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Coming in 1 month!

Coming in 1 month!

IN ONE MONTH volume two of The Belgic Confession commentary will be printed, completing the two-volume set written by Professor David J. Engelsma.

We provide you with an excerpt from Chapter 17: Article 23 on Justification.

Justification as Experience

Justification by faith alone, without works, not only excludes works from God’s justifying act, but also from the believer’s knowledge and certainty of righteousness with God. If this were not the case, “we should always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed.”

Therefore, to teach that in the end the experience and assurance of righteousness with God are realized by the sinner’s good works, or are somehow dependent upon the good works of the sinner, is the denial of justification by faith alone. In that case, faith would need the help of the sinner’s works to give the blessing of justification. Union with Christ and his work would not be enough.

Practically, rather than serving the experience and certainty of righteousness with God, throwing the sinner upon his own good works for the assurance of justification is fatal to this experience and certainty. The more the sinner examines his own good works, even the best of them, with a view to founding the assurance of his righteousness upon them, the more he is convicted of their gross imperfections and the more does his assurance of justification fade like morning mist. As the Catechism pronounces upon them, there is in them “only a small beginning of this obedience.”[1]

Examining himself and his works, with regard to justification (which is the context of the passage), the apostle does not find grounds for his experience of righteousness with God, but on the contrary, is compelled to cry out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)

For the certainty of his justification with God, the believing sinner looks away from himself and his own works, whether bad or good, to Jesus Christ crucified and his work. Faith is the spiritual eye that sees Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ only. Only a complete reliance upon the perfect work of Jesus Christ for him and in his stead can be the means of a conscious and assured righteousness with the thrice holy God. The Confession says as much: “without presuming to trust in any thing in ourselves…[but] relying and resting upon the obedience of Christ crucified alone.”

Therefore if your conscience troubles you and you are a sinner and are seeking to become righteous, what will you do? Will you look around to see what works you may do or where you may go? No. On the contrary, see to it that you hear or recall the name of the Lord, that is, that God is righteous, good, and holy; and then cling to this, firmly believing that He is such a One for you. Now you are at once such a one, like Him. But you will never see the name of the Lord more clearly than you do in Christ…This is a righteousness that is bountiful, given without cost, firm, inward, eternal, true, heavenly, divine; it does not earn, receive, or seek anything in this life…it is directed toward Christ and His name, which is righteousness.

[1] Heidelberg Catechism, Q 114, in Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 3:349.
[2] Martin Luther, “Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), 27:221–222.

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