HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 23
What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?
In Christ I am right with God and heir to life everlasting.
How are you right with God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.
Saturday, June 3: Ephesians 2:1-10
While we profess “that by faith alone [we] are right with God,” we tend to exaggerate the character of that faith. We use phrases like “strong faith” or “bold faith” or “weak faith” to describe ourselves or others. The underlying assumption seems to be while grace may save us it will be more powerful when combined with human faith. Think of it this way. Does God reverse Downs Syndrome when someone prays “in faith?” Is God’s ability to heal terminal cancer limited by the quality of the patient’s “prayer of faith?” Does “living in faith” mean one will be liberated from all pain, sorrow and struggle? This is what I call the “name it, claim it, and frame it” mind-set. It teaches that the barrier between me and every earthly blessing is the quality of my faith. The Catechism disagrees. Faith is God’s gift to receive grace, to personalize forgiveness, and to claim the status of belonging to the Lord. Faith, however, is not a magical power to secure every material blessing. So, it professes: “It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.” Nowhere in these words does God’s tireless grace become personal power to attain perpetual good. If you are currently being spiritually abused with this kind false teaching, then take heart. God is on your side. There is a Day when all things will be made completely new, when we will experience every material good and more. But that has nothing to do with the quality of faith. It has everything to do with God’s gracious promise that He will not abandon the work of His hands. For now, the tireless grace of God means that our weak, broken, sin-ridden, discombobulated and pain-filled lives must place faith in His uncompromising love in Jesus Christ. And today that is the greatest blessing we could ever receive. There is nothing better than to live by grace through faith alone!
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn.