Mennonite Brethren Church Confession of Faith (1975)
The Mennonite Brethren Church has throughout its history emphasized biblical authority in all matters of faith and practice. This emphasis exalts the centrality of Scripture and counsels a proper use of creedal statements and confessions of faith as expressions of our understanding of Scripture. Such documents are to be regarded as descriptive more than normative. They are never to be given equal status with the Bible.
The Mennonite Brethren Church is historically and theologically rooted in evangelical Mennonite-Anabaptism of the sixteenth century Reformation which sought to recapture the faith and life of the New Testament church. Our forefathers agreed with Menno Simons, after whom Mennonites are named, that "No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). Numerous confessions in the Anabaptist tradition were used in the preparation of the first Mennonite Brethren Confession of Faith.
A confession such as this one is an expression of the biblical ideals of the brotherhood, revised from time to time, reflecting the faith which such a fellowship believes and preaches. Its validity depends on its biblical character; its usefulness depends on its ability to communicate our understanding of the biblical message. The Mennonite Brethren Church accepts God's revelation in Scripture to be trustworthy and authoritative.
Since the nature and mission of the church call for a concise statement of what a brotherhood believes, the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has undertaken to rewrite the Confession of Faith to make it more readable. May it serve as a guide and a messenger, exhorting believers to live the faith they proclaim.
The Mennonite Brethren and God
We believe in God, the eternal Spirit, infinite in holiness, power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, love and mercy. This one and only eternal God has revealed Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We believe in God the Father, who created all things. He can be known to the extent that He has revealed Himself in word and deed as the source and sustainer of life. He is a God of love who orders all things to serve His eternal purpose. In mercy and grace He adopts as His children all who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.
We believe in Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, whom the Father sent to reconcile us to Himself and to redeem us from sin and eternal death. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin, Mary. Thus He is true God and true man according to the Scriptures. He lived a perfect, holy and sinless life. In the redemptive purpose of God, He suffered crucifixion and death for our sin. He rose from the dead for our justification and ascended into heaven where He now intercedes for all who believe. He will come again to judge the living and the dead and to establish His eternal Kingdom.
The Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, one with the Father and the Son, sent by them to effect redemption in man. He convicts, regenerates, guides, teaches, rebukes, indwells, empowers, comforts, intercedes, unites believers into one body, and glorifies Christ.
Basic Scriptures cited are representative, and not exhaustive: Genesis1; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalms 139; Isaiah 40; Matthew 28:19; John1:1, 18; John 4:24; John 15:26; Romans 8:1-17, 26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Timothy 6:15-16; Hebrews 11:6; Jude 25.
The Revelation of God
We believe that God has revealed His power and deity in the created universe so that man can know Him. God revealed Himself in saving word and deed in the Old Testament and established a covenant relationship with His people. He revealed Himself supremely and finally in the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament.
We believe that all Scripture is inspired by God as men of God were moved by the Holy Spirit. We accept the Old and New Testaments as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative Guide for the faith and life of Christian discipleship. We believe that the Old Covenant was preparatory in nature, finding its fulfillment in the New Covenant. Christ is the key to understanding the Bible; the Old Testament bears witness to Him, and He is the One whom the New Testament proclaims.
Psalms 19; Psalm 119:105; Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 1:18-23; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 8:5-13
Man and Sin
We believe that man (man=mankind) was created in the image of God, sinless, and in fellowship with God, with a free will to make moral choices. But man sinned, and willfully disobeyed God, breaking fellowship with Him and bringing physical, spiritual and eternal death on the whole human race. Consequently all are sinful by nature, guilty before God and in need of forgiveness through Christ.
Psalms 19; Psalm 119:105; Luke 24:27, 44; Romans 1:18-23; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 8:5-13
Salvation by Grace
We believe that there is one Mediator between God and men, the Man Jesus Christ. The purpose of His coming was to redeem man from the judgment and power of sin and to reconcile him to God. Through the shedding of His blood, Christ provided the one sufficient sacrifice for sin and established God's New Covenant.
We are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit, through the Word of God, convicts man of his sin and need for salvation. Those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord receive forgiveness. By the power of the Holy Spirit they are born into the family of God and receive the assurance of salvation. Saving faith involves a surrender of the will to Christ, a complete trust in Him, and a joyful obedience to His Word as a faithful disciple.
Acts 2:42, 46; Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 4:12; Hebrews 9:15-28; 1 John 1:9
The Christian Life
We believe that the Holy Spirit lives in every Christian and transforms him into the image of Christ. He empowers the believer to follow Christ and to be an effective witness for Him.
The Christian lives in fellowship with God and other believers, and joins the local church at baptism. He/she contributes to the building of the body of Christ with spiritual and material gifts. Nurtured through the Word, fellowship and prayer, the believer grows more Christlike, glorifies God, and is a witness for Him in everyday life.
Believers attain spiritual maturity as they yield to Christ and obey His/her Word. In Christ the believer puts off the former way of life with its sinful affections and lusts. He/she is no longer enslaved to sin and Satan. His/her body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and should not be defiled or abused in any way. The believer is not to be bound by the tyranny of things. He/she seeks to dedicate his/her time, talents and possessions to Christ and His kingdom. The fruit of the Spirit is to be increasingly evident in his/her life, especially in his/her relationship to others. The Holy Spirit empowers him to gain victory over sin and temptation, to live a pure life, and to do good. Yet all followers of Christ continually need the forgiving, chastening, and cleansing grace of the Lord.
Matthew 5:13-16; John 12:26; John 15:4-5; Romans 6; Romans 8:9-16; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:1-4; Ephesians 4:1-16; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:17:18.
The Church of Jesus Christ
We believe that the church is one body, the bride of Christ, established through God's redemptive work in history. Believers from all nations, races and social classes, regenerated by faith in Christ and cleansed by His blood, are baptized by His Spirit into one body and separated to God and are members of this body, whose head is Christ. Despite diversity in congregations and denominations, the Spirit works a basic unity which results in cooperation and fellowship with believers of other Christian groups. The Scriptures, particularly the records of the New Testament church, guide believers in questions of life and doctrine. Through His Spirit the Lord gives gifts to the church to be exercised for the upbuilding of believers and the propagation of the Gospel.
The local church is an association of believers, baptized and organized for worship, fellowship, nurture, service and witness. Each congregation regulates its own affairs. Congregations, committed to the Word of God and to this confession, affiliate as a denomination or a conference, whose polity is outlined in the constitution of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. The work of the brotherhood (brotherhood=all members of the church, not gender specific) is conducted in a spirit of interdependence, love and submission one to another under the Lordship of Christ.
Christian Nurture and Discipline
By washing the feet of His disciples, the Lord Jesus admonished His followers to practice personal humility, seek continuous cleansing and render loving service. Similarly, Christians today should engage in humbled service, mutual exhortation and disciplined living. In the church every member is to be concerned for the welfare of fellow-members and to intercede for them in prayer. Through public teaching, sympathetic encouragement, private counseling and earnest rebuke, the church promotes constructive discipline. Believers are encouraged to live a life of Christian discipleship, and to progress toward spiritual maturity so that the church will glorify God in the world.
God's Word is the standard for church discipline. Christians living in sin must be admonished in brotherly love and sincerity. Where private counseling fails, the church exercises redemptive discipline. If warnings are disregarded and the attitude of rebellion and estrangement persists, the offender is formally excluded from the fellowship of the church. Believers, however, must continue to practice love and compassion toward the erring one in order to win him/her back. When he/she repents of his/her sin, the church forgives, reinstates him/her into fellowship and encourages him/her in the Christian life
Matthew 18:15-35; John 13:1-17; John 17:21; Acts 2:38-44; Acts 15:1-28; 1 Corinthians 12-14; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8; Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 2:10-22; Ephesians 5:21, 25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 1 Thessalonians 14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15; Revelation 5:9
The Mission of the Church
We believe that the command to make disciples of all nations is the primary task of the church. Every member has the responsibility to be a witness to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and to call mankind to be reconciled to God. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation and is able to meet the total needs of mankind.
Matthew 2:23; Matthew 11:5; Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
The Christian Ministries
We believe that God, through the Holy Spirit, has endowed His children with gifts for Christian ministry. Each member lovingly ministers to the other until all are built up to the maturity of Christ. Some members of the church have received special gifts for leadership, pastoral, preaching, teaching, evangelistic, diaconal ministries. The church prayerfully recognizes these gifts and calls these persons. They must live above reproach, faithfully teach the Word of God and express loving concern for the well being of others. A congregation under the Holy Spirit's guidance, may commission or ordain such servants.
The church, in turn, shall love, respect and support them. She must also be on guard to detect and correct or dismiss false teachers.
Isaiah 6:1-10; Jeremiah 3:15; Acts 6:1-6; Acts 13:1-4; Acts 20:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-10; 1 Timothy 5:17-22; Titus 1:5-9; Titus 3:10; 1 Peter 5:1-5
We believe that Christians should obey their Lord's command to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To qualify for baptism, one must repent of sin and trust Jesus Christ as personal Saviour and Lord. We practice water baptism of the believer by immersion.
Baptism symbolizes death to sin and resurrection to the new life in Christ and the receipt of the Holy Spirit. Baptism is a public commitment to discipleship. At baptism the believer enters into the full fellowship and work of the church. Local congregations may receive into fellowship those who have been baptized by another mode on their confession of faith.
Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:2-6; Colossians 2:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 1 Peter 3:21
The Lord's Supper
Members of the church observe the Lord's Supper as instituted by Christ. The elements, the bread and the fruit of the vine, symbolize Christ's broken body and shed blood. They remind us of His suffering and death for our salvation and our unity in Him.
In preparation for this fellowship of the Lord's Supper, every believer is to examine himself and partake of the elements in a worthy manner. Those who have peace with God, live in peace with their fellowmen, and have been baptized are invited to partake of the Lord's Supper, thereby testifying to His death until He comes.
The Lord's Supper expresses the fellowship and unity of believers with Christ. It is a supper of remembrance, celebration and praise which strengthens believers for true discipleship and service.
Matthew 16:24; Matthew 26:26-30; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Revelation 3:20
Marriage and the Christian Home
We believe that God instituted marriage for the intimate companionship of husband and wife, and for the procreation and nurture of children. In marriage two mature partners find fulfillment in sharing mutual love, concerns, joys, ideals, ambitions and responsibilities. Those who marry should share a common Christian commitment; a believer should not marry a non believer. We believe that divorce constitutes a basic violation of God's intention for marriage.
Christian parents should nurture their children through exemplary godly living, by praying for them, by leading them in family worship, by teaching them the Scriptures, and by training and discipline them in a manner pleasing to the Lord.
Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 2:18-24; Proverbs 5:18-19; Malachi 2:13-16; Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:4-9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:22-23, Ephesians 6:4; Hebrews 13:4
The Lord's Day and Work
We believe that God intended man (man=mankind) to work diligently and honestly in his/her chosen vocation. The Christian should continually seek to build God's Kingdom through his/her work.
Following the New Testament example, believers commemorate the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first day of the week. On the Lord's Day believers occupy themselves especially with worship and instruction in the Word, Christian fellowship and service and refreshing themselves in body and soul, and limiting their labour to work of necessity and deeds of mercy.
Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-10; Matthew 6:33; Luke 24:1-36; Acts 2:1; 20:7; Romans 14:5-6; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; Hebrews 10:23-25
Although the swearing of oaths was permitted in Old Testament times, it is forbidden by Christ. Christians are obligated to speak the truth because they are always in the presence of God. Therefore we simply affirm the truth in legal transactions. Because lodges and secret societies require the use of oaths and also because they foster the formation of intimate alliances with unbelievers, we discourage membership in secret societies but rather seek to promote fellowship and brotherhood in the church.
Matthew 5:33-37; Matthew 23:1-12; John 18:19-23; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:6-13; James 5:12
We believe that God instituted the state to maintain law and order in civil life and to promote public welfare. The functions and responsibilities of the state are distinct from those of the church. The chief concern and primary allegiance of all Christians should be to Christ's kingdom. It is our Christian duty to pray for those in government and to proclaim truth, love, righteousness, and redemption. We should respect those in authority, exercise social responsibility, witness against corruption, discrimination and injustice, pay taxes, and obey all laws that do not conflict with the Word of God.
Matthew 22:17-21; Acts 4:19; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2: 1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-14
Love and Nonresistance
We believe that Christians should live by the law of love and practice the forgiveness of enemies as taught and exemplified by the Lord Jesus. The church, as the body of Christ, is a fellowship of redeemed, separated people, controlled by redemptive love. Its evangelistic responsibility is to present Christ, the Prince of Peace, as the answer to human need, enmity and violence. The evil, brutal and inhuman nature of war stands in contradiction to the new nature of the Christian. The Christian seeks to practice Christ's law of love in all relationships, and in all situations, including those involving personal injustice, social upheaval and international tensions. We believe that it is not God's will that Christians take up arms in military service but that, where possible, they perform alternate service to reduce strife, alleviate suffering and bear witness to the love of Christ.
Exodus 20:1-17; Matthew 5:17-18, 38-45; Romans 12:19-21; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Peter 2:19-23
Christ's Final Triumph
We believe that God who acts in history will bring His purposes to a final consummation. At death the righteous enter a state of rest in the presence of God, in fellowship with Christ. The unrighteous suffer the torment of separation from God while awaiting final judgment.
When the Lord returns, living believers will be raptured and the dead in Christ will be resurrected to be with Him forever. Christ will judge all men. The righteous will inherit the kingdom of God and the unrighteous shall suffer the anguish of eternal hell. In the end, death will be destroyed, Antichrist will be defeated and Satan will be cast into the lake of fire. Christ will create a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness reigns, and God shall be all in all. This is the blessed hope of the church.
"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour" (Matthew 25:13). He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming soon! Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:30).
Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 61:1-11; Matthew 25:13, 31-46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:22-23; John 5:25-29; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:21-58; Philippians 1:21-24; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 3:3-13; Revelation 1:15, 20-22
Commentary on the Text
Mennonite Brethren have their roots in the Anabaptist-Mennonite movement of sixteenth century Europe. Anabaptists regarded their confessional statements simply as a public testimony of what they believed, based on the Word of God. Confessions were used as an outline for instruction, church polity and discipline. When the Mennonite Brethren Church was organized in southern Russia in 1860, the 1853 edition of the West Prussian Mennonite Church Confession, first published in Holland in 1660, was officially adopted. In 1873 several congregations adopted the 1847 Hamburg Baptist Confession to establish their separate identity. However, this confession was never accepted by the entire brotherhood. As the need for a uniform confession of faith grew, the 1898 Mennonite Brethren General Conference appointed a commission to revise the earlier confession. However, an entirely new draft was formulated in the process, approved by Mennonite Brethren in Russia and North America in 1900 and printed at Halbstadt in 1902. It was reprinted in Hillsboro, Kansas, in 1916 and 1927, and at Gronau, Germany, in 1947. An English translation was published in 1940 and reprinted in 1951 and again in 1965. The recommendation to prepare a revised Confession of Faith in contemporary language was adopted by the 1966 General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. In 1967 this task was assigned to the Board of Christian Literature who appointed a committee to prepare the revision. Intermediate drafts were studied by the Board of Reference and Counsel, faculty of conference schools, study groups in various congregations, as well as the Canadian and U.S. Conferences. The seventh revised draft was unanimously adopted by the General Conference meeting in Winnipeg, August 1975. This Confession of Faith has been carefully designed and prayerfully prepared to be an effective instrument in the mission of the church. Just as a personal confession of faith is significant for personal salvation (Rom. 10:9-10), so a corporate confession of faith can be significant for the corporate preservation and growth of a body of believers. Although historically and theologically Mennonite Brethren have emphasized biblicism rather than creedalism, a Confession of Faith can serve several useful purposes.