In 1559, a group of pastors in Paris drafted the French Confession of Faith. Today, Stephen Nichols discusses the history of this confession and provides an overview of its first five articles.
Welcome back to another episode of 5 Minutes in Church History. On this episode, we are beginning a series I’ve entitled, Confessing Like It’s 1559. That year, 1559, was a very busy year for confessions. There is the French Confession of Faith. There’s a Polish Confession of Faith, and Hungarian Confession of Faith, and even an Italian Confession of Faith. All of these have touchpoints back to Geneva and, of course, the leader of the Reformed church in Geneva, John Calvin. On this episode, let’s jump into a confession that was very near and dear to Calvin’s heart. He was, after all, a son of France. And so, let’s look at the French Confession of Faith. In 1557, a group of pastors in Paris drafted an eighteen-article confession of faith. They sent it off to Calvin, and he studied it very carefully, made many annotations on it, and we actually have that copy with his handwriting preserved, and it’s there in Geneva.
Well, too, later in 1559, this group of ministers in Paris expanded, and they called for an historic moment. It was the first national senate of the French Reformed Church. A group of ministers were sent from Geneva, and they had an expanded version of that confession of faith in their hands. It now consisted of thirty-five articles, and so they arrived at Paris to participate in the Synod. While in Paris, five more articles were drafted up, were stuck at the front of the confession, and so we have it the 1559 French Confession of Faith with forty articles. The confession begins with the letter to the king. This is King Francis the II. It pleads their case as Reformers, as a church that is being unduly persecuted, that they are simply standing up for the Word of God, that they are constituting and constructing a church around the Word of God and not around as they say in the letter, the traditions of men. They remind the king that he does indeed have the power over property, over our bodies, they say, and even over our lives. But the same God who gave that king the power over the physical domain maintains the power over the spiritual domain, and so their consciouses are captive to the Word of God. And so, they present this confession to the king.
It's a beautiful confession of faith with all of the key doctrines, and it ends with article forty expressing their allegiance to the majesty, that they are intent on being good citizens and living peaceably as Christians in France. Well, the king never gave them an audience and never received this confession, but a year later, there's a new king, and he gave them an audience and he received the French Confession of Faith. Well, let's go back and look at those first five articles. The first article is simply a confession regarding God, “We believe and confess that there is, but one God who is one soul and simple essence, spiritual, eternal, invisible, immutable, infinite, incomprehensible, ineffable, omnipotent, who is all-wise, all good, all just and all-merciful.” And the next article, “This God that we just confessed now reveals Himself.” He reveals Himself as the confession continues firstly in His works, in their creation, as well as in their preservation and control. We call this general or natural revelation. And then the confession continues that God reveals Himself secondly and more clearly in His Word. And then it goes on to list the sixty-six books of the Bible. And then it goes on to say that “This Bible is our sure rule of faith, not so much by the common accord in consent of the church as by the testimony and inward illumination of the Holy Spirit.” Well, there we have it, a solid foundation to any confession of faith. God and His revelation, His clear revelation to us in His Word. Well, that's the French Confession of 1559. And I'm Steve Nichols, and thanks for listening to 5 Minutes in Church History.