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.
Tuesday, May 30: 1 Timothy 1:12-20
“What good does it do you to believe all this?” The good is revealed if we are courageous enough to ask some other questions. Are you hiding shame behind self-justifying arguments over a recent affair? Do you feel guilt for fudging on your tax return? Did you unjustly slander another person for selfish gain? I suspect we all know that the Catechism’s words are a fair description of our lives: “My conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them” and “I am still inclined toward all evil.” We get so easily get distracted that our lives quickly lose any sense of what it means to walk with God. Yet, that is precisely why it is good to believe God’s gospel of tireless grace. Did you notice that I intentionally left out some words? The full text of the Catechism graciously reads: “Even though my conscience accuses me…, and even though I am still inclined…, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all.” The words “even though” and “nevertheless” are the language of tireless grace. They announce that salvation is not dependent on either personal good feelings about spiritual achievement or successful resistance against Satan’s attacks. No, the good news of tireless grace is that “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.” Paul is a wonderful example of this grace-filled conscience. His journey in grace directed him into a life of increasing humility. His self-identity moved from the “least of the Apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:9) to “less than the least of all God’s people” (Ephesians 3:8) to the “worst of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). Paul was not engaged in an exercise of morbid self-loathing. He was simply impressed with the graciousness of grace in the face of the sinfulness of his sin. We, too, are great sinners who are invited to live that same journey of grace. Will you allow the Lord to “display his unlimited patience” in your life (1 Timothy 1:16)?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn