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The Reformed Confessions on the regenerated, but imperfect, Christian

The Reformed Confessions on the regenerated, but imperfect, Christian

Collected by Martyn McGeown. Emphases are added.


Let us take a step back and drink in the wisdom of our Reformed forefathers, who set forth beautifully the truth of our salvation, including our spiritual renewal by the grace of God, in the Reformed Confessions. We may comment on some of these passages from our creeds in future blog posts.

Zacharias Ursinus: “Deliverance from sin includes the pardon of sin, that it may not be imputed unto us, and an abolishing of sin by the renewing of our nature, that it may not reign in us. Deliverance from death is a deliverance from despair, and a sense of the wrath of God—from the calamities and miseries of this life; and also from death, both temporal and spiritual. From these things it is easy to perceive what we are to understand by the deliverance of man. It consists in a perfect deliverance from all the miseries of sin and death, which the fall has entailed upon man, and a full restoration of righteousness, holiness, life, and eternal felicity, through Christ; which is begun in all the faithful in this life, and will be fully perfected in the life to come” (The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, 78). 


The Heidelberg Catechism

“By His Holy Spirit He [Christ] also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth to live unto Him” (LD 1, A 1).

"I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour" (LD 2, A 5).

“Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good and inclined to all wickedness? Indeed we are, except we are regenerated” (LD 3, Q&A 8).

“That so I may confess His name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him, and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life” (LD 12, A 32).

“By virtue thereof my old man is crucified, dead, and buried with him, that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us, but we may offer ourselves unto him a sacrifice of thanksgiving” (LD 16, A 43).

“We are also by His power raised up to a new life” (LD 17, A 45).

“He sends us His Spirit as an earnest by whose power we seek the things which are above” (LD 18, A 49).

“God ... will no more remember ... my corrupt nature against which I have to struggle all my life long” (LD 21, A 56).

“It is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by a true faith should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness” (LD 24, A 64).

“[To be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ] is to be renewed by the Holy Ghost and sanctified to be members of Christ that so we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblamable lives” (LD 26, A 70).

“[To eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ] is ... to become more and more united to [Christ's] sacred body... so that and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul” (LD 28, A 76).

“[Worthy partakers of the Lord's Supper trust that] their remaining infirmities are covered by [Christ's] passion and death [and] ...  also earnestly desire to have their faith more and more strengthened and their lives more holy” (LD 30, A 81).

“[We must still do good works because] Christ … also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image” (LD 32, A 86).

“[The mortification of the old man] is ... a sincere sorrow of heart that we have provoked God by our sins, and more and more to hate and flee from them" (LD 33, A 89).

"[The quickening of the new man is]  ... a sincere joy of heart in God, through Christ, and with love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works” (LD 33, A 90).

“[In the keeping of the Fourth Commandment] ... all the days of my life I cease from my evil works and yield myself to the Lord to work by His Holy Spirit in me” (LD 38, A 103).

“Even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live not only according to some, but all the commandments of God” (LD 44, A 114).

“[The Ten Commandments are so strictly preached to us] ... [so that] we constantly endeavor and pray to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit that we may become more and more conformable to the image of God” (LD 44, A 115).

"[In the first petition we ask] ... grant us... that we may so order and direct our whole lives, our thoughts, words, and actions, that Thy name may never be blasphemed but rather honored and praised on our account” (LD 47, A 122).

"[In the second petition we ask] ... rule us so by Thy Word and Spirit that we may submit ourselves more and more to Thee” (LD 48, A 123).

"[In the fifth petition we ask] be pleased for the sake of Christ's blood not to impute to us poor sinners our transgressions nor that depravity which always cleaves to us” (LD 51, A 126).

"[In the sixth petition we ask] ... do Thou therefore preserve and strengthen us by the power of Thy Holy Spirit that we may not be overcome... but constantly and strenuously may resist our foes” (LD 52, A 127).


The Belgic Confession

"There is no will nor understanding conformable to the divine will and understanding but what Christ hath wrought in man" (Article 14).

"Sin always issues forth from this woeful source... A sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from this body of death" (Article 15).

"We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin" (Article 24).

"It is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word" (Article 24).

"These works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by His grace" (Article 24).

"It is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works; otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good before the tree itself is good" (Article 24).

"We do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through His grace that He crowns His gifts" (Article 24).

"Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them; for we do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, also punishable" (Article 24).

"With respect to those, who are members of the Church, they may be known by the marks of Christians: namely, by faith; and when they have received Jesus Christ the only Savior, they avoid sin, follow after righteousness, love the true God and their neighbor, neither turn aside to the right or left, and crucify the flesh with the works thereof. But this is not to be understood, as if there did not remain in them great infirmities; but they fight against them through the Spirit, all the days of their life, continually taking their refuge in the blood, death, passion and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom they have remission of sins, through faith in him" (Article 29).

"Our Lord giveth that which is signified by the sacrament, namely, the gifts and invisible grace; washing, cleansing and purging our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts, and filling them with all comfort; giving unto us a true assurance of his fatherly goodness; putting on us the new man, and putting off the old man with all his deeds" (Art. 34).


The Canons of Dordt

Canons 1:9: "Men are chosen to faith and to the obedience of faith, holiness, etc., therefore election is the fountain of every saving good; from which proceed faith, holiness, and the other gifts of salvation, and finally eternal life itself, as its fruits and effects."

Canons 3-4:3: "Therefore all men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto, and without the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit, they are neither able nor willing to return to God, to reform the depravity of their nature, nor to dispose themselves to reformation."

Canons 3-4:10: "[God] confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of his own Son, that they may show forth the praises of him, who hath called them out of darkness into his marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places."

Canons 3-4:11: "[God] infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead, he quickens; from being evil, disobedient and refractory, he renders it [the will] good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens [the will], that like a good tree, it [the will] may bring forth the fruits of good actions."

Canons 3-4:12: "All in whose heart God works in this marvelous manner, are certainly, infallibly, and effectually regenerated, and do actually believe. Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence, becomes itself active. Wherefore also, man is himself rightly said to believe and repent, by virtue of that grace received."

Canons 3-4:13: "By this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior." 

Canons 3-4:14: "Faith ... is in reality conferred, breathed, and infused into him ... because he who works in man both to will and to do, and indeed all things in all, produces both the will to believe, and the act of believing also."

Canons 3-4:16: "[God's grace does not] take away their will and its properties, neither does violence thereto; but spiritually quickens, heals, corrects, and at the same time sweetly and powerfully bends it [the will]; that where carnal rebellion and resistance formerly prevailed, a ready and sincere spiritual obedience begins to reign; in which the true and spiritual restoration and freedom of our will consist. Wherefore unless the admirable author of every good work wrought [worked] in us, man could have no hope of recovering from his fall by his own free will, by the abuse of which, in a state of innocence, he plunged himself into ruin."

Canons 3-4:17: "Grace is conferred by means of admonitions; and the more readily we perform our duty, the more eminent usually is this blessing of God working in us, and the more directly is his work advanced; to whom alone all the glory both of means, and of their saving fruit and efficacy is forever due. Amen."

Canons 3-4:R:6: "[The Arminians taught] that in the true conversion of man no new qualities, powers, or gifts can be infused by God into the will." The Reformed answered, "God infuses new qualities of faith, of obedience, and of the consciousness of His love into our hearts." 

Canons 5:1: “Whom God calls, according to his purpose, to the communion of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and regenerates by the Holy Spirit, he delivers also from the dominion and slavery of sin in this life; though not altogether from the body of sin, and from the infirmities of the flesh, so long as they continue in this world.”

Canons 5:2: "Hence spring daily sins of infirmity, and hence spots adhere to the best works of the saints; which furnish them with constant matter for humiliation before God, and flying for refuge to Christ crucified; for mortifying the flesh more and more by the spirit of prayer, and by holy exercises of piety; and for pressing forward to the goal of perfection, till being at length delivered from this body of death, they are brought to reign with the Lamb of God in heaven."

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