iii. Election, Christ, and the Benefits of Salvation
Articles 16 to 26:
Article 16 - Divine Election
We believe that, when the entire offspring of Adam plunged into perdition and ruin by the transgression of the first man,(Rom 3:12) God manifested Himself to be as He is: merciful and just. Merciful, in rescuing and saving from this perdition those whom in His eternal and unchangeable counsel(Jn 6:37, 44; Jn 10:29; Jn 17:2, 9, 12; Jn 18:9) He has elected(1 Sam 12:22; Ps 65:4; Acts 13:48; Rom 9:16; Rom 11:5; Tit 1:1) in Jesus Christ our Lord(Jn 15:16, 19; Rom 8:29; Eph 1:4, 5) by His pure goodness, without any consideration of their works.(Mal 1:2, 3; Rom 9:11-13; 2 Tim 1:9; Tit 3:4, 5) Just, in leaving the others in the fall and perdition into which they have plunged themselves.(Rom 9:19-22; 1 Pet 2:8)
Article 17 - the Rescue of Fallen Man
We believe that, when He saw that man had thus plunged himself into physical and spiritual death and made himself completely miserable, our gracious God in His marvellous wisdom and goodness set out to seek man when he trembling fled from Him.(Gen 3:9) He comforted him with the promise that He would give him His Son, born of woman (Gal 4:4), to crush the head of the serpent(Gen 3:15) and to make man blessed. (Gen 22:18; Is 7:14; Jn 1:14; Jn 5:46; Jn 7:42; Acts 13:32, 33; Rom 1:2, 3; Gal 3:16; 2 Tim 2:8; Heb 7:14)
Article 18 - the Incarnation of the Son of God
We confess, therefore, that God has fulfilled the promise He made to the fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets(Gen 26:4; 2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 132:11; Lk 1:55; Acts 13:23) when, at the time appointed by Him,(Gal 4:4) He sent into the world His own only-begotten and eternal Son, who took the form of a servant and was born in the likeness of men (Phil 2:7). He truly assumed a real human nature with all its infirmities,(1 Tim 2:5; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:14) without sin,(2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 1 Pet 2:22) for He was conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit and not by the act of a man.(Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35) He not only assumed human nature as to the body, but also a true human soul, in order that He might be a real man. For since the soul was lost as well as the body, it was necessary that He should assume both to save both.
Contrary to the heresy of the Anabaptists, who deny that Christ assumed human flesh of His mother, we therefore confess that Christ partook of the flesh and blood of the children (Heb 2:14). He is a descendant of David (Acts 2:30); born of David according to His human nature (Rom 1:3); of the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:42); born of woman (Gal 4:4); a branch of David (Jer 33:15); a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Is 11:1); descended from Judah (Heb 7:14); descended from the Jews according to the flesh (Rom 9:5); of the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), since the Son was concerned with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, yet without sin (Heb 2:16, 17; Heb 4:15).
In this way He is in truth our Immanuel, that is, God with us (Mt 1:23).
Article 19 - the Two Natures in the One Person of Christ
We believe that by this conception the person of the Son of God is inseparably united and joined with the human nature,(Jn 1:14; Jn 10:30; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:6, 7) so that there are not two sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures united in one single person. Each nature retains its own distinct properties: His divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life (Heb 7:3), filling heaven and earth.(Mt 28:20) His human nature has not lost its properties; it has beginning of days and remains created. It is finite and retains all the properties of a true body.(1 Tim 2:5) Even though, by His resurrection, He has given immortality to His human nature, He has not changed its reality,(Mt 26:11; Lk 24:39; Jn 20:25; Acts 1:3, 11; Acts 3:21; Heb 2:9) since our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of His body.(1 Cor 15:21; Phil 3:21)
However, these two natures are so closely united in one person that they were not even separated by His death. Therefore, what He, when dying, committed into the hands of His Father was a real human spirit that departed from His body.(Mt 27:50) Meanwhile His divinity always remained united with His human nature, even when He was lying in the grave.(Rom 1:4) And the divine nature always remained in Him just as it was in Him when He was a little child, even though it did not manifest itself as such for a little while.
For this reason we profess Him to be true God and true man: true God in order to conquer death by His power; and true man that He might die for us according to the infirmity of His flesh.
Article 20 - the Justice and Mercy of God in Christ
disobedience had been committed,(Rom 8:3) to make satisfaction in that same nature; and to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death.(Heb 2:14) God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquity on Him,(Rom 3:25, 26; Rom 8:32) and poured out His goodness and mercy on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation. Out of a most perfect love He gave His Son to die for us and He raised Him for our justification(Rom 4:25) that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal
Article 21 - the Satisfaction of Christ Our High Priest
We believe that Jesus Christ was confirmed by an oath to be a High Priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.(Ps 110:4; Heb 7:15-17) He presented Himself in our place before His Father, appeasing God’s wrath by His full satisfaction,(2) offering Himself on the tree of the cross, where He poured out His precious blood to purge away our sins,(3) as the prophets had foretold.(Lk 24:25-27; Rom 3:21; 1 Cor 15:3) For it is written, The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.(1 Pet 2:24) He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was numbered with the transgressors (Is 53:5,7,12),(Mk 15:28) and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though he had first declared Him innocent.(Jn 18:38) He was forced to restore what [He] did not steal (Ps 69:4). He died as the righteous for the unrighteous (1 Pet 3:18).(Rom 5:6) He suffered in body and soul,(Ps 22:15) feeling the horrible punishment caused by our sins, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44). Finally, He exclaimed, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me (Mt 27:46)? All this He endured for the forgiveness of our sins.
Therefore we justly say, with Paul, that we know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 2:2). We consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord (Phil 3:8). We find comfort in His wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means of reconciliation with God than this only sacrifice, once offered, by which the believers are perfected for all times (Heb 10:14).(Heb 7:26-28; Heb 9:24-28) This is also the reason why the angel of God called Him Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He [would] save His people from their sins (Mt 1:21).(Lk 1:31; Acts 4:12)
(2) Rom 4:25; Rom 5:8, 9; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:13; Col 2:14; Heb 2:9, 17; Heb 9:11-15.
(3) Acts 2:23; Phil 2:8; 1 Tim 1:15; Heb 9:22; 1 Pet 1:18, 19; 1 Jn 1:7; Rev 7:14.
Article 22 - Our Justification Through Faith in Christ
We believe that, in order that we may obtain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith.(Jn 16:14; 1 Cor 2:12; Eph 1:17, 18) This faith embraces Jesus Christ with all His merits, makes Him our own, and does not seek anything besides Him.(Jn 14:6; Acts 4:12; Gal 2:21) For it must necessarily follow, either that all we need for our salvation is not in Jesus Christ or, if it is all in Him, that one who has Jesus Christ through faith, has complete salvation.(Ps 32:1; Mt 1:21; Lk 1:77; Acts 13:38, 39; Rom 8:1) It is, therefore, a terrible blasphemy to assert that Christ is not sufficient, but that something else is needed besides Him; for the conclusion would then be that Christ is only half a Saviour.
Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we are justified by faith apart from observing the law (Rom 3:28).(Rom 3:19-4:8; Rom 10:4-11; Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9; Tit 3:5) Meanwhile, strictly speaking, we do not mean that faith as such justifies us,(1 Cor 4:7) for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ our righteousness; He imputes to us all His merits and as many holy works as He has done for us and in our place.(Jer 23:6; Mt 20:28; Rom 8:33; 1 Cor 1:30, 31; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Jn 4:10) Therefore Jesus Christ is our righteousness, and faith is the instrument that keeps us with Him in the communion of all His benefits. When those benefits have become ours, they are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.
Article 23 - Our Righteousness Before God
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins for Jesus Christ’s sake and that therein our righteousness before God(1 Jn 2:1) consists, as David and Paul teach us. They speak of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works (Rom 4:6; Ps 32:1). The apostle also says that we are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).(2 Cor 5:18, 19; Eph 2:8; 1 Tim 2:6)
Therefore we always hold to this firm foundation. We give all the glory to God,(Ps 115:1; Rev 7:10-12) humble ourselves before Him, and acknowledge ourselves to be what we are. We do not claim anything for ourselves or our merits,(1 Cor 4:4; Jas 2:10) but rely and rest on the only obedience of Jesus Christ crucified;(Acts 4:12; Heb 10:20) His obedience is ours when we believe in Him.(Rom 4:23-25)
This is sufficient to cover all our iniquities and to give us confidence in drawing near to God, freeing our conscience of fear, terror, and dread, so that we do not follow the example of our first father, Adam, who trembling tried to hide and covered himself with fig leaves.(Gen 3:7; Zeph 3:11; Heb 4:16; 1 Jn 4:17-19) For indeed, if we had to appear before God, relying – be it ever so little – on ourselves or some other creature, (woe be to us!) we would be consumed.(Lk 16:15; Phil 3:4-9) Therefore everyone must say with David, O Lord, do not bring Your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before You (Ps 143:2).
Article 24 - Our Sanctification and Good Works
We believe that this true faith, worked in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the operation of the Holy Spirit,(Acts 16:14; Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 12:3) regenerates him and makes him a new man.(Ezek 36:26, 27; Jn 1:12, 13; Jn 3:5; Eph 2:4-6; Tit 3:5; 1 Pet 1:23) It makes him live a new life and frees him from the slavery of sin.(Jn 5:24; Jn 8:36; Rom 6:4-6; 1 Jn 3:9) Therefore it is not true that this justifying faith makes man indifferent to living a good and holy life.(Gal 5:22; Tit 2:12) On the contrary, without it no one would ever do anything out of love for God,(Jn 15:5; Rom 14:23; 1 Tim 1:5; Heb 11:4, 6) but only out of self-love or fear of being condemned. It is therefore impossible for this holy faith to be inactive in man, for we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls faith expressing itself through love (Gal 5:6). This faith induces man to apply himself to those works which God has commanded in His Word. These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, since they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they do not count toward our justification. For through faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do any good works.(Rom 4:5) Otherwise they could not be good any more than the fruit of a tree can be good unless the tree itself is good.(Mt 7:17)
Therefore we do good works, but not for merit. For what could we merit? We are indebted to God, rather than He to us, for the good works we do,(1 Cor 1:30, 31; 1 Cor 4:7; Eph 2:10) since it is He who works in [us], to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil 2:13). Let us keep in mind what is written: So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty (Luke 17:10).” Meanwhile we do not deny that God rewards good works,(Rom 2:6, 7; 1 Cor 3:14; 2 Jn 8; Rev 2:23) but it is by His grace that He crowns His gifts.
Furthermore, although we do good works, we do not base our salvation on them. We cannot do a single work that is not defiled by our flesh and does not deserve punishment.(Rom 7:21) Even if we could show one good work, the remembrance of one sin is enough to make God reject it.(Jas 2:10) We would then always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be constantly tormented, if they did not rely on the merit of the death and passion of our Saviour.(Hab 2:4; Mt 11:28; Rom 10:11)
Article 25 - Christ, the Fulfilment of the Law
We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ceased with the coming of Christ, and that all shadows have been fulfilled,(Mt 27:51; Rom 10:4; Heb 9:9, 10) so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians. Yet their truth and substance remain for us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have been fulfilled.(Mt 5:17; Gal 3:24; Col 2:17)
In the meantime we still use the testimonies taken from the law and the prophets, both to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel and to order our life in all honesty, according to God’s will and to His glory.(Rom 13:8-10; Rom 15:4; 2 Pet 1:19; 2 Pet 3:2)
Article 26 - Christ's Intercession
We believe that we have no access to God except through the only Mediator(1 Tim 2:5) and Advocate Jesus Christ the righteous.(1 Jn 2:1) For this purpose He became man, uniting together the divine and human nature, that we might not be barred from but have access to the divine majesty.(Eph 3:12) This Mediator, however, whom the Father has ordained between Himself and us, should not frighten us by His greatness, so that we look for another according to our fancy. There is no creature in heaven or on earth who loves us more than Jesus Christ.(Mt 11:28; Jn 15:13; Eph 3:19; 1 Jn 4:10) Though He was in the form of God, He emptied Himself, taking the form of man and of a servant for us (Phil 2:6, 7), and was made like His brothers in every way (Heb 2:17). If, therefore, we had to look for another intercessor, could we find one who loves us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were His enemies (Rom 5:8, 10)? If we had to look for one who has authority and power, who has more than He who is seated at the right hand of the Father(Heb 1:3; Heb 8:1) and who has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18)? Moreover, who will be heard more readily than God’s own well-beloved Son?(Mt 3:17; Jn 11:42; Eph 1:6)
Therefore it was pure lack of trust which introduced the custom of dishonouring the saints rather than honouring them, doing what they themselves never did nor required. On the contrary, they constantly rejected such honour according to their duty,(Acts 10:26; Acts 14:15) as appears from their writings. Here one ought not to bring in our unworthiness, for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own worthiness, but only on the basis of the excellence and worthiness of Jesus Christ,(Jer 17:5, 7; Acts 4:12) whose righteousness is ours by faith.(1 Cor 1:30)
Therefore, to take away from us this foolish fear or rather distrust, the author of Hebrews, with good reason, says to us that Jesus Christ was made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted (Heb 2:17, 18). Further, to encourage us more to go to Him, he says: Therefore, since then we have a great High Priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest, who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Heb 4:14-16).(Jn 10:9; Eph 2:18; Heb 9:24) The same letter says: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, etc. (Heb 10:19, 22). Also, because Christ lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them (Heb 7:24, 25).(Rom 8:34) What more is needed? Christ Himself says: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (Jn 14:6). Why should we look for another advocate? It has pleased God to give us His Son as our Advocate. Let us then not leave Him for another, or even look for another, without ever finding one. For when God gave Him to us, He knew very well that we were sinners.
In conclusion, according to the command of Christ, we call upon the heavenly Father through Christ our only Mediator,(Heb 13:15) as we are taught in the Lord’s prayer.(Mt 6:9-13; Lk 11:2-4) We rest assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in His Name (Jn 16:23).(Jn 14:13)
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