Confession of Faith (1902) - Article 3
III Concerning the Congregation, The Church of God* or Assembly of Believers.
* The "Church" is the called-out congregation of believers, assembled, and acting, according to its calling.
¶28. We believe and confess our faith in the existence of one holy, general Christian, apostolic Church, the congregation of saints.
¶29. This congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed through His own blood and washed them from their sins, and gave Himself for the church; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot,or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. Acts 20:28; Revelation 1:5; Ephesians 5:25-27.
¶30. The Church of Christ is composed of all that through true faith in Jesus Christ and through obedience to the Gospel have separated themselves from the world and have their fellowship in the Holy Spirit with God the Father and Jesus Christ their only mediator, and have come unto an innumerable company of angels and unto the spirits of just men made perfect, as fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Ephesians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2; cf. "choosing", "conversion", " sanctification"; Romans 6:17; 10:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:17; Acts 2:40-41; John 15:1-5; 1 John 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 12:22-24; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Corinthians 3:11-15; Matthew 6:16-18; 1 Timothy 3:15.
¶31. Although the members of this church belong to all nations and ranks scattered here and there throughout the world and are divided in denominations, yet they all are one and among one another brethren and members and exist as one body in Christ their head, who is the Lord, Chief, Shepherd, Prophet, Priest and King of the church. Revelation 5:9; Colossians 3:11; James 1:1; Revelation ch. 2 and 3; John 17:21; 1 Corinthians ch. 12; Ephesians 4:1-16; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:4-7; Ephesians 1:22; 4:15; Colossians 1:18; Matthew 20:25-28; 23:8-12; 1 Peter 2:17; Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Hebrews 13:20; Acts 3:22-23; Hebrews 4:15; 7:21; 9:11-15; Romans 8:84; 1 John 2:1; John 18:37; Luke 1:33; Hebrews 7:1-3; Revelation 15:3; 17:14.
¶32. The characteristics of the true Church are: the fruits of conversion and of the right faith in Jesus Christ revealed in a life of sanctification according to the teaching of Christ and His apostles; the diligent searching of the Scriptures and the preaching of the pure Gospel in all the world; practice of the holy ordinances of Christ which are, baptism and the Lord's Supper, the free confession of God and Jesus Christ before all men; fervent brotherly love, fellowship and submission among themselves and love of their neighbors; diligence to uphold the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; taking up the cross in following Jesus; watching with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving for all men, and the prayerful and joyful waiting for the coming of the Lord and the establishment of His kingdom. 1 John 4:1; Matthew 3:8-9; Matthew 6:10; Acts 1:6-7; Luke 21:31; Hebrews 9:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and 10; 2 Peter 3:12-14; (cf. II, "Church" and IV. "Prayer" and V.)
¶33. Those which show these characteristics of true fellowship with God in their lives, even if accompanied by weakness and imperfection and yet in uprightness are through Christ cleansed and regenerated, true members of His body and heirs of eternal life. They constitute the spiritual house, the holy temple of God, the chosen generation, the kingly and holy priesthood of God to offer spiritual sacrifice well pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. Romans 14:1; 15:1; Philippians 3:12, 15, 16; Proverbs 2:7; 2 Timothy 2:19; Romans 8:1, 14, 17; Colossians 1:12; Matthew 7:21; 2 Timothy 2:19; (cf. Discipline) ; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Peter 2:5, 9.
¶34. But He, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, searcheth the reins of the hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to his works. Revelation 2:1 and 93.
¶35. This Church of God is upheld by the preaching of the holy Gospel and the teaching and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 2; John 14:26; John 16:13. All questions relating to doctrine and life in the congregation are decided according to the example of the apostolic church, as we read: Acts 15:1-28; 1 Corinthians 14:40; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 5:21; Colossians 2:5; 1 Corinthians 11:16; 1 Corinthians 6:1-8; 2 Timothy 2:14; Rule and guide of the church for all times are the Holy Scriptures, especially the New Testament. Psalms 119:105; Matthew 5:21-22; 17:5; Luke 10:16; Matthew 23:8-10; 1 Corinthians 3:9-11; 2 Peter 1:13 and 15; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; (cf. "Close").
¶36. The stewards of the mysteries of God in the church are primarily the ministers and servants of Jesus Christ, who is the only priest and mediator of the New Testament. 1 Peter 4. 10; 1 Corinthians 4:1; Hebrews 5:6; 7:17; 9:15; 10:12; 1 Timothy 2:5; Romans 8:34.
¶37. Concerning the office of the ministers or servants of the Word and of the deacons (servants, helpers, overseers of the poor) we believe and confess, that according to the practice of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles, God has given to His church the power through the leadership of the Holy Spirit to ordain ministers and servants for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Matthew ch. 10; Luke ch. 10; Acts 13:1-4; 20:28; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:5; Acts 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians ch. 12; Ephesians 4:11-14.
¶38. The commission to such office (service) is accomplished according to the method of the apostolic church through the servants of the Church, who in fervent prayer call upon the name of God, fully trusting that Christ, as head of the church, through His Holy, Spirit will reveal those who shall be useful in service, thus fulfilling His divine promise: And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. Acts 1:15-26; 13:1-4; 14:23; 1 Timothy 4:14; 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:6; Matthew 18:19-20; John 14 13-14; Jeremiah 3:15; Acts 9:15; Romans 1:1-5; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Galatians 1:1.*
¶39. The required qualifications of servants of the Word the Spirit has made known in the Word: An elder or bishop (overseer, shepherd, preacher of the Gospel) shall be blameless as a steward of God, apt to teach, holding fast the faithful Word. He must take heed therefore unto himself and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers, to feed the church of God, not by constraint but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind, not as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock doing the work of an evangelist, making full proof of his ministry. So shall he, when the chief Shepherd shall appear receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 2 Timothy 3:17; 4:2-5; Titus 1:5-9; 2:7; Romans 12:7-11; Acts 20:28 and 31; Matthew 20:25-28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; James 3:1.
¶40 The church shall count such servants worthy of double honor, shall love them, obey them, impart to them all manner of good, according to the Scriptures. 1 Timothy 5:17-19; Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Peter 5:5; Luke 10:1 and 7; Galatians 6:6; 1 Corinthians ch. 9. But from false teachers the church shall turn away and shall put them aside according to the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His apostles. Matthew 7:15 and 16; Acts 20:29-31; Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 4 1-3; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 4:3-5; Titus 3:10; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11. 3 John 9-11; Jude vs. 4, 8, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24, 25; 1 John 2:27-28; cf. Conclusion.
¶41. Concerning the office of deaconry we believe, that the church shall choose men according to the example of the apostolic church, as such are designated in Acts 6:1-6; and 1 Timothy 3:8-10. These are by virtue of their calling into service placed under duty to supply the poor and the suffering in their want with the provisions given by the church, and according to the measure of their gifts to assist in the building up of the church and to serve according to the teaching of Paul: Hath any one a ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Romans 12:7-11.
¶42. Concerning Christian exhortation, pastoral care and church discipline our Lord Jesus taught: Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church, but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-20. The apostle Paul writes: Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. Warn them that are unruly, comfort the feeble minded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14; Acts 20:28 and 32.
¶43. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new Jump. If any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one do not eat. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person. What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? Now we command you brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly; have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet court him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them, a man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject. 1 Timothy 5:20; 1 Corinthians 5:6, 7, 11, 13; 2 Corinthians 6:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14, 15; Romans 16:17 (cf. above "Marks") The church shall treat such excommunicated persons with love and helpful compassion, as it behooves a Christian to love all men, yea, even his enemies. 2 Thessalonians 3:15; Philippians 4:5.
¶44. If an excommunicated person shows repentance and sorrow over his sin, the church shall forgive him again and accept him into membership according to the word of the Savior, when Peter said to, Him: Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? I say not unto thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-35. And the apostle Paul teaches: Sufficient to such man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrarywise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. 2 Corinthians 2:2-11.
45. Note to the subject: "Church of God", paragraph 35, Acts 15 and paragraph 39, "Elder and Bishop".
In the household of the M. B. Church the order obtains, that one elder or a substitute for the elder acts as moderator of local churches and leader. The other ministers are his co-workers With the various affairs of the entire denomination the suitable elders and other brethren are entrusted. The decisions made at the annual sessions of the entire denomination (triennial general conference or annual district conference) become operative in such local church through acceptance at a regular church council meeting. In making decisions in the local church council or in the general conference meetings the rule obtains that, whenever a non-desirable difference of view arises, the minority willingly submit itself ; for thus only can freedom and order be upheld in the house of God. (See "Glbk. und Verfass." 1873.)
* Menno Simons taught concerning the election of ministers of the Word: Some without the aid of men are called out by the Lord and sent by His Spirit, as was the case with the prophets and apostles and as had the house of Stephanus addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints, 1 Corinthians 16:15. Others are secured through the aid of believers, as we read Acts I. (Mennos Fundamente Buch I, Seite 148 in der Stiftungskunde der M. Br. Gem. 6. Januar, i860. Jedoch gilt der Gemeinde I. Job 4:1. Siehe auch Seite 27, Irrlehrer.)
Confession of Faith of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America. American ed. Hillsboro, KS : Mennonite Brethren Pub. House, 1917.
Loewen, Howard John. One Lord, One Church, One Hope, and One God : Mennonite Confessions of Faith. Elkhart, IN. : Institute of Mennonite Studies, 1985.
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