The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 13, 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 #14 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Humanity.

We believe that God created human beings from the dust of the earth and made and formed them in his image and likeness—good, just, and holy; able by their will to conform in all things to the will of God. But when they were in honor they did not understand it21 and did not recognize their excellence. But they subjected themselves willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending their ear to the word of the devil. For they transgressed the commandment of life, which they had received, and by their sin they separated themselves from God, who was their true life, having corrupted their entire nature. So they made themselves guilty and subject to physical and spiritual death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all their ways.

They lost all their excellent gifts which they had received from God, and retained none of them except for small traces which are enough to make them inexcusable.

Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture teaches us: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”22 Here John calls the human race “darkness.” Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning human free will, since humans are nothing but the slaves of sin and cannot do a thing unless it is given them from heaven.23 For who can boast of being able to do anything good by oneself, since Christ says, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me”?24

Who can glory in their own will when they understand that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God”?25 Who can speak of their own knowledge in view of the fact that “those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit”?26 In short, who can produce a single thought, knowing that we are not able to think a thing about ourselves,
by ourselves, but that “our competence is from God”?27

And therefore, what the apostle says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: God works within us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure.28 For there is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”29

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

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Holiness: Miscellaneous Thoughts about Holiness.

It is amazing how the subject of holiness has dominated my thinking of late. More amazing still is how many times, since I began earnestly studying this biblical doctrine that I have come across comments and quotes concerning holiness. Today’s blog is a miscellaneous selection of quotes regarding this important and essential doctrine in the believer’s life.

1 Thessalonians 2:11–12 says, 11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

 In commenting on this text one pastor writes, “The Christian ethic is inseparable from the Christian gospel. Lose one, and the other will disappear as well. Paul indicates that living the Christian ethic is “worthy of God” (1 Thess. 2:12). Essentially, the Apostle means that believers must live in such a way that it can rightly be said of them that they belong to God. In other words, our conduct must reflect the character of God Himself. If it does not and we remain impenitent, we show ourselves unworthy of the kingdom. The sense here is not that we merit our kingdom citizenship by our holiness but that kingdom citizenship inevitably and always manifests itself by our holy living. Paul says that we are to “walk” in such a way, using the present tense (v. 12). We should be consistently pursuing righteousness, slowly but steadily increasing in godliness.

Another Bible teacher explains that, “Our love and holiness are not the basis of our salvation. Only the perfection of Christ can make us stand before God unafraid. Yet, neither will we be saved without growing in love and holiness, for sanctification—growth in grace—is the inevitable fruit of our justification—being declared righteous in Christ. Those who have been saved will certainly pursue love and holiness. Let us strive to do so today.”

Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, at the 2019-2020 Reformed Bible College Convocation, preached a message entitled Fidelity, Sanctity and Orthodoxy. Regarding the subject of sanctity, or holiness, he stated that, “God has called us to a holy calling, or a calling to be holy. One of the great forgotten words of the modern Christian church is the holiness of God and the holiness of his people. The Apostle Paul builds up all that Christ has done for us in order to create this sanctity, this holiness in us. God set His heart upon it before the dawn of time. He sent His Son to accomplish it by His death and resurrection, His ascension and His heavenly reign. What is the goal of this? The goal of this is that He might transform us and make us holy. Holiness is not an optional addition to our calling. Holiness is our calling. Holiness is the only thing that will last for all eternity in the presence of God. It is being like Jesus.”

May each of us resolve to pursue holiness at all costs. This is because holiness is not an optional addition to our calling. Holiness is our calling.

Soli deo Gloria!  

  

                                                              

 

Holiness: Is God’s Holiness Essential? Part Two.

Today we conclude an excerpt from an article I discovered about holiness at monergism.com. It is by David Wells and is taken from his book “No Place for Truth: Or whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology”). David Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books in which his evangelical theology engages with the modern world.

Dr. Wells’ contention is that the holiness of God has been, and always will be, essential for the church in general, and the believer in Christ in particular. I was impacted by this brief excerpt from his book which proved to be the impetus for the development of The Cambridge Declaration (1996) by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. What Dr. Wells wrote in 1993 still resonates truth in 2020, which is characteristic of all theological works that stand the test of time.

It is this God, majestic and holy in his being, this God whose love knows no bounds because his holiness knows no limits, who has disappeared from the modern evangelical world. He has been replaced in many quarters by a God who is slick and slack, whose moral purposes turn out to be avuncular [as from a friendly uncle] advice that we can disregard or negotiate as we see fit, whose Word is a plaything for those who wish merely to listen to themselves, whose Church is a mall in which the religious, their pockets filled with the coin of need, do their business. We seek happiness, not righteousness. We want to be fulfilled, not filled. We are interested in satisfaction, not a holy dissatisfaction with all that is wrong.

This is why we need reformation rather than revival. The habits of the modern world, now so ubiquitous [exists throughout] in the evangelical world, need to be put to death, not given new life. They need to be rooted out, not simply papered over with fresh religious enthusiasm. And they are by this point so invincible that nothing less than the intrusion of God in his grace, nothing less than a full recovery of his truth, will suffice.

In this regard, the death of theology has profound ramifications. Theology is dying not because the academy has failed to devise adequate procedures for reconstructing it but because the Church has lost its capacity for it. And while some hail this loss as a step forward toward the hope of new evangelical vitality, it is in fact a sign of creeping death. The emptiness of evangelical faith without theology echoes the emptiness of modern life. Both have elected to cross over into a world in which God has no place, in which reality has been rewritten, in which Christ has become redundant, his Word irrelevant, and the Church must now find new reasons for its existence.

Unless the evangelical Church can recover the knowledge of what it means to live before a holy God, unless in its worship it can relearn humility, wonder, love, and praise, unless it can find again a moral purpose in the world that resonates with the holiness of God and that is accordingly deep and unyielding-unless the evangelical Church can do all of these things, theology will have no place in its life. But the reverse is also true. If the Church can begin to find a place for theology by refocusing itself on the centrality of God, if it can rest upon his sufficiency, if it can recover its moral fiber, then it will have something to say to a world now drowning in modernity. And there lies a great irony.

Those who are most relevant to the modern world are those most irrelevant to the moral purpose of God, but those who are irrelevant in the world by virtue of their relevance to God actually have the most to say to the world. They are, in fact, the only ones who having anything to say to it. That is what Jesus declared, what the Church in its best moments has known, and what we, by the grace of God, can yet again discover.

I truly appreciate Dr. Wells’ challenging words. Let us resolve to remain irrelevant to the modern world by our relentless pursuit of the truth of the gospel and the personal holiness which is the result of justification by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Holiness: Is God’s Holiness Essential? Part One.

For the next two days I am reproducing an article I discovered about holiness at monergism.com. It is by David Wells and is an excerpt from his book “No Place for Truth: Or whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology”). David Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books in which his evangelical theology engages with the modern world.

Dr. Wells’ contention is that the holiness of God has been, and always will be, essential for the church in general, and the believer in Christ in particular. I was impacted by this brief excerpt from his book which proved to be the impetus for the development of The Cambridge Declaration (1996) by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. What Dr. Wells wrote in 1993 still resonates truth in 2020, which is characteristic of all theological works that stand the test of time. Dr. Wells thoughts are as follows.

It is important to note that the shallowness of modern life derives not from its banality but from its having lost its moral bearings. Our Age like every age that has preceded it, interrogates the unknown with its own questions – questions that grow out of its needs and interests. Our questions today hardly ever go to the heart of moral reality, because modern life is hardly ever about moral concern. Christ seems to offer little of what this world is asking for. It wants whatever is new; it looks for the next step in the journey of the human spirit. Christ did bring to completion much that was predicted or prophesied in the Old Testament, but he introduced few new ideas, and none that would suggest that the human spirit is embarked on a journey. Rather, he brought access to the world of moral reality from which sinners are alienated, and that is everything. He brought everything in himself, for he is God.

More than that even, Christ brought everything into harmony with the holiness of God. To be sure, this harmony has two entirely different expressions: justification and judgment. In both, the holiness of God comes into its full and awful expression. In the one case, it does so in him who bears the consequences of that wrath on behalf and in the place of those whom he represented; in the other case, it is expressed in the final and awesome alienation of those in whom God’s judgment vindicates for all eternity his holiness.

It is this holiness of God, then, without which the Cross of Christ is incomprehensible, that provides the light that exposes modernity’s darkness for what it is. For modernity has emptied life of serious moral purpose. Indeed, it empties people of the capacity to see the world in moral terms, and this, in turn, closes their access to reality, for reality is fundamentally moral. God’s holiness is fundamental to who he is and what he has done. And the key to it all has been the loss of God’s otherness, not least in his holiness, beneath the forms of modern piety. Evangelicals turned from focusing on God’s transcendence to focusing on his immanence [pervading all creation]-and then they took the further step of interpreting his immanence as friendliness with modernity.

The loss of the traditional vision of God as holy is now manifested everywhere in the evangelical world. It is the key to understanding why sin and grace have become such empty terms. What depth or meaning, P. T. Forsyth asked, can these terms have except in relation to the holiness of God? Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette. Divorced from the holiness of God, grace is merely empty rhetoric, pious window dressing for the modern technique by which sinners work out their own salvation. Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests. Divorced from the holiness of God, our worship becomes mere entertainment. The holiness of God is the very cornerstone of Christian faith, for it is the foundation of reality. Sin is defiance of God’s holiness, the Cross is the outworking and victory of God’s holiness, and faith is the recognition of God’s holiness. Knowing that God is holy is therefore the key to knowing life as it truly is, knowing Christ as he truly is, knowing why he came, and knowing how life will end.

Part Two of an excerpt from Dr. Well’s book “No Place for Truth: Or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology” concludes tomorrow.

Soli deo Gloria!

Holiness: The LORD our God is Intimately Holy.

6” Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them. O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:6-9)

Psalm 99:1-5 speaks of the transcendent holiness of God. The adjective “transcendent” means superior, excellent, supreme and divine. Transcendent is a term teaching that God is separated from man and above man. God is transcendent in that He is holy and man is sinful. The LORD is transcendent because He is infinite and man is finite. God is “wholly other” than man. Psalm 99:1-4 reveals the truth of the LORD’s transcendent holiness, while vs. 5 is the believer’s response to this truth.

Psalm 99:6-9 also speaks of the intimate holiness of God. The adjective intimate suggests the concept of the closeness of God, the nearness of God, the warmness and friendliness of God. Intimacy is the opposite of distant.

Therefore, Psalm 99 strikes a wonderful balance between the transcendent holiness of God which is superior, supreme and divine and the intimate holiness of God which is personal, private and innermost within the soul of the believer. Both perspectives of God’s holiness are necessary for they both are biblically presented in this psalm.

Psalm 99:6-8 is an account of God’s intimate revelation of Himself to Israel and her leaders. Psalm 99:9 is the believer’s response to such revelation.

Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the Lord, and he answered them.” Moses and Aaron were among His priests. Moses, the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver. Aaron, elder brother of Moses (Exodus 7:7) and a priest (Exodus 31:10). Both Moses and Aaron offered sacrifices to God on behalf of Israel. Samuel, was a judge, a priest and a prophet immediately prior to the united kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon (I Samuel 1:20-28:20).

All three proclaimed the person and work of the LORD God Almighty. All three shouted and proclaimed HIs name. They directed the people to the LORD. They wanted the peoples focus to be upon the LORD and Him alone. The result was that Yahweh responded to them.

“In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.” The pillar refers to a vertical column of water particles. In other words, a cloud which according to Exodus 13:21 represents the Shekinah Glory of God. It was through this visible manifestation that the LORD literally spoke to Israel. Although they did not do so perfectly, Israel kept His testimonies. God’s chosen people guarded the LORD’s written testimony and His law along with His regulations and thoughts. By placing law in Israel’s possession, the LORD was giving an indication its inherent value and worth.

“O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings.” Yahweh, our Elohim, answered Israel with gracious forgiveness when they sinned against Him. He carried their sins away (Leviticus 16). At the same time, because of His holiness, He was also an avenger. Who paid back harm with harm justice and punishment because of Israel’s depraved and immoral deeds.

Dr. John Walvoord writes, “The psalmist spoke of the Lord’s merciful dealings with his ancestors in spite of Israel’s iniquities. Moses … Aaron, and Samuel prayed and were answered. God spoke to them (i.e., Israel) from the pillar of cloud (cf. Ex. 13:21) and they obeyed. Even after Israel sinned and was punished, the Lord … answered their prayers and forgave them. So praise is due this Monarch not only because of His holiness (Ps. 99:3, 5) but also because of His merciful dealings with His people. God’s mercy prevents His own from being consumed by His righteous judgment.”

 “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!” What is to be the believer’s response to such graciousness and holiness? Praise and exultation of course. Believers are commanded to worship Yahweh our Elohim: the LORD our God. Within the Old Testament context, worship was to be done at God’s holy mountain: Jerusalem. See Psalm 43:1-3; 48:1; 87:1.

Why does God command the believer to worship? It is because Yahweh, our Elohim is holy. He is infinitely holy in His person, nature and behavior. He never does His creation wrong for He is sacred and set apart from sin.

The believer’s worship of the LORD is not optional but optimal. It is to be the priority of our lives. Nothing should interfere with our daily, and weekly, worship of the LORD. Why? It is because He is holy.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Holiness: The LORD our God is Transcendentally Holy.

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he! The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob. 5 Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:1-4)

Psalm 99:1-5 speaks of the transcendent holiness of God. The adjective “transcendent” means superior, excellent, supreme and divine. Transcendent is a term teaching that God is separated from man and above man. God is transcendent in that He is holy and man is sinful. The LORD is transcendent because He is infinite and man is finite. God is “wholly other” than man. Psalm 99:1-4 reveals the truth of the LORD’s transcendent holiness, while vs. 5 is the believer’s response to this truth.

“The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” The LORD, Yahweh, as we have often noted is the most personal name for God. He is “I am that I am” (Exodus 3). He is the Self-existent One. It is He who perfectly, both now and forever, rules for He is King. What is to be the peoples’ response to such truth? The common man, as opposed to the uncommon LORD, continually and physically quakes with fear.

In an atypical synonymous parallel statement, the psalmist states that Yahweh remains in authority not only over those on earth, but even over the cherubim angels in heaven (Ezekiel 1; 10). Since this is so, the earth is to shake in reverence like a bag hanging upside down.

The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.” Yahweh is not only important among the Jews, but He is presently and actively high above and to be worshiped by the non-Jews. That is, the gentiles. All creation is to praise Him.

Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” Why is everyone to make a public confession of the acts and attributes of power belonging to Yahweh? Why is creation to praise Him intensely? To begin with, it is because His name, representing who Yahweh is, is important, awesome and worthy of renown. Additionally, it is also because Yahweh is unique and pure and separate from sin. He continually exists is holiness.

The King in his might loves justice. You have established equity; you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” The psalmist moves from speaking about Yahweh, the King, to speaking directly to Him. The psalmist says that Yahweh is the absolute ruler. He possesses the ability, or mightiness, to do what is required, necessary and intended.

Yahweh also has a close relationship with and a fond affection for what is right for He alone distinguishes between what is right and wrong. Yahweh, the King form and fashions, secures and sustains uprightness or a level path of life. Once again, it is He alone who has created justice and righteousness.

“Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” What is to be the believer’s response to such magnificence and majesty? Two exclamations are given by the psalmist.

First, we are to obediently worship in humility, in honor and homage to Yahweh, our Elohim or mighty God. Second, the believer is to do so because Yahweh is holy. It is he who is transcendently holy, pure and sacred.

Regarding the commandment to exalt the LORD our God, John Calvin writes, “This exhortation is properly addressed to the church alone, because having been made a partaker of the grace of God, she ought the more zealously to devote herself to his service and to the love of godliness. He is holy. For the prophet, in hallowing the name of the one God, declares all the idols of the heathen to be unholy; as if he should say that although the heathen claim for their idols an imaginary sanctity, they are nevertheless very vanity, and offense, and abomination.”

Take the time to evaluate what, or who, in your life aspires to be worshiped by you as holy in place of, or equal to, Yahweh. No one, or nothing, is to be honored and praised but He alone. He alone is holy.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiness: The Holiness of God.

“Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:5)

“One feels most happy when blowing the trumpet of jubilee, proclaiming peace to broken hearts, freedom to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. But God’s watchman has another trumpet, which he must sometimes blow; for thus saith the Lord unto him, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain.” Times there are when we must ring the tocsin; men must be startled from their sleep, they must be roused up to enquire, “What are we? Where are we? Whither are we going?” Nor is it altogether amiss for the wisest virgins to look to the oil in their vessels, and for the soundest Christians to be sometimes constrained to examine the foundations of their hope, to trace back their evidences to the beginning, and make an impartial survey of their state before God.” Charles H. Spurgeon, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 1862.

Spurgeon was addressing in this sermon introduction the subject of holiness in general, and the holiness of God in particular. It should come as no surprise that when considering the doctrine of holiness that the student is ultimately drawn to examine the doctrine of the holiness of God.

The LORD is the source of holiness. He is the dispenser of justifying holiness in declaring sinners righteous before Him. He is also the same Lord who commands each believer to live before Him, and others, in an ever growing, sanctifying holiness. What the believer is in position before God, justified, he/she is also to be in life and living before God and their fellow man, sanctified. In other words, since each believer has received the nature of God at conversion, this new nature must be displayed in the way each believes lives their Christian life.

One of the most significant psalms, which speaks of the Lord’s holiness, is Psalm 99. Dr. John MacArthur writes that, The theme of this psalm is summed up in its last phrase: “the LORD our God is holy” (v. 9). The psalmist encourages praise to the king for his holiness (vv. 3, 5, 9), which is the utter separateness of God’s being from all other creatures and things, as well as his moral separateness from sin.”

For the next several days, we will devote our time to examine Psalm 99 in its entirety. It is my desire that each of us come away with a renewed appreciation and awe for the holiness of our LORD.

In 1987, my family and I were living in West Michigan. I was serving as a youth pastor in Greenville, a growing bedroom community of Grand Rapids. It was at this time that I took the young people of our church to a Christian concert in Downtown G.R. The concert featured musician and songwriter, Michael W. Smith.

Michael did not have a backup band accompanying him that evening at the sold out arena. It was just him and a grand piano on stage. However, what a wonderful worship service it was.

In the midst of his singing and sharing, he sang a simple chorus I had never heard before, or since. It has never appeared on any of his C.D.’s to my knowledge, and he never sang it at any of his future concerts I attended. The chorus was taken directly from today’s text, Psalm 99:5.

Exalt the LORD our God,                                                                                                                Exalt the LORD our God.                                                                                                                 And worship at His footstool,                                                                                                       And worship at His footstool.                                                                                                      Holy is He.                                                                                                                                        Holy is He.

For me, this chorus was the high-point of the evening’s concert. I trust that this study of Psalm 99 may prove to be a highlight of our study of holiness.

Soli deo Gloria!   

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 12, 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 #13 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence.

We believe that this good God, after creating all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without God’s orderly arrangement. Yet God is not the author of, and cannot be charged with, the sin that occurs. For God’s power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that God arranges and does his works very well and justly even when the devils and the wicked act unjustly. We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what God does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples,
so as to learn only what God shows us in the Word, without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father, who watches over us with fatherly care, sustaining all creatures under his lordship, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird
can fall to the ground without the will of our Father.20 In this thought we rest, knowing that God holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without divine permission and will.

For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God does not get involved in anything and leaves everything to chance.

20Matt. 10:29-30

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Holiness: Five Final Observations regarding Holiness by Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards ((1703-1758) remains one of America’s greatest biblical theologians, While many may be familiar with many of his sermons, articles and books, we are excerpting portions of his sermon entitled The Way of Holiness. Edward’s sermon has thoroughly increased my understanding of, and passion for, biblical holiness.

We have thus far seen how Edwards defines holiness. First, holiness is a conformity of the heart and the life unto God. Second, holiness is a conformity to Jesus Christ. Third, holiness is a conformity to God’s laws and commands.

Edwards’ second major proposition was that those who do not possess this previously mentioned holiness, in all three categories, are not true believers in Jesus Christ. Then Edwards’ explained the reasons why it must needs be so that holiness is an indispensable necessity for the believer in Christ.

Edwards provides a concluding application to his sermon on The Way of Holiness. The three areas of application are (1) inference; (2) trial or self-examination; and (3) exhortation.

Edwards’ also makes five observations for believers in which they can determine if they are truly holy. His sermon text is as follows.

If we would know whether we are holy or no, let us try ourselves by these five following things:

First, meditate on the holiness of God, and see if you cannot see a conformity, a likeness in your mind. There is no likeness or comparison in degree-we speak not of that-but yet there is a likeness in nature between God and the soul of the believer. The holy soul, when it thinks and meditates upon God’s nature, finds a pleasure and delight, because there is an agreeableness in his new nature to the divine perfections. If those that think themselves in the way to heaven, that are unholy in the meantime in their hearts, would compare themselves and their nature to the holy nature of God, such a glorious light as the holiness of God would quickly discover their rottenness and unsoundness.

Second, see if you can see any resemblance in your life to the life of Christ. It is not supposed that ever any copy comes near to this original, nor ever will; but yet they may perceive whether the same spirit, the same temper and disposition, in a lesser degree be in them, that was manifested by the life and conversation of Jesus Christ.

Third, is there an agreeableness between your souls and the Word of God? The Bible is the epistle of Christ that he has written to us now, if the same epistle is also written in our hearts that is written in the Scriptures, it may be found out by comparing. Have you love to all God’s commands and a respect to them in your actions? Is it your delight to obey and hearken to the will of God? Do you obey them of choice? Is it what you would choose to do if God had not threatened to punish the breach of them?

Fourth, do you find by a comparison or likeness and agreeableness between your hearts and lives, and the hearts and lives of those holy men that we are assured were such by the Word of God? Do you walk with God as Enoch did, or distinguish yourselves by your piety in the midst of wicked examples as Noah did? And when you read the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets, wherein holiness is drawn to the life, you may viewing so exact a picture discover whether you have not the root of the matter in you, though it be much obscurer in you than in them. When we read the Psalms of David, we may clearly see what David’s holiness was by that spirit that is breathed there; when we read the Epistles of the apostles, we may know what a truly evangelical spirit is, and whether such a spirit reigns in our souls.

Fifth, do you in a measure imitate the saints and angels in heaven? They spend their duration to the glory of God; they love him above all things, are delighted with the beauties of Jesus Christ, entirely love one another, and hate sin. And those that are holy on earth have also a resemblance and imitation of them: they are of a heavenly temper, of heavenly lives and conversations.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Holiness: The Application of Holiness by Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards ((1703-1758) remains one of America’s greatest biblical theologians, While many may be familiar with many of his sermons, articles and books, we are excerpting portions of his sermon entitled The Way of Holiness. Edward’s sermon has thoroughly increased my understanding of, and passion for, biblical holiness.

We have thus far seen how Edwards defines holiness. First, holiness is a conformity of the heart and the life unto God. Second, holiness is a conformity to Jesus Christ. Third, holiness is a conformity to God’s laws and commands.

Edwards’ second major proposition was that those who do not possess this previously mentioned holiness, in all three categories, are not true believers in Jesus Christ. Then Edwards’ explained the reasons why it must needs be so that holiness is an indispensable necessity for the believer in Christ.

Edwards provides a concluding application to his sermon on The Way of Holiness. The three areas of application are (1) inference; (2) trial or self-examination; and (3) exhortation. Edwards’ sermon text is as follows.

Use of Inference or Implication. If it be so that none but those that are holy are in the way to heaven, how many poor creatures are there that think they are in the way to heaven who are not? There are many that think that they are undoubtedly in the way to heaven, and without question shall enter there at last, that have not the least grain of true holiness, that manifest none in their lives and conversations, of whom we may be certain that either they have no holiness at all, or that which they have is a dormant, inactive sort which is in effect to be certain that there is none. There are a great many others that are not so distinctly and plainly perceived, that have nothing but what is external, the shell without the kernel. Vast multitudes are of these two kinds.

What a pitiable, miserable condition are they in: to step out of this world into an uncertain eternity, with an expectation of finding themselves exceeding happy and blessed in the highest heaven, and all at once find themselves deceived, and are undeceived, finding themselves sinking in the bottomless pit!

Use of Trial. If none are in the way to heaven but those that are holy, let us try and examine ourselves by this doctrine to see whereabouts we are, and see whether or not we are in the way to heaven. To know which way we are going, whether towards Canaan or Egypt, whether towards heaven or hell; for if we think ourselves in the road to heaven, and are going to the place of torment all the while, and continue deceived, without doubt fire and brimstone will undeceive us. If we find ourselves in the broad way to destruction, how dare we stir a step further?

Use of l Exhortation. Exhort all to holiness. You have heard what holiness is and of the necessity of it, the absolute necessity in order to escaping hell; what we must have or die forever, must be forever forsaken Now, nothing is so necessary to us as holiness; other things may be necessary to discover this life, and things that are necessary men will strive for with all their might, if there is a probability of obtaining of them. How much more is that to be sought after, without which we shall fare infinitely worse than die ten thousand deaths!

This is motive enough without any other; for what can be a greater motive than necessity? But besides that, if it were not necessary, the amiable and excellent nature of it is enough to make it worth the most earnest seeking after.

Holiness is a most beautiful, lovely thing. Men are apt to drink in strange notions of holiness from their childhood, as if it were a melancholy, morose, sour, and unpleasant thing; but there is nothing in it but what is sweet and ravishingly lovely. It is the highest beauty and amiableness, vastly above all other beauties; ’tis a divine beauty, makes the soul heavenly and far purer than anything here on earth-this world is like mire and filth and defilement [compared] to that soul which is sanctified-’tis of a sweet, lovely, delightful, serene, calm, and still nature. It is almost too high a beauty for any creature to be adorned with; it makes the soul a little, amiable, and delightful image of the blessed Jehovah. How may angels stand with pleased, delighted, and charmed eyes, and look and look with smiles of pleasure upon that soul that is holy!

Christian holiness is above all the heathen virtue, of a more bright and pure nature, more serene, calm, peaceful, and delightful. What a sweet calmness, what a calm ecstasy, cloth it bring to the soul! Of what a meek and humble nature is true holiness; how peaceful and quiet. How cloth it change the soul, and make it more pure, more bright, and more excellent than other beings.

Soli deo Gloria!