The Profit of Belief
Over the last several weeks, we have looked at various questions from the Heidelberg Catechism concerning the Apostles Creed. Each catechism question dealt with a different aspect of the creed, from the Holy Spirit to the life everlasting. But what is the point of all of these? If you have not read through those, I recommend you read through some of the last few weeks' posts to understand what we are talking about. Each point of the Apostles Creed is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian and as Christians, we should constantly seek to grow and understand more of who the Lord is and what he has called us to do. While the creed does not contain an exhaustive description of the Christian life, it does cover the core of Christian belief. So it brings up the important question of why all this is important. Why is what the creed teaches important?
The Reason for the Hope
The Apostle Peter when he writes to the church tells them to be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:13-17). We are to be ready to suffer for that hope, to die for that hope. That hope is important. It is to our profit to believe these things. As Peter points out these things produce hope. But what is that hope? The Catechism in question 59 asks;
"What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?"
The question could be rephrased to say, what hope do you get from all of this? It is as if someone came along and asked you why you believe in Christ. How would you answer? The answer that the catechism gives is short and to the point. It says
"In Christ I am rightious before God and heir to life everlasting."
Believing in Christ is more than just believing that a historical event happened. That Christ died and even that Christ was raised from the dead. As James says in his letter, even the demons believe that and shudder. But true belief involves action, a faith that is seen in obedience to the commands of God because of the righteousness that he has given to us. He has made us righteous and given us a hope and a future in him. That is our hope, we trust in the promise of the Lord who has always been faithful and true to keep his promises.
Righteous Before God
But what is this righteousness and how are we righteous before God?
"Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments, of never having kept any of them, and of still being inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without any merit of my own, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, and as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is accept this gift with a believing heart."
How can we have hope? Because I am not my own but have been bought with a price. I have been made new and the God who started this work in me is faithful and true, he will not fail to bring it to completion. This is the truth contained in the Apostles Creed, that we believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe that Christ truly came, lived, died, and was raised from the dead so that sinners, all those who would come to him in faith, would truly be saved. He has granted his own righteousness, his own right standing, to me. This is what it means to be made righteous. His perfect keeping of the whole law is credited to my account through faith.
Believing in Christ is more than just trusting history. It gives us true hope. It gives us a future. The content of what we believe is important though, it is not enough to believe what we feel is right or to simply say we believe in Jesus. He teaches us in his word that the wise man listens and does what the Lord commands, and the foolish man does not. The wise man will be saved for his faith is built on the firm foundation of God's word and the foolish man will be washed away by wind and tide. There is genuine hope that comes from true faith. A hope founded in the evidence of what has already happened. We have seen the faithfulness of God and can trust that he will continue to be so. We have a responsibility to God, to obey and serve him as he commands, for we are his workmanship created for good works that he has prepared for us.
Soli Deo Gloria
Acts 16:30-31; Rom. 3:9-10; 3:21-28; 4:3-5 (Gen. 15:6); 4:24-25; 7:23 ; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10; Phil 3:8-11; Tit. 3:4-5; 1 John 2:1-2; 3:18.