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 #26 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.
Article #25: The Intercession of Christ.
We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and only Mediator and Intercessor, “Jesus Christ the righteous,”63 who therefore was made human,
uniting together the divine and human natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine Majesty. Otherwise we would have no access. But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ does.
Although he was “in the form of God,” Christ nevertheless “emptied himself,” taking “human form” and “the form of a slave” for us;64 and he made himself “like his brothers and sisters in every respect.”65 Suppose we had to find another intercessor.
Who would love us more than he who gave his life for us, even though “we were enemies”?66 And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as much of these as he who is seated at the right hand of the Father,67 and who has “all authority in heaven and on earth”?68
And who will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son? So, the practice of honoring the saints as intercessors in fact dishonors them because of its misplaced faith. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.
We should not plead here that we are unworthy—for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith. Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish fear—or rather, this unbelief—he says to us that Jesus Christ was made like “his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” to purify the sins of the people.69
For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who are tempted.70 And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”71
The same apostle says that we “have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus.” “Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith….”72 Likewise, Christ “holds his priesthood permanently…. Consequently, he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”73
What more do we need? For Christ himself declares: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”74 Why should we seek another intercessor? Since it has pleased God to give us the Son as our Intercessor. let us not leave him for another—or rather seek, without ever finding. For, when giving Christ to us, God knew well that we were sinners. Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly Father through Christ, our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s Prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in his name.
Soli deo Gloria!