Mennonite Brethren Church Confession of Faith (1902)
[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.]
- 1 Foreword
- 2 Text of the Confession
- 2.1 I. Concerning God
- 2.2 II. Concerning Sin and Redemption
- 2.3 III. Concerning the Congregation, the Church of God or Assembly of Believers
- 2.4 IV. Concerning Christian Baptism
- 2.5 V. Concerning the Lord's Supper
- 2.6 VI. Concerning Matrimony
- 2.7 VII. Concerning the Christian Day of Rest
- 2.8 VIII. Concerning the Divine Law
- 2.9 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
- 2.10 X. Concerning the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment and its Execution
- 2.11 Conclusion
- 3 Bibliography
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
- 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.)
IV. Concerning Christian Baptism
46. We believe and confess, that Christian baptism is a holy, visible, evangelical, sacred act and ordinance (institution) of Christ commanded by the Lord Himself for a sacred sign of regeneration and embodiment in Him and His church. Holy Baptism in not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but for the honest believer a blessed representation of the purging from the inner sinful uncleanness of the soul by the blood of Christ, through which forgiveness of sin has been received, and the answer of a good conscience toward God. Cf. II., "Conversion." 1 Corinthians 12:27; 1 Peter 3:21; Revelation 1:5.
47. The practice of baptism consists in this, that all, that hear the Gospel and in repentance of heart and living faith accept it, on their confession of a new life from God (Colossians 2:12-13) are baptized (immersed) in* water according to the command of Christ: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. - Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 3:22.
48. This command of the Lord the apostles have carried out and thereby many have been brought into the faith and have been baptized, both men and women, as especially on the day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem. And they, which gladly received the words of Peter and the other apostles were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, 16.
49. The children of believers (Acts 2:39) shall continually be brought before the Lord in prayer by the parents and the church, and shall be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and instructed in the Scriptures according to the measure of their understanding. 1 Timothy 2:1; Matthew 19:13-15; Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:15; Luke 2:42. When later they have advanced so far that they can comprehend the calling voice of the holy Gospel, and accept the Word with a repentant heart and take faith in the Lord Jesus, it becomes them unto their own desire and free confession to receive holy baptism, as says the Apostle Paul: So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Luke 2:52; Acts 8:5, 6, 12; 10:33-48; 16:14, 15, 31-34; Romans 10:17; John 3:5-8; Matthew 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:19.
50. Baptism shall rightfully be administered once in the life of the believer. Ephesians 4:5.
51. The believers are bound together through baptism as having died unto sin to walk in the newness of life as taught by the apostle Paul: How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. The believers have in baptism put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). Therefore every one must contribute according to his calling and gifts toward the support and betterment of the body Of Christ in spiritual and temporal things with diligence. Matthew 25:14; Luke 13:13; 1 Corinthians 4:1-10; 1 John 3:17; James 1:27; 2:15-16; 1 John 2:12-14; Colossians 3:18-25; 4:1; Romans 16:1-4; 6; Titus 2:1-10; Matthew 21:15-16; 1 Corinthians ch. 13. As true members of the household of God and children of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38), they shall carefully guard the holy privileges of divine citizenship and duties received of Christ their head and be subject to all the commandments of their King and obedient to them according to His Word: Teach them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded to you. Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 1:22; 2:19-20; Hebrews 10:25; Acts 2:42.
- Compare Matthew 3:11 and John 1:26 according to English Revised and American Revised Versions. "Baptism is administered by immersion in water" (Erklaerung der Menn. Bruedergemeinde vom 7. Mai 1862, und June 1868): "Baptism in the Greek 'baptismos' and in the Latin 'mersio' means that something be entirely dipped into water, until it meet above. Also without doubt, the German word 'Taufe' (baptism) comes from the word 'Tiefe' (depth)". . . . (Dr. Luther, Sermon on Baptism). -- "The word, 'baptizo', 'baptize' means to immerse and the practice of immersion was observed by the early church". (Words of Calvin in De Baptismo). -- In the "Confession of Faith" etc. of Cornelius Ris approved of the Mennonite churches "zur Bonne" in Amsterdam and many others in the year 1773, we read (by C.H.A. van der Smissen in "Kurzgefaszte Geschichte und Glaubenslehre der Mennoniten") "Article XXV. Concerning water baptism . . . .". "Regarding holy baptism we understand thereby an immersion of the entire body in and under water". Romans 6:4; Matthew 3:16:Acts 8:37-38." But then it says further: "or an abundant sprinkling with the same which latter mode we find generally appropriate in these northern regions, because thereby the same benefits are expressed)". Notice that in this immersion is attested to by three places in Scripture whereas no Scripture is mentioned in this confession for sprinkling. The well-known old Mennonite preacher Jacob Denner (died 1746) was, according to the Mennonite authors, pastor C.H.A. van der Smissen and pastor Berend C. Roosen, preacher of the "Dompelaars" which word signifies "immersion church" in Altona and Friedensstadt, Germany. Menno Simons Treatise on baptism has the title:"Die Christliche Taufe in dem Wasser, erklaert aus dem Worte Gottes (Christian Baptism in water, explained out of the Word of God)." See his "Vollstaendige Werke."
V. Concerning the Lord's Supper
52. We believe, that this is a holy, visible, evangelical practice and ordinance (institution) of Christ. Bread and wine are used. The bread is broken, and distributed as also is the wine, and is partaken of by such as believe and have been baptized according to the ordinance of Christ, and that have examined and judged themselves. This holy ordinance is to be practiced faithfully and in simplicity in accordance with the example set by our Lord as found in the Gospels and in the teachings of Paul: For I received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the New Testament in my blood: this do ye, as Often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till He come. -- But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32.
53. In this holy supper we are brought to see that Christ's holy body was sacrificed on the cross and His precious blood shed for the remission of our sin, and that He now being glorified in His heavenly state, is life-giving bread, meat and drink for our souls, and unites Himself with all true believing souls for spiritual communion according to His Word: Behold I stand at the door and knock:if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me. Galatians 3:1; Ephesians 1:7; Mark 16:19; Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:21; John 6:51, 53-58, 63; Revelation 3:20.
54. Only the gracious enlightenment and fellowship of the Holy Spirit can enable the believer to rightfully examine himself, and prepare him to partake of this holy supper in a worthy manner and teach the hidden meaning of the same, so that in partaking of the Lord's supper they may be fed with the body and blood of Christ, thus to partake of all His sufferings and His merits and be greatly comforted in the strong covenant of grace with God, their heavenly Father. John 6:63; 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:10; Romans 3:24; Isaiah 53:4, 5, 10; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 40:1-2; 54:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:24.
55. Thus this sacrament becomes for the believing church a supper of praise and thanksgiving, in which it rejoices over the blessed promises of the holy supper with their divine Redeemer and all His saints in the Kingdom. It becomes a supper strengthening the believer for ready service and true following of Christ in patiently bearing His cross and for growth in true love in all things into Him, which is the head, even Christ, for the building up and betterment of His temple, the Church. All this is carried out as a joyous thank-offering through Jesus Christ for all gifts of divine grace and well doing to the glory of God the Father. Luke 13:29; 22:16, 18; Revelation 19:7, 9; Mark 14:26; Acts 2:46-47; Matthew 16:24; John 12:26; Romans 12:1; Ephesians 4:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5; Psalms 116:12-14; 50:23; Philippians 1:11; 1 John 4:19; cf. II. Sanctification and Means etc.
56. This supper of holy communion of the believers with Christ, their head, is at the same time the expression of holy communion of the believers among themselves and it binds them together in love, peace, and unity according to the words of the Scriptures: The cup of the blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ? For we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 6:15; of paragraph 43, "Church Discipline".
Concerning the washing of the feet by the Lord and among the believers.
57. We believe, confess, and practice this in the church according to the example and command of our Savior, as we read: Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end .... He rose from the supper and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded So after He had washed their feet He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. John ch. 13; 1 Timothy 5:10.
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
- 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.