The book I am currently reading is With Heart and Mind: An Exposition of the Belgic Confession by Daniel R. Hyde. The Belgic Confession is one of a number of Protestant confessions, or basic statements of belief, that came out during the Reformation. The confessions were attempts to articulate what various Protestant groups believed, particularly in contrast to the beliefs held by the dominant Christian group, the Roman Catholic Church. Two other major confessions are the Augsburg and Westminster, from the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestantism. The Belgic, Augsburg and Westminster Confessions were so comprehensive and clearly written that they are all still held up as statements of faith today.
I could say more about the Belgic Confession and the rich, powerful story that underlies it, but that will wait for another post and/or the book review when I finish my reading. Tonight I want to talk just a bit about something powerful I read today.
As Hyde explains Article 23 he talks about the negative and positive aspects that come for the person who has faith in Christ.
Negative benefits to faith? That took a bit for me to understand, but it was really quite simple. Negative is in the sense that the believer loses something. And what the believer loses is his/her sin and the consequent condemnation that the Bible teaches all sinners are due. In receiving forgiveness the Christian has lost the thing that they will be eternally glad to be rid of. That is the kind of loss we should rejoice in…often!
So then the positive aspect of faith must be forgiveness, right? Well that could seem to be the case but Hyde shows us that the positive aspect is so much more.
The first sentence of Article 23 says, “We believe that our salvation consists in the remission of our sins for Jesus Christ’s sake, and that therein our righteousness before God is implied; as David and Paul teach us, declaring this to be the blessedness of man that God imputes righteousness to him apart from works.”
God “…imputes righteousness...” Imputes means that God gives something to believers, and specifically this means that God gives righteousness to believers. We are not merely cleansed of our sin but we are clothed in righteousness, the righteousness of Christ.
Hyde explains, “In his wisdom and goodness, our heavenly Father not only completely forgave all our sins but replaced them with something: the righteousness of Jesus Christ.” (306)
He then says, “Our blessedness is founded on the truth that every single acceptable, good, holy and righteous work that Christ did during his life was imputed to us,” adding “In fact, Christ’s entire life of obedience to God and his law; every single moment he lived in which he loved God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength and his neighbor as himself in thought word, and deed; and every single moment he lived in which he hated sin, is imputed to our account and reckoned as if we ourselves had done the work. Since Christ’s merit is infinite, we have an infinite holiness, righteousness, and goodness before God.” (308)
In his second letter to the church at Corinth Paul wrote:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 6:14
I don’t know about you but as I ponder the image of God viewing me not as I may think of myself before Him, a sinner saved by grace, someone wholly undeserving of God’s mercy, but as someone washed clean of sin and clothed with every good and perfect work of Christ…well, that image is too powerful for me to truly grasp. It is a vision that leaves me breathless.
While I can’t really grasp the fullness of being clothed in the righteousness of Christ it is an image that brings forth from my heart and mouth thanks and praise to God, the God who alone could do something so wonderful for me and for all who would call on Him in faith.
May you know this gift of righteousness as well, a gift that is perfect in every way and one that will endure forever.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.