Introduction to the Creeds and Confessions:
The creedal statements and historic confessions in Christianity have been disparaged in some circles. They are either dismissed as old, outdated religiousity or are viewed as narrowly painting boundaries. This is somewhat inaccurate and very unfortunate because creeds and confessions have strong devotional value. They have the advantage of concisely covering wide sweeps of theological truth in compact – and sometimes memorable – sentences and paragraphs. Meditating on the truths that these statements contain can remind us of what we believe and can stir our affections toward Christ. This Lenten season I will be including several sections from various creeds and confession statements every Monday. Please read them meditatively, intentionally, and devotionally. The first is from The Belgic Confession (1561)*.
The Belgic Confession, Article 21: Of the satisfaction of Christ, our only High Priest, for us
“We believe that Jesus Christ is ordained with an oath to be an everlasting High Priest, after the order of Melchisedec; and that he hath presented himself in our behalf before the Father, to appease his wrath by his full satisfaction, by offering himself on the tree of the cross, and pouring out his precious blood to purge away our sins; as the prophets had foretold. For it is written: He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and numbered with the transgressors, and condemned by Pontius Pilate as a malefactor, though he had first declared him innocent. Therefore: he restored that which he took not away, and suffered, the just for the unjust, as well in his body as in his soul, feeling the terrible punishment which our sins had merited; insomuch that his sweat became like unto drops of blood falling on the ground. He called out, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? and hath suffered all this for the remission of our sins. Wherefore we justly say with the apostle Paul: that we know nothing, but Jesus Christ, and him crucified; we count all things but loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, in whose wounds we find all manner of consolation. Neither is it necessary to seek or invent any other means of being reconciled to God, than this only sacrifice, once offered, by which believers are made perfect forever. This is also the reason why he was called by the angel of God, Jesus, that is to say, Savior, because he should save his people from their sins.”
*note: The Belgic Confession (Latin, Confessio Belgica) is a “major Calvinist creed, one of the three standards used in the Dutch Reformed Church and its offshoots (the two others are the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort). It was written primarily by Guido de Bres (Guy de Bray) in 1561; at the time, de Bres was a hunted man in his late thirties, preaching illegally as the Lowlands neared revolt against Spanish rule. … The confession was written by de Bres in French, but was immediately translated into Dutch, and soon into German (1566). Received enthusiastically by the Calvinist churches of the Lowlands, it was adopted by a synod at Antwerp (1566), by synods at Dort (1574) and Middelburg (1581), and finally by the national synod of the Netherlands (northern Lowlands) after independence from Spain had been gained, in 1619.” (from Dirk Jellema, “BELGIC CONFESSION,” The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. J. D. Douglas [Accordance electronic ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974], n.p.). Original English spelling retained.