I remember one man to whom I gave a copy of the Belgic Confession, told him to read and then get back to me. His summary was, “I felt like it was Christianity 101 that I’ve always believed.” That was music to my ears. Why? The “Reformed faith” isn’t a cultic set of doctrines and rituals. It’s not a secret club for a few frozen chosen. Reformed Christianity is Christianity. Therefore it has the answer to sinners’ deepest longings and needs.
Sinclair Ferguson memorably wrote that of the three Persons of the holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit wasn’t the forgotten, but the unknown member of the Godhead. Similarly, among the Three Forms of Unity—the historic confessions of faith of Reformed churches—the Belgic Confession is certainty the most unknown. Those of us in Reformed churches are familiar with our beloved Heidelberg Catechism through regular catechetical preaching. Philip Schaff once described the Heidelberg as being “baptized with the pentecostal fire of the great Reformation” and being “the product of the heart as well as the head, full of faith and unction from above.” I remember the first time I read its opening question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death.” I felt like the new wine of Reformed truth was entering into me as a new wine skin. We’re familiar with the Canons of Dort—the capstone of our confessions and armament against Arminianism. This document gives expression to the “doctrines of grace” or so-called “five points of Calvinism.” I, too, recall reading the Canons for the first time and being struck by the precision of its doctrines of predestination, the sufficiency and efficiency of Christ’s satisfaction, the nature of sin, the power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, and the preserving work of the Triune God. I was moved by how these doctrines led to devotion, precision led to piety, and exposition led to experience. Although unknown, though, I love the Belgic Confession. Let me offer three reasons why.
Celebrated for its History
The history of the Belgic Confession is why I love the Belgic Confession. Its history is the stuff of legend: a persecuted minority, a repressive regime (Spain), and heroic preachers. One of those preachers in the southern Low Countries (now Belgium) was Guido de Brès. The family business was making idols for Roman Catholics. Yet God heard his mother’s prayers, just as he heard those of Monica for Augustine. de Brès’ became a minister of the Gospel. His ministry was like Paul’s: “as dying, and, behold, we live” (2 Cor. 6:9).