i. God and the Means by Which He is Known
Articles 1 to 11:
Article 1 - There is Only One God
We all believe with the heart and confess with the mouth(Rom 10:10) that there is only one God,(Deut 6:4; 1 Cor 8:4, 6; 1 Tim 2:5) who is a simple and spiritual being;(Jn 4:24) He is eternal,(Ps 90:2) incomprehensible,(Rom 11:33) invisible,(Col 1:15; 1 Tim 6:16) immutable,(Jas 1:17) infinite,(1 Kings 8:27; Jer 23:24) almighty,(Gen 17:1; Mt 19:26; Rev 1:8) perfectly wise,(Rom 16:27) just,(Rom 3:25, 26; Rom 9:14; Rev 16:5, 7) good,(Mt 19:17) and the overflowing fountain of all good.(Jas 1:17)
Article 2 - How God Makes Himself Know to Us
We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most beautiful book,(Ps 19:1-4) wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many letters leading us to perceive clearly God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature, as the apostle Paul says in Rom 1:20. All these things are sufficient to convict men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His holy and divine Word(Ps 19:7, 8; 1 Cor 1:18-21) as far as is necessary for us in this life, to His glory and our salvation.
Article 3 - The Word of God
We confess that this Word of God did not come by the impulse of man, but that men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says (2 Pet 1:21). Thereafter, in His special care for us and our salvation, God commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing(Ex 34:27; Ps 102:18; Rev 1:11, 19) and He Himself wrote with His own finger the two tables of the law.(Ex 31:18) Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures.(2 Tim 3:16)
Article 4 - The Canonical Books
We believe that the Holy Scriptures consist of two parts, namely, the Old and the New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These books are listed in the church of God as follows.
The books of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The books of the New Testament: the four gospels, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the thirteen letters of the apostle Paul, namely, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon; the letter to the Hebrews; the seven other letters, namely, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, Jude; and the Revelation to the apostle John.
Article 5 - The Authority of Holy Scripture
We receive(1 Thess 2:13) all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith.(2 Tim 3:16, 17) We believe without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the church receives and approves them as such, but especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God,(1 Cor 12:3; 1 Jn 4:6, 1 Jn 5:7) and also because they contain the evidence of this in themselves; for even the blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled. (Deut 18:21, 22; 1 Kings 22:28; Jer 28:9; Ezek 33:33)
Article 6 - the Difference Between the Canonical and Apocryphal Books
We distinguish these holy books from the apocryphal, namely, 3 and 4 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, additions to Esther, the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men in the Furnace, Susannah, Bel and the Dragon, the Prayer of Manasseh, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. The church may read and take instruction from these so far as they agree with the canonical books. They are, however, far from having such power and authority that we may confirm from their testimony any point of faith or of the Christian religion; much less may they be used to detract from the authority of the holy books.
Article 7 - the Sufficiency of Holy Scripture
We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein.(2 Tim 3:16, 17; 1 Pet 1:10-12) The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length. It is therefore unlawful for any one, even for an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in Holy Scripture:(1 Cor 15:2; 1 Tim 1:3) yes, even if it be an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says (Gal 1:8). Since it is forbidden to add to or take away anything from the Word of God (Deut 12:32),(Deut 4:2; Prov 30:6; Acts 26:22; 1 Cor 4:6; Rev 22:18, 19) it is evident that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.(Ps 19:7; Jn 15:15; Acts 18:28; Acts 20:27; Rom 15:4)
We may not consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with the divine Scriptures; nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all;(Mk 7:7-9; Acts 4:19; Col 2:8; 1 Jn 2:19) for all men are of themselves liars, and only a breath (Ps 62:9). We therefore reject with all our heart whatever does not agree with this infallible rule,(Deut 4:5, 6; Is 8:20; 1 Cor 3:11; Eph 4:4-6; 2 Thess 2:2; 2 Tim 3:14, 15) as the apostles have taught us: Test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 Jn 4:1). Likewise: If any one comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him (2 Jn 1:10).
Article 8 - God Is One in Essence, Yet Distinguished in Three Persons
According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God,(1 Cor 8:4-6) who is one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.(Mt 3:16, 17; Mt 28:19) The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible.(Eph 3:14, 15) The Son is the Word, the wisdom, and the image of the Father.(Prov 8:22-31; Jn 1:14; Jn 5:17-26; 1 Cor 1:24; Col 1:15-20; Heb 1:3; Rev 19:13) The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might who proceeds from the Father and the Son.(Jn 15:26) Nevertheless, God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has His personal existence, distinguished by Their properties; but in such a way that these three persons are but one only God.
It is therefore evident that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed; for the Father has not assumed our flesh and blood, neither has the Holy Spirit, but the Son only. The Father has never been without His Son,(Mic 5:2; Jn 1:1, 2) or without His Holy Spirit. For these three, in one and the same essence, are equal in eternity. There is neither first nor last; for They are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.
Article 9 - Scripture Proof of This Doctrine
All this we know both from the testimonies of Holy Scripture(1) and from the respective works of the three Persons, and especially those we perceive in ourselves. The testimonies of Scripture which lead us to believe this Holy Trinity are written in many places of the Old Testament. It is not necessary to mention them all; it is sufficient to select some with discretion.
(1) Jn 14:16; Jn 15:26; Acts 2:32, 33; Rom 8:9; Gal 4:6; Tit 3:4-6; 1 Pet 1:2; 1 Jn 4:13, 14; 1 Jn 5:1-12; Jude 20, 21; Rev 1:4, 5.
In the book of Genesis God says: Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness … So God created man in His own image...; male and female He created them (Gen 1:26, 27). Also: The man has now become like one of Us (Gen 3:22). From God’s saying, Let Us make man in Our image, it appears that there are more divine persons than one; and when He says, God created, He indicates that there is one God. It is true, He does not say how many persons there are, but what seems to be somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New Testament. For when our Lord was baptized in the river Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard, who said, This is My Son, whom I love (Mt 3:17); the Son was seen in the water, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form as a dove.(Mt 3:16) For the baptism of all believers Christ commanded: Baptize all nations into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). In the gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel thus addressed Mary, the mother of our Lord: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Likewise: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor 13:14). In all these places we are fully taught that there are three persons in one only divine essence.
Although this doctrine far surpasses all human understanding, nevertheless in this life we believe it on the ground of the Word of God, and we expect to enjoy its perfect knowledge and fruit hereafter in heaven.
Moreover, we must observe the distinct offices and works of these three Persons towards us. The Father is called our Creator by His power; the Son is our Saviour and Redeemer by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier by His dwelling in our hearts. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has always been maintained and preserved in the true church since the time of the apostles to this very day, over against Jews, Muslims, and against false Christians and heretics such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and such like, who have been justly condemned by the orthodox fathers. In this doctrine, therefore, we willingly receive the three creeds, of the Apostles, of Nicea, and of Athanasius; likewise that which in accordance with them is agreed upon by the early fathers.
Article 10 - Jesus Christ True and Eternal God
We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only-begotten Son of God,(1) begotten from eternity, not made, nor created – for then He would be a creature – but of the same essence with the Father, equally-eternal, the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being (Heb 1:3), and is equal to Him in all things.(2) He is the Son of God, not only from the time that He assumed our nature but from all eternity,(Jn 8:58; Jn 17:5; Heb 13:8) as the following testimonies, when compared with each other, teach us: Moses says that God created the world;(Gen 1:1) the apostle John says that all things were made by the Word which he calls God.(Jn 1:1-3) The letter to the Hebrews says that God made the world through His Son;(Heb 1:2) likewise the apostle Paul says that God created all things through Jesus Christ.(1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16) Therefore it must necessarily follow that He who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ, did exist at that time when all things were created by Him. Therefore He could say, I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am (Jn 8:58), and He prayed, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began (Jn 17:5). And so He is true, eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
(1) Mt 17:5; Jn 1:14, 18; Jn 3:16; Jn 14:1-14; Jn 20:17, 31; Rom 1:4; Gal 4:4; Heb 1:2; 1 Jn 5:5, 9-12.
(2) Jn 5:18, 23; Jn 10:30; Jn 14:9; Jn 20:28; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:3; Rev 5:13.
Article 11 - the Holy Spirit True and Eternal God
We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit from eternity proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is neither made, created, nor begotten, but He can only be said to proceed from both.(1) In order He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.(2)
(1) Jn 14:15-26; Jn 15:26; Rom 8:9.
(2) Gen 1:2; Mt 28:19; Acts 5:3, 4; 1 Cor 2:10; 1 Cor 3:16; 1 Cor 6:11; 1 Jn 5:7.
|Belgic Confession||Articles 12 - 15|