Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 7

Q. 20. Are all men then, as they perished in Adam, saved by Christ?

 
No:[1] only those who are ingrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits, by a true faith.[2]

[1] Matthew 1:21; Isaiah 53:11;  [2] John 1:12–13; Romans 11:20; Hebrews 10:39.


 
Q. 21. What is true faith?
 
True faith is not only a certain knowledge,[1] whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also an assured confidence,[2] which the Holy Ghost[3] works by the gospel,[4] in my heart, that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin,[5] everlasting righteousness and salvation,[6] are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.[7]

[1] John 6:69; John 17:3; Hebrews 11:3, 6;  [2] Ephesians 3:12;  [3] Romans 4:16, 20–21; Hebrews 11:1; Ephesians 3:12; Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 16:14; Matthew 16:17; John 3:5;  [4] Romans 10:14, 17; Matthew 9:2;  [5] Romans 5:1;  [6] Galatians 2:20;  [7] Romans 3:24–26.


 
Q. 22.
What is then necessary for a Christian to believe?
 
All things promised us in the gospel,[1] which the articles of our catholic undoubted Christian faith briefly teach us.

[1] John 20:31; Matthew 28:19–20.


 
Q. 23. What are these articles?
 

I.

I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

II.

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord:

III.

Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary:

IV.

Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell:

V.

The third day He rose again from the dead:

VI.

He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:

VII.

From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead:

VIII.

I believe in the Holy Ghost:

IX.

I believe an holy catholic church: the communion of saints:

X.

The forgiveness of sins:

XI.

The resurrection of the body:

XII.

And the life everlasting. AMEN.

Commentary

Although all men are fallen, not all men will be saved by Christ, but only such as have been elected in Him, who would in due time be united with Him by faith. Saving faith involves knowing (notitia), believing (assensus) and trusting (fiducia) in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since the natural man is spiritually blinded and dead in sin, only those whom God purposed (in election and predestination) to be united with Christ will have faith. This faith is a gift of God (Eph 2:8–9). It is not something self-generated. It is God-given, firstly, because God reveals what we are to believe, secondly, God convicts us as to the truth of what is revealed, and thirdly, He changes our hearts in the new birth so that we trust in Christ wholeheartedly.


But the question that is commonly asked is what am I to know and believe? The simple answer to this question is: “all that God has revealed.” That is to say, the believer must believe everything whatsoever God has revealed. Today, all that God has revealed is in His written Word. Therefore believers must believe “all that God has revealed… in His Word.” Of course, this does not mean that we must know everything that is taught in the Bible, but it means that no true believer would reject anything taught in the Bible as truth. Conversely, this means that one who has very little knowledge may still be saved. Thus the thief on the cross did not know very much, but he believed everything that the Lord taught him and he was found in Paradise with the Lord that same day. But in general, under normal circumstance, every believer should know and believe some basic doctrines. This is the purpose of one of the earliest creeds known as the Apostle’s Creed (though it was probably not penned by the Apostles). This creed is given in Q. 23 and will be expounded in the following weeks up to Lord’s Day 22, Q. 58.