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Redemption Freely Received from God: Faith according to the Heidelberg Catechism, Part 3 of 5

5 May, 2010

corcpicsmall

(Series originally posted 29 July — 7 August 2009.)

Last time I wrote that faith is not only knowledge and assent to the revealed truth of God and his ways, but most especially faith consists in ‘hearty trust’ in the God whom we know and believe to be true.

What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

The knowledge, assent, and trust of true faith, because it is knowledge of and assent to and trust in someone whom we know has a certain character, because they’ve done certain things, has an object and a content. I’ll talk about content first, for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

The content of faith — The mighty redemptive acts of God in Christ

The content of our faith is summarized by the HC as ‘forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation’ freely given by God. Notice Paul’s own summary in Rom 1:16-17:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul goes into more detail later on:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now a the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:19-26)

As Hebrews 11 says wonderfully and at length, the content of our faith is the precious promises of God fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ, worked in and among those whom he redeemed by the Spirit, either in the Old Covenant who looked forward to the coming of the promised seed who would crush the serpent’s head, or those in the New Covenant who look back to the fulfillment of this promise in the death and resurrection of Christ, and look forward to his return (Gen 3:15; Is 7:14; Mic 5:3; Matt 1:23, 25; Luke 1:34-35; Gal 4:4; 1 Tim 2:15; Rom 16:20; Heb 2:14; Rev 20:1-3, 10; Phil 3:20-21).

The object of faith — God in Christ

The object of our faith — in other words, the God in whom we believe through Christ by the Spirit — is known precisely by way of the content I’ve just talked about. We know God because he has acted powerfully and graciously on our behalf in history, and still acts. We assent to God’s truth because he has shown himself time and again to be consistent and faithful. He has won us to himself — he has gained our understanding and assent, despite ourselves. God has ‘freely given’ complete redemption. This is what God does, because this is who he is, ‘for he cannot deny himself’ (2 Tim11-13). God the Father in his love has chosen us in Christ before the world began (Eph 1:4-14). God the Son in his mercy has taken upon himself our humanity and its curse, bearing and despising the shame of the cross we deserved, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (Gal 3:20-21; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Phil 2:5-11; Heb 12:2). God the Spirit builds us up together as a temple in which he dwells, and ushers us into the newness of the age to come, the holy fellowship of which he himself is the very Life (John 3:5-8; Gal 5:25; 1 Cor 15:35-58; 2 Cor 5:17).

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. (2 Cor 13:14)

This, therefore, is the God in whom we trust — the one who could not be more trustworthy! This is truly good news, the only news with power not only to create faith, but to make it fruitful in and through us.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col 3:1-4)

Next time I’ll look, finally, at how God creates, sustains, strengthens and makes fruitful this true faith.

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One Comment
  1. 8 May, 2010 5:46 pm

    I ADMIRE YOUR EMPHASIS ON THE WORD IN YOUR PREACHING FOR IT IS THE WORD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT IS LIFE THAT IS OFERED TO THE UNSAVED. I ASK HOWEVER, DO YOU CONSIDER ALL OTHER CHRISTIANS WHO ARE NOT OF YOUR DENOMINATION DEFICIENT IN THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORD AND THEREFORE NOT TRULY SAVED?

    HAROLD TURNER

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