In 1643, one hundred and twenty of England and Scotland’s finest theologians met in a church called Westminster Abbey, which was an important place. (Even today it is recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site.) That made Westminster a suitable place for the important mission these theologians had before them: to answer from the Bible the most important questions of life. Questions like:
- Can anyone perfectly keep the commandments of God?
- What is faith in Jesus Christ?
- How does God direct us to pray?
It took three years of constant work, and when they finished they shared their answers with the world. Eventually they would write them down in a Q&A format that would help people learn the Christian faith. They called it the Westminster Shorter Catechism.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism has become one of the most treasured writings of all Christian history. In fact, we and many other churches throughout the world have adopted it as part of our official beliefs. It is a rich and beautiful summary of the Christian faith, straight from the Bible.
This I Believe: A Summary of Our Faith
B. B. Warfield, a nineteenth-century Princeton theologian, summarized our doctrinal standards in “A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith.”
I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify and enjoy Him in His Holy Word, that is, the Bible, which He has given by the infallible inspiration of His Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning Him and what duty He requires of me.
I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that He is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust.
I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God’s hands; and that all that He has made He directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in Him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of His almighty love.
I believe that God created man after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was His due: so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born.
I believe that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior.
I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith He has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto Himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world His kingdom of righteousness: in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord.
I believe that God has redeemed His people unto Himself through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, though He was and ever continues to be the eternal Son of God, yet was born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that are under the law: I believe that He bore the penalty due to my sins in His own body on the tree, and fulfilled in His own person the obedience I owe to the righteousness of God, and now presents me to His Father as His purchased possession, to the praise of the glory of grace forever: wherefore renouncing all merit of my own, I put all my trust only in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ my Redeemer.
I believe that Jesus Christ my Redeemer, who died for my offenses was raised again for my justification, and ascended into the heavens, where He sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty, continually making intercession for His people, and governing the whole world as head over all things for His church: so that I need fear no evil and may surely know that nothing can snatch me out of His hands and nothing can separate me from His love.
I believe that the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ is effectually applied to all His people by the Holy Spirit, who works faith in me and thereby unites me to Christ, renews me in the whole man after the image of God, and enables me more and more to die unto sin and to live unto righteousness; until, this gracious work having been completed in me, I shall be received into glory: in which great hope abiding, I must ever strive to perfect holiness in the fear of God.
I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that, out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of His mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation: that, so being united to Him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God’s sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone: and thus only do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God.
I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake, it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom He has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me His Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has before prepared that I should walk in them.
I believe that God has established His church in the world and endowed it with the ministry of the Word and the holy ordinances of Baptism, the Lord’s Supper and Prayer; in order that through these as means, the riches of His grace in the gospel may be made known to the world, and, by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them, the benefits of redemption may be communicated to His people: wherefore also it is required of me that I attend on these means of grace with diligence, preparation, and prayer, so that through them I may be instructed and strengthened in faith, and in holiness of life and in love; and that I use my best endeavors to carry this gospel and convey these means of grace to the whole world.
I believe that as Jesus Christ has once come in grace, so also is He to come a second time in glory, to judge the world in righteousness and assign to each His eternal award: and I believe that if I die in Christ, my soul shall be at death made perfect in holiness and go home to the Lord; and when He shall return in His majesty I shall be raised in glory and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity: encouraged by which blessed hope it is required of me willingly to take my part in suffering hardship here as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, being assured that if I die with Him I shall also live with Him, if I endure, I shall also reign with Him. And to Him, my Redeemer, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, three Persons, one God, be glory forever, world without end. Amen, and amen.
Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970), 1:407–10.