Belgic Confession 24: On Sanctification

In this series we had previously looked at Articles 21,22 and 23 of the Belgic Confession. These 3 articles surveyed the Atonement, the Rigtheousness of Faith and the Justification of Sinners respectively. It may well be worth having another look at those articles to reaffirm in your head what they state. All 3 have come under attack by members of the emergent community such as Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. The great thing about these articles is that the authors fully submitted themselves to the authority and teaching of the Bible. Cultural pressure and the desire to be accepted can lead us into many errors so it is extremely important that we continue to look to the Bible to see what it says about particular doctrines. Today we look at sanctification. Louis Berkhof states that,

“Throughout his life, from the moment of his regeneration and conversion to the moment of his final elevation to heavenly glory, the Christian, by virtue of his union with Christ’s death and resurrection and through the power of God’s word and Spirit dwelling within him, will necessarily experience progressive sanctification, this process to be understood negatively in terms of putting to death the deeds of the flesh which still remain in him and positively in terms of growth in all saving graces” (Berkhof, Sytematic Theology, 533)

 

So God’s sanctifying work is seen in the growing Christlike character, increasing love for God and people, and the fruit of the Spirit (John 14:2; 15:1-16:33; Gal 5:22-25; James 2:18). “The best evidence of true salvation is not having raised a hand or prayed a prayer, or having been baptised or christened. Instead, the true test of an authentic work of God in one’s life is sanctification as God continues the moral transformation he began in regeneration.” (Grudem et al, Bible Doctrine: An Overview, ESV, 2533) Sometimes this progress is slow….very slow. Other times it is fast…instant. God works differently in each person. His work is DEFINITIVE yet PROGRESSIVE. Where sanctification is entirely absent in a person’s life it must be asked whether that person has truly been born again. I’ll hand you over the Belgic Confession now to see what it says!

Belgic Confession: Article 24

We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,”^57 causing him to live the “new life”^58 and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”^59 which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” ^60– thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ “^61

Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.

^57 2 Cor. 5:17 ^58 Rom. 6:4 ^59 Gal. 5:6 ^60 Phil. 2:13 ^61 Luke 17:10

The Belgic Confession- Articles 21-23

Article 21: The Atonement

  • We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek– made such by an oath– and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted.For it is written that “the chastisement of our peace” was placed on the Son of God and that “we are healed by his wounds.” He was “led to death as a lamb”; he was “numbered among sinners”^45 and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though Pilate had declared that he was innocent.

    So he paid back what he had not stolen,^46 and he suffered– the “just for the unjust,”^47 in both his body and his soul– in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.”^48 He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”^49

    And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.

    Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”;^50 we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”^51 We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.

    This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus– that is, “Savior”– because he would save his people from their sins.^52

    ^45 Isa. 53:4-12 ^46 Ps. 69:4 ^47 1 Pet. 3:18 ^48 Luke 22:44 ^49 Matt. 27:46 ^50 1 Cor. 2:2 ^51 Phil. 3:8 ^52 Matt. 1:21

Article 22: The Righteousness of Faith

  • We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him.For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely.

    Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.”^53

    However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us– for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.

    But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.

    When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.

    ^53 Rom. 3:28

Article 23: The Justification of Sinners

  • We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.^54And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ.^55 And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

    That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.

    In fact, if we had to appear before God relying– no matter how little– on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.

    Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.”^56

    ^54 Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:6 ^55 Rom. 3:24 ^56 Ps. 143:2

The Belgic Confession- Articles 16-20

Continuing to look at the articles contained within the Belgic Confession…..

Article 16: The Doctrine of Election

  • We believe that– all Adam’s descendants having thus fallen into perdition and ruin by the sin of the first man– God showed himself to be as he is: merciful and just.He is merciful in withdrawing and saving from this perdition those whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable counsel, has elected and chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord by his pure goodness, without any consideration of their works.

    He is just in leaving the others in their ruin and fall into which they plunged themselves.

Article 17: The Recovery of Fallen Man

  • We believe that our good God, by his marvelous wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had plunged himself in this manner into both physical and spiritual death and made himself completely miserable, set out to find him, though man, trembling all over, was fleeing from him.And he comforted him, promising to give him his Son, “born of a woman,”^31 to crush the head of the serpent,^32 and to make him blessed.

    ^31 Gal. 4:4 ^32 Gen. 3:15

Article 18: The Incarnation

  • So then we confess that God fulfilled the promise which he had made to the early fathers by the mouth of his holy prophets when he sent his only and eternal Son into the world at the time set by him.The Son took the “form of a servant” and was made in the “likeness of man,”^33 truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation.

    And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human being. For since the soul had been lost as well as the body he had to assume them both to save them both together.

    Therefore we confess, against the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny that Christ assumed human flesh from his mother, that he “shared the very flesh and blood of children”;^34 that he is “fruit of the loins of David” according to the flesh;^35 “born of the seed of David” according to the flesh;^36 “fruit of the womb of the virgin Mary”;^37 “born of a woman”;^38 “the seed of David”;^39 “a shoot from the root of Jesse”;^40 “the offspring of Judah,”^41 having descended from the Jews according to the flesh; “from the seed of Abraham”– for he “assumed Abraham’s seed” and was “made like his brothers except for sin.”^42

    In this way he is truly our Immanuel– that is: “God with us.”^43

    ^33 Phil. 2:7 ^34 Heb. 2:14 ^35 Acts 2:30 ^36 Rom. 1:3 ^37 Luke 1:42 ^38 Gal. 4:4 ^39 2 Tim. 2:8 ^40 Rom. 15:12 ^41 Heb. 7:14 ^42 Heb. 2:17; 4:15 ^43 Matt. 1:23

Article 19: The Two Natures of Christ

  • We believe that by being thus conceived the person of the Son has been inseparably united and joined together with human nature, in such a way that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in a single person, with each nature retaining its own distinct properties.Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life,^44 filling heaven and earth.

    His human nature has not lost its properties but continues to have those of a creature– it has a beginning of days; it is of a finite nature and retains all that belongs to a real body. And even though he, by his resurrection, gave it immortality, that nonetheless did not change the reality of his human nature; for our salvation and resurrection depend also on the reality of his body.

    But these two natures are so united together in one person that they are not even separated by his death.

    So then, what he committed to his Father when he died was a real human spirit which left his body. But meanwhile his divine nature remained united with his human nature even when he was lying in the grave; and his deity never ceased to be in him, just as it was in him when he was a little child, though for a while it did not show itself as such.

    These are the reasons why we confess him to be true God and true man– true God in order to conquer death by his power, and true man that he might die for us in the weakness of his flesh.

    ^44 Heb. 7:3

Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ

  • We believe that God– who is perfectly merciful and also very just– sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death.So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

Belgic Confession- Articles 12-15

Article 12: The Creation of All Things

  • We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word– that is to say, by his Son.He has given all creatures their being, form, and appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator.Even now he also sustains and governs them all, according to his eternal providence, and by his infinite power, that they may serve man, in order that man may serve God.He has also created the angels good, that they might be his messengers and serve his elect.

    Some of them have fallen from the excellence in which God created them into eternal perdition; and the others have persisted and remained in their orginal state, by the grace of God.

    The devils and evil spirits are so corrupt that they are enemies of God and of everything good. They lie in wait for the church and every member of it like thieves, with all their power, to destroy and spoil everything by their deceptions.

    So then, by their own wickedness they are condemned to everlasting damnation, daily awaiting their torments.

    For that reason we detest the error of the Sadducees, who deny that there are spirits and angels, and also the error of the Manicheans, who say that the devils originated by themselves, being evil by nature, without having been corrupted.

Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

  • We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

    In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

    For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

    ^20 Matt. 10:29-30

Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man

  • We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness– good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.But when he was in honor he did not understand it^21 and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil.For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature.So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make him inexcusable.

    Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not receive it.”^22 Here John calls men “darkness.”

    Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man’s free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is “given him from heaven.”^23

    For who can boast of being able to do anything good by himself, since Christ says, “No one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws him”?^24

    Who can glory in his own will when he understands that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God”?^25 Who can speak of his own knowledge in view of the fact that “the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God”?^26

    In short, who can produce a single thought, since he knows that we are “not able to think a thing” about ourselves, by ourselves, but that “our ability is from God”?^27

    And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: “God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.”^28

    For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, “Without me you can do nothing.”^29

    ^21 Ps. 49:20 ^22 John 1:5 ^23 John 3:27 ^24 John 6:44 ^25 Rom. 8:7 ^26 1 Cor. 2:14 ^27 2 Cor. 3:5 ^28 Phil. 2:13 ^29 John 15:5

Article 15: The Doctrine of Original Sin

  • We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been spread through the whole human race.It is a corruption of all nature– an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their mother’s womb, and the root which produces in man every sort of sin. It is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to condemn the human race, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism, seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring.Nevertheless, it is not imputed to God’s children for their condemnation but is forgiven by his grace and mercy– not to put them to sleep but so that the awareness of this corruption might often make believers groan as they long to be set free from the “body of this death.”^30Therefore we reject the error of the Pelagians who say that this sin is nothing else than a matter of imitation.

    ^30 Rom. 7:24

The Belgic Confession: Articles 8-11

Article 8: The Trinity

  • In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties– namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father.

    The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

    Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics– yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.

    It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

    Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.

    For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.

    The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.

    There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.

Article 9: The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity

  • All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion.

    In the book of Genesis God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So “God created man in his own image”– indeed, “male and female he created them.”^6 “Behold, man has become like one of us.”^7

    It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, “Let us make man in our image”– and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, “God created.”

    It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are– but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New.

    For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dear Son”;^8 the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.

    So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: “Baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”^9

    In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the mother of our Lord: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”^10

    And in another place it says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”^11

    “There are three who bear witness in heaven– the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit– and these three are one.”^12

    In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three persons in the one and only divine essence. And although this doctrine surpasses human understanding, we nevertheless believe it now, through the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven.

    Furthermore, we must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in relation to us. The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his power. The Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts.

    This doctrine of the holy Trinity has always been maintained in the true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christians and heretics, such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.

    And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical creeds– the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian– as well as what the ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.

    ^6 Gen. 1:26-27 ^7 Gen. 3:22 ^8 Matt. 3:17 ^9 Matt. 28:19 ^10 Luke 1:35 ^11 2 Cor. 13:14 ^12 1 John 5:7 (KJV)

Article 10: The Deity of Christ

  • We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God– eternally begotten, not made nor created, for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of his glory,”^13 being in all things like him.

    He is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together.

    Moses says that God “created the world”;^14 and John says that “all things were created by the Word,”^15 which he calls God. The apostle says that “God made the world by his Son.”^16 He also says that “God created all things by Jesus Christ.”^17

    And so it must follow that he who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed when all things were created by him.

    Therefore the prophet Micah says that his origin is “from ancient times, from eternity.”^18 And the apostle says that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”^19

    So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

    ^13 Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 ^14 Gen. 1:1 ^15 John 1:3 ^16 Heb. 1:2 ^17 Col. 1:16 ^18 Mic. 5:2 ^19 Heb. 7:3

Article 11: The Deity of the Holy Spirit

  • We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son– neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but only proceeding from the two of them. In regard to order, he is the third person of the Trinity– of one and the same essence, and majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son.He is true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.

The Belgic Confession- Articles 3-7 (On the Bible as the word of God)

Article 3: The Written Word of God

  • We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of men, but that holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as Peter says.^1

    Afterwards our God– because of the special care he has for us and our salvation– commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit this revealed Word to writing. He himself wrote with his own finger the two tables of the law.

    Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures. ^1 2 Pet. 1:21

Article 4: The Canonical Books

  • We include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel at all.

    In the church of God the list is as follows: In the Old Testament, the five books of Moses– Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon– Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song; the four major prophets– Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel; and then the other twelve minor prophets– Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

    In the New Testament, the four gospels– Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul– to the Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the seven letters of the other apostles– one of James; two of Peter; three of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.

Article 5: The Authority of Scripture

  • We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.
  • And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them– not so much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they prove themselves to be from God.

    For even the blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do happen.

Article 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books

  • We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones, which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the Story of Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of Susannah; the Story of Bell and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and the two books of Maccabees.

    The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the authority of the other holy books.

Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture

  • We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one– even an apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says–^2 ought to teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God,^3 this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects.

    Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

    For all human beings are liars by nature and more vain than vanity itself.

    Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles when they say, “Test the spirits to see if they are of God,”^4 and also, “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house.”^5 ^2 Gal. 1:8 ^3 Deut. 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19 ^4 1 John 4:1 ^5 2 John 10

Belgic Confession- Articles 1 and 2

Continuing to look at the Belgic Confession.

Article 1: The Only God

We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God- eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.

Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God

We know Him by two means:

First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: His eternal power and His divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20

All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.

Second, He makes Himself known to us more openly by His Holy and Divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for His glory and for the salvation of His own.

Commentary

I was going to do a short commentary on each of the articles myself, however I discovered Kim Riddlebarger has already done a series on the Belgic Confession over on His blog. I came across it as I was doing some research and it’s a lot better than what I could ever provide, so click on the links below to read the Riddle meister’s commentary on the first two articles.

Article 1 Commentary

Article 2 Commentary

The Belgic Confession- A Brief History

The following information is extracted from the Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics . Many thanks goes out the the folk behind this website as it is full of good reformed material. I would fully encourage any interested readers to check it out!

“THE oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation “Confessio Belgica.” “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession’s chief author was Guido de Bräs, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.

During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Bräs prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession. Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from persecution was not attained, and de Bräs himself fell as one of the many thousands who sealed their faith with their lives, his work has endured and will continue to endure. In its composition the author availed himself to some extent of a confession of the Reformed churches in France, written chiefly by John Calvin, published two years earlier.

The work of de Bräs, however, is not a mere revision of Calvin’s work, but an independent composition. In 1566 the text of this confession was revised at a synod held at Antwerp. In the Netherlands it was at once gladly received by the churches, and it was adopted by national synods held during the last three decades of the sixteenth century. The text, not the contents, was revised again at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19 and adopted as one of the doctrinal standards to which all officebearers in the Reformed churches were required to subscribe. The confession stands as one of the best symbolical statements of Reformed doctrine.”

Why then should we look at confession’s the the Belgic confession? What purpose do they serve? Are we not simply intellectualising the faith? Isn’t it about deeds not creeds?? Consider the words of Kim Riddlebarger;

“God does not expect his people to be theologians. He justifies even the guiltiest sinner who has faith in Jesus Christ as small as that of a mustard seed. But people who can’t articulate their faith because they’ve never been forced to think about what they believe and why they believe it, probably won’t survive for long in a post-Christian society such as ours which is increasingly pagan and with religions like Islam growing faster than anyone could imagine.

A theology of “Smile, God Loves You,” probably will not convince Osama Bin Laden that the post-Christian west should be spared from further terrorist attacks. A theology of “Smile, God Loves You” might even turn our children into pagans within a generation. How on earth can we as Christians survive in such a situation if we don’t know what we believe or why
we believe it? If we don’t know what we believe and why, how can we live as God would have us to live? How can we bear witness to the world around us, if we can’t even articulate our own faith or explain even our most basic beliefs to someone outside the church? How can we demand that our
children resist the evils of the world, if we can’t tell them what worldliness is? How can we send them out into the world unprepared to deal with our three great enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil and then be surprised when they walk away from Christ and his church? We can’t insist they do the right
things if they don’t know what the right things are or why such things truly matter. If we do so, we are hypocrites and our children can smell our hypocrisy a mile away. We’ll lose them.”

Belgic Confession

Belgic Confession

Over the next month or so I will be posting a daily excerpt from the Belgic Confession. There is a real need in the church today to rediscover these historic confessions as they help us understand what the bible says about certain issues such as salvation, the Godhead, Christ and the Church etc. Many today form their view of God and their faith from extra biblical sources being totally unaware that what they believe is actually contrary to what the Bible teaches. Thus looking back to these great confessions is in essence getting us back to Bible. Today is a snapshot of what’s to come. Tomorrow will be an overview of the confessions historical context and why it came to be .

Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by the Word of God, what is the true church– for all sects in the world today claim for themselves the name of “the church.”

We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it, even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects that call themselves “the church.”

The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can be assured of recognizing the true church– and no one ought to be separated from it.

As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the flesh and its works.

Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.

As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.

These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from each other”