How Does Any of This Help?

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Devotional Word for Tuesday, February 9, 2021

We have, in these little devotions, gone through 58 questions of the Heidelberg Catechism.  I know what some of you are thinking.  58, it seems more like 58,000.  I can almost hear the question, “What if I already believe in the Apostles’ Creed; what good is thinking about all of this stuff?”  Stuff I am sure is a technical term for all the topics covered thus far.  Well, be comforted.  If you are wondering what value these questions and answers might bring, you are not alone.  Question 59 asks, “But how does it help you now that you believe all this?”  The answer replies, “That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.”

Everything that we have covered, particularly concerning the Apostles’ Creed, is of benefit for us in making us righteous in Christ before God.  Righteousness before God is our concern.  As we reflect on the whole of the Catechism, remember that it begins asking about our comfort and hope. The source of that comfort and hope was and continues to be the Lord Jesus Christ who paid for our sins, freed us from the domain of the evil one, and protects so well.  These questions and answers that we have been working through the past few months have had the purpose of working through many of the details of that comfort we have in Christ.  The Apostles’ Creed in particular serves as an ancient foundational statement of faith for all Christians.

As we think of our righteousness before God, we may well wonder about its character.  Question 60 addresses that.  It asks, “How are you righteous before God?  The answer replies, “Only by true faith[1] in Christ. In spite of the fact that my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have not kept any one of them, and that I am still ever prone to all that is evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of my own, out of pure grace, grants me the benefits of the perfect satisfaction of Christ, imputing to me His righteousness and holiness as if I had never committed a single sin or had ever been sinful, having fulfilled myself all the obedience which Christ has carried out for me, if only I accept such favor with a trusting heart.”

The answer makes clear that this righteousness which we have is only by true faith in Christ.  The answer goes on to describe the mental state of all Christians.  Like the answer, Christians are divided in two.  First, we recognize that we have sinned against all the commandments of God.  This is not just against one or two, but all of them.  Not only have we sinned but we are still prone to continue to sin.  We are still in our own flesh eager to satisfy our own desires and not fulfill God’s commands.  The second part of the answer begins with the marvelous word “nevertheless.”  This is not unlike when the Scriptures describe the estate of man and then say “but God” in describing the work of redemption.  In spite of all that I have done and will continue to do, the Lord out of pure grace gives me the obedience of Christ so that it is as though I have never sinned.  Not only is my sin removed, but I am also credited with all of the good deeds that Christ has done.  All I have to do is accept such favor with a trusting heart.  Basically, all I have to do is have faith.

There is one problem with this answer.  If it is true that I am prone to sin (and it is), then I am afraid that I will screw the faith part up.  I know that I will not get it right.  The proof of that assertion is right there in answer 60.  I do not get anything right.  Fortunately, the Scriptures help us.  Ephesians 2:8-9 describe this phenomenon whereby we are made righteous.  It, likely in the background of question and answer 60, also helps us understand part of the nature of faith.  It says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD…”[2]  Take note of that.  The Lord hasn’t even allowed me to screw up the just believe part.  He has given me, by the power of His Holy Spirit, the gift of faith.  For that, let us rejoice!

[1] See Question and Answer 21

[2] Emphasis added