Every Sunday, we will be going through one of the fifty-two Lord’s Days of the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the year 1563, the Heidelberg still remains a popular confession of faith in many churches to this day. You can find the full text here.
Lord’s Day Seven
Question 20: Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?
Only those are saved
who by a true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his benefits. 1
1.Mt 7:14; Jn 1:12; 3:16, 18, 36; Rom 11:16-21.
Question 21: What is true faith?
Answer: True faith is a sure knowledge
whereby I accept as true
all that God has revealed to us in his Word. 1
At the same time it is a firm confidence 2
that not only to others, but also to me, 3
God has granted forgiveness of sins,
everlasting righteousness, and salvation, 4
out of mere grace,
only for the sake of Christ’s merits. 5
This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart
by the gospel. 6
1.Jn 17:3, 17; Heb 11:1-3; Jas 2:19.
2.Rom 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb 4:16.
4.Rom 1:17; Heb 10:10.
5.Rom 3:20-26; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-10.
6.Acts 16:14; Rom 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor 1:21.
Question 22: What, then, must a Christian believe?
Answer: All that is promised us in the gospel, 1
which the articles of our
catholic and undoubted Christian faith
teach us in a summary.
1.Mt 28:19; Jn 20:30, 31.
Question 23: What are these articles?
1. I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
2. I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only-begotten Son, our Lord;
3. he was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary;
4. suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
he descended into hell.
5. On the third day he arose from the dead;
6. he ascended into heaven,
and sits at the right hand
of God the Father almighty;
7. from there he will come to judge
the living and the dead.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit;
9. I believe a holy catholic Christian church,
the communion of saints;
10. the forgiveness of sins;
11. the resurrection of the body;
12. and the life everlasting.
All are subject to the curse of Adam, but all are not recipients of the salvation of Christ. Many throughout the ages have tried to deny this saying that a loving God would not send people to hell. Yes, God is loving, but He is also holy. He is also just. We cannot say that God is so loving to the point that it negates His holiness. Sin must be dealt with and Jesus paid for the sins of His people on the cross. That does brings up a very important question…
Who are “His people”?
“His people” are those that possess true faith. True faith recognizes and responds to the Word of God. As Jesus said in John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” When God’s people hear the gospel, they respond. But that again leads us to another very important question…
What is the gospel?
Now, there are certainly things that we disagree on in the Church (Big “C” Church is not the building we meet in on Sundays, but rather the global body of believers, the Bride of Christ), but to be a part of the Church, we must believe in and affirm the one true gospel. The writers of the Heidelberg chose to go with the Apostles’ Creed as a summary explanation of the gospel. The Apostles’ Creed, though not written by the Apostles, is a summary of their teachings as leaders of the early Church. Creeds, Confessions, and Catechisms have been of great value throughout Church history, but we must remember that they are not God-breathed, sacred Scripture. They are like the moon. The moon produces no light itself, but merely reflects the light from sun. These confessions are not the source of truth, but are attempting to reflect the truth from the Son, the Word of God. They are attempts to sum up our beliefs in a way that we can agree and confess together as the Church but we should only do so if what is written lines up with holy Scripture. This is why reading things like your church’s doctrinal and mission statements is so important. It can reveal how closely our churches are holding to the Word of God.
The two most common questions asked about the Apostles’ Creed are about the phrases “he descended into hell” and “I believe a holy catholic Christian church”. Concerning the former, I will allow John Calvin to explain in more detail here. As for the “holy catholic Christian church”, the word “catholic” means “universal”. It is not referring to the Roman Catholic church or any other specific denomination, but rather that Christians around the world would be able to come together in unity, as brothers and sisters, in the name of Jesus Christ.
“When we use old confessions and catechisms, we help teach our people that their faith is an old faith, shared by millions over many centuries. We also help them realize that other Christians have asked the same questions.” Kevin DeYoung