The First London Confession of Faith of 1644

Comprehensive Edition (2022)


The use of confessions as standards of what the church believes […is…] important for underscoring what the church is.
If you want to use a contemporary idiom, you could say that they tell the story of who the church is and thus ground its identity in a theological narrative. If, like me, you are comfortable with more traditional terminology, you might say they define who the church is doctrinally.

—Carl R. Trueman The Creedal Imperative, Wheaton IL 2012, p. 184

The First London Confession of Faith (1LCF) is one of the Reformed confessions – both in its three historical text forms and in the Comprehensive Edition which integrates elements from these editions. This is evident not least in the importance it attaches to the doctrine of grace. In Article 3 it testifies that God in his omnipotence brings about everything for his glory. This includes above all that he has elected some people for salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Accordingly, the salvation of men is based entirely on divine grace. The doctrine of grace fits into a view of God in which he alone is the centre of everything. Everything that God does, he does for the glorification of his name and for the good of his elect. Both are held together in Article 5. The good of the elect consists not least in the fact that God saves them by grace alone. He frees them to worship and praise him with the greatest joy (Article 6).

In Article 8, the 1LCF confesses the Holy Scriptures as the only guide for faith and obedience. It emphasizes the paramount importance of the Gospel within the Scriptures. The rejection of the Gospel will in the end be the main reason for the damnation of unbelievers (Article 7). Faith is brought about by God through the preaching of the gospel (Article 24). By using this means, God ensures that faith in Jesus Christ is not a human merit but God's free gift. Noteworthy is the statement in Article 25 that the preaching of the law is not necessary to prepare a sinner for the acceptance of the gospel. Christ is effectively set before him as Saviour through the gospel alone.

The heart of the 1LCF is christology with the soteriology derived from it (Articles 9–32). Jesus Christ is confessed as the mediator of the new covenant between God and humanity, which is an everlasting covenant (Article 10). He is perfectly the prophet, the priest and the king for the church of God. As the supreme prophet, Christ reveals the truth of the gospel to his people (Article 15). Christ had to be true God in order to fully grasp God's truth and will himself. And he had to become truly human in order to reveal this divine truth to people (Article 16). As priest, Christ suffered an effective atoning death leading to the salvation of all the elect (Article 17, Article 21). As the risen Lord, Christ is the King who rules his church (Article 19). What he has accomplished as its prophet and priest, he applies to its benefit as King. As a result, all the elect persevere in faith and are preserved for final salvation.

Faith is illuminated from its divine and its human side: It is a gift of God to the elect; and it is, from the human side, a heartfelt trust in the truth that God has revealed in Christ (Article 22). Those who have genuine faith hold fast to the knowledge of Christ, especially as regards his person and offices. All who have received this faith by God's grace cannot finally fall away. Rather, God preserves them in this faith, so that in the end they attain eternal life (Article 23, Article 26).

The statements on the ordinances of Christ (historically on baptism, in the Comprehensive Version also on the Lord's Supper) and on the doctrine of the church under Christ the Head (leadership by presbyters, responsibility of all members) correspond to a Reformed, Credobaptist and Free Church view of the timelessly valid biblical truths.

The closing words of the original authors of the 1LCF, which are appended to the historical editions, show the spirit with which they wrote it. It was not self-opinionatedness, but love for God and His truth in Christ that drove them. They confess that they know but in part. They testify to their willingness to be corrected by others through God's Word if they should have overlooked or erred. At the same time, they clearly express their conviction that they will not let anyone impose things on them that they cannot recognize as being in harmony with Christ's commandments. They are prepared to endure anything imaginable to achieve this, and in no case do they want to do anything that contradicts God's truth or goes against what they have recognized in their conscience as true and important.

The First London Confession of Faith is an excellent guide to discerning what the main teachings of Scripture are. It encourages us to search the Scriptures for ourselves and to grasp in the Gospel Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.