Dordrecht Confession, revised 1702
Christian Confession of Faith of the Peace-Loving and Distinguished Christians who are called Mennonites
The original Dordrecht Confession of 1632 was adopted by a Dutch Mennonite Conference held at Dordrecht, Holland. Click here to view the original.
In 1702, the Swiss Brethren revised and adapted the edition below. For commentary and a complete list of modifications, see Golden Apples in Silver Bowls, Section V, by Leonard Gross.
“In your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15).
Presentation of the Principal Articles of our Common Christian Faith, as it is Taught and Practiced Everywhere in our Church
On Faith in God; Concerning the Creation of the First Human Being, And of All Things.
Since we find in the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments (Heb. 11:6), that without faith it is impossible to please God, and whoever wants to come to God must believe, and that God will be a rewarder of those that seek him;
We therefore confess with our mouths and believe with our hearts, together with all the devout, according to Holy Scripture, in one eternal, almighty, holy, righteous, merciful, perfect and incomprehensible God- Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit-and in none more, nor in any other; before whom no God was made or existed, nor shall there be any after him: for of him, and through him, and in him, are all things; to him be glory, praise and honor forever and ever. Amen (Deut. 6:4; Gen. 17:1; Isa. 46:8; 1 Jn. 5:7; Mt. 5:48; [Rom. 11:36].
Of this same one God who works all in all, we believe and confess that he is a Creator of all things visible and invisible; that he, in six days, created, made, and prepared heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; and that he is still governing and maintaining this and all his works through his wisdom, omnipotence, and the word of his strength (1 Cor. 12:6; Gen. 5; Acts 14:15).
And after he had finished his works according to his pleasure, and had ordained and prepared them, each with its own nature, essence and properties, as good and upright, he then also created the first human being, the father of us all, Adam; giving him a body which he formed from a clump of earth, and blowing into his nostrils a living breath, so that he became a living soul, created by God in his own image and likeness, in true righteousness and holiness, unto eternal life (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; 5:1). He regarded him as above all other creatures, endowed him with many high and glorious gifts, placed him in the garden of joy, or Paradise, and gave him a command and a prohibition; afterwards he took a rib from the same Adam, built a woman from it, brought her to him, giving and joining her to him as a helpmate, companion and wife. In consequence of this he also willed that from this first person, Adam, all people who dwell upon the whole earth were to be conceived and given birth (Gen. [1:27; 2:7;] 2:15, 17, ,22; Acts 17:26).
On the Transgression of the Divine Commandment through Adam
We also believe and confess, according to Holy Scripture, that these, our first progenitors, Adam and Eve, did not continue long in this glorious state in which they were created, but that they-misled and seduced by the cunning and deceit of the serpent, and the envy of the devil-transgressed the high divine commandment and became disobedient to their Creator (Gen. 3:6); through this disobedience sin has come into the world, and death through sin, which has thus permeated all people, the consequence of which is that all have sinned (Rom. 5:12, 18), thereby incurring the wrath of God, and condemnation; for which reason they were driven out of Paradise, or the Garden of Joy, by God, to till the earth, from which they were to nourish themselves in grief and eat their bread by the sweat of their brow, until they would again turn into earth from which they had been taken (Gen. 3:23);
And that they, therefore, through this one sin, had abandoned and fallen so far away from God, estranging themselves from him, that neither through themselves, nor through any of their descendants, nor through angels or humans, nor through any other creature in heaven or on earth, could they again be raised up, redeemed, and reconciled to God, but would have needed to be eternally lost, had not God (who again is bestowing mercy upon his creatures) graciously stepped in, mediating with his love and mercy (Ps. 49:8; Rev. 5; Jn. 3:16; [Gen. 3:6, 23; 2 Esd. 3:7; Rom. 5:12, 18]).
On the Restoration and Reconciliation of the Human Race with God
Concerning the restoration of the first person and his posterity we confess and believe, that, notwithstanding their fall, transgression and sin, and that they held absolutely no claim to divine inheritance, God nevertheless was not willing to cast them off entirely, or to allow them to remain lost forever; instead, he called them again to himself, comforted them, and showed them that with him there was still a means to their reconciliation, namely, the unspotted Lamb (or Son) of God, who had already been foreordained for this purpose before the beginning of the world, and who was promised them while they were yet in Paradise, by way of consolation, redemption and salvation, for themselves as well as for their posterity; actually, who was presented to them as their own personal gift, through faith, from that time on; whom all the godly patriarchs-to whom this promise was frequently renewed, for those who were God-fearing-longed for, and who looked upon him through faith from afar, awaiting the fulfillment, that by his coming, he would again redeem, liberate, and lift the members of the fallen human race from their sins, guilt and unrighteousness (Gen. 3:15; Jn. 1:29, 3:8; Heb. 11:13, 39; Gal. 4:4; [1 Pet. 1:19-20; 1 Jn. 3:5; 2:1]).
On the Coming of our Redeemer and Savior Jesus Christ, in the Flesh
We believe and confess further that when this time of promise, which all the godly ancestors had so much longed and waited for, came to an end and was fulfilled, that this promised Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior, at that time, proceeded from God, was sent, and (according to the prophecies of the prophets and the testimonies of the evangelists), came into the world, indeed, in the flesh, and was revealed, the Word itself becoming flesh and human (Jn. 4:25; 1 Tim. 3:16; Jn. 1:14), and that he was conceived in the virgin Mary (who was espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David), and that upon giving birth to him as her first-born son at Bethlehem, she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger ([Jn. 16:28]; Mt. 1:23; Lk. 2:7, ).
We confess and also believe that he is the same one who emerged from the beginning out of eternity, without beginning of days or end of life; who himself is attested to be the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Mic. 5:2; Heb. 7:3; Rev. 1:8, 17-18); that he also is the same, and no other, who was foreordained, promised, sent, and who came into the world; who is God?s only, first, and own Son; who was before John the Baptist, before Abraham, in fact, who is David?s Lord and the God of the whole world, the first-born of every creature; who was brought into the world, and for whom a body was prepared, which as a sacrifice and offering he surrendered to God as a sweet fragrance, yes, for the consolation, redemption, and salvation for everyone- for the whole human race (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 1:6; Rom. 8:32; [Jn. 1:30]; Mt. 22:43; Col. 1:15; [Heb. 10:5]).
But concerning how and in what manner this worthy body was prepared, and how the Word became flesh, and he himself, human, here we content ourselves with the explanation the holy gospel writers left for us in their writings, through which we, with all the saints, confess and hold him to be the Son of the living God, in whom all our hope, consolation, redemption, and salvation exists, which we may not and dare not seek in any one else (Lk. 1:31-33; [Jn. 20:31]; Mt. 16:16).
We furthermore believe and confess with Scripture, that when he had finished his course here, completing the work for which he had been sent and had come into the world, he was, according to the providence of God, delivered into the hands of the unrighteous; and suffered under the judge, Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, was buried, and, on the third day, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven; and that he sits at the right hand of the majestic God on high, from where he will come again to judge the living and the dead (Lk. 22:53; 23:1; 24:5-6; 24:50).
Therefore the Son of God died, having tasted death and shedding his precious blood for everyone; and through this he bruised the serpent?s head, destroyed the works of the devil, canceled the bond [which made legal demands against us], and obtained forgiveness of sins for the whole human race; thus becoming the means of eternal salvation for all those (from the time of Adam, to the end of the world)-each in his or her time-who believes in and obeys him (Gen. 3:15; [1 Jn. 3:8;] Col. 2:14; Rom. 5:18).
On the Creating of the New Covenant through our Lord Jesus Christ
We also believe and confess that before his ascension Christ set up and instituted his New Covenant, and, since it was to be and remain an eternal Covenant, he established and sealed it with his precious blood, and gave it as an inheritance to his own, truly commanding and charging them so specifically that neither angel nor mortal may alter it, or add to or take away from it (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 9:15-17; Gal. 1:18);
And that he commanded this Covenant and what was contained therein, through the full counsel and will of his heavenly Father (as much as is needed for salvation)-through his dear apostles, messengers and servants whom he called and chose for this purpose, sending them into the whole world-to be proclaimed, preached and witnessed in his name among all peoples, nations and tongues, concerning repentance and the forgiveness of sins;
And that consequently he has declared all persons to be his children and lawful heirs, without distinction, as long as they follow and bring to life through faith the content of this Covenant, as obedient children; That he therefore has excluded no one from the worthy inheritance of eternal salvation, except the unbelieving and disobedient, the obstinate and unrepentant-those who despise it, who encumber themselves through their own self-inflicted sins, and who thus make themselves unworthy of eternal life (Jn. 15:15; Mt. 28:19; Rom. 8:17; Acts 13:46; [Mt. 26:28; 1 Tim. 6:3; Mk. 16:15; Lk. 24:47]).
On the Holy Spirit
We believe in the Holy Spirit, which proceeds from the Father and the Son, through which the Father and Son work;
And that with the Father and Son it is thus conceived as one divine Being, as we can see in the story of the creation, for which reason we acknowledge them to be One in willing, working, reigning and governing, and achieving; this divine Being has revealed itself here in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the only true God (Jn. 14:16; Ps. 33:6; Gen. 1; Jn. 10:30, 14:11; Mt. 3:16-17; I Jn. 5:8).
On Repentance and the Mending of Life
We believe and confess, that, since ?the inclination of the human heart is evil from the time of youth? (Gen. 8:21), and therefore inclined toward unrighteousness, sin, and evil, the first lesson of the worthy New Covenant of the Son of God is repentance and the mending of life;
That, for this reason, individuals have ears to hear, and hearts to understand the need to: produce true fruits of repentance, mend their lives, believe the Gospel, forsake evil, do good, stop doing misdeeds, and forsake sin, removing the old self with its practices, and putting on the new self, created in the image of God in true righteousness and holiness (Mk. 1:15; Col. 3:9-10; Eph. 4:21-24). For apart from faith and the new birth, and the reform or renewal of life-baptism, the Lord?s Supper, church participation, and any other outward ceremony, are of no avail in pleasing God, or for obtaining from him any consolation or promise of salvation. One must instead go to God in true and perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ as Scripture says, testifying about him, through which faith a person obtains forgiveness of sins, and is sanctified and justified, sharing in Christ?s mind, nature and being as one of the children of God-who are new, being reborn of God through the incorruptible seed which comes from above ([Gen. 8:21; Ezek. 12:1;] Heb. 10:21-22; Jn. 7:38; 2 Pet. 1:4).
On Holy Baptism
Baptism is an outward, visible ordinance, commanded by Christ himself, which incorporates a person into his church. The practice exists so that all those who hear, believe, and gladly accept the teaching of the gospel with repentant hearts, leading to a life of salvation, are to be baptized with water, according to the command of Christ, who says: ?All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,? and ?Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; but whoever does not believe will be condemned.?
Concerning baptism we confess further that all penitent believers who, through faith, the new birth, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, are made one with God, their names written in heaven-must be baptized with water for the burial of their sins, upon a scriptural confession of faith, in the same, most worthy name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, according to the command of Christ, and the teachings, example, and practice of the apostles. In this way they are incorporated into the communion of the saints, exemplifying and maintaining all that the Son of God taught, left behind, and commanded for his followers (Acts 2:38; Mt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:4; Mk. 16:15-18; Mt. 3:15; [Acts 8:12, 16; 9:18; 10:47; 16:33; Col. 2:11-1 21).
On the Church of God and the Communion of the Saints
We believe and confess, concerning the church of God and communion of the saints, that there is a church of God which he acquired through his own blood, washed from sins with his own blood; and that he ?gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish? [Eph. 5:25-27].
This church, we believe, consists of a great number of people here on earth who, through faith in Jesus Christ, and through obedience to the holy gospel, have separated themselves from the sinful world, and who through the Holy Spirit have their fellowship with God the Father, with Christ their head, with the multitude of many thousands of holy angels in heaven, and with all Christian believers here on earth.
And although this church is scattered throughout many places in this world, only those are members of this church-composed of those who live in Christ, in this one, unique body-who acknowledge him as head and foundation, and as Shepherd, Lord and King, by whom they consent to be ruled and led.
The characteristics of the true church are: the true fruits of conversion; the avoidance of sins; living in goodness, righteousness and truth, according to the teaching of Christ and his apostles; having the right faith in Jesus Christ, through obedience to the divine word; practicing his holy ordinances of baptism and the Lord?s Supper; confessing God and Jesus Christ candidly before the people; a fiery brotherly love among one another; and maintaining the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, and through taking up the cross, and the true discipleship of Christ.
These are the true characteristics of the church of God, whose members reflect divine and Christian virtues in their living, who have been purified by Christ, and who are genuine reborn members of the body of Christ, and co-inheritors of eternal life (Acts 20:28; Rev. 1:5; Col. 1:22; Rom. 6:17; 1 Jn. 1:3; Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:15; Eph. 6:8-9; Jn. 18:37; Mt. 3:8; Eph. 5:9; Col. 1:23; Mt. 3:15; 1 Pet. 3:15; 4:8; Eph. 4:3; Mt. 16:23; Gal. 5:22; Titus 3:5-7).
To say it more concisely, we believe in, and confess a visible church of God, namely, one which is composed of those, who-as already stated above-truly repent and believe, and who are appropriately baptized; who are one with God in heaven, and properly incorporated into the communion of the saints here on earth. These we confess to be the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy people, who are declared to be the bride and wife of Christ, indeed, children and heirs of eternal life, as a holy temple and dwelling place of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, of which Christ himself is declared to be the cornerstone upon which his church is built (1 Pet. 2:9; Jn. 3:29; Titus 3:6; Eph. 2:19-21).
This church of the living God he acquired, purchased, and redeemed with his own precious blood, by which, upon the strength of his promise, he will always be and remain with those of his church, comforting and protecting them, and living and walking among them, from now on, even to the end of the world, preserving them so that no floods or tempests-not even the gates of hell-shall move or overpower them. This church may be recognized by her scriptural faith, teaching, love, and godly walk, but also by fruitfully living up to, practicing and maintaining the true principles of Christ which he so highly commended and entrusted to his followers (1 Pet. 1:18-19; Mt. 28:20; 2 Cor. 6:16; [1 Cor. 12:13; 1 Pet. 2:9; Jn. 3:29; Rev. 19:7; Titus 3:6-7; Eph. 2:19-21; Mt. 16:18; Mt. 7:25, 16:18]).
On the Election of Servants in the Church
Concerning the offices and elections in the church, we believe and confess, that, without offices and ordinances the church cannot continue to grow or remain in existence. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ (as a father in his own house) himself instituted and ordained these offices and ordinances, and designated how everyone is to walk therein, giving heed to the nature of his task and calling, emulating, where it is fitting, Christ-the faithful, great, chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls-who himself was sent, and came into the world, not to wound, break, or corrupt the souls of human beings, but to heal and restore them, to seek the lost, and to break down the dividing wall of hostility, making two into one by gathering people from among the Jews, Gentiles and all nations, creating thereby one flock, a communion in his name, for which (that no one should err or be lost) he himself laid down his life, in this manner ministering to their salvation, and liberating and redeeming them-(note carefully!)-since no other person was able to help and minister unto them (Eph. 4:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:25; Jn. 10:9, 11, 15; Isa. 9:8; [Mt. 12:20; 18:11; Eph. 2:14; Gal. 3:28; Ps. 49:7]);
And that Christ, before departing from this earth, on behalf of his church, provided faithful servants, apostles, evangelists, shepherds and teachers (whom he had chosen through prayer and supplication, through the Holy Spirit), for them to govern the church and feed his flock-watching over it, protecting it, and providing for it. In every way they were to do what he had exemplified, taught, enacted and commanded, teaching and maintaining what he had commanded them (Eph. 4:11; Lk. 10:1; Mt. 28:20; [Lk. 6:12-13;Jn. 2:15]);
That later the apostles, likewise, as faithful followers of Christ and leaders of the church, were careful and diligent with respect to the election of fellow believers, through prayer and supplication to God, in providing every church in the various cities and regions with bishops, shepherds and leaders, and in ordaining for this purpose such persons who had respect for themselves, for the teaching, and for the flock; and who were sound in faith, godly in living, and of good reputation both outside and within the church, that they would be an example and light to others in all godliness and good works (Acts 1:23-24; Titus 1:5), worthily administering baptism and the Lord?s Supper according to the Lord?s precepts, and possessing above all the following qualities: being ?above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober, temperate and modest and with high morals, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not a braggart or violent person, not dealing in questionable trade or business, not lording it over people, but being gentle, not quarrelsome, not stingy, those who manage their own household well, and have obedient and respectful children? (1 Tim. 3:1-3);
And in addition, certainly, that they are to appoint faithful persons who have the gifts to teach (where such may be found) to become elders, confirming them in the name of the Lord with the laying on of hands, who will from then on minister to all the needs of the church according to their ability; so that, as faithful servants, they may invest their Lord?s talent well, turn it into profit, and so nurture their own salvation as well as that of those who hear them (1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 2:2; Lk. 19:13; [1 Tim. 2:1-2, 3:1, 3:7, 5:2; Acts 1:23-24; Titus 1:5]).
That they should also eagerly see to it, each minister caring in particular for those over whom he has oversight, that churches in every region are well supplied with deacons (to look after and care for the poor), who are to receive contributions and alms for distribution to the poor saints in need, faithfully, honestly and appropriately (Acts 6:3-6);
And that honorable older widows also should be chosen and ordained as deaconesses, who, with the deacons, may visit, comfort, and care for the poor, feeble, sick, sorrowing and needy people, including the widows and orphans, also giving attention to the needs of the church, to the best of their ability (1 Tim. 5:9; Rom. 16:1; [Jas. 1:27]);
Further with respect to deacons, that those who are qualified, who are so chosen and ordained by the church (to help lighten the work of the elders), may also in a special way admonish the church and cooperate in preaching the word and doctrine, in this manner each serving the other in love with the gift received from the Lord, to the end that through mutual aid and service on the part of every member, each according to his ability, the body of Christ may be strengthened, and the Lord?s vineyard and church may continue to grow and be built up appropriately.
On the Lord?s Supper
We also confess and observe a breaking of bread, or Supper, just as the Lord Christ instituted it before his suffering, with bread and wine. He himself partook and ate of it with his apostles, commanding them to maintain this practice in his memory. As commanded they thus taught and observed this in the church in order to undergird the faith, in memory of the Lord?s death-his suffering and dying-when his worthy body was broken for us and for the whole human race, and his precious blood shed, for the forgiveness of sins (Mt. 14:22, 26:26; Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 11:11-12), and that he, majestic in the heavenly places, is the life-creating word, food and drink of our souls ([Eph. 2:7]; Jn. 6:51), who unites with all true, believing souls in the observance of his spiritual Lord?s Supper, according to his words: ?Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me? (Rev. 3:20).
In addition he teaches us to set the thoughts of our minds and hearts on things above, in order to attain through holy prayers the true, designated blessing from Christ (Col. 3:1). This impels us to be thankful for God?s great deeds of goodness which he accorded us out of love through Christ (Jn. 3:16). It connects us to peace, love, unity of the Spirit, and true Christian communion among one another (Eph. 4:1), as the Apostle says: ?The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread? (1 Cor. 10:16-17; [Mt. 26:25; Mk. 14:22; 1 Cor. 11:23-26]).
On Foot Washing
We also confess and approve of foot washing among the saints, which the Lord Christ not only instituted, bade and commanded, but who himself (although he was their Lord and Master) washed his apostles? feet, thereby giving an example that they should likewise wash one another?s feet, and do as he had done with them; which they accordingly, from that time on, taught believers to observe, and which Paul set down as one of the virtues and signs of the proven, god-fearing widows (1 Tim. 5:10). All this is a sign of true humility and lowliness. And by this foot washing we are especially to bear in mind the true washing whereby we are washed with his precious blood, and our souls are cleansed ([Jn. 13:4-17]; [Gen. 18:4; 19:2]).
On Holy Marriage
We confess and acknowledge that marriage between two free believers in the church of God is honorable, in keeping with what God had ordained in Paradise in the beginning, and himself had established with Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:27; 2:18-24). The Lord Christ, too, renounced and swept away all the abuses within marriage which meanwhile had crept in, such as separation, divorce, and entering into another marriage while the original spouse is still living. He referred everything back to the original precept and left it at that (Mt. 19:4-6; [Mk. 10:4]). In this vein the apostle Paul also referred to and condoned marriage in the church, permitting each person to marry in the Lord, according to the original precept, whomever one is able so to persuade-that is, to be sure, anyone, according to God?s Word, not too closely related by blood (1 Cor. 5:7). The phrase ?in the Lord? in our opinion must be taken to mean that just as the patriarchs had to marry within their tribe or group (Gen. 24, 28), likewise in the New Covenant no other liberty is permitted or granted to believers other than to marry within the chosen people and spiritual family of Christ, namely, those (and no others) who first and foremost are united with the church as one heart and soul, who have received one baptism, and stand in one communion, faith, doctrine and walk, before they may unite with one another in marriage. Such are then joined by God in his church, according to the original precept, called, ?marrying in the Lord? (1 Cor. 7:39; [1 Cor. 9:5]).
On Civil Government
We also confess, believe and acknowledge that God ordained the powers of civil government to punish evil, protect the good and, in addition, govern the world, in order to maintain nation and cities, including their inhabitants, through good regulations and order (Rom. 13:1, 7). We therefore are not to despise, slander or resist the government, but as obedient subjects must acknowledge and honor it as a servant of God, being ready to perform every good work and transaction (Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:17), wherever this does not contradict God?s Word, will or command, faithfully paying the taxes, revenues and assessments that are its due, just as the Son of God taught and practiced, and commanded his followers to do (Mt. 17:27, 22:17-21);
That we, moreover, must constantly and earnestly pray to the Lord for the state and for its well-being, and for whatever lies in its best interests, that we may live under its protection, earn our livelihood, and lead a quiet, peaceable life, in all godliness and honor (1 Tim. 2:1-2);
And further, that the Lord may reward the servants of the state, both now and in eternity, for all the benefits, freedom and goodwill which we are enjoying under their laudable rule.
On Revenge and Retaliation
As regards revenge, and opposing the enemy with weapons, we believe and confess that the Lord Christ forbade and set aside for his disciples and followers all revenge and retaliation, and to the contrary commanded them to avenge no one?s evil with evil, or invective with invective, but to put the sword into its sheath, or, as the prophets prophesied, to beat swords into plowshares (Mt. 5:39, 44; Rom. 12:14; 1 Pet. 3:9; Isa. 2:4; [Mic. 4:3; Zech. 9:8-9]).
From this we understand that in order to follow his example, teaching and life, we therefore dare not offend or spite or harm anyone, but much rather should work in appropriate ways for the highest welfare and salvation of all persons; and, if conditions so demand, to flee for the Lord?s sake from one city or country into another-but harming no one, even when suffering the confiscation of property; and when we are beaten, to turn the other cheek, rather than taking revenge or striking back;
And, moreover, that we are to pray for our enemies, and if they are hungry or thirsty, feed and refresh them, in this manner persuading them with kindness, and so, conquering all ignorance (Mt. 5:39; Rom. 12: 19-21; [1 Pet. 2: 15]): For a person mindful of God finds grace, who, for the sake of conscience endures the throes of evil and suffers unjustly;
Finally, that we are to do good, and commend ourselves in a friendly manner to the conscience of every person, and, according to the law of Christ, do nothing to anyone else than what we would want done to ourselves (Mt. 7:12; [2 Cor. 4:21).
On the Swearing of Oaths
Concerning the swearing of oaths we believe and confess, that for a matter that needs to be confirmed, the patriarchs of the Old Covenant were permitted to take an oath in God?s Name, but that the Lord Christ set aside and forbade this for his followers, who are not to swear at all, but rather are to let their yes be yes, and no, no (Mt. 5:34-35; Jas. 5:12). We interpret this to mean that all oaths, great and small, are forbidden, and that in their stead, all our promises, commitments and obligations, as well as all our declarations and testimonies of every kind, are to be confirmed solely with our word: yes, for what is yes; and no, for all which is no (2 Cor. 1:17). We must, however, faithfully keep, act upon and fulfill our word in every matter at all times toward everyone as if we had sworn to it with a solemn oath. And if we do this, we trust that no one, not even government officials, will have just reason to ask more than this of us, in mind and conscience, or to consider our yes, which for us replaces the oath, as a no.
On the Ban, and Separation from the Church
We also confess and believe in a ban, separation, and Christian correction, not in order to destroy, but so that the pure may be distinguished from the impure. Anyone, after being enlightened, who has accepted the knowledge of the truth, and has been incorporated into the communion of the saints, who thereafter sins again unto death, either willfully, or through arrogance against God, or otherwise, and falls into such unfruitful works of darkness, through which he is separated from God and his kingdom is forfeited; that such a person, when the deed becomes public and is sufficiently known in the church, may not remain in the congregation of the righteous, but, as an offensive member and public sinner, shall and must be separated, put away, reproved before all, and purged as if he were leaven;
And this for his own reform, also as an example of fear and dread for others, and to keep the church pure by cleansing her from such stains and defects, so that through such defects the name of the Lord is not violated, the church dishonored, or offense given to them who are on the outside;
And finally, so that the sinner may not be condemned with the world, but may become convinced in his soul, and again be moved unto contrition, repentance and reform (Isa. 59:2; 1 Cor. 5:5-6, 12; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Cor. 10:8, 13:10).
Further, concerning brotherly correction or rebuke, as well as instructing those who err, one must attend to these matters with diligence, caring for these people with understanding, and admonishing them in meekness, that they may be encouraged to reform. But those who remain obstinate and unconverted should be corrected in a fitting manner.
In short, the church must cast off from itself whoever is evil (whether in doctrine or life), but no one else (Jas. 5:19; Titus 3:10; [1 Cor. 5:12]).
How those who are Banned and Excommunicated from the Church Are to be Shunned, and, upon their Repentance, Again to be Accepted
Concerning the withdrawing from, or shunning of those separated, we believe and confess that if someone, either because of his wicked life or false doctrine, has fallen so far away that he is estranged from God, and, consequently, is also truly separated and punished by the church, such a person, according to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles, must be avoided and shunned, without distinction, by all the fellow members of the church (especially by those to whom it is known), whether in eating and drinking, or in other similar times of fellowship, and that no one should have anything to do with him, so that the person is not stained through such relationships, and does not become a participant in his sins; but instead, so that the sinner may be made ashamed and open himself, that he may be convinced in his conscience to repent (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 3:14; Titus 3:10);
Furthermore, that in shunning as well as in reproving, moderation and Christian discretion must be used, that it may contribute, not to the sinner?s destruction, but to his reform. For, if such are in need-whether being hungry, thirsty, naked, or sick, or experiencing other adversities- we are duty bound to give them aid and a helping hand (human necessity itself requiring it, and the dictates of love, as well as the teaching of Christ and his apostles). Otherwise, shunning in such a case would serve more unto destruction than to reform.
In addition, such persons are not to be considered as enemies, but are to be admonished as brothers and sisters, so that they might come to acknowledge and repent of their sins, in order to be reconciled again to God and his church, who then, consequently, may again be received into the church; and that love may have its way with them, as is becoming (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 2 Thess. 3:14; Titus 3:10), just as we are again obliged, according to the teachings of the apostles, to receive and accept those who show improvement and demonstrate repentance, whereby we forgive their mistakes and comfort them (2 Cor. 2:6-10).
On the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Last Judgment
We believe and confess that the Lord and Savior, Jesus, just as he visibly ascended to heaven, will come again with the clouds of heaven on that great day as judge, with great strength and majesty, and place all the people before his judgment seat, distributing to each person his reward. At the time of the end, the dead will rise. In this regard we confess with our mouths and believe in our hearts, according to Scripture, that through the incomprehensible strength of God on the last day, all people who will have died and fallen asleep are to be awakened again, be made alive, and arise; and that they, together with those who will at that time still be alive, are to be transformed in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trumpet, to be placed together before the judgment seat of Christ, where the good will be separated from the wicked, and each shall receive, personally, in accord with what he has done, whether good or evil; and that those who are devout and godly-those who are blessed-shall be taken up with Christ and enter into life eternal, receiving that joy which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, having entered into the heart of no person, to reign and triumph with Christ forever and ever (Dan. 12:12; Mt. 25:31; 1 Cor. 15[:51]; Rev. 12:4; 1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 2:9; [Mt. 22:30-31; Job 19:26-27; Jn. 5:28; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 21:11]).
And that, on the other hand, the wicked-those who are cursed- shall be cast into outer darkness, into the everlasting pains of hell, ?where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched,? and where they, according to Holy Scripture, can never again expect any hope, comfort or redemption (Mk. 9:44; Rev. 14:11).
May the Lord through his grace make all of us, together, fit and worthy, that none of us may experience this, but instead, that we may care for ourselves well and be attentive, so that on that day we may be found before him unstained and blameless in peace. Amen.
These, then, as have been briefly stated above, are the principal articles of our common Christian faith, exactly as we teach and practice them constantly in our church and among our people. This, in our judgment, is the only true Christian faith, which the apostles in their time believed and taught, truly witnessing to it with their life, confirming it with their death, and, for some of them, sealing it with their blood. We too, in our weakness, want to remain, live and die alongside them and all who are godly, so that through the grace of the Lord we may afterwards obtain salvation with them. Amen.