We believe that one of the most faithful summaries of what the Bible teaches is the Belgic Confession, which arranges the truth systematically according to 7 main topics: Scripture, God, Man, Christ, Salvation, the Church, and the End Times. What follows is mostly a summary of the Belgic Confession [BC].
We confess that the “Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 2:20]; and that afterwards God, from a special care which He has for us and our salvation, commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing;… Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures [1 Timothy 3:16]” (BC, article 3).
We believe without any doubt all things contained in the 66 books of the Bible, “not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God [1 Corinthians 2:11-16], and also because they carry the evidence thereof in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled” (BC, article 5).
The Bible alone is absolute truth. Its doctrine is “most perfect and complete in all respects.” No writings or councils of men have “equal value with the truth of God, since the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and lighter than vapor [Psalm 62:9]. Therefore we reject with all our hearts whatever does not agree with this infallible rule [Deuteronomy 12:32; Galatians 1:8]” (BC, article 7).
“We believe with the heart and confess with the mouth that there is one only simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good” (BC, article 1).
In the unity of the one spiritual Being are three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit [Genesis 1:26-27; Matthew 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 13:14]. “The Father is the cause, origin, and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the Word, Wisdom, and Image of the Father; the Holy Spirit is the eternal Power and Might, proceeding from the Father and the Son” (BC, article 8). “The Father is called our Creator, by His power; the Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by His blood; the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by His dwelling in our hearts….This doctrine of the Trinity has always been affirmed and maintained by the true Church since the time of the apostles to this very day” (BC, article 9).
“We believe that the Father by the Word, that is, by His Son, has created out of nothing the heaven, the earth, and all creatures,” in six days [Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11; John 1:1-3]. “He also still upholds and governs them by His eternal providence and infinite power for the service of mankind, to the end that man may serve his God” (BC, article 12). “He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment; nevertheless, God is neither the Author of nor can be charged with the sins which are committed. For His power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that He orders and executes His work in the most excellent and just manner, even when devils and wicked men act unjustly.” Therefore, not even “a sparrow can fall to the ground without the will of our Father (Matt. 10:29-30), in whom we do entirely trust; being persuaded that He so restrains the devil and all our enemies that without His will and permission they cannot hurt us. And therefore we reject that damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God regards nothing but leaves all things to chance” (BC, article 13).
We also reject all theories of origins or development that involve evolution.
“God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after His own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God” (BC, article 14).
This means that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, did not evolve from an animal ancestry (or any kind of subhuman species); and all other men and women are descendants of Adam and Eve.
God entered into a covenant with Adam and in him all his posterity, promising life for obedience and death for disobedience (Genesis 2:16-17). But man “willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil.” For he transgressed the covenant; “and by sin separated himself from God, who was his true life; having corrupted his whole nature; whereby he made himself liable to physical and spiritual death [Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1]” (BC, article 14). This corruption of the whole nature [original sin] is a hereditary disease which extends to all mankind. We are all conceived and born in sin [Psalm 51:5]. Thus, man’s will is no longer free to obey God’s will, but man is now “a slave of sin [Romans 3:22], and can receive nothing, unless it has been given to him from heaven (John 3:28). For who may presume to boast that he of himself can do any good, since Christ says: No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44)?” (BC, article 14).
“We believe that our most gracious God, in His admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into physical and eternal death and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him, when he trembling fled from His presence, promising him He would give His Son (who would be born of a woman [Gal. 4:4]), to bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and to make him blessed” (BC, article 17). By this covenant of grace, God offers sinners salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in Him that they may be saved. Faith in Christ has always been the only way of salvation, in both Old Testament and New Testament (Romans 4:19-24).
“We confess, therefore, that God has fulfilled the promise which He made to the fathers by the mouth of His holy prophets, when He sent into the world, at the time appointed by him, His own only-begotten and eternal Son,” who took upon Himself the very nature of man, soul and body, with all its weaknesses, except for sin, “being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit without the means of man” (BC, article 18).
“We believe that by this conception the Person of the Son of God is inseparably united and connected with the human nature; so that there are not two Sons of God, nor two Persons, but two natures united in one single Person.” The divine nature “remained un-created, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth,” and the human nature “remained a creature, having beginning of days, being a finite nature, and retaining all the properties of a real body….Wherefore we confess that He is very God and very man: very God by His power to conquer death; and very man that He might die for us according to the weakness of His flesh” (BC, article 19). Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, the only Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5).
“God, who is perfectly merciful and just, sent His Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience was committed, …to bear the punishment of sin by His most bitter passion and death. God therefore manifested His justice against His Son when He laid our iniquities upon Him, and poured forth His mercy and goodness on us, who were guilty and worthy of damnation, out of mere and perfect love, giving His Son unto death for us, and raising Him for our justification, that through Him we might obtain immortality and life eternal [Romans 4:24-25]” (BC, article 20).
The Lord Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, to receive a universal kingdom over all things (Daniel 7:13-14; Ephesians 1:20-23), in order to save all who believe in Him from every tongue, tribe, and nation, and to destroy all who oppose His kingdom of redemption.
We proclaim to the world that we have no access to God except through the only Mediator, Jesus Christ. For “Christ Himself says: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” Therefore, let us not seek for another Mediator. “For there is no creature, either in heaven or on earth, who loves us more than Jesus Christ;” indeed, “whom could we find who loved us more than He who laid down His life for us, even while we were His enemies (Rom. 5:8,10)?” (BC, article 26).
True faith “embraces Jesus Christ…and seeks nothing more besides Him,” since “those who possess Jesus Christ through faith have complete salvation in Him [John 5:24]. Therefore, for any to assert that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides Him, would be too gross a blasphemy; for hence it would follow that Christ was but half a Savior. Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone [Romans 3:28],” which means God forgives all our sins and accepts us righteous, because Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice on the cross in our place is our righteousness before God [Psalm 32:1; Romans 4:6] (BC, article 22).
“This is sufficient to cover all our iniquities, and to give us confidence in approaching to God; freeing the conscience of fear, terror and dread, without following the example of our first father, Adam, who, trembling, attempted to cover himself with fig-leaves. And, truly, if we should appear before God, relying on ourselves, or on any other creature, though ever so little, we should, alas! be consumed. And therefore every one must pray with David: O Lord, do not enter into judgment with Your servant: for in Your sight no one living is righteous (Psalm 143:2).” (BC, article 23).
Since we are slaves of sin, we will never embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior unless God grants us true faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29). God gives true faith to “all whom He, in His eternal and unchangeable counsel of mere goodness, has elected in Christ Jesus our Lord, without any respect to their works [Ephesians 1:4-7]” (BC, article 16). In other words, if we believe in Jesus we were chosen to believe (Acts 13:48).
When we believe in Christ, we are not only set free from the eternal penalty of sin through justification, we are also set free from the inward corruption of sin through sanctification. God not only forgives all our sins, He adopts us as His children and gives us His Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to sanctify us, to make us holy as He is holy, which excites us “to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word [summarized in the Ten Commandments].” We do these good works, not to merit or earn our salvation, “for it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works.” Plus, “we are indebted to God for the good works we do… since it is He who works in us both to will and do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13)” (BC, article 24). Therefore, we love our Savior and want to obey Him out of thankfulness for our salvation (John 14:15).
The Church which Jesus “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28) is not a building or denomination. The Church is “a holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by His blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit. This Church has been from the beginning of the world, and will be to the end thereof; which is clear from the fact that Christ is an eternal King, which without subjects He cannot be [Matthew 16:16-19].” This “holy Church is not confined, bound, or limited to a certain place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed over the whole world [Ephesians 4:4-6]” (BC, article 27). This one universal church of all true believers is often called the invisible church because only God can see the total number of all believers from all times and places. There are no hypocrites in the invisible church.
This does not mean the visible local church is not important. In fact, it is through the visible church that God’s elect are brought to faith in Jesus Christ and learn to become His faithful disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). True faith is “worked in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Spirit [Romans 10:17]” (BC, article 24).
There are express commands in Scripture requiring believers to unite together with other believers in the outward and public profession of their faith before the world (Hebrews 10:25). Christ has appointed that His disciples shall be solemnly received into His Church by the initiatory rite of baptism (Matthew 28:19; Acts 2:38-42); and that the central doctrine of the faith be publicly commemorated in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Christ has taught us “that there must be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and to administer the sacraments; also elders and deacons [Acts 6:1-6; 1 Corinthians 9:27; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:17] … that by these means the true religion may be preserved, and the true doctrine everywhere propagated, likewise transgressors chastened and restrained by spiritual means; also that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their necessities. By these means everything will be carried on in the Church with good order and decency [1 Corinthians 14:40], when faithful men are chosen, according to the rule prescribed [in 1 Timothy 3]” (BC, article 30)
Therefore, all believers are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with a true and faithful church, “maintaining the unity of the Church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ [Hebrews 13:17]; and as mutual members of the same body, serving to the edification of the brethren, according to the talents God has given them [1 Peter 4:9-10]” (BC, article 28). “The marks by which the true Church is known are these: If the pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein; if it maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ; if church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin; in short, if all things are managed according to the pure Word of God, all things contrary thereto rejected, and Jesus Christ acknowledged as the only Head of the Church” (BC, article 29).
As Christians we assemble on the Lord’s Day to worship God by praying, hearing the Word of God read and preached, singing psalms and hymns, giving offerings, and receiving the sacraments. Rather than catering to man, we seek to worship God only in the ways He mentions in the Bible. “And therefore we reject all human inventions, and all laws which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner whatever. Therefore we admit only of that which tends to nourish and preserve concord and unity, and to keep all men in obedience to God” (BC, article 32).
The End Times
“Finally, we believe, according to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come and the number of the elect complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as He ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare Himself judge of the living and the dead, burning this old world with fire and flame, to cleanse it [2 Peter 3:10].” Then all people who have ever lived “will personally appear before this great Judge…For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies, in which they formerly lived. As for those who shall then be living, they shall not die as the others, but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and from corruptible, become incorruptible [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].” Then everyone shall be judged, “according to what they shall have done in this world, whether good or evil” (BC, article 37). Then all the wicked “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).