20 Q. Are all people then saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?
Only those are saved
who through true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his benefits.^1
^1 John 1:12; 3:36; Isa. 53:11, Ps. 2:11[-12]; Rom. 11:17, 19; Heb. 4:2; 10:39
21 Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is
not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true
all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;^1
it is also a wholehearted trust,^2
which the Holy Spirit^3 creates in me by the gospel,^4
that God has freely granted
not only to others but to me also,
forgiveness of sins,
These are gifts of sheer grace,
granted solely by Christ’s merit.^6
^1 Heb. 11:1, 3;James 2:19
^2 Rom. 4:16[-25]; James 1:6; Rom. 5:1;Rom. 10[:9-10]
^3 2 Cor. 4[:6, 13];Eph. 2[:8, 18];Matt. 16:17;John 3:[5-]13;Gal. 5:22; Phil. 1:29
^4 Rom. 1:16;10:17
^5 Heb. 2[:9-11]; Rom. 1[:16];Heb. 10:38;Hab. 2:4;Matt. 9:2;Eph. 2:7-9;Rom. 5:1
^6 Eph. 2[:8]; Rom. 3:24-25;Gal. 2:16
22 Q. What then must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel,^1
a summary of which is taught us
in the articles of our universal
and undisputed Christian faith.
Lord’s Day 7 (Q/A 20-23)
“Diagramming Sentences: The Gospel and Its Witness”
One of the best school teachers I ever had was my seventh and eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. Flowers of the Benjamin Franklin Intermediate School in Daly City, California. She exuded a love of learning and teaching. It was from her that I learned the hard lesson about prepositions, and the difference between direct objects and indirect objects. One thing that I struggled with was the dreaded exercise of diagramming sentences. Remember this? This involved taking a literary scalpel and dissecting each word of a sentence, identifying every piece and how they connected to each other. The basic structure of a sentence was its subject and verb. All other complex constructions are built upon that. So for instance, “I go.” That is complete in and of itself. Subject. Verb. You can add to that any other piece, “I go to the store” or “I go to the store with Daniel” or an adverbial phrase, “I go happily to the store with Daniel.” Etc. etc.
Subject and Verb are the basic scaffold of a sentence that communicates.
Q/A 20-23 expresses a basic scaffold of connection as to how God communicates God’s grace in the midst of our misery in sin. God in Christ through the Spirit is both the Subject and the Verb – the triune God alone is the One who acts and the force behind the acting; we are the object upon which God acts. This negates any boasting on our part, any superiority complex, any arrogance, any pride.
The total action of salvation, redemption, reconciliation, transformation, deliverance – All of it—is by God’s work alone in Christ alone. And yes, faith itself is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). What is called from us, therefore, is a deep and abiding sense of reverence and gratitude towards Almighty God who has determined to give us the gift of faith, and a deep and abiding sense of gratitude for the gift of faith that enables us to comprehend and apprehend the great gift of salvation in Jesus Christ to which God has given.
In explaining this to my youngest son, imagine a door: the Holy Spirit as both the key and the force to turn the key, the door as Jesus Christ (who says in John 10:9, “I am the door/gate”), who ushers us into the heart of our heavenly Father.
The Holy Spirit is the key, for the Holy Spirit creates in us “wholehearted trust.” This is the difference between knowing and trusting. James 2:19, one of the Scripture references for Q/A 21, cautions us that even the demons know of the true identity of the triune God. The difference is when our lives confess that the truth of who God is is true for me. It’s not simply knowing the basic biography of God, but staking your life, your past-present-future in that God who is revealed in Jesus Christ by/through/in the Holy Spirit.
Caspar Olevianus in his Firm Foundation, which provides a good commentary on the Catechism, discussed what is at stake between simply knowing facts and trusting in what God has revealed about Himself and which is articulated in the Creed:
. . .when you confess, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate,” you must not only
Remember the Passion story (for the Evil One knows it as well) but also believe
that in this article God promises and assures you that He suffered for you and
that it belongs to you as much as if you yourself had suffered. Or when you
confess, “Was crucified” (namely, for me), God promises you that He had His
Son suffer for you. . .”
Q/A 23 expresses the basic summary of the Gospel. The Gospel is God Himself, what God has revealed Himself to be, God’s self-disclosure, God’s self-communication. The Apostles’ Creed is a very basic biography of who this triune God is and what the triune God has done in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
“I believe in God. . .
I believe in Jesus Christ. . .
I believe in the Holy Spirit. . .”
From pulpits, small groups, Sunday School classrooms, homes, coffee houses, park benches, social media, books and treatises – this Good News – the proclaiming of God has revealed Himself to be in Jesus Christ – is to be shared both within the Church and in the world.
When I taught my sons how to ride a bike a few years ago, it involved taking each of them and holding the handlebar in one hand as I ran alongside their wobbly bikes. Back and forth we went along a stretch of sidewalk. Sometimes they would go to the right or to the left, but I firmly held that handlebar to steer them to the middle of the sidewalk, prodding, pushing, pulling and catching them as they wobbled towards me or towards the other side of the sidewalk. On and on this went, and sure enough within two weeks, they were off and riding to the wind.
This trust comes because I have shared with them who I am, my character, my personality – through words, through experiences, through tangible acts.
More so with our God. The Gospel is that God shows us who He is and what He does. What He does expresses who He is; who He is expresses what He does. The Good News (the Gospel) as articulated in the Creed is that through and through, the character of God and the acts of God are one and the same. They are in sync with one another.
It’s not arrogance or pride to confess that only in the triune God revealed as Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit are reconciliation and deliverance from misery in sin accomplished. It’s wholehearted trust. It’s humble reverence and deep confidence of what the Holy Spirit has convicted in me and in us: the Good News that the triune God has come as Jesus Christ, revealed Himself to us, given Himself for us, and abides in us.
What we are called to do is to bear witness to that Good News, of what we have received, trusting that the Holy Spirit will use that witness/testimony to draw hearts and lives to Jesus Christ.
Thus: the beginning, the middle, and the end of our life, is God.
Subject. Verb. And yes. Object.