The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 9, 2020.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will reproduce devotional articles taken from The Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561, owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of Reformed Theology during the time of the Spanish inquisition in the Lowlands. Guido de Brès, its primary author, was pleading for understanding and toleration from King Philip II of Spain who was determined to root out all Protestant factions in his jurisdiction. Hence, this confession takes pains to point out the continuity of Reformed Theology with that of the ancient Christian creeds.

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

During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Brès prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.

Along with The Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, The Belgic Confession comprise what is collectively referred to as the Thee Forms of Unity. Article #9 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #9: The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity.

All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.

The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion. In the book of Genesis God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” So “God created humankind in his image”—indeed, “male and female he created them.”6

“See, the man has become like one of us.”7 It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when God says, “Let us make humankind in our image”—and afterward God indicates the unity in saying, “God created.”

It is true that God does not say here how many persons there are—but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New. For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved;”8 The Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove. So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: Baptize all people “in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit.”9

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

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

[“There are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit,
and these three are one.”]12

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

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

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

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

6Gen. 1:26-27
7Gen. 3:22
8Matt. 3:17
9Matt. 28:19
10Luke 1:35
112 Cor. 13:14
121 John 5:7—following the better Greek texts, the NRSV and other modern translations place this verse in a footnote.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

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