As serious disciples of Christ more and more find themselves swimming against the stream in our modern world, we do well to learn from others who have previously had to swim against the stream.
The Belgic Confession was written in 1561. It owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of the Protestant faith during the time of the Spanish inquisition in the Lowlands of Holland.
Guido de Brès, its primary author, was pleading for understanding and toleration from King Philip II of Spain who, for his part, was determined to root out all Protestantism in his jurisdiction.
Hence, this confession took pains to point out the continuity of Reformed Protestant belief with that of the historical Christian creeds, as well as to distinguish it from Roman Catholicism (on the one side), and from Anabaptist teachings (on the other).
Guido de Brès died as a Christian martyr in 1567.
Here is a sample:
ARTICLE 27 – THE CATHOLIC CHRISTIAN CHURCH
We believe and profess one catholic or universal church,1 which is a holy congregation and assembly2 of the true Christian believers, who expect their entire salvation in Jesus Christ,3 are washed by his blood, and are sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.4
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will be to the end, for Christ is an eternal King who cannot be without subjects.5 This holy church is preserved by God against the fury of the whole world,6 although for a while it may look very small and as extinct in the eyes of man.7 Thus during the perilous reign of Ahab, the Lord kept for Himself seven thousand persons who had not bowed their knees to Baal.8
Moreover, this holy church is not confined or limited to one particular place or to certain persons, but is spread and dispersed throughout the entire world.9 However, it is joined and united with heart and will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.10
- Gen 22:18; Isa 19:6; Eph 2:17-19.
- Psalm 111:1; John 10:14, John 10:16; Eph 4:3-6; Heb 12:22-23.
- Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21.
- Eph 1:13; Eph 4:30.
- 2 Sam 7:16; Psalm 89:36; Psalm 110:4; Mat 28:18-20; Luke 1:32.
- Psalm 46:5; Mat 16:18.
- Isa 1:9; 1 Pet 3:20; Rev 11:7.
- 1 Kgs 19:18
- Mat 23:8; John 4:21-23; Rom 10:12-13.
- Psalm 119:63; Acts 4:32; Eph 4:4.
ARTICLE 28 – EVERYONE’S DUTY TO JOIN THE CHURCH
We believe, since this holy assembly and congregation is the assembly of the redeemed and there is no salvation outside of it,1 that no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, no matter what his status or standing may be. But all and everyone are obliged to join it and unite with it,2 maintaining the unity of the church. They must submit themselves to its instruction and discipline,3 bend their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ,4 and serve the edification of the brothers and sisters,5 according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.6
To observe this more effectively, it is the duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to separate from those who do not belong to the church7 and to join this assembly8 wherever God has established it. They should do so even though the rulers and edicts of princes were against it, and death or physical punishment might follow.9
All therefore who draw away from the church or fail to join it act contrary to the ordinance of God.
- Mat 16:18-19; Acts 2:47; Gal 4:26; Eph 5:25-27; Heb 2:11-12; Heb 12:23.
- 2 Chron 30:8; John 17:21; Col 3:15.
- Heb 13:17.
- Mat 11:28-30.
- Eph 4:12.
- 1 Cor 12:7, 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 4:16.
- Num 16:23-26; Isa 12:11-12; Acts 2:40; Rom 16:17; Rev 18:4.
- Psalm 122:1; Isa 1:3; Heb 10:25.
- Acts 4:19-20.
ARTICLE 29 – THE MARKS OF THE TRUE AND THE FALSE CHURCH
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church, for all sects which are in the world today claim for themselves the name of church.1 We are not speaking here of the hypocrites, who are mixed in the church along with the good and yet are not part of the church, although they are outwardly in it.2 We are speaking of the body and the communion of the true church which must be distinguished from all sects that call themselves the church.
The true church is to be recognized by the following marks: It practises the pure preaching of the gospel.3 It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them.4 It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.5 In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God,6 rejecting all things contrary to it7 and regarding Jesus Christ as the only Head.8 Hereby the true church can certainly be known and no one has the right to separate from it.
Those who are of the church may be recognized by the marks of Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour,9 flee from sin and pursue righteousness,10 love the true God and their neighbour11 without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works.12 Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life.13 They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him.14
The false church assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God. It does not want to submit itself to the yoke of Christ.15 It does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in His Word, but adds to them and subtracts from them as it pleases. It bases itself more on men than on Jesus Christ. It persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke the false church for its sins, greed, and idolatries.16
These two churches are easily recognized and distinguished from each other.
- Rev 2:9.
- Rom 9:6.
- Gal 1:8; 1 Tim 3:15.
- Acts 19:3-5; 1 Cor 11:20-29.
- Mat 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:4-5, 1 Cor 5:13; 2 Thes 3:6, 2 Thes 3:14; Titus 3:10.
- John 8:47; John 17:20; Acts 17:11; Eph 2:20; Col 1:23; 1 Tim 6:3.
- 1 Thes 5:21; 1 Tim 6:20; Rev 2:6.
- John 10:14; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18.
- John 1:12; 1 John 4:2.
- Rom 6:2; Phil 3:12.
- 1 John 4:19-21.
- Gal 5:24.
- Rom 7:15; Gal 5:17.
- Rom 7:24-25; 1 John 1:7-9.
- Acts 4:17-18; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 John 9.
- John 16:2.