Having concluded a series of six articles on “Preservation and Perseverance” and two articles on “Integration and Segregation,” we now would call the attention of our readers to the twelve articles of our Apostles’ Creed. This is a beautiful confession. That it is a confession is clear from its content: I believe in God, the Father, Almighty, etc. It is a beautiful confession, first of all, because it is so brief. This creed is easily memorized, also by children. And it is a beautiful confession, secondly, because of its broad, comprehensive content. True, there are fundamental truths not mentioned in this creed, such as the doctrines of sovereign election, of sin, of the preaching of the gospel, and of the sacraments. Yet, it is broad in its content. It begins with the doctrine of creation and reaches its climax in the everlasting hereafter: I believe in the resurrection of the body and in life everlasting.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” is indeed the keynote of the gospel. We read in Acts 16:30: “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And this question the apostle answers inActs 16:31: “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Indeed, how scriptural is the truth that we are saved by and through faith! We read in Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.” In Galatians 2:20 we read the wonderful words: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” And the same apostle writes inGalatians 3:2: “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Is this not what it is all about in the epistle to the Galatians, that faith and works are set irreconcilably over against each other? And does not James in his epistle, emphasize the absolute importance of a living faith? Saved by grace through faith is surely scriptural.
We are saved by grace through faith. And we add: of course! How else can a sinner be saved? Is not salvation humanly impossible? Are we not hopelessly guilty, burdened down with a guilt we can never pay? Are we not conceived and born dead in sins and in trespasses? Are we not darkness, haters of God and of the neighbor? Is not all salvation alone in Christ Jesus? He is the reservoir of all salvation, of all the blessings of salvation. In us is nothing but sin. In Him is our all. How else can we be saved than in unity with Him, by being united with Him? What else is faith than that almighty power of the alone living God whereby, united with Him, we live out of Him by a true and living faith? Indeed, “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ” is the keynote of the gospel. It is the keynote of the glad tidings (gospel) because it alone reveals salvation to a hopelessly lost sinner.
However, what, must we believe? How pertinent is this question? Today we have so many so-called revivalists; and all that they mention and emphasize is to believe in Jesus. And yet, in all these circles there is a woeful lack of knowledge concerning every fundamental truth of Holy Writ. And this is not all. They also oppose and ridicule you when you confront them with these fundamental truths. Why is this?
Indeed, we must believe. But, what must we believe? In Lord’s Day 7 of our Heidelberg Catechism, Question 22 asks: “What is then necessary for a Christian to believe?” And the answer reads: “All things promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic undoubted Christian faith briefly teach us.” Then, in answer to Question 23: “What are these articles?” our Heidelberg Catechism sets forth the Apostles’ Creed. So, must we believe all this? The Arminian revivalist has a gospel he can write on a thumbnail. But, must we believe all this, these articles with all that they imply? Why must we believe all this? Why must we believe in God Triune, in sovereign double predestination (election and reprobation), in absolute depravity, particular atonement, irresistible grace, the perseverance of the saints? Why must we believe all this? To be saved? Question 20 reads: “Are all men, then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ?” And the answer reads: “No; only those who are ingrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits, by a true faith.” And then the question is asked: “What is true faith?” Upon this follow Questions and Answers 22 and 23 which we have already quoted in this paragraph. Is the question what we must believe important? It is, we understand, all important. It is a matter of our salvation.
We must believe, as we read in Question and Answer 22, “all things promised us in the gospel.” Two interpretations are possible of this expression. First, all Scripture here refers to the promises of the gospel. Even as all Scripture, for example, is called the law, or the law and the prophets, so also all Scripture is designated here as the promises of the gospel, and the heart of that gospel is the promises of the gospel as realized in Christ. Secondly, the promises of the gospel are separated from the rest of Scripture, and although we believe (hold for true) all that is written in the Bible, yet saving faith takes hold only of those parts of the Bible which set forth the promises of the gospel. Now, we adopt the first interpretation. The second interpretation reminds us of Report 44 of the Christian Reformed Church, which report drives a wedge between parts of the Bible. Besides, we must certainly take hold of the entire Bible, the entire Word of God as revealed in the scriptures. That this is true is evident from Question and Answer 23 (What are these articles?), which speak not only, strictly speaking, of the promises of the gospel, but of all the fundamental truths of Holy Writ.
And then we read in Question and Answer 23 of the Apostles’ Creed. Now the apostles were certainly not the authors of this creed. First, there is absolutely no evidence for this. And, secondly, it was not the calling of the apostles to prepare confessions of faith for the church; it was rather their calling to lay the foundation of the church. This creed has this name because it sets forth, in brief, the teachings of the apostles. We have already called attention to the fact that this creed, although brief, nevertheless sets forth the fundamental doctrines of the church. Not all the fundamental doctrines are set forth in this creed, as we have already noted. Yet, although brief, it is also rather comprehensive. It begins at the beginning, at the creation of the world, and it leads us finally, over the cross, into life everlasting.
That we must believe all this, these articles, is denied today in all our modern day and age, as by our sickening Arminian revivalists. Today they present a gospel on a thumbnail. The fundamental truths of Holy Writ are simply silenced. When do you hear of the fundamental truths such as election and reprobation, particular atonement, irresistible grace, the perseverance of the saints? Today all the preaching simply centers in the sinner, calls upon him to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and this is accompanied by bands and orchestras and soloists and professional sports celebrities, and the “sawdust trail,” offering to all salvation and begging the sinner to accept Jesus before it is too late. A preaching that is designed to edify, build up the church in all the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is simply unknown. But this is not all. There is more, much more.
Fact is, in these circles, also in what are known as fundamentalist circles, the fundamental truths of the Word of God are not only silenced, but they are also boldly denied. The love of God is presented as universal, and they will ridicule you if you are “crazy enough” to say that the love of God is particular. This has happened to the writer of these lines. They preach a universal suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ and hold you in contempt if you are foolish enough to speak of a particular atonement. They preach that the sinner is not wholly dead, is able to accept the gospel and, if you maintain the absolute depravity of the sinner, they will accuse you of denying man’s responsibility and of making God the author of sin. Indeed, they deny every fundamental truth of Holy Writ, and they go along with every heretical wind of doctrine. They are Arminian to the core and despise everything that makes man nothing and exalts the living God as the only and truly sovereign Lord of heaven and earth.
Notice now, generally speaking, what we believe in these twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed. First, we believe here in the Trinity. We read this in Articles 1, 2, and 8. This involves us in the doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one in essence and three in Persons, and that these three Persons are God and therefore co-eternal and co-equal. Secondly, in this Apostles’ Creed we believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord. On the one hand, we have here the triple name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here you have the name Jesus, Jehovah saves, the name Christ, which means the Anointed One, and also the name Lord. Here, therefore, you have the Savior in all His significance. And, on the other hand, we read here that this Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son. The Apostles’ Creed, therefore, holds before us the truth of the eternal Godhead of our Lord Jesus Christ; we read here that He is God’s only begotten Son, and this name is given to our Lord Jesus Christ because He is the only natural Son of God, Light of light, Life of life, God Himself. Then, we read in Article 3 of this creed: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary. This article sets forth the truth of the Incarnation. Here you have the tremendous truth that the eternal Son of God, God Himself, also became man; that He became man and remains God; the Eternal became temporal and remains eternal; the Infinite became finite and remains infinite; the Boundless One became limited and remains boundless. The creed here teaches us the tremendous truth that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin without the will of man. He was the rock or stone hewn out of a mountain without hands. This holds before us the exclusively divine origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who became like unto us in all things, sin excepted. Fourthly, Christ’s humiliation and exaltation are set before us in this creed in Articles 4-7. Our fathers speak here of His humiliation. Mind you, the wonderfulness, the great significance of this passage can be understood only when the question is asked: Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, buried, descended into hell? After all, to suffer under Pontius Pilate, to be crucified, to die, to be buried, to descend into hell cannot be restricted to a few. Many suffered under the Roman governor, were crucified, died, were buried. And is it not utterly hopeless for one to descend into hell? Hence, what kind of Savior is this? So, the wonderfulness of this can be understood only when you ask: Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc.? And, then we have His exaltation: His bodily resurrection from the dead and the grave, His ascension, sitting at the right hand of God and return to judgment.
The Lord willing, we will continue with this in our following article.