Sectarian Confessionalism

Mark Knoll, describing the progression of American Christianity, makes an interesting point about the “marketplace” that emerged in the colonial period of American Christianity and continued to the present day:

The only way for a denomination to be confessionally conservative is for it to become sectarian — that is, to actively oppose the marketplace reasoning; to refuse to abide by the democratic will of majorities; to insist upon higher authorities than the vox populi; and to privilege  ancestral, traditional, or hierarchical will over individual choice.

Mark Knoll, The Old Religion in a New World ,25

Knoll proceeds to mention Machen’s stand for confessionalism that resulted in his expulsion from the denomination of which he was a part, and consequently the formation of a new ‘sectarian’ denomination.

Looking at from this perspective it is easy to see how the American church is now having to eat the seeds it planted.  The democratic majority–the vox populi–is now speaking out against the teachings that the church has “confessed” for millennia.  We must prepare to be viewed as sectarians for refusing to capitulate our practice to the will of the people.  There is a higher authority than the vox populi to which we will one day have to answer. As hard as it is to face the judgment of the vox populi, it will be much harder to face the judgment of God’s authority.


How did we get our bible?

The Cannon of the Bible

We have seen that the Bible is God’s revealed word, but how did we receive that revealed word? The Bible did not just fall out of heaven, but rather it was revealed over a period of time. Thus, God not only revealed the Bible, but He also preserved it.


All the books of the Bible have been revealed and inspired by God. These books have been distinguished from other religious writings as being a part of the “canon.” The word “canon” refers to a measuring rod, and thus to be a part of the “canon” a book must measure up to the following criteria:

1. It must be written by an apostle or prophet.

“Only those books were received by the early Church which were written by apostles, or at least – as was the case with Mark and Luke – were given to the Church under apostolic sanction.”
J. Gresham Machen

2. It must tell the truth about God, and not contradict the rest of the Bible.

“…were the contents of a given book of such a spiritual character as to entitle it to its rank?”
Henry Thiessen

3. It must be accepted by the people of God.

“For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” 1 Thess 2:13

4. It must be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

“All Scripture is inspired by God…”
2 Timothy 3:16

Based on these standards, and ultimately God’s preservation, the Bible is made up of sixty-six books.


Once a book of the Bible was written by its original author it had to be transmitted to others. This transmission occurred when the autograph (the original copy) was carefully copied by trained scribes. Although these copies contained occasional errors (spelling, punctuation, wrong but similar word, etc.), they were remarkably accurate in transmitting the authoritative Word of God. One may wonder how trustworthy these transmitted copies could have been, however it is reassuring to know that both the apostles and Jesus used transmitted copies in their own teaching ministries.


In addition to being transmitted, the original texts of the Bible also needed to be translated into various languages. This translation is necessary for people who want to read the Bible but are not familiar with original languages that it was written in (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek).

There are various translations of the Bible that all fall into three basic categories.

1. Formal Equivalence or “Word-for-Word”

Formal equivalence, or word-for-word, translations focus on the actual words of the text and seek to translate each of those words into its equivalent in the target language.

    • NASB
    • ESV
    • NKJV
    • HCSB

2. Dynamic Equivalence or “Thought-for-Thought”

Dynamic equivalence, or thought-for-thought, translations attempt to reproduce the meaning of a text. In doing so words of the text may be changed in order to avoid confusion.

    • NIV (the best of the Dynamic Equivalence translations)
    • The Living Bible
    • The Message

3. Corrupted

There are translations of the Bible that have been corrupted. These corruptions are translations that change the meaning of a text and undermine the true message of God’s Word.

    • New World Translation (Jehovah’s Witness)

In choosing one of these translations one must be wise. It would be most helpful to enjoy multiple good English translations of the Bible. However, a word-for-word translation will prove to be the most reliable and useful for Bible study. Other translations can be used as secondary resources to aid in your study.

Elohim & Yahweh

A discussion on the relationship between two of the most important names of God:

The OT begins with reference to Elohim rather than Yahweh (Gen 1:1); this may indicate that it more readily carried a universal sense for that audience than the personal name Yahweh.  The addition of Yahweh to Elohim, ‘Lord God,’ in Gen 2:4-3:23 may be meant to claim that this universal creator God is none other than Israel’s personal God.  That the name Yahweh was invoked from earliest times (Gen 4:26), and this by non-Israelites in a setting what has all of humankind in view, may reflect a comparable universal intention related to worship.  Yahweh is a God for all people and may be prayed to and worshiped by all (see 1 Kings 8:41-43).  The constant interchange between Elohim and Yahweh in subsequent Genesis narratives, particularly with their lively interest in the interaction between the chosen family and the surrounding peoples, may carry this universal intention forward.  That this carries a missional interest may be seen in the repeated word that Abraham has been chosen for the sake of ‘all peoples of the earth’ (Gen 12:3 and par.).  Election is for mission.

William Van Gemeren, gen. ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, vol. 4, 1295.

What does the Bible say about itself?

The Testimony of the Bible

What does the Bible says about itself?

Since the Bible is the special revelation of God, the best way to learn about the Bible is to see what it says about itself. The Bible teaches that, among other things, it is:

  • Complete (Deut 4:2; Rev 22:18-19)
  • Perfect (Ps 12:6)
  • True (John 17:17)
  • Righteous (Ps 119:137-138)
  • Effective (Is 55:11)
  • Directive (Ps 119:105)
  • Valuable (Ps 19:10)
  • Authoritative (James 1:22)
  • Wonderful (Ps 119:129)
  • Helpful (Ps 119:9)
  • Nourishing (Jer 15:16; 1 Pt 2:2)
  • For all people (Rom 16:26)
  • Powerful (Luke 16:29-30)
  • A Means to Faith and Salvation (Rom 10:17)
  • Cleansing (James 1:21)
  • Inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pt 1:20-21)
  • Living and Active (Heb 4:12)
  • Purifying (Jer 23:29)
  • Reliable (Prove 30:5)
  • Like a Sword (Eph 6:17; Heb 4:12)
  • The Word of God (1 Thess 2:13)
  • A Good and Perfect Gift (James 1:17-18)
  • A Source of Wisdom (Ps 119:98)

What did Jesus say about the Bible?

Jesus said He came to fulfill the Old Testament.

Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Jesus said the Old Testament pointed to His ministry.

John 5:39: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…”

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and inspire the writers of the NT.

John 16:13: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

Family Worship Guide (week 9)

Catechism Q9:

What does God require in the first, second, and third commandments?
First, that we know and trust God as the only true and living God. Second, that we avoid all idolatry and do not worship God improperly. Third, that we treat God’s name with fear and reverence, honoring also his Word and works.

Scripture Reading:

Mon – Matt 2-3
Tues – Matt 4:1-5:12
Wed – Matt 5:13-48
Thurs – Matt 6
Friday – Matt 7
Saturday – Sunday Sermon Passage Sunday – Lord’s Day Worship


You can download the guide for the entire year HERE.