Mennonite Brethren Church Confession of Faith (1902)

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[This foreword was part of the first English printing of the confession in 1917. The text of the Confession is available through links to the left and at the bottom of the page.]

Foreword

The confession of faith here to follow is a short statement of the fundamental doctrines of the denomination of "The Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America", a branch of the larger body of the "Mennonites" first appearing in history about the year 1536, when the founder of the denomination, Menno Simons, left the Roman Church and began the establishment of independent churches soon grouped together with others under the name, "Anabaptists."

The "Mennonite Brethren Church" as an independent denomination was first founded January 6, 1860, in southern Russia. Historically it claims full connection with the larger body of Mennonites now represented by a large number of branches. In its doctrine it differs from most of these in some of its principles, yet having in common with them many of the principles first set up by its honored founder. The following pages will show to what extent the doctrinal view of this denomination agrees with the doctrines of other Mennonite bodies and upon what points it differs from them.

In the years 1874-1880 large numbers of the denomination came over from Russia and founded the church in North America. Up to the year 1900 it had no creed in printed form. The brethren of the same faith in Russia had several documents of doctrinal teaching but had never developed the same fully nor printed them in complete form. About the year 1900 the denomination, still strongly represented in Russia, drew up and accepted the confession that was formally adopted by the. "Conference of the Mennonite Brethren Church of North America" in its annual session of the Conference in the year 1902.

Since then a new edition of the confession was made necessary and such was issued by the denomination's "Publishing House" in the year 1916. This edition was printed only in the German language. In it the exact text of the adopted confession was retained, but a grouping into paragraphs was made and a few additions of scriptural references put in.

This present edition of the confession is necessitated by the growth of the denomination, which by this time claims quite a number of members that will be able to read it only in the American language. In the work of translation the aim has been to give as literally as is consistent with good English the exact statements of the text in the German. In the translations of passages from the Bible the "King James Version has been adhered to throughout. After the drafting of the translation it has been carefully read in committee. Rev. H.S. Voth and Rev. P.C. Hiebert together with the, writer going over the translation carefully before its publication.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ accompany the translation and may it become a means for the grouping in the faith in things fundamental in our denominational doctrine. May it help much to glorify the great name of our Lord!

H. F. Toews.

Text of the Confession

I. Concerning God

We believe with the heart and confess with the mouth before all men according to the contents of the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Galatians1:8; cf. "Conclusion".

I. CONCERNING GOD. 1. That there is one God, Creator of the heavens and the earth and all visible and invisible things; that He is eternal, almighty, omniscient, alone wise, holy, just and veracious, infinite and omnipresent, alone good and perfect, invisible and incomprehensible, a Spirit; that He is love; merciful, patient, long-suffering; that He is faithful and unchangeable, all sufficient and blessed; that He is the well-spring of life; that He only hath immortality, dwelling in the light, which no man can approach unto; that He sustains and governs and worketh all things; that He is mighty in council and mighty in deed, a Lord of lords and King of kings. The heaven is His throne, and the earth His footstool. Thousand thousands minister unto Him and ten thousand times ten thousand stand before Him. His name is Lord of hosts; the heavens and all the earth are full of His glory. Deuteronomy 4:35; Genesis 1:1; Romans 1:19-20; Psalms 33:6; Psalms 90:2; Revelation 4:9; Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8; Psalms 139:1-4; Romans 16:27; Jude 25; Leviticus 11:44; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8; Exodus 9:27; Psalms 11:7; Psalms 51:6; Psalms 145:17; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:5; Psalms 139:7-12; Matthew 5:48; Psalms 25:8; Matthews 19:17; Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; Psalms 147:5; Romans 11:33; John 4:24; 1 John 4:9; Genesis 34:6; Luke 6:36; Romans 2:4; Thessalonians 3:3; Exodus 3:14; Malachai 3:6; James 1:17; Isaiah 43:22-24; 1 Timothy 6:15; Psalms 36:10; Jeremiah 2:13; 1 Timothy 6:16; Deuteronomy 10:17; 1 Timothy 6:15; Isaiah 51:15; Psalms 19:2; Habbabuk 3:3.

2. This one God has revealed Himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Isaiah 6:3; Matthew 3:16-17; Matthew 28:19; John 16:13-15; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Numbers 6:24-26.

3. Concerning God, the Father, we believe and confess, that of Him the whole family in heaven and earth is named; that He is the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; in particular, that He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and all His believers, and that He has made all things through the Son, the Eternal Word, and through the breath of His mouth. 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:15; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Matthew 6:9; Romans 8:14-15; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; Genesis 1:2; Psalms 33:6; Job. 33:4.

4. Concerning Christ the Son of God, we believe and confess, that He is our Lord, Redeemer and Savior; the eternal living Son of God, begotten of the Father from eternity in an inconceivable manner; that He is His only begotten Son, the true God, magnified in eternity. Luke 2:11; Luke 2:30; John 4:42; Romans 3:24; Matthew 1:21; Micah 5:1; John 1:1; John 17:5 and 24; Hebrews 13:8; Psalms 2:7; Hebrews 1:5-10; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 17:5; John 1:14; John 3:16 and 18; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20.

5.
    A -- This eternal Son of God, when the time was fulfilled, was sent by the Father from heaven into the world, that His purpose, which He had before the foundation of the world, might be accomplished; namely, to redeem us from the eternal curse. John 3:13 and 31; 1 Peter 1:20; John 3:16 Galatians 3:13; Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
    B -- That He through the wonderful power of the Father and working of the Holy Spirit (in conception) was made flesh, a man, of the highly-favored and among the women blessed virgin Mary, was born of her and so in all things became like unto us, but without sin, and thus is true God and true man, our only Savior, Jesus Christ. Galatians 4:4; Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:28-35; Luke 2:7, 11, 21; Philippians 2:6-8; Hebrew 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5; 1 Peter 2:22; Colossians 1:3-14; 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

6. He has, after a perfect, holy, and sinless life, suffered for us under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried for our sins, descended into hell (into the lower regions of the earth, into prison or Hades) and upon the third day, for our justification, was raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right hand of God, the almighty Father and intercedes for us; from whence He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and to establish the kingdom of righteousness and peace, of joy and glory, which kingdom shall have no end.* Matthew 26-27; Mark 14 and 15; Luke 22-23; John 18 and 19; Matthew 12:40; Acts 2:27; Ephesians 4:9; 1 Peter 3:18-19; Revelation 1:18; 1 Corithinans 15:15; Hosea 13:14; Romans 4:25; Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20 and 21; Acts 1; Romans 8:34; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 1:3; Psalms 22:29; Psalms 96:10-13; Psalms 99:4; Luke 21:31; 2 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 20-22.

  • Menno Simons has written concerning the person of Christ thus: "I teach all plain and simple, that Jesus Christ, magnified, true God and, true man, is a son of God and a son of man, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the pure virgin Mary; a man poor and able to suffer like unto us in all things excepting sin." - Transl.. from "Glb. Bekenntnis der M. in Preuszen und Ruszland.)

7. Concerning the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Holy Spirit, that giveth life, the Comforter proceeding from the Father, being sent by the Father and the Son, through whom the Father and the Son work, and that He is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, one with them in His divine being; Him we see in the work of creation; He was in the prophets that through Him spoke; He in a bodily form as a dove descended upon our Lord at His baptism; He was poured out upon the apostles of the Lord on holy Pentecost day; He is in all believers; He, is in the Church of Christ, teaching, leading, rebuking, comforting, renewing and satisfying; and He glorifies Christ.* 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; John 6:63; John 14:26; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Matthew 10:20; Galatians 4:6; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Hebrews 9:14; Acts 5:3, 4, 9; Psalms 33:6; Genesis 1:2; Job. 33:4; 1 Pet. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:21; Matt. 3:16; Acts 2:1-13; Ezek. 36:26-27; 1 Cor. 3:16; John 14:16, 17, 26, 27; Acts 5:9-11:Titus 2:11-12; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 2:27; John 16:14; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 22:17.

  • Menno Simons (Vollstaendige Werke, Seite 268, Teil II.):"We confess that the Holy Ghost is a true, real and personal Spirit, as the Church Fathers called Him, and. this in a divine sense, like as the Father is a real father and the Son is a real son."

8. We confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be one, unseparated and unintermingled in their being, willing and action; worthy and partaking of the same glory and worship, in the sense that the Father is true eternal God, the Son is true eternal God, and the Spirit is true eternal God. And yet we believe not in three Gods, but in one eternal, incomprehensible trauma God.* Luke 3:22; Revelation 1:4-5; (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:6; Acts 20:28) ; John 10:30; John 14:16, 26; John 15:26; John 16:13-15; Revelation 4:2-3; Revelation 5:5-6; Revelation 7:17; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; John 5:23; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:12-13; 1 Peter 4:14; 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 20; Ephesians 4:30; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 61:1; Ezekiel 11:5; Matthew 10:20; Matthew 12:18; Acts 8:27 and 39; Acts 16:6; Romans 8:2; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 4:6; Matthew 6:9; Isaiah 9:5; Micah 5:1; John 1:1-14; John 8:58; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 John 5:20; Hebrew 1:3-10; Revelation 1:5-7 and 17; Hebrews 9:14; Matthew 12:31-32; Acts 5:3-4; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Revelation 1:14-2:7; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18; Genesis 1:26; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 61:1; Revelation 4:8; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Numbers 6:24-26.

  • Menno Simons (page 263 in Vollstaendige Werke):"We believe and confess with the Holy Scriptures that this one eternal, almighty, unsearchable, unspeakable and incomprehensible God is the eternal Son and with His eternal, incomprehensible Holy Spirit. We confess that the Father is truly God, the Son is truly God and the Holy Spirit is truly God -- not in a physical and comprehensible, but in a spiritual and, inconceivable way. -- "Menno S. quotes in his confession, that the ancients called Father, Son and Holy Spirit three persons and thereby understood, the three beings." (Meus. K. Handb. 4, 549). -- C.H. Spurgeon: "To the one God of heaven and of earth be alone honor and, praise in the trinity of His holy persons etc. To the glorious Father, as the God of the Covenant of Israel, to the gracious Son, the Savior of His people, and to the Holy Ghost, the author of holiness, be eternal praise," etc. (Eng. Predigtsammlung, Bd. 36, Widmung.)

9. Unto Him alone we worship and praise and honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.

II. Concerning Sin and Redemption

10. Concerning sin we believe and confess, that God created man in His own image, upright and innocent, capable of blessed fellowship with Himself. But man, being tempted of Satan, sinned, fell away from God, and fell into physical and spiritual death with all his descendants, so that man is conceived and born in sin as a child of wrath incapable of and not inclined toward the divine good, but capable of and inclined toward evil. Genesis 1:27, 31; Genesis 2:25; Ecclesiastes 7:30; Genesis 2:17; Genesis 3:1-19; James 1:3-15; John 3:6; John 8:44; Romans 5:12, 18; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:6-7; Psalms 51:7; Psalms 58:4; Ephesians 2:1-3; Genesis 8:21; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:25; Romans 3:10-18; Romans 7:22-23.

11. Concerning redemption, we believe, that man can be redeemed from the curse of eternal death, the wages of sin, and the wrath of God, only through the one eternal and sufficient redeeming and atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the lamb of God; and by His grace only are we justified without works, and He only is the ground of our choosing-, renewing, and sanctification. John 1:29; John 14:6; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 10:14, 26; Isaiah 53; Hebrews 9:11-15; Galatians 3:10-13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7; Romans 3:24; Romans 5:19; Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:3; John 17:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30.

12. Concerning divine predestination and man's will we believe, that from eternity it has been the free pleasure and the gracious purpose of God to redeem sinners to the praise of His glory, wherefore also Christ after the premeditated council was selected of God before the foundation of the world, that through His incarnation, life, teaching, death, resurrection and ascension He should be the Redeemer, as our great Prophet, only High Priest and eternal King, that all that obey His Gospel believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

13. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestined us unto the adoption of Children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 3:10-12; Colossians 1:13. Compare "Kingdom"; Romans 8:28-39; John 10:28-29; 1 Peter 1:20; Philippians 2:7; Philippians 2:7; John 14:6; John 6:63; Acts 3:22; Hebrews 4:14-16; Psalms 2:6-12; Revelation 17:-14; Romans 1:5, 10, 13, 16; John 3:16-21; Acts 2:23.

14. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Strive to enter in at the strait gate. Wherefore, the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. Revelation 22:17; Matthew 11:28; Matthew 23:37-38; Luke 13:24; Philippians 2:12-13; 2 Peter 1:10; Ezekiel 33:11; Isaiah 55:7; Psalms 103:1-8; Psalms 22; Psalms 145:9; Matthew 26:41.

15. Concerning conversion, renewal or the new birth we believe, that through the living and powerful Word of God man is awakened from sin. John 1:9.

16. If he now is obedient and does not close heart against the working of divine grace, he receives repentance unto life, to see his sin, repent of it, confess and forsake it; and in recognition of the holy and just judgment of God through prayer seeks refuge in Christ as the only Savior from the guilt of sin and the lust thereof and receives through faith in Him forgiveness of sins, justification, and the witness and sealing of the Holy Spirit that he is a child of God and heir of life eternal. Hebrews 4:12; Acts 2:37; Isaiah 55:10-11; Revelation 3:20; Luke 24:47; Acts 11:18; Acts 26:18; Luke 15:18-21; Luke 18:13; 1 John 1:9; Psalms 32:1-5; Psalms 51; 2 Corinthians 7:10; James 5:16; Psalms 34:15; Proverbs 28:13; Isaiah 55:7; Revelation 16:7; Matthew 11:28; John 14:6 and 13; Acts 4:12; Romans 3:24-28; Romans 8:16-17; Galatians 4:6; 1 John 5:10-11; Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30; 1 John 2:20 and 27; Titus 3:5-7.

17. This great change in the heart of man is the work of the Holy Spirit who, according to the gracious will of God; accompanies the Word with His powerful working and thus by means of the redemption through Christ worketh the new birth and renewal of the sinner unto a new life of sanctification and a joyous hope of eternal life. Acts 16:14; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Corinthians 12:3; John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 5, 7; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18; Galatians 6:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 12:12; Philippians 4:4; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12; Acts 10:44-48. Compare also IV.

18. Regarding sanctification we believe and confess, that without it no one shall see the Lord. Sanctification is a fruit and result of the saving faith in Jesus Christ, which faith worketh through love; for faith without works is dead. Hebrews 12:14; Galatians 5:6; 1 Peter 1:15-16; Acts 15:9; Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 1:13; James 2:14-26; Matthew 7:16-27.

19. After the reign of sin has been overcome in the heart of the regenerated person, he will show through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and partaking of the divine nature, all diligence to add to his faith virtue and love, to make his calling and election sure and to offer soul and body as a living sacrifice to God in thankfulness and love, remindful of the words: We love Him because He first loved us. Romans 6:6-12; 1 John 3:3; 2 Peter 1. 3-11; Romans 12:1 ff; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 John 4:19.

20. In such a life of sanctification the regenerate person is still capable of sinning, Hebrews 12:1 and Romans 7:7-21, if he be not watchful and remain not in Christ. 1 John 1:8-10; 1 John 2:1-2; Matthew 26:41; John 15:4-6; cf. paragraph 42.

21. Essence and aim of sanctification is implicit love toward God and a hearty brotherly love and love for the neighbor, which is created and nurtured through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:37-40; Galatians 5:22; 2 Timothy 1:7. Through this love the Christian becomes the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Matthew 5:13-14; Ephesians 5:8; cf. Kingdom.

22. The purpose of sanctification is the glorification of God. Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 2:9-10; 1 Peter 2:12.

23. The one perfect example of sanctification is the Son of Man, Jesus Christ. John 12:26; Ephesians 4:12-13; Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 3:17; Hebrews 13:7.

24. The power of sanctification is Christ through faith dwelling in the heart of the regenerate man. Ephesians 3:16-19; John 14:23. Without this gracious indwelling of Christ and God the believer has neither power to stand against sin nor power to grow in the inner man. John 15:4-5; Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 1:11; Colossians 2:19; 2 Peter 3:18.

25. Sanctification is progressive throughout life and the believers have their perfection only in Christ. Philippians 3:9-15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1; Matthew 5:48; Colossians 2 10; Colossians 3:14. Even in a holy walk the believers need at all times the forgiving, chastening and cleansing grace of God through the blood of Christ.* Titus 2:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11; James 2:10; 1 John 1:6-10; 1 John 2:1-2; Daniel 9:18.

26. The perceptible means of grace, which God has ordained in his Word and through which the Holy Spirit worketh in virtue of the redeeming blood of Christ in the work of conversion and sanctification are the Word (the preaching) in conversion; the Word, holy baptism, and the Lord's Supper for the converted in the congregation of the believers, the Church of Christ. Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:14 etc.; Acts 8:4 etc. and 35. Acts 10:34-44. Acts 16:13-32; Colossians 3:16; (cf "Close", quotation) ; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12 and 38; Acts 10:47-48; Acts 16:33; Acts 2:42 and 46; Hebrews 10:25; 1 Corinthians ch. 14.

27. Prayer accompanies all these divinely ordained means and all acts of the spiritual life of every Christian and ceaseth not in the entire congregation of God, the New Testament priesthood, according to the teaching and example of the Lord' Jesus and His apostles as we read: Luke 3:21; Hebrews 5:7; Matthew 6:5-18; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:1-13; Acts 2:21; 9:11; 22:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Acts 2:42; 3:1; Mark 9:29; James 5:13-16; Leviticus 6:6 (13) ; Isaiah 62:6; Revelation 5:9; 8:3 and 4; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; Luke 18:1-8; Acts 1:23-26; 6:6; 13:1-3; 14:23; 12:5; Hebrews 13:3; Ephesians 6:18-19; Daniel 9:1-22; Genesis 18:22-32; Psalms 50:14-15; Philippians 4:6; Romans 8:26-27.

  • Menno Simons writes concerning regeneration and sanctification: "What is regeneration other than the change and renewal of man, which God worketh through faith in Christ Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit; also that man is created out of God, born out of His seed, made after His image, renewed to know Him, partaking of His divine nature and born of His spirit to serve God in holiness and righteousness in a new nature of the Spirit all his life! Where this happens and is accomplished there is the true new birth, there is the new creature in Christ Jesus!" (Glaubensbekenntnis der Mennoniten in Preussen und, Ruszland, Berdjansk, 1874. - transl.)

III. Concerning the Congregation, the Church of God or Assembly of Believers

IV. Concerning Christian Baptism

V. Concerning the Lord's Supper

VI. Concerning Matrimony

VII. Concerning the Christian Day of Rest

VIII. Concerning the Divine Law

IX. Concerning the Office of Power; Concerning the taking of an Oath; Concerning Revenge, Non-Resistance and Love of Enemies; and Concerning the Kingdom of God

X. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment and its Execution

Conclusion

Bibliography

  • 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.