Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 23

Q. 59. But what doth it profit thee now that thou believest all this?
That I am righteous in Christ, before God, and an heir of eternal life.[1]
[1] Romans 5:1; Romans 1:17; John 3:36.
Q. 60. How art thou righteous before God?
Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ;[1] so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them,[2]and am still inclined to all evil;[3] notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine,[4] but only of mere grace,[5] grants and imputes to me, [6] the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ;[7] even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me;[8] inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart. [9]
[1] Romans 3:22, &c., Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9;  [2] Romans 3:9, &c.;  [3] Romans 7:23;  [4] Romans 3:24;   [5] Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8–9;  [6] Romans 4:4–5; 2 Corinthians 5:19;   [7] Romans 3:24–25;  [8] 2 Corinthians 5:21;   [9] Romans 3:28; John 3:18.
Q. 61. Why sayest thou, that thou art righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God, on account of the worthiness of my faith;[1] but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, is my righteousness before God;[2] and that I cannot receive and apply the same to myself any other way than by faith only.[3]
[1] Psalm 16:2; Ephesians 2:8–9;  [2] 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 2:2;  [3] 1 John 5:10.


For the last 15 Lord’s Days, we have been studying the doctrinal tenets in the Apostles’ Creeds. If we take a step back and look at the Apostles’ Creed (Lord’s Day 7; PCC Bulletin vol. 3, no. 10, dated 2 September 2001) and all that we have covered, you will realise that most of what have been said have been objective theological truths. Though knowing these truths does not make a person a Christian, it is essential for a Christian to know and believe these truths. These truths therefore should be given great priority in the instructions of Christian homes. It is sad that many Christian parents (and Sunday Schools) today consider character-building subjects as more important than these doctrinal truths, and so their instructions are skewed accordingly, for after all, it is hard to see any fruit as arising from “those cold theological facts.” Unwittingly, however, these parents (and Sunday Schools) are nurturing a new generation of liberals.

Our fathers in the faith knew better. These theological verities are the foundations of the Christian life. If a young believer grasps these truths and believes them with his whole heart, the rest of his Christian life will almost invariably be ordered alright. But why is this so? It is so because the whole problem with man is sin and depravity, and unless that is dealt with, no meaningful progress can be made in the Christian life. Moreover, the Scripture teaches us that sin can only be dealt with by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can a sinner appear as righteous in the sight of God, and therefore enjoy eternal life. Faith does not make us worthy of salvation (Q. 61). In fact, our faith will always be imperfect because of indwelling sin (Q. 60). But faith unites us to Christ.

But what does it mean to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, faith is knowing, believing and trusting. Therefore true faith in Christ can mean none other than knowing and believing all that is revealed in the Scripture concerning Christ and His work, and therefore trusting Christ to deliver us from sin and from the wrath to come. Now, all the basic theological propositions in this regard, which we ought to know, are summarised in the Creed. Caspar Olevianus, who is believed by many to have contributed to the framing of the Heidelberg Catechism, puts it well:

Through all the Articles of Faith it has been demonstrated that everything necessary for our eternal salvation is in Jesus Christ and that He was not a partial but a complete Jesus, or Saviour, who fully accomplished everything necessary for our salvation. Therefore, whoever is grafted into Christ through a true faith has and possesses everything within that is necessary for salvation (A Firm Foundation: An Aid to Interpreting the Heidelberg Catechism [Paternoster Press, 1995], 108).