson, we take a first look at the questions you will be answering. The form begins with an introductory paragraph, that says some important things about what public profession of faith is. (In the Book of Praise, it is split into two sections, “Address” and “Profession”; in other Reformed church books, it is only a single paragraph.)
Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ:
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 is children the desire publicly to profess their faith in him in the presence of his holy church, so that they may receive admission to the holy supper.
Since you have now come here to make this profession before God and his holy church, and hereby to receive admission to the holy supper, we ask you to answer sincerely to the following questions: …
“Public profession of faith is an answer to your baptism.” If you were baptized as an infant, what did God say to you at that time, and what “answer” will you give?
According to the form, what is the source of your desire to make public profession of faith? Do you agree?
What is the practical purpose of making public profession of faith?
There are four questions to which you will give an answer:
First, 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?
Second, 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?
Third, 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?
Fourth, 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?
Summarize each of these four questions in no more than three words.
The Form for the Public Profession of Faith ends with a blessing, taking directly from the Bible.
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet 5:10, 11).
Based on this, what will your life look like as a profession member of Jesus’ church?
Memorize: Heidelberg Catechism, LD 1 q&a 1.
Journal exercise: Suppose you have a friend (real or fictional) who is not familiar with the idea of “public profession of faith”. Write a brief letter (approx. 200 words) in which you explain it to him or her. Make sure your talk about your faith in a personal manner.