I. 1. I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
II. 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.
III. 8. I believe in the Holy Spirit;
9. I believe a holy catholic church,
the communion of saints;
10. the forgiveness of sins;
11. the resurrection of the body;
12. and the life everlasting. Amen.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
begotten of the Father before all ages;
God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God;
begotten, not made,
of one substance with the Father;
through whom all things were made.
Who, for us men and our salvation,
came down from heaven
and became incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary
and was made man.
he was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered and was buried;
and the third day he arose, according to the Scriptures,
and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead;
whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son;
who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified;
who spoke though the prophets.
And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins;
and we look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.
(1)Whoever desires to be saved must above all things hold to the
catholic faith. (2) Unless a man keeps it in its entirety inviolate, he
will assuredly perish eternally.
(3) Now this is the catholic faith, that we worship one God in trinity and trinity in unity, (4) without either confusing the persons, or dividing the substance. (5) For the Father's person is one, the Son's another, the Holy Spirit's another; (6) but the Godhead of the Father, the Son, and the holy Spirit is one, their glory is equal, their majesty is co-eternal.
(7) Such as the Father is, such is the Son, such is also the Holy Spirit. (8) The Father is uncreate, the Son uncreate, the Holy Spirit uncreate. (9) The Father is infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy spirit infinite. (10) The Father is eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Spirit eternal. (11) Yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal; (12) just as there are not three uncreates or three infinites, but one uncreate and one infinite. (13) In the same way the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Spirit almighty; (14) yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty.
(15) Thus the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Spirit God; (16) and yet there are not three Gods, but there is one God. (17) Thus the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, the Holy Spirit Lord; (18) and yet there are not three Lords, but there is one Lord. (19) Because just as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge each person separately to be both God and Lord, (20) so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to speak of three Gods or Lords.
(21) The Father is from none, not made nor created nor begotten. (22) The Son is from the Father alone, not made nor created but begotten. (23) The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created not begotten but proceeding. (24) So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. (25) And in this trinity there is nothing before or after, nothing greater or less, (26) but all three persons are co-eternal with each other and co-equal. (27) This in all things, as has worshipped. (28) So he who desires to be saved should think thus of the Trinity.
(29) It is necessary, however, to eternal salvation that he should also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (30) Now the right faith is that we should believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is equally both God and man.
(31) He is God from the Father's substance, begotten before time; and he is man from His mother's substance, born in time. (32) Perfect God, perfect man composed of a human soul and human flesh, (33) equal to the Father in respect of His divinity, less than the Father in respect of His humanity.
(34) Who, although he is God and man, is nevertheless not two, but one Christ. (35) He is one, however, not by the transformation of His divinity into flesh, but by the taking up of His humanity into God; (36) one certainly not by confusion of substance, but by oneness of person. (37) For just as should and flesh are one man, so God and man are one Christ.
(38) Who suffered for our salvation, descended to hell, rose from the dead, (39) ascended to heaven, sat down at the Father's right hand, form where He will come to judge the living and the dead; (40) at whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies, and will render an account of their deeds; (41) and those who have done good will go to eternal life, those who have done evil to eternal fire. (42) This is the catholic faith. Unless a man believes it faithfully and steadfastly, he cannot be saved. Amen.
TRUE CHRISTIAN CONFESSION
Containing the Summary of the Doctrine of God and of the Eternal Salvation of Man
THERE IS ONLY ONE GOD
We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is only one God, who is a simple and spiritual being; He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good.
HOW GOD MAKES HIMSELF KNOWN TO US
We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature, as the apostle Paul says in Rom 1:20. All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.
THE WORD OF GOD
We confess that this Word of God did not come by the impulse of man, but that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says (2 Pet 1:21). Thereafter, in His special care for us and our salvation, God commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.
THE CANONICAL BOOKS
We believe that the Holy Scriptures consist of two parts, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These books are listed in the church of God as follows. The books of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The books of the New Testament: the four gospels, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul, namely, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon; the letter to the Hebrews; the seven other letters, namely, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude; and the Revelation to the apostle John.
THE AUTHORITY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith. We believe without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they contain the evidence of this in themselves; for even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CANONICAL AND APOCRYPHAL BOOKS
We distinguish these holy books from the apocryphal, namely, 3 and 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, additions to Esther, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace, Susannah, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. The church may read and take instruction from these so far as they agree with the canonical books. They are, however, far from having such power and authority that we may confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the holy books.
THE SUFFICIENCY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein. The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length. It is therefore unlawful for any one, even for an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in Holy Scripture: yes, even if it be an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says (Gal 1:8). Since it is forbidden to add to or take away anything from the Word of God (Deut 12:32), it is evident that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects. We may not consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with the divine Scriptures; nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and only a breath (Ps 62:9). We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule, as the apostles have taught us: Test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 Jn 4:1). Likewise: If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him (2 Jn 1:10).
GOD IS ONE IN ESSENCE, YET DISTINGUISHED IN THREE PERSONS
According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible. The Son is the Word, the wisdom, and the image of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has His personal existence, distinguished by Their properties; but in such a way that these three persons are but one only God. It is therefore evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed our flesh and blood, neither has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son, or without His Holy Spirit. For these three, in one and the same essence, are equal in eternity. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.
SCRIPTURE PROOF OF THIS DOCTRINE
All this we know both from the testimonies of Holy Scripture1 and from the respective works of the three Persons, and especially those we perceive in ourselves. The testimonies of Scripture which lead us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament. It is not necessary to mention them all; it is sufficient to select some with discretion. In the book of Genesis God says: Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness ... So God created man in His own image...; male and female He created them (Gen 1:26, 27). Also: The man has now become like one of Us (Gen 3:22). From God's saying, Let Us make man in Our image, it appears that there are more divine persons than one; and when He says, God created, He indicates that there is one God. It is true, He does not say how many persons there are, but what seems to be somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New Testament. For when our Lord was baptized in the river Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, who said, This is My Son, whom I love (Mt 3:17); the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form as a dove.2 For the baptism of all believers Christ commanded: Baptize all nations into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). In the gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Likewise: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor 13:14). In all these places we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence. Although this doctrine far surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless in this life we believe it on the ground of the Word of God, and we expect to enjoy its perfect knowledge and fruit hereafter in heaven. Moreover, we must observe the distinct offices and works of these three Persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator by His power; the Son is our Saviour and Redeemer by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier by His dwelling in our hearts. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been maintained and preserved in the true church since the time of the apostles to this very day, over against Jews, Muslims, and against false Christians and heretics such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. In this doctrine, therefore, we willingly receive the three creeds, of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius; likewise that which in accordance with them is agreed upon by the early fathers.
JESUS CHRIST TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD
We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made, nor created - for then He would be a creature - but of the same essence with the Father, equally-eternal, the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being (Heb 1:3), and is equal to Him in all things. He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies, when compared with each other, teach us: Moses says that God created the world; the apostle John says that all things were made by the Word which he calls God. The letter to the Hebrews says that God made the world through His Son; likewise the apostle Paul says that God created all things through Jesus Christ. Therefore it must necessarily follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him. Therefore He could say, I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am (Jn 8:58), and He prayed, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began (Jn 17:5). And so He is true, eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
THE HOLY SPIRIT TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD
We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is neither made, created, nor begotten, but He can only be said to proceed from both. In order He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.
THE CREATION OF ALL THINGS, ESPECIALLY THE ANGELS
We believe that the Father through the Word, that is, through His Son, has created out of nothing heaven and earth and all creatures, when it seemed good to Him, and that He has given to every creature its being, shape, and form, and to each its specific task and function to serve its Creator. We believe that He also continues to sustain and govern them according to His eternal providence and by His infinite power in order to serve man, to the end that man may serve his God. He also created the angels good, to be His messengers and to serve His elect. Some of these have fallen from the exalted position in which God created them into everlasting perdition, but the others have by the grace of God remained steadfast and continued in their first state. The devils and evil spirits are so depraved that they are enemies of God and of all that is good. With all their might, they lie in wait like murderers to ruin the church and all its members and to destroy everything by their wicked devices. They are therefore by their own wickedness sentenced to eternal damnation and daily expect their horrible torments. Therefore we detest and reject the error of the Sadducees, who deny that there are any spirits and angels; and also the error of the Manichees, who say that the devils were not created, but have their origin of themselves, and that without having become corrupted, they are wicked by their own nature.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
We believe that this good God, after He had created all things, did not abandon them or give them up to fortune or chance, but that according to His holy will He so rules and governs them that in this world nothing happens without His direction. Yet God is not the Author of the sins which are committed nor can He be charged with them. For His power and goodness are so great and beyond understanding that He ordains and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even when devils and wicked men act unjustly. And as to His actions surpassing human understanding, we will not curiously inquire farther than our capacity allows us. But with the greatest humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, and we content ourselves that we are pupils of Christ, who have only to learn those things which He teaches us in His Word, without transgressing these limits. This doctrine gives us inexpressible consolation, for we learn thereby that nothing can happen to us by chance, but only by the direction of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures so under His power that not one hair of our head - for they are all numbered - nor one sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father (Mt 10:29, 30). In this we trust, because we know that He holds in check the devil and all our enemies so that they cannot hurt us without His permission and will. We therefore reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God does not concern Himself with anything but leaves all things to chance.
THE CREATION AND FALL OF MAN AND HIS INCAPABILITY OF DOING WHAT IS TRULY GOOD
We believe that God created man of dust from the ground and He made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy. His will could conform to the will of God in every respect. But, when man was in this high position, he did not appreciate it nor did he value his excellency. He gave ear to the words of the devil and wilfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse. For he transgressed the commandment of life which he had received; by his sin he broke away from God, who was his true life; he corrupted his whole nature. By all this he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death. Since man became wicked and perverse, corrupt in all his ways, he has lost all his excellent gifts which he had once received from God. He has nothing left but some small traces, which are sufficient to make man inexcusable. For whatever light is in us has changed into darkness, as Scripture teaches us, The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it (Jn 1:5); where the apostle John calls mankind darkness. Therefore we reject all teaching contrary to this concerning the free will of man, since man is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34) and a man can receive only what is given him from heaven (Jn 3:27). For who dares to boast that he of himself can do any good, when Christ says: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (Jn 6:44)? Who will glory in his own will, when he understands that the sinful mind is hostile to God (Rom 8:7)? Who can speak of his knowledge, since the man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14)? In short, who dares to claim anything, when he realizes that we are not competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God (2 Cor 3:5)? Therefore what the apostle says must justly remain sure and firm: It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13). For there is no understanding nor will conformable to the understanding and will of God unless Christ has brought it about; as He teaches us: Apart from Me you can do nothing (Jn 15:5).
We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has spread throughout the whole human race. It is a corruption of the entire nature of man and a hereditary evil which infects even infants in their mother's womb. As a root it produces in man all sorts of sin. It is, therefore, so vile and abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn the human race. It is not abolished nor eradicated even by baptism, for sin continually streams forth like water welling up from this woeful source. Yet, in spite of all this, original sin is not imputed to the children of God to their condemnation but by His grace and mercy is forgiven them. This does not mean that the believers may sleep peacefully in their sin, but that the awareness of this corruption may make them often groan as they eagerly wait to be delivered from this body of death. In this regard we reject the error of the Pelagians, who say that this sin is only a matter of imitation.
We believe that, when the entire offspring of Adam plunged into perdition and ruin by the transgression of the first man, God manifested Himself to be as He is: merciful and just. Merciful, in rescuing and saving from this perdition those whom in His eternal and unchangeable counsel He has elected in Jesus Christ our Lord by His pure goodness, without any consideration of their works. Just, in leaving the others in the fall and perdition into which they have plunged themselves.
THE RESCUE OF FALLEN MAN
We believe that, when He saw that man had thus plunged himself into physical and spiritual death and made himself completely miserable, our gracious God in His marvellous wisdom and goodness set out to seek man when he trembling fled from Him. He comforted him with the promise that He would give him His Son, born of woman (Gal 4:4), to crush the head of the serpent and to make man blessed.
THE INCARNATION OF THE SON OF GOD
We confess, therefore, that God has fulfilled the promise He made to the fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets when, at the time appointed by Him, He sent into the world His own only-begotten and eternal Son, who took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7). He truly assumed a real human nature with all its infirmities, without sin, for He was conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by the act of a man. He not only assumed human nature as to the body, but also a true human soul, in order that He might be a real man. For since the soul was lost as well as the body, it was necessary that He should assume both to save both. Contrary to the heresy of the Anabaptists, who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of His mother, we therefore confess that Christ partook of the flesh and blood of the children (Heb 2:14). He is a descendant of David (Acts 2:30); born of David according to His human nature (Rom 1:3); of the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:42); born of woman (Gal 4:4); a branch of David (Jer 33:15); a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Is 11:1); descended from Judah (Heb 7:14); descended from the Jews according to the flesh (Rom 9:5); of the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), since the Son was concerned with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, yet without sin (Heb 2:16, 17; Heb 4:15). In this way He is in truth our Immanuel, that is, God with us (Mt 1:23).
THE TWO NATURES IN THE ONE PERSON OF CHRIST
We believe that by this conception the person of the Son of God is inseparably united and joined with the human nature, so that there are not two sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person. Each nature retains its own distinct properties: His divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life (Heb 7:3), filling heaven and earth. His human nature has not lost its properties; it has beginning of days and remains created. It is finite and retains all the properties of a true body. Even though, by His resurrection, He has given immortality to His human nature, He has not changed its reality, since our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of His body. However, these two natures are so closely united in one person that they were not even separated by His death. Therefore, what He, when dying, committed into the hands of His Father was a real human spirit that departed from His body. Meanwhile His divinity always remained united with His human nature, even when He was lying in the grave. And the divine nature always remained in Him just as it was in Him when He was a little child, even though it did not manifest itself as such for a little while. For this reason we profess 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 according to the infirmity of His flesh.
THE JUSTICE AND MERCY OF GOD IN CHRIST
We believe that God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent His Son to assume that nature in which disobedience had been committed, to make satisfaction in that same nature; and to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquity on Him, and poured out His goodness and mercy on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation. Out of a most perfect love He gave His Son to die for us and He raised Him for our justification that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal.
THE SATISFACTION OF CHRIST OUR HIGH PRIEST
We believe that Jesus Christ was confirmed by an oath to be a High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek. He presented Himself in our place before His Father, appeasing God's wrath by His full satisfaction, offering Himself on the tree of the cross, where He poured out His precious blood to purge away our sins, as the prophets had foretold. For it is written, The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was numbered with the transgressors (Is 53:5,7,12), and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though he had first declared Him innocent. He was forced to restore what [He] did not steal (Ps 69:4). He died as the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18). He suffered in body and soul, feeling the horrible punishment caused by our sins, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). Finally, He exclaimed, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me (Mt 27:46)? All this He endured for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore we justly say, with Paul, that we know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). We consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord (Phil 3:8). We find comfort in His wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means of reconciliation with God than this only sacrifice, once offered, by which the believers are perfected for all times (Heb 10:14). This is also the reason why the angel of God called Him Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He [would] save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).
OUR JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST
We believe that, in order that we may obtain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith. This faith embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, makes Him our own, and does not seek anything besides Him. For it must necessarily follow, either that all we need for our salvation is not in Jesus Christ or, if it is all in Him, that one who has Jesus Christ through faith, has complete salvation. It is, therefore, a terrible blasphemy to assert that Christ is not sufficient, but that something else is needed besides Him; for the conclusion would then be that Christ is only half a Saviour. Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we are justified by faith apart from observing the law (Rom 3:28). Meanwhile, strictly speaking, we do not mean that faith as such justifies us, for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ our righteousness; He imputes to us all His merits and as many holy works as He has done for us and in our place. Therefore Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and faith is the instrument that keeps us with Him in the communion of all His benefits. When those benefits have become ours, they are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.
OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE GOD
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus Christ's sake and that therein our righteousness before God consists, as David and Paul teach us. They speak of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works (Rom 4:6; Ps 32:1). The apostle also says that we are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24). Therefore we always hold to this firm foundation. We give all the glory to God, humble ourselves before Him, and acknowledge ourselves to be what we are. We do not claim anything for ourselves or our merits, but rely and rest on the only obedience of Jesus Christ crucified; His obedience is ours when we believe in Him. This is sufficient to cover all our iniquities and to give us confidence in drawing near to God, freeing our conscience of fear, terror, and dread, so that we do not follow the example of our first father, Adam, who trembling tried to hide and covered himself with fig leaves. For indeed, if we had to appear before God, relying - be it ever so little - on ourselves or some other creature, (woe be to us!) we would be consumed. Therefore everyone must say with David, O LORD, do not bring Your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before You (Ps 143:2).
OUR SANCTIFICATION AND GOOD WORKS
We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God's Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a new man. It makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin. Therefore it is not true that this justifying faith makes man indifferent to living a good and holy life. On the contrary, without it no one would ever do anything out of love for God, but only out of self-love or fear of being condemned. It is therefore impossible for this holy faith to be inactive in man, for we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls faith expressing itself through love (Gal 5:6). This faith induces man to apply himself to those works which God has commanded in His Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification. For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works. Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good. Therefore we do good works, but not for merit. For what could we merit? We are indebted to God, rather than He to us, for the good works we do, since it is He who works in [us], to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13). Let us keep in mind what is written: So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty (Luke 17:10)." Meanwhile we do not deny that God rewards good works, but it is by His grace that He crowns His gifts. Furthermore, although we do good works, we do not base our salvation on them. We cannot do a single work that is not defiled by our flesh and does not deserve punishment. Even if we could show one good work, the remembrance of one sin is enough to make God reject it. We would then always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be constantly tormented, if they did not rely on the merit of the death and passion of our Saviour.
CHRIST, THE FULFILMENT OF THE LAW
We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ceased with the coming of Christ, and that all shadows have been fulfilled, so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians. Yet their truth and substance remain for us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have been fulfilled. In the meantime we still use the testimonies taken from the law and the prophets, both to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel and to order our life in all honesty, according to God's will and to His glory.
We believe that we have no access to God except through the only Mediator and Advocate Jesus Christ the righteous. For this purpose He became man, uniting together the divine and human nature, that we might not be barred from but have access to the divine majesty. This Mediator, however, whom the Father has ordained between Himself and us, should not frighten us by His greatness, so that we look for another according to our fancy. There is no creature in heaven or on earth who loves us more than Jesus Christ. Though He was in the form of God, He emptied Himself, taking the form of man and of a servant for us (Phil 2:6, 7), and was made like His brothers in every way (Heb 2:17). If, therefore, we had to look for another intercessor, could we find one who loves us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were His enemies (Rom 5:8, 10)? If we had to look for one who has authority and power, who has more than He who is seated at the right hand of the Father and who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18)? Moreover, who will be heard more readily than God's own well-beloved Son? Therefore it was pure lack of trust which introduced the custom of dishonouring the saints rather than honouring them, doing what they themselves never did nor required. On the contrary, they constantly rejected such honour according to their duty, as appears from their writings. Here one ought not to bring in our unworthiness, for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own worthiness, but only on the basis of the excellence and worthiness of Jesus Christ whose righteousness is ours by faith. Therefore, to take away from us this foolish fear or rather distrust, the author of Hebrews, with good reason, says to us that Jesus Christ was made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb 2:17, 18). Further, to encourage us more to go to Him, he says: Therefore, since then we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest, who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb 4:14- 16). The same letter says: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, etc. (Heb 10:19, 22). Also, because Christ lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them (Heb 7:24, 25). What more is needed? Christ Himself says: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (Jn 14:6). Why should we look for another advocate? It has pleased God to give us His Son as our Advocate. Let us then not leave Him for another, or even look for another, without ever finding one. For when God gave Him to us, He knew very well that we were sinners. In conclusion, according to the command of Christ, we call upon the heavenly Father through Christ our only Mediator, as we are taught in the Lord's prayer. We rest assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in His Name (Jn 16:23).
THE CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN CHURCH
We believe and profess one catholic or universal church, which is a holy congregation and assembly of the true Christian believers, who expect their entire salvation in Jesus Christ, are washed by His blood, and are sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will be to the end, for Christ is an eternal King who cannot be without subjects. This holy church is preserved by God against the fury of the whole world, although for a while it may look very small and as extinct in the eyes of man. Thus during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord kept for Himself seven thousand persons who had not bowed their knees to Baal. Moreover, this holy church is not confined or limited to one particular place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world. Yet, it is joined and united with heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.
EVERYONE'S DUTY TO JOIN THE CHURCH
We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it, that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his status or standing may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it, maintaining the unity of the church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline, bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters, according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body. To observe this more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church and to join this assembly wherever God has established it. They should do so even though the rulers and edicts of princes were against it, and death or physical punishment might follow. All therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.
THE MARKS OF THE TRUE AND THE FALSE CHURCH
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church, for all sects which are in the world today claim for themselves the name of church. We are not speaking here of the hypocrites, who are mixed in the church along with the good and yet are not part of the church, although they are outwardly in it. We are speaking of the body and the communion of the true church which must be distinguished from all sects that call themselves the church. The true church is to be recognized by the following marks: It practises the pure preaching of the gospel. It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them. It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins. In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary to it and regarding Jesus Christ as the only Head. Hereby the true church can certainly be known and no one has the right to separate from it. Those who are of the church may be recognized by the marks of Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour, flee from sin and pursue righteousness, love the true God and their neighbour without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works. Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life. They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him. The false church assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God. It does not want to submit itself to the yoke of Christ. It does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in His Word, but adds to them and subtracts from them as it pleases. It bases itself more on men than on Jesus Christ. It persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke the false church for its sins, greed, and idolatries. These two churches are easily recognized and distinguished from each other.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CHURCH
We believe that this true church must be governed according to the spiritual order which our Lord has taught us in His Word. There should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments; there should also be elders and deacons who, together with the pastors, form the council of the church. By these means they preserve the true religion; they see to it that the true doctrine takes its course, that evil men are disciplined in a spiritual way and are restrained, and also that the poor and all the afflicted are helped and comforted according to their need. By these means everything will be done well and in good order when faithful men are chosen in agreement with the rule that the apostle Paul gave to Timothy.
THE OFFICERS OF THE CHURCH
We believe that ministers of God's Word, elders, and deacons ought to be chosen to their offices by lawful election of the church, with prayer and in good order, as stipulated by the Word of God. Therefore everyone shall take care not to intrude by improper means. He shall wait for the time that he is called by God so that he may have sure testimony and thus be certain that his call comes from the Lord. Ministers of the Word, in whatever place they are, have equal power and authority, for they are all servants of Jesus Christ, the only universal Bishop and the only Head of the church. In order that this holy ordinance of God may not be violated or rejected, we declare that everyone must hold the ministers of the Word and the elders of the church in special esteem because of their work, and as much as possible be at peace with them without grumbling or arguing.
THE ORDER AND DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH
We believe that, although it is useful and good for those who govern the church to establish a certain order to maintain the body of the church, they must at all times watch that they do not deviate from what Christ, our only Master, has commanded. Therefore we reject all human inventions and laws introduced into the worship of God which bind and compel the consciences in any way. We accept only what is proper to preserve and promote harmony and unity and to keep all in obedience to God. To that end, discipline and excommunication ought to be exercised in agreement with the Word of God.
We believe that our gracious God, mindful of our insensitivity and weakness, has ordained sacraments to seal His promises to us and to be pledges of His good will and grace towards us. He did so to nourish and sustain our faith. He has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what He declares to us in His Word and what He does inwardly in our hearts. Thus He confirms to us the salvation which He imparts to us. Sacraments are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the signs are not void and meaningless so that they deceive us. For Jesus Christ is their truth; apart from Him they would be nothing. Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of sacraments which Christ our Master has instituted for us, namely, two: the sacrament of baptism and the holy supper of Jesus Christ.
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, who is the end of the law (Rom 10:4), has by His shed blood put an end to every other shedding of blood that one could or would make as an expiation or satisfaction for sins. He has abolished circumcision, which involved blood, and has instituted in its place the sacrament of baptism. By baptism we are received into the church of God and set apart from all other peoples and false religions, to be entirely committed to Him whose mark and emblem we bear. This serves as a testimony to us that He will be our God and gracious Father for ever. For that reason He has commanded all those who are His to be baptized with plain water into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). By this He signifies to us that as water washes away the dirt of the body when poured on us, and as water is seen on the body of the baptized when sprinkled on him, so the blood of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, does the same thing internally to the soul. It washes and cleanses our soul from sin and regenerates us from children of wrath into children of God. This is not brought about by the water as such but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, which is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, that is, the devil, and enter into the spiritual land of Canaan. Thus the ministers on their part give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives us what is signified by the sacrament, namely, the invisible gifts and grace. He washes, purges, and cleanses our souls of all filth and unrighteousness, renews our hearts and fills them with all comfort, gives us true assurance of His fatherly goodness, clothes us with the new nature, and takes away the old nature with all its works. We believe, therefore, that anyone who aspires to eternal life ought to be baptized only once. Baptism should never be repeated, for we cannot be born twice. Moreover, baptism benefits us not only when the water is on us and when we receive it, but throughout our whole life. For that reason we reject the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with a single baptism received only once, and who also condemn the baptism of the little children of believers. We believe that these children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as infants were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises which are now made to our children. Indeed, Christ shed His blood to wash the children of believers just as much as He shed it for adults. Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, as the Lord commanded in the law that a lamb was to be offered shortly after children were born. This was a sacrament of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Because baptism has the same significance for our children as circumcision had for the people of Israel, Paul calls baptism the circumcision done by Christ (Col 2:11).
THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
We believe and confess that our Saviour Jesus Christ has instituted the sacrament of the holy supper to nourish and sustain those whom He has already regenerated and incorporated into His family, which is His church. Those who are born anew have a twofold life. One is physical and temporal, which they received in their first birth and is common to all men. The other is spiritual and heavenly, which is given them in their second birth and is effected by the word of the gospel in the communion of the body of Christ. This life is not common to all but only to the elect of God. For the support of the physical and earthly life God has ordained earthly and material bread. This bread is common to all just as life is common to all. For the support of the spiritual and heavenly life, which believers have, He has sent them a living bread which came down from heaven (Jn 6:51), namely, Jesus Christ, who nourishes and sustains the spiritual life of the believer, when He is eaten by them, that is, spiritually appropriated and received by faith. To represent to us the spiritual and heavenly bread, Christ has instituted earthly and visible bread as a sacrament of His body and wine as a sacrament of His blood. He testifies to us that as certainly as we take and hold the sacrament in our hands and eat and drink it with our mouths, by which our physical life is then sustained, so certainly do we receive by faith, as the hand and mouth of our soul, the true body and true blood of Christ, our only Saviour, in our souls for our spiritual life. It is beyond any doubt that Jesus Christ did not commend His sacraments to us in vain. Therefore He works in us all that He represents to us by these holy signs. We do not understand the manner in which this is done, just as we do not comprehend the hidden activity of the Spirit of God. Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what we eat and drink is the true, natural body and the true blood of Christ. However, the manner in which we eat it is not by mouth but in the spirit by faith. In that way Jesus Christ always remains seated at the right hand of God His Father in heaven; yet He does not cease to communicate Himself to us by faith. This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ makes us partakers of Himself with all His benefits and gives us the grace to enjoy both Himself and the merit of His suffering and death. He nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the eating of His flesh, and refreshes and renews them by the drinking of His blood. Although the sacrament is joined together with that which is signified, the latter is not always received by all. The wicked certainly takes the sacrament to his condemnation, but he does not receive the truth of the sacrament. Thus Judas and Simon the sorcerer both received the sacrament, but they did not receive Christ, who is signified by it. He is communicated exclusively to the believers. Finally, we receive this holy sacrament in the congregation of the people of God with humility and reverence as we together commemorate the death of Christ our Saviour with thanksgiving and we confess our faith and Christian religion. Therefore no one should come to this table without careful self-examination, lest by eating this bread and drinking from this cup, he eat and drink judgment upon himself (1 Cor 11:28, 29). In short, we are moved by the use of this holy sacrament to a fervent love of God and our neighbours. Therefore we reject as desecrations all additions and condemnable inventions which men have mixed with the sacraments. We declare that we should be content with the ordinance taught by Christ and His apostles and should speak about it as they have spoken.
THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT
We believe that, because of the depravity of mankind, our gracious God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. He wants the world to be governed by laws and statutes, in order that the lawlessness of men be restrained and that everything be conducted among them in good order. For that purpose He has placed the sword in the hand of the government to punish wrongdoers and to protect those who do what is good (Rom 13:4). Their task of restraining and sustaining is not limited to the public order but includes the protection of the church and its ministry in order that *the kingdom of Christ may come, the Word of the gospel may be preached everywhere, and God may be honoured and served by everyone, as He requires in His Word. Moreover, everyone - no matter of what quality, condition, or rank - ought to be subject to the civil officers, pay taxes, hold them in honour and respect, and obey them in all things which do not disagree with the Word of God. We ought to pray for them, that God may direct them in all their ways and that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Tim 2:1, 2). For that reason we condemn the Anabaptists and other rebellious people, and in general all those who reject the authorities and civil officers, subvert justice, introduce a communion of goods, and overturn the decency that God has established among men. *The following words were deleted here by the General Synod 1905 of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland): all idolatry and false worship may be removed and prevented, the kingdom of antichrist may be destroyed.
THE LAST JUDGMENT
Finally, we believe, according to the Word of God, that when the time, ordained by the Lord but unknown to all creatures, has come and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as He ascended (Acts 1:11), with great glory and majesty. He will declare Himself judge of the living and the dead and set this old world afire in order to purge it. Then all people, men, women, and children, who ever lived, from the beginning of the world to the end, will appear in person before this great Judge. They will be summoned with the voice of the archangel and with trumpet call of God (1 Thess 4:16). Those who will have died before that time will arise out of the earth, as their spirits are once again united with their own bodies in which they lived. Those who will then be still alive will not die as the others but will be changed in the twinkling of an eye from perishable to imperishable. Then the books will be opened and the dead will be judged (Rev 20:12) according to what they have done in this world, whether good or evil (2 Cor 5:10). Indeed, all people will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Mt 12:36), which the world regards as mere jest and amusement. The secrets and hypocrisy of men will then be publicly uncovered in the sight of all. Thus for good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful to the wicked and evildoers but it is a great joy and comfort to the righteous and elect. For then their full redemption will be completed and they will receive the fruits of their labour and of the trouble they have suffered. Their innocence will be known to all and they will see the terrible vengeance God will bring upon the wicked who persecuted, oppressed, and tormented them in this world. The wicked will be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences and will become immortal, but only to be tormented in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41). On the other hand, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honour. The Son of God will acknowledge their names before God His Father (Mt 10:32) and His elect angels. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 21:4), and their cause - at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil authorities - will be recognized as the cause of the Son of God. As a gracious reward, the Lord will grant them to possess glory such as the heart of man could never conceive. Therefore we look forward to that great day with a great longing to enjoy to the full the promises of God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20).
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A.That I am not my own,
but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death,
to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins
with His precious blood,
and has set me free
from all the power of the devil.
He also preserves me in such a way
that without the will of my Heavenly Father
not a hair can fall from my head;
indeed, all things must work together
for my salvation.
Therefore, by His Holy Spirit
He also assures me
of eternal life
and makes me heartily willing and ready
from now on to live for Him.
2. Q. What do you need to know in order to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
how great my sins and misery are;
how I am delivered from all my sins and misery;
how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance
3. Q. From where do you know your sins and misery?
A. From the law of God
4. Q. What does God's law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in a summary in Matthew 22:
Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
5. Q. Can you keep all this perfectly?
I am inclined by nature to hate God and my neighbour.
6. Q. Did God, then, create man so wicked and perverse?
A. No, on the contrary,
God created man good and in his image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that He might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him,
and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him.
7. Q. From where, then, did man's depraved nature come?
A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in Paradise, for there our nature became so corrupt
that we are all conceived and born in sin.
8. Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined to all evil?
unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.
9. Q. But does not God do man an injustice by requiring in his law what man cannot do?
for God so created man that he was able to do it.
But man, at the instigation of the devil,in deliberate disobedience
robbed himself and all his descendants of these gifts.
10. Q. Will God allow such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?
A. Certainly not.
He is terribly displeased with our original sin as well as our actual sins.
Therefore He will punish them by a just judgment both now and eternally,
as He has declared: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything
written in the Book of the Law (Gal 3:10).
11. Q. But is God not also merciful?
A. God is indeed merciful, but He is also just.
His justice requires that sin committed
against the most high majesty of God
also be punished with the most severe,
that is, with everlasting, punishment of body and soul.
12. Q. Since, according to God's righteous judgment we deserve temporal and eternal punishment,
how can we escape this punishment and be again received into favour?
A. God demands that His justice be satisfied.
Therefore we must make full payment,
either by ourselves or through another.
13. Q. Can we by ourselves make this payment?
A. Certainly not.
On the contrary, we daily increase our debt.
14. Q. Can any mere creature pay for us?
In the first place,
God will not punish another creature for the sin which man has committed.
no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin
and deliver others from it.
15. Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer must we seek?
A. One who is a true and righteous man,
and yet more powerful than all creatures;
that is, one who is at the same time true God.
16. Q. Why must He be a true and righteous man?
A. He must be a true man because the justice of God requires
that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin.
He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner
cannot pay for others.
17. Q. Why must He at the same time be true God?
A. He must be true God so that by the power of His divine nature
He might bear in His human nature the burden of God's wrath,
and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.
18. Q. But who is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption (1 Cor 1:30).
19. Q. From where do you know this?
A. From the holy gospel,
which God Himself first revealed in Paradise.
Later, He had it proclaimed
by the patriarchs
by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law.
Finally, He had it fulfilled
through His only Son.
20. Q. Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?
A. No. Only those are saved who by a true faith
are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits.
21. Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is a sure knowledge
whereby I accept as true
all that God has revealed to us in His Word.
At the same time it is a firm confidence
that not only to others, but also to me,
God has granted forgiveness of sins,
everlasting righteousness, and salvation,
out of mere grace,
only for the sake of Christ's merits.
This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart
by the gospel.
22. Q. What, then, must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel,
which the articles of our
catholic and undoubted Christian faith
teach us in a summary.
23. Q. What are these articles?
A. I. 1. I believe in God the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.
II. 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.
III. 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. Amen.
24. Q. How are these articles divided?
A. Into three parts:
the first is about God the Father and our creation;
the second about God the Son and our redemption;
the third about God the Holy Spirit
and our sanctification.
25. Q. Since there is only one God, why do you speak of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because God has so revealed Himself in His Word that these three distinct persons are the one, true, eternal God.
26. Q. What do you believe when you say: I believe in God the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and all that is in them, and who still upholds and governs them
by His eternal counsel and providence, is, for the sake of Christ His Son,
my God and my Father.
In Him I trust so completely as to have no doubt
that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul,
and will also turn to my good whatever adversity He sends me in this life of sorrow.
He is able to do so as almighty God, and willing also as a faithful Father.
27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. God's providence is
His almighty and ever present power,
whereby, as with His hand, He still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so governs them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
riches and poverty,
indeed, all things,
come to us not by chance
but by His fatherly hand.
28. Q. What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
A. We can be patient in adversity,
thankful in prosperity,
and with a view to the future
we can have a firm confidence
in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us
from His love;
for all creatures are so completely in His hand
that without His will
they cannot so much as move.
29. Q. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, Saviour?
A. Because He saves us from all our sins, and because salvation is not to be sought or found in anyone else.
30. Q. Do those who seek their salvation or well-being in saints, in themselves, or anywhere else, also believe in the only Saviour Jesus?
Though they boast of Him in words,
they in fact deny the only Saviour Jesus.
For one of two things must be true:
either Jesus is not a complete Saviour,
or those who by true faith accept this Saviour
must find in Him all that is necessary
for their salvation.
31. Q. Why is he called Christ, that is, Anointed?
A. Because He has been ordained by God the Father,
and anointed with the Holy Spirit,
to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,
who has fully revealed to us
the secret counsel and will of God
concerning our redemption;
our only High Priest,
who by the one sacrifice of His body
has redeemed us,
and who continually intercedes for us
before the Father;
and our eternal King,
who governs us by His Word and Spirit,
and who defends and preserves us
in the redemption obtained for us.
32. Q. Why are you called a Christian?
A. Because I am a member of Christ by faith
and thus share in His anointing,
so that I may
as prophet confess His name,
as priest present myself
a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,
and as king fight with a free and good conscience
against sin and the devil in this life,
and hereafter reign with him eternally
over all creatures.
33. Q. Why is he called God's only-begotten Son, since we also are children of God?
A. Because Christ alone
is the eternal, natural Son of God.
We, however, are children of God by adoption,
through grace, for Christ's sake.
34. Q. Why do you call Him our Lord?
A. Because He has ransomed us,
body and soul,
from all our sins,
not with silver or gold
but with His precious blood,
and has freed us
from all the power of the devil
to make us His own possession.
35. Q. What do you confess when you say: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary?
A. The eternal Son of God,
who is and remains true and eternal God,
took upon Himself true human nature
from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,
through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Thus He is also the true seed of David,
and like his brothers in every respect,
yet without sin.
36. Q. What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?
A. He is our Mediator, and with His innocence and perfect holiness covers, in the sight of God, my sin, in which I was conceived and born
37. Q. What do you confess when you say that he suffered?
A. During all the time He lived on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ bore in body and soul
the wrath of God against the sin
of the whole human race.
Thus, by His suffering,
as the only atoning sacrifice,
He has redeemed our body and soul
from everlasting damnation,
and obtained for us
the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.
38. Q. Why did he suffer under Pontius Pilate as judge?
A. Though innocent, Christ was condemned
by an earthly judge,
and so He freed us
from the severe judgment of God
that was to fall on us.
39. Q. Does it have a special meaning that Christ was crucified and did not die in a different way?
Thereby I am assured
that He took upon Himself
the curse which lay on me,
for a crucified one
was cursed by God.
40. Q. Why was it necessary for Christ to humble himself even unto death?
A. Because of the justice and truth of God
satisfaction for our sins
could be made in no other way
than by the death of the Son of God.
41. Q. Why was he buried?
A. His burial testified
that He had really died.
42. Q. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?
A. Our death is not a payment for our sins,
but it puts an end to sin
and is an entrance into eternal life.
43. Q. What further benefit do we receive from Christ's sacrifice and death on the cross?
A. Through Christ's death
our old nature is crucified,
put to death,
and buried with Him,
so that the evil desires of the flesh
may no longer reign in us,
but that we may offer ourselves to Him
as a sacrifice of thankfulness.
44. Q. Why is there added:
A. In my greatest sorrows and temptations
I may be assured and comforted
that my Lord Jesus Christ,
by His unspeakable anguish, pain, terror, and agony,
which He endured throughout all His sufferings
but especially on the cross,
has delivered me
from the anguish and torment of hell.
45. Q. How does Christ's resurrection benefit us?
by His resurrection
He has overcome death,
so that He could make us share
in the righteousness
which He had obtained for us
by His death.
by His power
we too are raised up
to a new life.
is to us a sure pledge
of our glorious resurrection.
46. Q. What do you confess when you say, He ascended into heaven?
A. That Christ,
before the eyes of His disciples,
was taken up from the earth into heaven,
and that He is there for our benefit
until He comes again
to judge the living and the dead.
47. Q. Is Christ, then, not with us until the end of the world, as He has promised us?
A. Christ is true man and true God.
With respect to His human nature
He is no longer on earth,
but with respect to
His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
He is never absent from us.
48. Q. But are the two natures in Christ not separated from each other
if His human nature is not present wherever His divinity is?
A. Not at all,
for His divinity has no limits
and is present everywhere.
So it must follow that His divinity
is indeed beyond the human nature which he has taken on and nevertheless is within this human nature and remains personally united with it.
49. Q. How does Christ's ascension benefit us?
He is our Advocate in heaven before His Father.
we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that He, our Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself.
He sends us His Spirit as a counter-pledge,
by whose power we seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and not the things that are on earth.
50. Q. Why is it added, and sits at the right hand of God?
A. Christ ascended into heaven to manifest Himself there as Head of His church, through whom the Father governs all things.
51. Q. How does the glory of Christ, our Head, benefit us?
by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members.
by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.
52. Q. What comfort is it to you that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead?
A. In all my sorrow and persecution I lift up my head and eagerly await as judge from heaven the very same person who before has submitted Himself to the judgment of God for my sake, and has removed all the curse from me. He will cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but He will take me and all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.
53. Q. What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?
A. First, He is, together with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God. Second, He is also given to me, to make me by true faith share in Christ and all His benefits, to comfort me, and to remain with me forever.
54. Q. What do you believe concerning the holy catholic Christian church?
A. I believe that the Son of God, out of the whole human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself, by His Spirit and Word, in the unity of the true faith, a church chosen to everlasting life.
And I believe that I am and forever shall remain a living member of it.
55. Q. What do you understand by the communion of saints?
that believers, all and everyone, as members of Christ have communion with Him and share in all His treasures and gifts.
that everyone is duty-bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members.
56. Q. What do you believe concerning the forgiveness of sins?
A. I believe that God, because of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor my sinful nature, against which I have to struggle all my life, but will graciously grant me the righteousness of Christ, that I may never come into condemnation.
57. Q. What comfort does the resurrection of the body offer you?
A. Not only shall my soul after this life immediately be taken up to Christ, my Head, but also this my flesh, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul and made like Christ's glorious body.
58. Q. What comfort do you receive from the article about the life everlasting?
A. Since I now already feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess perfect blessedness, such as no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived - a blessedness in which to praise God forever.
59. Q. But what does it help you now that you believe all this?
A. In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.
60. Q. How are you righteous before God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil,
yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.
He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.
61. Q. Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?
A. Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith,
for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God.
I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.
62. Q. But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?
A. Because the righteousness which can stand before God's judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
63. Q. But do our good works earn nothing, even though God promises to reward them in this life and the next?
A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.
64. Q. Does this teaching not make people careless and wicked?
It is impossible that those grafted into Christ by true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.
65. Q. Since then faith alone makes us share in Christ and all his benefits, where does this faith come from?
A. From the Holy Spirit, who works it in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and strengthens it by the use of the sacraments.
66. Q. What are the sacraments?
The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals.
They were instituted by God
so that by their use
he might the more fully declare and seal to us
the promise of the gospel.
And this is the promise:
that God graciously grants us
forgiveness of sins and everlasting life
because of the one sacrifice of Christ
accomplished on the cross.
67. Q. Are both the Word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
A. Yes, indeed.
The Holy Spirit teaches us in the gospel and assures us by the sacraments that our entire salvation rests on Christ's one sacrifice for us on the cross.
68. Q. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant?
A. Two: holy baptism and the holy supper
69. Q. How does holy baptism signify and seal to you that the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross benefits you?
A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly His blood and Spirit wash away the impurity of my soul, that is, all my sins.
70. Q. What does it mean to be washed with Christ's blood and Spirit?
A. To be washed with Christ's blood means to receive forgiveness of sins from God, through grace, because of Christ's blood, poured out for us in His sacrifice on the cross.
To be washed with His Spirit means to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and sanctified to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and lead a holy and blameless life.
71. Q. Where has Christ promised that he will wash us with His blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A. In the institution of baptism, where he says: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mk 16:16). This promise is repeated where Scripture calls baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away of sins (Titus 3:5; Acts 22:16).
72. Q. Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
A. No, only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.
73. Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?
A. God speaks in this way for a good reason. He wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ remove our sins just as water takes away dirt from the body. But, even more important, He wants to assure us by this divine pledge and sign that we are as truly cleansed from our sins spiritually as we are bodily washed with water.
74. Q. Should infants, too, be baptized?
Infants as well as adults belong to God's covenant and congregation.
Through Christ's blood the redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to adults.
Therefore, by baptism, as sign of the covenant, they must be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers.
This was done in the old covenant by circumcision, in place of which baptism was instituted in the new covenant.
75. Q. How does the Lord's supper signify and seal to you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all His gifts?
A. In this way:
Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup in remembrance of him.
With this command he gave these promises:
First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely was His body offered for me and His blood poured out for me on the cross.
Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and the cup of the Lord as sure signs of Christ's body and blood, so surely does he himself nourish and refresh my soul to everlasting life with His crucified body and shed blood.
76. Q. What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his shed blood?
to accept with a believing heart all the suffering and the death of Christ, and so receive forgiveness of sins and life eternal.
to be united more and more to His sacred body through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us.
Therefore, although Christ is in heaven and we are on earth, yet we are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones, and we forever live and are governed by one Spirit, as the members of our body are by one soul.
77. Q. Where has Christ promised that He will nourish and refresh believers with His body and blood as surely as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?
A. In the institution of the Lord's supper: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes (1 Cor 11:23-26). This promise is repeated by Paul where he says: Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf (1 Cor 10:16, 17).
78. Q. Are then the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
Just as the water of baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ and is not the washing away of sins itself but is simply God's sign and pledge, so also the bread in the Lord's supper does not become the body of Christ itself, although it is called Christ's body in keeping with the nature and usage of sacraments.
79. Q. Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood, and why does Paul speak of a participation in the body and blood of Christ?
A. Christ speaks in this way for a good reason: He wants to teach us by His supper that as bread and wine sustain us in this temporal life, so His crucified body and shed blood are true food and drink for our souls to eternal life.
But, even more important, He wants to assure us by this visible sign and pledge,
first, that through the working of the Holy Spirit we share in His true body and blood as surely as we receive with our mouth these holy signs in remembrance of Him, and,
second, that all His suffering and obedience are as certainly ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.
80. Q. What difference is there between the Lord's supper and the papal mass?
A. The Lord's supper testifies to us,
first, that we have complete forgiveness of all our sins through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he Himself accomplished on the cross once for all;
and, second, that through the Holy Spirit we are grafted into Christ, who with His true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and this is where he wants to be worshipped.
But the mass teaches,
first, that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the suffering of Christ unless he is still offered for them daily by the priests; and, second, that Christ is bodily present in the form of bread and wine, and there is to be worshipped.
Therefore the mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.
81. Q. Who are to come to the table of the Lord?
A.Those who are truly displeased with themselves because of their sins and yet trust that these are forgiven them and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and amend their life. But hypocrites and those who do not repent eat and drink judgement upon themselves.
82. Q. Are those also to be admitted to the Lord's supper who by their confession and life show that they are unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No, for then the covenant of God would be profaned and His wrath kindled against the whole congregation.
Therefore, according to the command of Christ and His apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such persons by the keys of the kingdom of heaven, until they amend their lives.
83. Q. What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
A. The preaching of the holy gospel and church discipline.
By these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and closed to unbelievers.
84. Q. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and closed by the preaching of the gospel?
According to the command of Christ,
the kingdom of heaven is opened when it is proclaimed and publicly testified to each and every believer that God has really forgiven all their sins for the sake of Christ's merits, as often as they by true faith accept the promise of the gospel.
The kingdom of heaven is closed when it is proclaimed and testified to all unbelievers and hypocrites that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them as long as they do not repent.
According to this testimony of the gospel, God will judge both in this life and in the life to come.
85. Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by church discipline?
According to the command of Christ, people who call themselves Christians but show themselves to be unchristian in doctrine or life are first repeatedly admonished in a brotherly manner.
If they do not give up their errors or wickedness, they are reported to the church, that is, to the elders.
If they do not heed also their admonitions, they are forbidden the use of the sacraments, and they are excluded by the elders from the Christian congregation, and by God himself from the kingdom of Christ.
They are again received as members of Christ and of the church when they promise and show real amendment.
86. Q. Since we have been delivered from our misery by grace alone through Christ, without any merit of our own, why must we yet do good works?
A. Because Christ,
having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit to be His image, so that with our whole life we may show ourselves thankful to God for His benefits, and he may be praised by us.
Further, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits,
and that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ.
87. Q. Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent walk of life?
By no means.
Scripture says that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, greedy person, drunkard, slanderer, robber,
or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God.
88. Q. What is the true repentance or conversion of man?
A. It is the dying of the old nature and the coming to life of the new.
89. Q. What is the dying of the old nature?
A. It is to grieve with heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sin, and more and more to hate it and flee from it.
90. Q. What is the coming to life of the new nature?
A. It is a heartfelt joy in God through Christ, and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.
91. Q. But what are good works?
A. Only those which are done out of true faith, in accordance with the law of God, and to His glory,
and not those based on our own opinion or on precepts of men.
92. Q. What is the law of the LORD?
A. God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.
4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
93. Q. How are these commandments divided?
A. Into two parts.
teaches us how to live in relation to God;
what duties we owe our neighbour.
94. Q. What does the LORD require in the first commandment?
A. That for the sake of my very salvation I avoid and flee all idolatry, witchcraft, superstition, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.
that I rightly come to know the only true God,
trust in him alone,
submit to him with all humility and patience,
expect all good from him only,
and love, fear, and honour him with all my heart.
In short, that I forsake all creatures rather than do the least thing against His will.
95. Q. How does Christ's resurrection benefit us?
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which to put our trust instead of, or in addition to, the only true God who has revealed himself in His Word.
96. Q. What does God require in the second commandment?
A. We are not to make an image of God in any way, nor to worship him in any other manner than he has commanded in His Word.
97. Q. May we then not make any image at all?
A. God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.
Creatures may be portrayed, but God forbids us to make or have any images of them in order to worship them or to serve God through them.
98. Q. But may images not be tolerated in the churches as "books for the laity"?
A. No, for we should not be wiser than God.
He wants His people to be taught not by means of dumb images but by the living preaching of His Word.
99. Q. What is required in the third commandment?
A. We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.
Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in all our words and works.
100. Q. Is the blaspheming of God's name by swearing and cursing such a grievous sin that God is angry also with those who do not prevent and forbid it as much as they can?
A. Certainly, for no sin is greater or provokes God's wrath more than the blaspheming of his name.
That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.
101. Q. But may we swear an oath by the name of God in a godly manner?
A. Yes, when the government demands it of its subjects, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote fidelity and truth, to God's glory and for our neighbour's good.
Such oath-taking is based on God's Word and was therefore rightly used by saints in the Old and the New Testament.
102. Q. May we also swear by saints or other creatures?
A lawful oath is a calling upon God, who alone knows the heart, to bear witness to the truth, and to punish me if I swear falsely.
No creature is worthy of such honour.
103. Q. What does God require in the fourth commandment?
that the ministry of the gospel and the schools be maintained and that, especially on the day of rest, I diligently attend the church of God to hear God's Word, to use the sacraments, to call publicly upon the LORD, and to give Christian offerings for the poor.
that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, let the LORD work in me through his Holy Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.
104. Q. What does God require in the fifth commandment?
A. That I show all honour, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother and to all those in authority over me,
submit myself with due obedience to their good instruction and discipline,
and also have patience with their weaknesses and shortcomings,
since it is God's will to govern us by their hand.
105. Q. What does God require in the sixth commandment?
A. I am not to dishonour, hate, injure, or kill my neighbour by thoughts, words, or gestures, and much less by deeds, whether personally or through another;
rather, I am to put away all desire of revenge.
Moreover, I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself.
Therefore, also, the government bears the sword to prevent murder.
A. By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge, and that he regards all these as murder.
107. Q. Is it enough, then, that we do not kill our neighbour in any such way?
When God condemns envy, hatred, and anger,
He commands us
to love our neighbour as ourselves,
to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him,
to protect him from harm as much as we can,
and to do good even to our enemies.
108. Q. What does the seventh commandment teach us?
A. That all unchastity is cursed by God.
We must therefore detest it from the heart and live chaste and disciplined lives, both within and outside of holy marriage.
109. Q. Does God in this commandment forbid nothing more than adultery and similar shameful sins?
A. Since we, body and soul, are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is God's will that we keep ourselves pure and holy.
Therefore He forbids all unchaste acts, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice us to unchastity.
110. Q. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
A. God forbids not only outright theft and robbery
but also such wicked schemes and devices as false weights and measures, deceptive merchandising, counterfeit money, and usury;
we must not defraud our neighbour in any way, whether by force or by show of right.
In addition God forbids all greed and all abuse or squandering of his gifts.
111. Q. What does God require of you in this commandment?
A. I must promote my neighbour's good wherever I can and may,
deal with him as I would like others to deal with me,
and work faithfully so that I may be able to give to those in need.
112. Q. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. I must not give false testimony against anyone, twist no one's words, not gossip or slander, nor condemn or join in condemning anyone rashly and unheard.
Rather, I must avoid all lying and deceit as the devil's own works, under penalty of God's heavy wrath.
In court and everywhere else,
I must love the truth, speak and confess it honestly, and do what I can to defend and promote my neighbour's honour and reputation.
113. Q. What does the tenth commandment require of us?
A. That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any of God's commandments should ever arise in our heart.
Rather, with all our heart we should always hate all sin and delight in all righteousness.
114. Q. But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?
In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.
Nevertheless, with earnest purpose they do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God.
115. Q. If in this life no one can keep the ten commandments perfectly,
why does God have them preached so strictly?
so that throughout our life we may more and more become aware of our sinful nature, and therefore seek more eagerly the forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ.
so that, while praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, we may never stop striving to be renewed more and more after God's image, until after this life we reach the goal of perfection.
116. Q. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us. Moreover, God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask him for these gifts and thank him for them.
117. Q. What belongs to a prayer which pleases God and is heard by him?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness which God requires of us.
Moreover, God will give his grace and the Holy Spirit only to those who constantly and with heartfelt longing ask Him for these gifts and thank him for them.
118. Q. What has God commanded us to ask of him?
we must from the heart call upon the one true God only, who has revealed himself in his Word, for all that he has commanded us to pray.
we must thoroughly know our need and misery, so that we may humble ourselves before God.
we must rest on this firm foundation that, although we do not deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer for the sake of Christ our Lord, as he has promised us in his Word.
119. Q. What is the Lord's prayer?
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,
for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
120. Q. Why has Christ commanded us to address God as our Father?
A. To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our prayer:
God has become our Father through Christ and will much less deny us what we ask of him in faith than our fathers would refuse us earthly things.
121. Q. Why is there added, in heaven?
A. These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty in an earthly manner, and to expect from his almighty power all things we need for body and soul.
122. Q. What is the first petition?
A. Hallowed be your name.
Grant us first of all that we may rightly know you, and sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works, in which shine forth your almighty power, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, mercy, and truth.
Grant us also that we may so direct our whole life ? our thoughts, words, and actions ? that your name is not blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.
123. Q. What is the second petition?
A. Your kingdom come.
So rule us by your Word and Spirit that more and more we submit to you.
Preserve and increase your church.
Destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you, and every conspiracy against your holy Word.
Do all this until the fullness of your kingdom comes, wherein you shall be all in all.
124. Q. What is the third petition?
A. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
That is: Grant that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey your will, for it alone is good.
Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
125. Q. What is the fourth petition?
A. Give us today our daily bread.
Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that you are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labour, and also your gifts, cannot do us any good without your blessing.
Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in you.
126. Q. What is the fifth petition?
A. Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
For the sake of Christ's blood, do not impute to us, wretched sinners, any of our transgressions, nor the evil which still clings to us,
as we also find this evidence of your grace in us that we are fully determined wholeheartedly to forgive our neighbour.
127. Q. What is the sixth petition?
A. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
In ourselves we are so weak that we cannot stand even for a moment.
Moreover, our sworn enemies the devil, the world, and our own flesh - do not cease to attack us.
Will You, therefore, uphold and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that in this spiritual war we may not go down to defeat, but always firmly resist our enemies, until we finally obtain the complete victory.
128. Q. How do you conclude your prayer?
A. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
All this we ask of You
because, as our King, having power over all things, You are both willing and able to give us all that is good,
and because not we but Your holy name should so receive all glory forever.
129. Q. What does the word Amen mean?
A. Amen means: It is true and certain. For God has much more certainly heard my prayer than I feel in my heart that I desire this of him.
ALL MANKIND CONDEMNABLE BEFORE GOD
Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and deserve eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been His will to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn it on account of its sin, according to these words of the apostle: so that ... the whole world [may be] held accountable to God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God( Rom 3:19, 23); and, the wages of sin is death( Rom 6:23)
THE SENDING OF THE SON OF GOD
But in this the love of God was made manifest, that He gave His one and only Son into the world that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life ( Jn 3:16).
THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL
So that men may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills. By their ministry men are called to repentance and to faith in Christ crucified. For how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent( Rom 10:14 - 15)
A TWOFOLD OUTCOME
The wrath of God remains upon those who do not believe this gospel. But those who receive it and embrace Jesus the Saviour with a true and living faith are delivered by Him from the wrath of God and from destruction, and are given eternal life.
THE CAUSE OF UNBELIEF, THE SOURCE OF FAITH
The cause or guilt for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is by no means in God, but rather in man. Faith in Jesus Christ and salvation through Him, however, is the free gift of God, as it is written: By grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God( Eph 2:8). Similarly: It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ... to believe on Him( Phil 1:29).
GOD'S ETERNAL DECREE
That God in time confers the gift of faith on some, and not on others, proceeds from His eternal decree. For He knows all His works from eternity, and He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will( Eph 1:11). According to this decree He graciously softens the hearts of the elect, no matter how hard they may be, and inclines them to believe; those not elected, however, He leaves in their own wickedness and hardness by a just judgment. And here especially is disclosed to us the profound, merciful, and at the same time just distinction between men equally worthy of condemnation, or that decree of election and reprobation which has been revealed in God's Word. Although perverse, impure, and unstable men twist this decree to their own destruction, it provides unspeakable comfort for holy and God-fearing souls.
Election is the unchangeable purpose of God whereby, before the foundation of the world, out of the whole human race, which had fallen by its own fault out of its original integrity into sin and perdition, He has, according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will, out of mere grace, chosen in Christ to salvation a definite number of specific persons, neither better nor more worthy than others, but involved together with them in a common misery. He has also from eternity appointed Christ to be the Mediator and Head of all the elect and the foundation of salvation and thus He decreed to give to Christ those who were to be saved, and effectually to call and draw them into His communion through His Word and Spirit. He decreed to give them true faith in Him, to justify them, to sanctify them, and, after having powerfully kept them in the fellowship of His Son, finally to glorify them, for the demonstration of His mercy and the praise of the riches of His glorious grace. As it is written: God chose us in Christ, before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will - to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves( Eph 1:4-6). And elsewhere, those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified ( Rom 8:30).
ONE DECREE OF ELECTION
There are not various decrees of this election, but there is one and the same decree concerning all those that are to be saved under both the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that the good pleasure, purpose, and counsel of the will of God is one. According to this purpose He has chosen us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which He prepared for us that we should walk in it.
ELECTION NOT BASED ON FORESEEN FAITH
This election is not based on foreseen faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, or any other good quality of disposition, as a cause or condition in man required for being chosen, but men are chosen to faith, the obedience of faith, holiness, and so on. Election, therefore, is the fountain of every saving good, from which flow faith, holiness, and other saving gifts, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects. This the apostle teaches when he says, He chose us ( not because we were, but are) to be holy and blameless in His sight( Eph 1:4).
ELECTION BASED ON GOD'S GOOD PLEASURE The cause of this gracious election is solely the good pleasure of God. This good pleasure does not consist in this, that out of all possible conditions God chose certain qualities or actions of men as a condition for salvation, but in this, that out of the common mass of sinners He adopted certain persons to be His own possession. For it is written, Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad( Rom 9:11 - 13), and so on, she (namely, Rebecca), was told, "The older will serve the younger"( Gen 25:23). Just as it is written: "I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated"( Mal 1:2, 3). And, all who were appointed for eternal life believed( Acts 13:48).
As God Himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing and almighty, so His election can neither be undone and redone, nor changed, revoked, or annulled; neither can the elect be cast away, nor their number be diminished.
THE ASSURANCE OF ELECTION
The elect in due time, though in various stages and in different measure, are made certain of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation. They attain this assurance, however, not by inquisitively prying into the hidden and deep things of God, 1 but by observing in themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unfailing fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God - such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness.
THE VALUE OF THIS ASSURANCE
The awareness and assurance of this election provide the children of God with greater reason for daily humbling themselves before God, for adoring the depth of His mercies, for cleansing themselves, and for fervently loving Him in turn who first so greatly loved them. It is therefore not at all true that this doctrine of election and the reflection on it makes them lax in observing the commands of God or falsely secure. In the just judgment of God, this usually happens to those who rashly presume to have the grace of election, or idly and boldly chatter about it, but refuse to walk in the ways of the elect.
HOW ELECTION IS TO BE TAUGHT
This doctrine of divine election, according to the most wise counsel of God, was preached by the prophets, by Christ Himself, and by the apostles, under the Old as well as the New Testament, and was then committed to writing in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, also today this doctrine should be taught in the church of God, for which it was particularly intended, in its proper time and place, provided it be done with a spirit of discretion, in a reverent and holy manner, without inquisitively prying into the ways of the most High, to the glory of God's most holy Name, and for the living comfort of His people.
Holy Scripture illustrates and recommends to us this eternal and undeserved grace of our election, especially when it further declares that not all men are elect but that some have not been elected, or have been passed by in the eternal election of God. Out of His most free, most just, blameless, and unchangeable good pleasure, God has decreed to leave them in the common misery into which they have by their own fault plunged themselves, and not to give them saving faith and the grace of conversion. These, having been left in their own ways and under His just judgment, God has decreed finally to condemn and punish eternally, not only on account of their unbelief but also on account of all their other sins, in order to display His justice. This is the decree of reprobation, which by no means makes God the author of sin (the very thought is blasphemous!), but rather declares Him to be its awesome, blameless, and just judge and avenger.
RESPONSES TO THE DOCTRINE OF REPROBATION
Some do not yet clearly discern in themselves a living faith in Christ, an assured confidence of heart, peace of conscience, a zeal for childlike obedience, and a glorying in God through Christ; nevertheless, they use the means through which God has promised to work these things in us. They ought not to be alarmed when reprobation is mentioned, nor to count themselves among the reprobate. Rather, they must diligently continue in the use of these means, fervently desire a time of more abundant grace, and expect it with reverence and humility. Others seriously desire to be converted to God, to please Him only, and to be delivered from the body of death. Yet they cannot reach that point on the way of godliness and faith which they would like. They should be even less terrified by the doctrine of reprobation, since a merciful God has promised not to snuff out the smouldering wick nor to break the bruised reed. Still others disregard God and the Saviour Jesus Christ and have completely given themselves over to the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. For them this doctrine of reprobation is rightly fearsome as long as they do not seriously turn to God.
CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS WHO DIE IN INFANCY
We must judge concerning the will of God from His Word, which declares that the children of believers are holy, not by nature but in virtue of the covenant of grace, in which they are included with their parents. Therefore, God-fearing parents ought not to doubt the election and salvation of their children whom God calls out of this life in their infancy.
NOT PROTEST BUT ADORATION
To those who complain about this grace of undeserved election and the severity of righteous reprobation, we reply with this word of the apostle: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?( Rom 9:20) And with this word of our Saviour: Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? We, however, with reverent adoration of these mysteries, exclaim with the apostle: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?" "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen ( Rom 11:33-36).
Having explained the true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Synod rejects the following errors:
Error: Who teach that the will of God to save those who would believe and persevere in faith and in the obedience of faith is the whole and entire decision of election to salvation, and that nothing else concerning this decision has been revealed in God's Word. Refutation: This error is deceptive and clearly contradicts Scripture, which declares not only that God will save those who believe but also that He has chosen specific persons from eternity. Within time He grants to these elect, above others, both faith in Christ and perseverance. I have revealed You to those whom You gave Me out of the world (John 17:6). And all who were appointed for eternal life believed, (Acts 13:48) For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1:4).
There are various kinds of divine election to eternal life.
One is general and indefinite, another is particular and definite.
The latter in turn is either incomplete, revocable, non-decisive,
and conditional, or it is complete, irrevocable, decisive, and absolute.
In the same fashion there is an election to faith and another to salvation.
Therefore election can be to justifying faith, without being decisive to salvation.
Refutation: All this is an invention of the human mind without any basis in the Scriptures. The doctrine of election is thus corrupted and the golden chain of our salvation broken: And those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom he called He also justified; and those whome He justified He also glorified, Rom 8:30.
The good pleasure and purpose of God of which Scripture speaks in the
doctrine of election is not that He chose certain specific persons and
not others, but that out of all possible conditions (such as the works
of the law) He chose or selected the act of faith, which in itself is without
merit, as well as the imperfect obedience of faith, to be a condition of
salvation. In His grace He wished to count such faith as complete obedience
and worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Refutation: This offensive error deprives God's good pleasure and Christ's merits of all efficacy, and draws people away from the truth of gracious justification and from the simplicity of Scripture. It contradicts the word of the apostle: God has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Tim 1:9).
Election to faith depends on the condition that man
should use the light of nature properly, and that he
be pious, humble, meek, and fit for eternal life.
Refutation: If this were true, election would depend on man. This smacks of the teaching of Pelagius and is in open conflict with the teaching of the apostle, All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast (in Ephesians 2:3-9)
Incomplete and non-decisive election of specific persons
to salvation took place on the ground of foreseen faith,
conversion, holiness, and godliness, which either began or continued for some time. Complete and decisive election,
however, occurred because of foreseen perseverance in faith, conversion, holiness, and godliness till the end. This
is the gracious and evangelical worthiness because of which the person who is chosen is more worthy than the one
is not chosen. Therefore faith, obedience of faith, holiness, godliness, and perseverance are not fruits of unchangeable
election to glory. Instead, they are necessary conditions and causes required and foreseen as accomplished in those who are to be fully elected.
Refutation: This error militates against all of Scripture, which constantly impresses the following upon us: Election is not by works but by Him who calls (Rom 9:11); And all who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48); He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight (Eph 1:4); You did not choose me, but I chose you (Jn 15:16); And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace(Rom 11:6); This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 Jn 4:10).
Not every election to salvation is unchangeable. Some of the elect can and do indeed perish everlastingly, notwithstanding any decree of God.
Refutation: This gross error makes God changeable, destroys the comfort which the believers obtain from the firmness of their election, and contradicts Holy Scripture: The elect can not be led astray (Mt 24:24); (Mt 24:24); And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given Me, but raise them up at the last day (Jn 6:39); those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified (Rom 8:30).
In this life there is no fruit, consciousness, or certainty of the unchangeable
election to glory, except such as is based upon a changeable and uncertain condition.
Refutation: To speak about an uncertain certainty is not only absurd but also contrary to the experience of the believers. As a result of the awareness of their election, they glory with the apostle in this favour of God. With the disciples of Christ they rejoice that their names are written in heaven. They put the consciousness of their election over against the flaming darts of the devil, when they exclaim: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? (Rom 8:33).
God did not simply by an act of His righteous will decide to leave any person in the common state of
sin and condemnation since his fall in Adam, nor did He decide to pass by any one in granting such grace as
is necessary for faith and conversion.
Refutation: Scripture, however, states, God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden (Rom 9:18). It also declares, The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them (Mt 13:11). Likewise, I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was Your good pleasure (Mt 11:25, 26).
God sends the gospel to one people rather than to another not merely and solely because of the
good pleasure of His will, but because one people is better and worthier than another to which the gospel is not preached.
Refutation: Moses denies this when he addresses the people of Israel as follows: To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set His affection on your forefathers and loved them, and He chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today (Deut 10:14, 15). And Christ says, Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Mt 11:21).
THE PUNISHMENT WHICH GOD'S JUSTICE REQUIRES
God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just. And as He Himself has revealed in His Word, His justice requires that our sins, committed against His infinite majesty, should be punished not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul. We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God.
THE SATISFACTION MADE BY CHRIST
We ourselves, however, cannot make this satisfaction and cannot free ourselves from God's wrath. God, therefore, in His infinite mercy has given His only-begotten Son as our Surety. For us or in our place He was made sin and a curse on the cross so that He might make satisfaction on our behalf.
THE INFINITE VALUE OF CHRIST'S DEATH
This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world
WHY HIS DEATH HAS INFINITE VALUE
This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Saviour. Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God3 which we by our sins had deserved.
THE UNIVERSAL PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL
The promise of the gospel is that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise ought to be announced and proclaimed universally and without discrimination to all peoples and to all men, to whom God in His good pleasure sends the gospel, together with the command to repent and believe.
WHY SOME DO NOT BELIEVE
That, however, many who have been called by the gospel neither repent nor believe in Christ but perish in unbelief does not happen because of any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross, but through their own fault.
WHY OTHERS DO BELIEVE
But to those who truly believe and by the death of Christ are freed from their sins and saved from perdition, this benefit comes only through God's grace, given to them from eternity in Christ. God owes this grace to no one.
THE EFFICACY OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST
For this was the most free counsel of God the Father, that the life-giving and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect. It was His most gracious will and intent to give to them alone justifying faith and thereby to bring them unfailingly to salvation. This means: God willed that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which He confirmed the new covenant) should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and tongue all those, and those only, who from eternity were chosen to salvation and were given to Him by the Father. God further willed that Christ should give to them faith, which, together with other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He acquired for them by His death; that He should cleanse them by His blood from all sins, both original and actual, both those committed after faith and before faith; and that He should guard them faithfully to the end and at last present them to Himself in splendour without any spot or wrinkle.
THE FULFILMENT OF GOD'S COUNSEL
This counsel, proceeding from eternal love for the elect, has from the beginning of the world to the present time been powerfully fulfilled, and will also continue to be fulfilled, though the gates of hell vainly try to frustrate it. In due time the elect will be gathered together into one, and there will always be a church of believers, founded on the blood of Christ. This church shall steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as her Saviour (who as bridegroom for His bride laid down His life for her on the cross) and celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.
Having explained the true doctrine of the death of Christ and the redemption of man by this death, Synod rejects the following errors:
God the Father has ordained His Son to the death of the cross without a specific and definite decree to save any.
What Christ obtained by His death might have been necessary, profitable, and valuable, and might remain in all its parts
complete, perfect, and intact, even though the redemption He acquired had actually never been applied to any person.
Refutation: This doctrine is offensive to the wisdom of the Father and the merits of Jesus Christ and is contrary to Scripture. For our Saviour says: I lay down My life for the sheep, and I know them (Jn 10:15, 27). And the prophet Isaiah says concerning the Saviour: Though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand (Is 53:10). Finally, this error contradicts the article of faith concerning the catholic Christian church.
It was not the purpose of Christ's death that He should confirm the new covenant of grace by His blood,
but only that He should acquire for the Father the mere right to establish once more with man such a covenant
as He might please, whether of grace or of works.
Refutation: This militates against Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, a new covenant, and that a will takes effect only at death.
Error: By His satisfaction Christ did not really merit for anyone either salvation
itself or faith by which this satisfaction of Christ to salvation is effectually made
one's own. He acquired for the Father only the authority or the perfect will to deal again
with man, and to prescribe new conditions as He might desire. It depends, however, on the free will
of man to fulfil these conditions. Therefore it was possible that either no one or all men would fulfil them.
Refutation: This militates against Scripture, which teaches that Christ has become the Surety and Mediator of a better, that is, a new covenant, and that a will takes effect only at death.
The new covenant of grace which God the Father, through the mediation of the death of Christ, made with man, does not consist
herein that we are justified before God and saved by faith, inasmuch as it accepts the merit of Christ. It consists in the
fact that God has revoked the demand of perfect obedience of the law and regards faith as such and the obedience of faith, though
imperfect, as the perfect obedience of the law. He graciously deems it worthy of the reward of eternal life.
Refutation: This doctrine contradicts Scripture: They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood (Rom 3:24, 25). Those who teach this error proclaim, as did the ungodly Socinus, a new and strange justification of man before God, against the consensus of the whole church.
All men have been accepted into the state of reconciliation and into the grace of the covenant, so that no one is liable to condemnation
on account of original sin, and no one shall be condemned because of it, but all are free from the guilt of original sin.
Refutation: This opinion is in conflict with Scripture, which teaches that we are by nature objects of wrath (Eph 2:3).
As far as God is concerned, He wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits acquired by the
death of Christ; however, some obtain the pardon of sin and eternal life and others do not. This distinction
depends on their own free will, which applies itself to the grace that is offered indifferently, and not on the special
gift of mercy which so
powerfully works in them that they rather than others apply this grace to themselves.
Refutation: Those who teach this, misuse the difference between the acquisition and the application of salvation and confuse the minds of imprudent and inexperienced people. While they pretend to present this distinction in a sound sense, they seek to instil into the minds of people the pernicious poison of Pelagianism.
Christ could not die, did not need to die, and did not die for those whom God loved in the highest
degree and elected to eternal life, since these do not need the death of Christ.
Refutation: This doctrine contradicts the apostle, who declares: The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20). Likewise: Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus who died (Rom 8:33, 34), namely, for them. And the Saviour assures us: I lay down My life for the sheep (Jn 10:15). And: My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:12, 13).
THE EFFECT OF THE FALL
In the beginning man was created in the image of God. He was adorned in his mind with true and wholesome knowledge of his Creator and of all spiritual things; his will and heart were upright, all his affections pure, and therefore man was completely holy. But rebelling against God through the instigation of the devil and through his own free will, he deprived himself of these excellent gifts,2 and instead brought upon himself blindness, horrible darkness, futility, and perverseness of judgment in his mind; wickedness, rebelliousness, and stubbornness in his will and heart; and impurity in all his affections.
THE SPREAD OF CORRUPTION
Since after the fall man became corrupt, he as a corrupt father brought forth corrupt children Thus the corruption has spread from Adam to all his descendants, with the exception of Christ alone, not by imitation, as the Pelagians of old maintained, but by the propagation of a perverted nature, according to the righteous judgment of God.
MAN'S TOTAL INABILITY
Therefore all men are conceived in sin and are born as children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in sins, and slaves of sin. And without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they neither will nor can return to God, reform their depraved nature, or prepare themselves for its reformation.
THE INADEQUACY OF THE LIGHT OF NATURE
To be sure, there is left in man after the fall, some light of nature, whereby he retains some notions about God, about natural things, and about the difference between what is honourable and shameful, and shows some regard for virtue and outward order. But so far is he from arriving at the saving knowledge of God and true conversion through this light of nature that he does not even use it properly in natural and civil matters. Rather, whatever this light may be, man wholly pollutes it in various ways and suppresses it by his wickedness. In doing so, he renders himself without excuse before God.
THE INADEQUACY OF THE LAW
What holds for the light of nature also applies to the Ten Commandments, given by God through Moses particularly to the Jews. For though it reveals the greatness of sin, and more and more convicts man of his guilt, yet it neither points out a remedy nor gives him power to rise out of this misery. Rather, weakened by the flesh, it leaves the transgressor under the curse. Man cannot, therefore, through the law obtain saving grace.
THE NEED FOR THE GOSPEL
What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God performs by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word or ministry of reconciliation, which is the gospel of the Messiah, by which it has pleased God to save men who believe, both under the old and under the new dispensation.
WHY THE GOSPEL IS SENT TO SOME AND NOT TO OTHERS
Under the old dispensation God revealed this mystery of His will to few. Under the new dispensation, however, He took the distinction between the peoples away and revealed it to a larger number. The cause of this very distribution of the gospel is not to be ascribed to the worthiness of one people above another, nor to the better use of the light of nature, but to the sovereign good pleasure and undeserved love of God. Therefore we to whom so great a grace is granted, beyond and contrary to all we deserve, ought to acknowledge it with a humble and grateful heart. But as regards to others whom this grace is not given, we ought with the apostle to adore the severity and righteousness of the judgments of God but by no means inquisitively to pry into them.
THE EARNEST CALL BY THE GOSPEL
But as many as are called by the gospel are earnestly called,1 for God earnestly and most sincerely reveals in His Word what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are called should come to Him. He also earnestly promises rest for their souls and eternal life to all who come to Him and believe.
WHY SOME WHO ARE CALLED DO NOT COME
It is not the fault of the gospel, nor of the Christ offered by the gospel, nor of God, who calls through the gospel and who even confers various gifts upon them, that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not converted. The fault lies in themselves. Some of them do not care and do not accept the word of life. Others do indeed receive it, but they do not accept it into their hearts, and therefore, after the joy of a temporary faith has vanished, they turn away. Still others choke the seed of the word by the thorns of the cares and the pleasures of this world, and bring forth no fruit. This our Saviour teaches in the Parable of the Sower.
WHY OTHERS WHO ARE CALLED DO COME
Others who are called by the ministry of the gospel do come and are converted. This is not to be ascribed to man. He does not distinguish himself by his free will above others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith or conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). It is to be ascribed to God. He has chosen His own in Christ from eternity and calls them effectually within time. He gives them faith and repentance; He delivers them from the power of darkness and transfers them to the kingdom of His Son. All this He does that they may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light, and may boast not of themselves but of the Lord, according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.
HOW GOD BRINGS ABOUT CONVERSION
God carries out His good pleasure in the elect and works in them true conversion in the following manner. He takes care that the gospel is preached to them, and powerfully enlightens their minds by the Holy Spirit, so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God.1 By the efficacious working of the same regenerating Spirit He also penetrates into the innermost recesses of man. He opens the closed and softens the hard heart, circumcises that which was uncircumcised, and instils new qualities into the will. He makes the will, which was dead, alive; which was bad, good; which was unwilling, willing; and which was stubborn, obedient. He moves and strengthens it so that, like a good tree, it may be able to produce the fruit of good works.
REGENERATION IS THE WORK OF GOD ALONE
This conversion is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, the making alive, so highly spoken of in the Scriptures, which God works in us without us. But this regeneration is by no means brought about only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a mode of operation that, after God has done His part, it remains in the power of man to be regenerated or not regenerated, converted or not converted. It is, however, clearly a supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, marvellous, mysterious, and inexpressible work. According to Scripture, inspired by the Author of this work, regeneration is not inferior in power to creation or the raising of the dead. Hence all those in whose hearts God works in this amazing way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectually regenerated and do actually believe. And then the will so renewed is not only acted upon and moved by God but, acted upon by God, the will itself also acts. Therefore man himself is rightly said to believe and repent through the grace he has received.
REGENERATION IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE
In this life believers cannot fully understand the way in which God does this work. Meanwhile, however, it is enough for them to know and experience that by this grace of God they believe with the heart and love their Saviour.
HOW FAITH IS A GIFT OF GOD
Faith is therefore a gift of God, not because it is merely offered by God to the free will of man, but because it is actually conferred on man, instilled and infused into him. Nor is it a gift in the sense that God confers only the power to believe and then awaits from man's free will the consent to believe or the act of believing. It is, however, a gift in the sense that He who works both to will and to work, and indeed all things in all, brings about in man both the will to believe and the act of believing.
THE PROPER ATTITUDE WITH RESPECT TO GOD'S UNDESERVED GRACE
This grace God owes to no one. For what could He owe to man? Who has given Him first that he might be repaid What could God owe to one who has nothing of his own but sin and falsehood? He, therefore, who receives this grace owes and renders eternal thanks to God alone. He who does not receive this grace, however, either does not care at all for these spiritual things and is pleased with what he has, or in false security vainly boasts that he has what he does not have. Further, about those who outwardly profess their faith and amend their lives we are to judge and speak in the most favourable way, according to the example of the apostles, for the inner recesses of the heart are unknown to us. As for those who have not yet been called, we should pray for them to God, who calls into existence the things that do not exist. But we must by no means act haughtily, as if we had distinguished ourselves from them.
MAN'S WILL NOT TAKEN AWAY BUT MADE ALIVE
Man through his fall did not cease to be man, endowed with intellect and will; and sin, which has pervaded the whole human race, did not deprive man of his human nature, but brought upon him depravity and spiritual death. So also this divine grace of regeneration does not act upon men as if they were blocks and stones and does not take away the will and its properties, or violently coerce it, but makes the will spiritually alive, heals it, corrects it, pleasantly and at the same time powerfully bends it. As a result, where formerly the rebellion and resistance of the flesh fully dominated, now a prompt and sincere obedience of the Spirit begins to prevail, in which the true, spiritual renewal and freedom of our will consists. And if the wonderful Maker of all good did not deal with us in this way, man would have no hope of rising from his fall through this free will, by which he, when he was still standing, plunged himself into ruin.
THE USE OF MEANS
The almighty working of God whereby He brings forth and sustains this our natural life does not exclude but requires the use of means, by which He according to His infinite wisdom and goodness has willed to exercise His power. So also the aforementioned supernatural working of God whereby He regenerates us in no way excludes or cancels the use of the gospel, which the most wise God has ordained to be the seed of regeneration and the food of the soul. For this reason the apostles and the teachers who succeeded them, reverently instructed the people concerning this grace of God, to His glory and to the abasement of all pride. In the meantime, however, they did not neglect to keep them, by the holy admonitions of the gospel, under the administration of the Word, the sacraments, and discipline. So today those who give or receive instruction in the church should not dare to tempt God by separating what He in His good pleasure has willed to be closely joined together. For grace is conferred through admonitions, and the more readily we do our duty, the more this favour of God, who works in us, usually manifests itself in its lustre, and so His work best proceeds. To God alone, both for the means and for their saving fruit and efficacy, all glory is due throughout eternity.
Having explained the true doctrine of the corruption of man and his conversion to God, Synod rejects the following errors:
Properly speaking, it cannot be said that original sin as such is sufficient to condemn the whole human race or to deserve temporal and eternal punishment.
Refutation: This contradicts the words of the apostle when he declares: sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12). And: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation (Rom 5:16). Also:> For the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).
The spiritual gifts or the good qualities and virtues, such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, cannot have belonged to the will of man when he was first created, and therefore cannot have been separated from his will when he fell.
Refutation: This error is contrary to the description of the image of God which the apostle gives, when he connects it with righteousness and holiness, which undoubtedly belong to the will.
In spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will as such has never been corrupted but only hampered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the passions. If these hindrances have been removed, the will can exert its full innate power. The will is of itself able to will and to choose, or else not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it.
Refutation: This is an innovation and an error, and tends to extol the powers of the free will, contrary to what the prophet Jeremiah states, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jer 17:9). And the apostle Paul writes: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful natures and following its desires and thoughts (Eph 2:3).
The unregenerate man is not really or totally dead in sins, or deprived of all powers unto spiritual good. He can yet hunger and thirst after righteousness and life, and offer the sacrifice of a contrite and broken spirit which is pleasing to God.
Refutation: These things are in conflict with the clear testimonies of Scripture: you were dead in your transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1, cf. 2:5). And every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time, (Gen 6:5 and 8:21). Moreover, only the regenerate and those who are called blessed hunger and thirst after deliverance from misery and after life, and offer to God the sacrifice of a broken spirit.
The corrupt and natural man can so well use the common grace (which for the Arminians is the light of nature), or the gifts still left him after the fall, that he can gradually gain by their good use a greater, that is, the evangelical or saving grace, and salvation itself. In this way God on His part shows Himself ready to reveal Christ to all men, since He administers to all sufficiently and efficaciously the means necessary for the knowledge of Christ, for faith and repentance.
Refutation: Not only the experience of all ages but also Scripture testifies that this is untrue. He has revealed his word to Jacob, His laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know His laws (Ps 147:19, 20). In the past, He let all nations go their own way (Acts 14:16). And Paul and his companions were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to (Acts 16:6, 7).
In the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers, or gifts can be infused by God into the will. Therefore faith, through
which we are first converted and because of which we are called believers, is not a quality or gift infused by God but only an
act of man. It cannot be called a gift except with respect to the power to attain to this faith.
Refutation: This teaching contradicts the Holy Scriptures, which declare that God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of His love into our hearts: I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts (Jer 31:33). And: I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground (Is 44:3). And: God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us (Rom 5:5). This also conflicts with the constant practice of the church, which prays by the mouth of the prophet: Restore me, and I will return, because You are the LORD my God (Jer 31:18).
The grace whereby we are converted to God is only a gentle advising. This manner of working which consists in advising is the most noble manner
in the conversion of man and is most in harmony with man's nature. There is no reason why this advising grace alone should
not be sufficient to make the natural man spiritual. Indeed, God does not bring about the consent of the will except through this moral persuasion. The power of the divine working surpasses the working of Satan, in that God promises eternal while Satan promises only temporal goods.
Refutation: This is entirely Pelagian and contrary to the whole Scripture, which teaches beyond this moral persuasion yet another, far more powerful and divine manner of the working of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of man: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezek 36:26).
In regenerating man God does not use the powers of His omnipotence so as to forcefully and unfailingly bend man's will to faith and conversion.
Even if all the works of grace have been accomplished which God employs to convert man and even if God intends his regeneration and wills to
regenerate him, man may yet so resist God and the Holy Spirit, and indeed often does so resist, that he entirely prevents his regeneration.
It therefore remains in man's power to be regenerated or not.
Refutation: This is nothing less than the denial of all the efficacy of God's grace in our conversion, and the subjecting of the working of Almighty God to the will of man. It is contrary to the apostles, who teach His incomparably great power for us who believe (Eph 1:19); who pray our God that by His power He may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith (2 Thess 1:11), and who declare that His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3).
Grace and free will are partial causes which together work the beginning of conversion. In the order of these causes grace does not precede the working of the will. God does not effectually help the will of man to come to conversion until the will of man moves itself and determines to do this.
Refutation: The early church long ago condemned this doctrine of the Pelagians according to the words of the apostle: It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy (Rom 9:16). Also: For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor 4:7). And: it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13).
THE REGENERATE NOT FREE FROM INDWELLING SIN Those whom God according to His purpose calls into the fellowship of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by His Holy Spirit, He certainly sets free from the dominion and slavery of sin, but not entirely in this life from the flesh and the body of sin.
DAILY SINS OF WEAKNESS Therefore daily sins of weakness spring up and defects cling to even the best works of the saints. These are for them a constant reason to humble themselves before God, to flee to the crucified Christ, to put the flesh to death more and more through the Spirit of prayer and by holy exercises of godliness, and to long and strive for the goal of perfection until at last, delivered from this body of death, they reign with the Lamb of God in heaven.
GOD PRESERVES HIS OWN Because of these remnants of indwelling sin and also because of the temptations of the world and of Satan, those who have been converted could not remain standing in that grace if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who mercifully confirms them in the grace once conferred upon them and powerfully preserves them in that grace to the end.
SAINTS MAY FALL INTO SERIOUS SINS Although the power of God whereby He confirms and preserves true believers in grace is so great that it cannot be conquered by the flesh, yet the converted are not always so led and moved by God that they cannot in certain particular actions turn aside through their own fault from the guidance of grace and be seduced by and yield to the lusts of the flesh. They must therefore constan tly watch and pray that they may not be led into temptation. When they do not watch and pray, they not only can be drawn away by the flesh, the world, and Satan into serious and atrocious sins, but with the righteous permission of God are sometimes actually drawn away. The lamentable fall of David, Peter, and other saints, described in Holy Scripture, demonstrates this.
THE EFFECTS OF SUCH SERIOUS SINS By such gross sins, however, they greatly offend God, incur the guilt of death, grieve the Holy Spirit, suspend the exercise of faith, severely wound their consciences, and sometimes for a while lose the sense of God's favour - until they return to the right way through sincere repentance and God's fatherly face again shines upon them.
GOD WILL NOT PERMIT HIS ELECT TO BE LOST For God, who is rich in mercy, according to the unchangeable purpose of His election, does not completely withdraw His Holy Spirit from His own even in their deplorable fall. Neither does He permit them to sink so deep that they fall away from the grace of adoption and the state of justification, or commit the sin unto death or the sin against the Holy Spirit and, totally deserted by Him, plunge themselves into eternal ruin.
GOD WILL AGAIN RENEW HIS ELECT TO REPENTANCE For in the first place, in their fall, He preserves in them His imperishable seed of regeneration, so that it does not perish and is not cast out. Further, through His Word and Spirit He certainly and effectually renews them to repentance. As a result they grieve from the heart with a godly sorrow for the sins they have committed; they seek and obtain through faith with a contrite heart forgiveness in the blood of the Mediator; they again experience the favour of a reconciled God and adore His mercies and faithfulness. And from now on they more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
THE GRACE OF THE TRIUNE GOD PRESERVES So it is not through their own merits or strength but through the undeserved mercy of God that they neither totally fall away from faith and grace nor remain in their downfall and are finally lost. With respect to themselves this could not only easily happen but would undoubtedly happen. But with respect to God this cannot possibly happen, since His counsel cannot be changed, His promise cannot fail, the calling according to His purpose cannot be revoked, the merit, intercession, and preservation of Christ cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be frustrated nor destroyed.
THE ASSURANCE OF THIS PRESERVATION Believers themselves can be certain of this preservation of the elect to salvation and the perseverance of true believers in the faith. And they are indeed certain according to the measure of their faith, by which they firmly believe that they are and always shall remain true and living members of the church, and that they have forgiveness of sins and life eternal.
THE SOURCE OF THIS ASSURANCE This assurance is not produced by a certain private revelation besides or outside the Word, but by faith in the promises of God, which He has most abundantly revealed in His Word for our comfort; by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, witnessing with our spirit that we are children and heirs of God; and, finally, by the serious and holy pursuit of a clear conscience and of good works. And if the elect of God did not have in this world the solid comfort of obtaining the victory and this unfailing pledge of eternal glory, they would be of all men the most miserable.
THIS ASSURANCE NOT ALWAYS FELT Scripture meanwhile testifies that believers in this life have to struggle with various doubts of the flesh and, placed under severe temptation, do not always feel this full assurance of faith and certainty of perseverance. But God, the Father of all comfort, will not let them be tempted beyond their strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, and by the Holy Spirit will again revive in them the certainty of perseverance.
THIS ASSURANCE IS AN INCENTIVE TO GODLINESS This certainty of perseverance, however, so far from making true believers proud and complacent, is rather the true root of humility, childlike reverence, genuine godliness, endurance in every struggle, fervent prayers, constancy in suffering and in the confession of the truth, and lasting joy in God. Further, the consideration of this benefit is for them an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works, as is evident from the testimonies of Scripture and the examples of the saints.
THIS ASSURANCE DOES NOT LEAD TO CARELESSNESS Neither does this renewed confidence produce carelessness or neglect of godliness in those who have been restored after their fall; rather, it produces in them a much greater concern to observe carefully the ways of the Lord, which He prepared beforehand. They observe these ways in order that by walking in them they may retain the certainty of their perseverance. Then shall the face of their gracious God not turn away from them again because of their abuse of His fatherly goodness, with the result that they would fall into still greater anguish of spirit. Indeed, to those who fear God the contemplation of His face is sweeter than life, but its withdrawal is more bitter than death.
THE USE OF MEANS IN PERSEVERANCE Just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the preaching of the gospel, so He maintains, continues, and perfects it by the hearing and reading of His Word, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and by the use of the sacraments.
THIS DOCTRINE IS HATED BY SATAN BUT LOVED BY THE CHURCH
This doctrine of the perseverance of true believers and saints, and of their assurance of it, God has most abundantly revealed in
His Word for the glory of His Name and for the consolation of the godly, and He impresses it on the hearts of believers. It is something
which the flesh does not understand, Satan hates, the world ridicules, the ignorant and the hypocrites abuse, and the heretics attack.
The Bride of Christ, on the other hand, has always loved this doctrine most tenderly and defended it steadfastly as a treasure of
inestimable value; and God, against whom no counsel can avail and no strength can prevail, shall see to it that she will continue
to do so. To this God alone, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be honour and glory forever.
Having explained the true doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, Synod rejects the following errors:
The perseverance of the true believers is not a fruit of election or a gift of God obtained by the death of Christ,
but a condition of the new covenant, which man before his so- called decisive election and justification must fulfil through his free will.
Refutation: Holy Scripture testifies that perseverance follows from election and is given to the elect by virtue of the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ: The elect obtained it. The others were hardened (Rom 11:7). Also: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:32-35).
God does indeed provide the believer with sufficient strength to persevere, and is ready to preserve this in him if he
will do his duty. But even with all those things in place which are necessary to persevere in faith and which God will
use to preserve faith, it still always depends on the decision of man's will whether he will persevere or not.
Refutation: This idea contains outright Pelagianism. While it wants to make men free, it makes them robbers of God's honour. It conflicts with the consistent teaching of the gospel, which takes from man all cause for boasting, and ascribes all the praise for this benefit to the grace of God alone. It is also contrary to the testimony of the apostle: It is God who will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Cor 1:8).
True regenerate believers not only can fall completely and definitely from justifying faith and also from grace and salvation, but indeed they often do fall from them and are lost forever.
Refutation: This opinion nullifies the grace of justification and regeneration and the continuous preservation by Christ, contrary to the clear words of the apostle Paul: God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through Him! (Rom 5:8, 9). And contrary to the apostle John: No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God (1 Jn 3:9), and also to the words of Jesus Christ: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father's hand (Jn 10:28, 29).
True regenerate believers can commit the sin that leads to death or the sin against the Holy Spirit.
Refutation: The same apostle John, after speaking of those who commit the sin that leads to death and forbidding prayer for them, immediately adds: We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin (namely, with that kind of sin); the One who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him (1 Jn 5:16-17).
Without a special revelation we can have no certainty of future perseverance in this life.
Refutation: By this doctrine the sure comfort of true believers in this life is taken away, and the doubting of the followers of the pope is again introduced into the church. The Holy Scriptures, however, always deduce this assurance, not from a special and extraordinary revelation, but from the marks peculiar to the children of God and from the very constant promises of God. So especially the apostle Paul declares that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39). And John writes: Those who obey His commands live in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us (1 Jn 3:24).
By its very nature the doctrine of the certainty of perseverance and salvation causes false security and is harmful to godliness, good morals, prayers, and other holy exercises. On the contrary, it is praiseworthy to doubt.
Refutation: This error ignores the effective power of God's grace and the working of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. It contradicts the apostle John, who teaches the opposite with these clear words: Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yetbeen made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1 Jn 3:2,3). Furthermore, it is refuted by the example of the saints in both the Old and the New Testament who, although they were certain of their perseverance and salvation, nevertheless continued in prayer and other exercises of godliness.
The faith of those who believe for a time does not differ from justifying and saving faith except with respect to its duration.
Refutation: In Mt 13:20-23 and Luke 8:13-15 Christ Himself clearly indicates, besides this duration, a threefold difference between those who believe only for a time and true believers. He declares that the former receive the seed on rocky ground, but the latter in good soil, or in a good heart; that the former are without root, but the latter have a firm root; and that the former are without fruit, but the latter bring forth fruit in varying measure, constantly and steadfastly.
It is not absurd that one, having lost his first regeneration, is again and even often born anew.
Refutation: This doctrine denies that the seed of God, by which we are born again, is imperishable, contrary to the testimony of the apostle Peter: You have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable (1 Pet 1:23).
Christ did not pray anywhere that believers should unfailingly continue in faith.
Refutation: This contradicts Christ Himself, who says: I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32). It also contradicts the apostle John, who declares that Christ did not pray only for the apostles, but also for all who would believe through their word: Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, and, My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one (Jn 17:11, 15), (cf. 17:20).
This is the clear, simple, and straightforward explanation of the orthodox doctrine with respect to the five articles in dispute in the Netherlands, as well as the rejection of the errors by which the churches have for some time been disturbed. The Synod judges this explanation and rejection to be taken from the Word of God and to be in agreement with the confessions of the Reformed churches. Hence it clearly appears that some have acted very improperly and against all truth, fairness, and love in wishing to persuade the public of the following:
- The doctrine of the Reformed churches concerning predestination and related subjects, by its very character and tendency, turns the hearts of men away from all godliness and religion.
- It is an opiate for the flesh administered by the devil, and a stronghold of Satan, where he lies in wait for all, wounds multitudes, and mortally pierces many with the darts both of despair and false security.
- It makes God the author of sin, an unjust tyrant and hypocrite; and is nothing more than a renewed Stoicism, Manichaeism, Libertinism, and Mohammedanism.
- It leads to sinful carelessness, since it makes people believe that nothing can prevent the salvation of the elect, no matter how they live, and that, therefore, they may safely commit the most atrocious crimes. On the other hand, it would not in the least contribute to the salvation of the reprobate, even if they had performed all the works of the saints.
- The same doctrine teaches that God has predestined and created the greatest part of the world for eternal damnation by a mere arbitrary act of His will, without taking into account any sin.
- In the same manner in which election is the source and cause of faith and good works, reprobation is the cause of unbelief and ungodliness.
- Many innocent children of believers are torn from their mothers' breasts and tyrannically thrown into hell, so that neither the blood of Christ nor their baptism nor the prayers of the church at their baptism can be of any help to them.
And there are many more teachings of this kind which the Reformed churches not only do not confess but even detest wholeheartedly.
Therefore, this Synod of Dort adjures, in the Name of the Lord, all who piously call upon our Saviour Jesus Christ not to judge the faith of the Reformed churches from the slander gathered from here and there. Neither are they to judge from personal statements of some ancient or modern teachers, often quoted in bad faith, or taken out of context and explained contrary to their meaning. But one ought to judge the faith of the Reformed churches from the public confessions of these churches themselves and from the present explanation of the orthodox doctrine, confirmed by the unanimous consent of the members of the entire Synod, one and all.
Moreover, the Synod warns the slanderers themselves to consider how severe a judgment of God awaits those who bear false witness against so many churches and their confessions, disturb the consciences of the weak, and try to make many suspicious of the community of true believers.
Finally, this Synod exhorts all fellow ministers in the gospel of Christ to conduct themselves in a God-fearing and reverent manner when they deal with this doctrine in schools and churches. In teaching it, both in speaking and writing, they ought to seek the glory of God's Name, the holiness of life, and the consolation of afflicted souls. Their thinking and speaking about this doctrine should be in agreement with Scripture according to the analogy of faith. And they must refrain from all those expressions which exceed the prescribed limits of the true meaning of the Holy Scriptures and which may provide shameless sophists with a good opportunity to scoff at the doctrine of the Reformed churches, or even to slander it.
May Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is seated at the Father's right hand and gives gifts to men, sanctify us in the truth, lead to the truth those who err, silence the slanderers of the sound doctrine, and equip the faithful ministers of His Word with the Spirit of wisdom and discretion, that everything they say may tend to the glory of God and the building up of those who hear them.
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