Since the right worship of God is rooted in the timeless truth of Scripture, churches should eagerly welcome the long-standing historic formulations of biblical truth. Doing so will assist the church in preserving the truth of Christianity and the right worship of God against all perversion of it and opposition to it.
Some of my earliest childhood memories center on being with my family in worship on the Lord’s Day. In the Reformed and Presbyterian churches that we attended, expository preaching, hymn-singing, and prayer were fixed elements of worship, as were the historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church. We regularly confessed the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed—or some particular doctrinal statement out of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Shorter Catechism, or Heidelberg Catechism. Our pastors cited doctrinal statements from the Westminster Shorter Catechism in their sermons. Though I was unaware of it at the time, these historic doctrinal formulations were shaping my young mind in regard to biblical doctrine, worship, and the Christian life. Over a decade ago, I had the privilege of planting a Reformed and Presbyterian church. I enthusiastically incorporated many of the historic creeds and confessions into our worship service for the express purpose of instruction—as well as for the preservation of the core truths of the Christian faith and the worship of God.
In his 1973 article “Towards a Confession for Tomorrow’s Church,” J.I. Packer insisted that historic creeds and confessions assist the church in carrying out four principal responsibilities—its doxological, declarative, didactic, and disciplinary tasks. Accordingly, churches should make use of these historical doctrinal statements in their worship (doxological), witness (declarative), teaching (didactic), and conservation (disciplinary). Packer proceeded to define how they function in each task:
Their doxological function is to glorify God by setting forth his works of love and putting into words a responsive commitment. Their declarative function is to announce what the communities that espouse them stand for, and so to identify those communities as belonging to Christ’s church, the worldwide fellowship of faith. Their didactic function is to serve as a basis for instruction. Their disciplinary function is to establish the limits of belief within which each confessing body wishes to stay, and so to lay a foundation for whatever forms of doctrinal restriction or direction it may see fit to impose on its clerical and lay members.