The Belgic Confession
Christian Reformed Church, 1985
This confession is the oldest creed of the Christian Reformed Church.
It originated in the Netherlands (Holland) in the sixteenth century. At
that time, the Netherlands (in Latin, Belgica) included the
northern portion that is today known as Belgium. The Confessio
Belgica was written in 1561 by Guido de Bres, who was martyred only
six years later, as a defense of the Reformed
churches against persecution by the Roman Catholic Church. It attempted to
demonstrate that the Reformed churches of the Netherlands were faithful
adherents to the Christian Faith as presented in Scripture. As a result, a
strong emphasis on the authority of Scripture permeates the confession.
The original confession went through several later editorial revisions,
including the Synod of Dordt in 1619 that adopted it as one of the
doctrinal standards of the Reformed churches (The Canons of Dordt: 1618-19). This version is
substantially the modern English translation adopted by the Christian
Reformed Church in 1985, with only minor paragraph changes for web
The Belgic Confession
Article 1: The Only God
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there
is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God-- eternal,
incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty;
completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.
Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
We know him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe,
since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which
all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the
invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the
apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict
men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and
divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the
salvation of his own.
Article 3: The Written Word of God
We confess that this Word of God was not sent nor delivered by the
will of men, but that holy men of God spoke, being moved by the Holy
Spirit, as Peter says. 1
Afterwards our God, because of the special care he has for us and our
salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit
this revealed Word to writing. He himself wrote with his own finger the
two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine
12 Pet. 1:21
Article 4: The Canonical Books
We include in the Holy Scripture the two volumes of the Old and New
Testaments. They are canonical books with which there can be no quarrel
In the church of God the list is as follows: in the Old Testament,
the five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers,
Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Judges, and Ruth; the two books of
Samuel, and two of Kings; the two books of Chronicles, called
Paralipomenon; the first book of Ezra; Nehemiah, Esther, Job; the
Psalms of David; the three books of Solomon: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and
the Song; the four major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel;
and then the other twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah,
Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
In the New Testament, the four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and
John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen letters of Paul: to the
Romans; the two letters to the Corinthians; to the Galatians, Ephesians,
Philippians, and Colossians; the two letters to the Thessalonians; the
two letters to Timothy; to Titus, Philemon, and to the Hebrews; the
seven letters of the other apostles: one of James; two of Peter; three
of John; one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.
Article 5: The Authority of Scripture
We receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for
the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith.
And we believe without a doubt all things contained in them, not so
much because the church receives and approves them as such but above all
because the Holy Spirit testifies in our hearts that they are from God,
and also because they prove themselves to be from God. For even the
blind themselves are able to see that the things predicted in them do
Article 6: The Difference Between Canonical and Apocryphal Books
We distinguish between these holy books and the apocryphal ones,
which are the third and fourth books of Esdras; the books of Tobit,
Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Sirach, Baruch; what was added to the Story of
Esther; the Song of the Three Children in the Furnace; the Story of
Susannah; the Story of Bell and the Dragon; the Prayer of Manasseh; and
the two books of Maccabees.
The church may certainly read these books and learn from them as far
as they agree with the canonical books. But they do not have such power
and virtue that one could confirm from their testimony any point of
faith or of the Christian religion. Much less can they detract from the
authority of the other holy books.
Article 7: The Sufficiency of Scripture
We believe that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God
completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is
sufficiently taught in it. For since the entire manner of service which
God requires of us is described in it at great length, no one, even an
apostle or an angel from heaven, as Paul says,2 ought to
teach other than what the Holy Scriptures have already taught us. For
since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God,3
this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in
Therefore we must not consider human writings, no matter how holy
their authors may have been, equal to the divine writings; nor may we
put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or
persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of
God, for truth is above everything else. For all human beings are liars
by nature and more vain than vanity itself.
Therefore we reject with all our hearts everything that does not
agree with this infallible rule, as we are taught to do by the apostles
when they say, "Test the spirits to see if they are of God,"4
and also, "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do
not receive him into your house."5
2Gal. 1:8 3Deut. 12:32; Rev. 22:18-19 41
John 4:1 52 John 10
Article 8: The Trinity
In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who
is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly,
and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties,
namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin,
and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.
The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father.
The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the
Father and the Son.
Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since
Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each
has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics, yet in such a
way that these three persons are only one God.
It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is
not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father
nor the Son. Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither
divided nor fused or mixed together.
For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only
the Son. The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy
Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same
essence. There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in
truth and power, in goodness and mercy.
Article 9: The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity
All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as
well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel
within ourselves. The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us
to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old
Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion.
In the book of Genesis God says, "Let us make man in our image,
according to our likeness." So "God created man in his own image,"
indeed, "male and female he created them."6 "Behold, man has
become like one of us."7 It appears from this that there is a
plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, "Let us make man in
our image," and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, "God
It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are, but
what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the
New. For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the
Father was heard saying, "This is my dear Son";8 the Son was
seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.
So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by
Christ: "Baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit."9
In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the
mother of our Lord: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power
of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be
born of you shall be called the Son of God."10 And in another
place it says: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you."11 "There
are three who bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy
Spirit, and these three are one."12
In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three
persons in the one and only divine essence. And although this doctrine
surpasses human understanding, we nevertheless believe it now, through
the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven. Furthermore, we
must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in
relation to us. The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his
power. The Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood. The Holy Spirit
is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts.
This doctrine of the holy Trinity has always been maintained in the
true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against
Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christians and heretics, such as
Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others
like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.
And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical
creeds, the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian, as well as what the
ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.
6Gen. 1:26-27 7Gen. 3:22 8Matt. 3:17
9Matt. 28:19 10Luke 1:35 112 Cor. 13:14
121 John 5:7 (KJV)
Article 10: The Deity of Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the
only Son of God, eternally begotten, not made nor created, for then he
would be a creature. He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal;
the exact image of the person of the Father and the "reflection of his
glory,"13 being in all things like him. He is the Son of God
not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as
the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together.
Moses says that God "created the world";14 and John says
that "all things were created by the Word,"15 which he calls
God. The apostle says that "God made the world by his Son."16
He also says that "God created all things by Jesus Christ."17
And so it must follow that he who is called God, the Word, the Son,
and Jesus Christ already existed when all things were created by him.
Therefore the prophet Micah says that his origin is "from ancient times,
from eternity."18 And the apostle says that he has "neither
beginning of days nor end of life."19 So then, he is the true
eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
13Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 14Gen. 1:1 15John
1:3 16Heb. 1:2 17Col. 1:16 18Mic. 5:2
Article 11: The Deity of the Holy Spirit
We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally
from the Father and the Son, neither made, nor created, nor begotten,
but only proceeding from the two of them. In regard to order, he is the
third person of the Trinity, of one and the same essence, and majesty,
and glory, with the Father and the Son. He is true and eternal God, as
the Holy Scriptures teach us.
Article 12: The Creation of All Things
We believe that the Father created heaven and earth and all other
creatures from nothing, when it seemed good to him, by his Word, that is
to say, by his Son. He has given all creatures their being, form, and
appearance, and their various functions for serving their Creator. Even
now he also sustains and governs them all, according to his eternal
providence, and by his infinite power, that they may serve man, in order
that man may serve God.
He has also created the angels good, that they might be his
messengers and serve his elect. Some of them have fallen from the
excellence in which God created them into eternal perdition; and the
others have persisted and remained in their original state, by the grace
The devils and evil spirits are so corrupt that they are enemies of
God and of everything good. They lie in wait for the church and every
member of it like thieves, with all their power, to destroy and spoil
everything by their deceptions. So then, by their own wickedness they
are condemned to everlasting damnation, daily awaiting their torments.
For that reason we detest the error of the Sadducees, who deny that
there are spirits and angels, and also the error of the Manicheans, who
say that the devils originated by themselves, being evil by nature,
without having been corrupted.
Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence
We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not
abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according
to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world
without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin
that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and
incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly
even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly. We do not wish to
inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human
understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all
humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are
hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn
only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that
nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our
gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping
all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our
heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the
ground20 without the will of our Father. In this thought we
rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who
cannot hurt us without his permission and will.
For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who
say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to
Article 14: The Creation and Fall of Man
We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made
and formed him in his image and likeness, good, just, and holy; able by
his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.
But when he was in honor he did not understand it21 and
did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to
sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word
of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had
received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true
life, having corrupted his entire nature.
So he made himself guilty and subject to physical and spiritual
death, having become wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways. He
lost all his excellent gifts, which he had received, from God, and he
retained none of them except for small traces, which are enough to make
Moreover, all the light in us is turned to darkness, as the Scripture
teaches us: "The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness did not
receive it."22 Here John calls men "darkness."
Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning
man’s free will, since man is nothing but the slave of sin and cannot do
a thing unless it is "given him from heaven."23 For who can
boast of being able to do anything good by himself, since Christ says,
"No one can come to me unless my Father who sent me draws him"?24
Who can glory in his own will when he understands that "the mind of
the flesh is enmity against God"?25 Who can speak of his own
knowledge in view of the fact that "the natural man does not understand
the things of the Spirit of God"?26
In short, who can produce a single thought, since he knows that we
are "not able to think a thing" about ourselves, by ourselves, but that
"our ability is from God"?27 And therefore, what the apostle
says ought rightly to stand fixed and firm: "God works within us both to
will and to do according to his good pleasure."28 For there
is no understanding nor will conforming to God’s understanding and will
apart from Christ’s involvement, as he teaches us when he says, "Without
me you can do nothing."29
21Ps. 49:20 22John 1:5 23John 3:27
24John 6:44 25Rom. 8:7 261 Cor. 2:14
272 Cor. 3:5 28Phil. 2:13 29John 15:5
Article 15: The Doctrine of Original Sin
We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has been
spread through the whole human race. It is a corruption of all nature,
an inherited depravity which even infects small infants in their
mother’s womb, and the root which produces in man every sort of sin. It
is therefore so vile and enormous in God’s sight that it is enough to
condemn the human race, and it is not abolished or wholly uprooted even
by baptism, seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a
Nevertheless, it is not imputed to God’s children for their
condemnation but is forgiven by his grace and mercy, not to put them to
sleep but so that the awareness of this corruption might often make
believers groan as they long to be set free from the "body of this
Therefore we reject the error of the Pelagians who say that this sin
is nothing else than a matter of imitation.
Article 16: The Doctrine of Election
We believe that, all Adam’s descendants having thus fallen into
perdition and ruin by the sin of the first man, God showed himself to be
as he is: merciful and just. He is merciful in withdrawing and saving
from this perdition those whom he, in his eternal and unchangeable
counsel, has elected and chosen in Jesus Christ our Lord by his pure
goodness, without any consideration of their works.
He is just in leaving the others in their ruin and fall into which
they plunged themselves.
Article 17: The Recovery of Fallen Man
We believe that our good God, by his marvelous wisdom and goodness,
seeing that man had plunged himself in this manner into both physical
and spiritual death and made himself completely miserable, set out to
find him, though man, trembling all over, was fleeing from him.
And he comforted him, promising to give him his Son, "born of a
woman,"31 to crush the head of the serpent,32 and
to make him blessed.
31Gal. 4:4 32Gen. 3:15
Article 18: The Incarnation
So then we confess that God fulfilled the promise, which he had made
to the early fathers by the mouth of his holy prophets when he sent his
only and eternal Son into the world at the time set by him. he Son took
the "form of a servant" and was made in the "likeness of man,"33
truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for
sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power
of the Holy Spirit, without male participation.
And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned
but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human
being. For since the soul had been lost as well as the body he had to
assume them both to save them both together.
Therefore we confess, against the heresy of the Anabaptists who deny
that Christ assumed human flesh from is mother, that he "shared the very
flesh and blood of children";34 that he is "fruit of the
loins of David" according to the flesh;35 "born of the seed
of David" according to the flesh;36 "fruit of the womb of the
virgin Mary";37 "born of a woman";38 "the seed of
David";39 "a shoot from the root of Jesse";40 "the
offspring of Judah,"41 having descended from the Jews
according to the flesh; "from the seed of Abraham", or he "assumed
Abraham’s seed" and was "made like his brothers except for sin."42
In this way he is truly our Immanuel, that is: "God with us."43
33Phil. 2:7 34Heb. 2:14 35Acts 2:30
36Rom. 1:3 37Luke 1:42 38Gal. 4:4
392 Tim. 2:8 40Rom. 15:12 41Heb. 7:14
42Heb. 2:17; 4:15 43Matt. 1:23
Article 19: The Two Natures of Christ
We believe that by being thus conceived the person of the Son has
been inseparably united and joined together with human nature, in such a
way that there are not two Sons of God, nor two persons, but two natures
united in a single person, with each nature retaining its own distinct
properties. hus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, without
beginning of days or end of life,44 filling heaven and earth.
His human nature has not lost its properties but continues to have
those of a creature; it has a beginning of days; it is of a finite
nature and retains all that belongs to a real body. And even though he,
by his resurrection, gave it immortality, that nonetheless did not
change the reality of his human nature; for our salvation and
resurrection depend also on the reality of his body. But these two
natures are so united together in one person that they are not even
separated by his death.
So then, what he committed to his Father when he died was a real
human spirit, which left his body. But meanwhile his divine nature
remained united with his human nature even when he was lying in the
grave; and his deity never ceased to be in him, just as it was in him
when he was a little child, though for a while it did not show itself as
These are the reasons why we confess him to be true God and true man,
true God in order to conquer death by his power, and true man that he
might die for us in the weakness of his flesh.
Article 20: The Justice and Mercy of God in Christ
We believe that God, who is perfectly merciful and also very just,
sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been
committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most
bitter passion and death.
So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with
our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty
and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect
love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by
him we might have immortality and eternal life.
Article 21: The Atonement
We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to
the order of Melchizedek, made such by an oath, and that he presented
himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full
satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring
out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets
For it is written that "the chastisement of our peace" was placed on
the Son of God and that "we are healed by his wounds." He was "led to
death as a lamb"; he was "numbered among sinners"45 and
condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though Pilate had declared
that he was innocent.
So he paid back what he had not stolen,46 and he suffered,
the "just for the unjust,"47 in both his body and his soul,
in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by
our sins his sweat became like "big drops of blood falling on the
ground."48 He cried, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned
me?"49 And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our
Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we "know nothing but Jesus
and him crucified";50 we consider all things as "dung for the
excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."51 We
find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any
other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only
sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever. This is
also why the angel of God called him Jesus, that is, "Savior", because
he would save his people from their sins.52
45Isa. 53:4-12 46Ps. 69:4 471 Pet.
3:18 48Luke 22:44 49Matt. 27:46 501 Cor.
2:2 51Phil. 3:8 52Matt. 1:21
Article 22: The Righteousness of Faith
We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great
mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces
Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer
looks for anything apart from him. For it must necessarily follow that
either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if
all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation
entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something
else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God, for it
then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore
we justly say with Paul that we are justified "by faith alone" or by
faith "apart from works."53
However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself
that justifies us, for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace
Christ, our righteousness. But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in
making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done
for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in
communion with him and with all his benefits. When those benefits are
made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.
Article 23: The Justification of Sinners
We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins
because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is
contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed
to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.54
And the same apostle says that we are justified "freely" or "by
grace" through redemption in Jesus Christ.55 And therefore we
cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to
God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not
claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on
the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in
That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident,
freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s
approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled
as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves. In fact, if we had to
appear before God relying, no matter how little, on ourselves or some
other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.
Therefore everyone must say with David: "Lord, do not enter into
judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be
54Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:6 55Rom. 3:24 56Ps.
Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners
We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of
God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes
him a "new man,"57 causing him to live the "new life"58
and freeing him from the slavery of sin. Therefore, far from making
people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying
faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it
they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for
themselves and fear of being condemned.
So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a
human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what
Scripture calls "faith working through love,"59 which leads a
man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word. These
works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable
to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not
count toward our justification, for by faith in Christ we are justified,
even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more
than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the
So then, we do good works, but not for merit, for what would we
merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not
he to us, since it is he who "works in us both to will and do according
to his good pleasure"60, thus keeping in mind what is
written: "When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall
say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to
Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works, but it is by
his grace that he crowns his gifts. Moreover, although we do good works
we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is
not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we
could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject
So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any
certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if
they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.
572 Cor. 5:17 58Rom. 6:4 59Gal. 5:6
60Phil. 2:13 61Luke 17:10
Article 25: The Fulfillment of the Law
We believe that the ceremonies and symbols of the law have ended with
the coming of Christ, and that all foreshadowings have come to an end,
so that the use of them ought to be abolished among Christians. Yet the
truth and substance of these things remain for us in Jesus Christ, in
whom they have been fulfilled.
Nevertheless, we continue to use the witnesses drawn from the law and
prophets to confirm us in the gospel and to regulate our lives with full
integrity for the glory of God, according to his will.
Article 26: The Intercession of Christ
We believe that we have no access to God except through the one and
only Mediator and Intercessor: Jesus Christ the Righteous.62
He therefore was made man, uniting together the divine and human
natures, so that we human beings might have access to the divine
Majesty. Otherwise we would have no access.
But this Mediator, whom the Father has appointed between himself and
us, ought not terrify us by his greatness, so that we have to look for
another one, according to our fancy. For neither in heaven nor among the
creatures on earth is there anyone who loves us more than Jesus Christ
does. Although he was "in the form of God," he nevertheless "emptied
himself," taking the form of "a man" and "a servant" for us;63
and he made himself "completely like his brothers."64
Suppose we had to find another intercessor. Who would love us more
than he who gave his life for us, even though "we were his enemies"?65
And suppose we had to find one who has prestige and power. Who has as
much of these as he who is seated "at the right hand of the Father,"66
and who has all power "in heaven and on earth"?67 And who
will be heard more readily than God’s own dearly beloved Son?
So then, sheer unbelief has led to the practice of dishonoring the
saints, instead of honoring them. That was something the saints never
did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from
their writings, they consistently refused. We should not plead here that
we are unworthy, for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the
basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and
dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.
Since the apostle for good reason wants us to get rid of this foolish
fear, or rather, this unbelief, he says to us that Jesus Christ was
"made like his brothers in all things," that he might be a high priest
who is merciful and faithful to purify the sins of the people.68
For since he suffered, being tempted, he is also able to help those who
And further, to encourage us more to approach him he says, "Since we
have a high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has entered into heaven,
we maintain our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is
unable to have compassion for our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in
all things, just as we are, except for sin. Let us go then with
confidence to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find
grace, in order to be helped."70
The same apostle says that we "have liberty to enter into the holy
place by the blood of Jesus. Let us go, then, in the assurance of
faith...."71 Likewise, "Christ’s priesthood is forever. By
this he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through
him who always lives to intercede for them."72
What more do we need? For Christ himself declares: "I am the way, the
truth, and the life; no one comes to my Father but by me."^73
Why should we seek another intercessor? Since it has pleased God to give
us his Son as our Intercessor, let us not leave him for another, or
rather seek, without ever finding. For when God gave him to us he knew
well that we were sinners.
Therefore, in following the command of Christ we call on the heavenly
Father through Christ, our only Mediator, as we are taught by the Lord’s
Prayer, being assured that we shall obtain all we ask of the Father in
621 John 2:1 63Phil. 2:6-8 64Heb.
2:17 65Rom. 5:10 66Rom. 8:34; Heb. 1:3 67Matt.
28:18 68Heb. 2:17 69Heb. 2:18 70Heb.
4:14-16 71Heb. 10:19, 22 72Heb. 7:24-25 73John
Article 27: The Holy Catholic Church
We believe and confess one single catholic or universal church, a
holy congregation and gathering of true Christian believers, awaiting
their entire salvation in Jesus Christ being washed by his blood, and
sanctified and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
This church has existed from the beginning of the world and will last
until the end, as appears from the fact that Christ is eternal King who
cannot be without subjects.
And this holy church is preserved by God against the rage of the
whole world, even though for a time it may appear very small in the eyes
of men, as though it were snuffed out.
For example, during the very dangerous time of Ahab the Lord
preserved for himself seven thousand men who did not bend their knees to
And so this holy church is not confined, bound, or limited to a
certain place or certain persons. But it is spread and dispersed
throughout the entire world, though still joined and united in heart and
will, in one and the same Spirit, by the power of faith.
741 Kings 19:18
Article 28: The Obligations of Church Members
We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the
gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from
it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself,
regardless of his status or condition.
But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the
unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by
bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to
build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as
members of each other in the same body.
And to preserve this unity more effectively, it is the duty of all
believers, according to God’s Word, to separate themselves from those
who do not belong to the church, in order to join this assembly wherever
God has established it, even if civil authorities and royal decrees
forbid and death and physical punishment result.
And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act
contrary to God’s ordinance.
Article 29: The Marks of the True Church
We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully, by
the Word of God, what is the true church, for all sects in the world
today claim for themselves the name of "the church."
We are not speaking here of the company of hypocrites who are mixed
among the good in the church and who nonetheless are not part of it,
even though they are physically there. But we are speaking of
distinguishing the body and fellowship of the true church from all sects
that call themselves "the church."
The true church can be recognized if it has the following marks: The
church engages in the pure preaching of the gospel; it makes use of the
pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them; it
practices church discipline for correcting faults. In short, it governs
itself according to the pure Word of God, rejecting all things contrary
to it and holding Jesus Christ as the only Head. By these marks one can
be assured of recognizing the true church, and no one ought to be
separated from it.
As for those who can belong to the church, we can recognize them by
the distinguishing marks of Christians: namely by faith, and by their
fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness, once they have received the
one and only Savior, Jesus Christ. They love the true God and their
neighbors, without turning to the right or left, and they crucify the
flesh and its works.
Though great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the
Spirit all the days of their lives, appealing constantly to the blood,
suffering, death, and obedience of the Lord Jesus, in whom they have
forgiveness of their sins, through faith in him.
As for the false church, it assigns more authority to itself and its
ordinances than to the Word of God; it does not want to subject itself
to the yoke of Christ; it does not administer the sacraments as Christ
commanded in his Word; it rather adds to them or subtracts from them as
it pleases; it bases itself on men, more than on Jesus Christ; it
persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and
who rebuke it for its faults, greed, and idolatry.
These two churches are easy to recognize and thus to distinguish from
Article 30: The Government of the Church
We believe that this true church ought to be governed according to
the spiritual order that our Lord has taught us in his Word. There
should be ministers or pastors to preach the Word of God and adminster
the sacraments. There should also be elders and deacons, along with the
pastors, to make up the council of the church.
By this means true religion is preserved; true doctrine is able to
take its course; and evil men are corrected spiritually and held in
check, so that also the poor and all the afflicted may be helped and
comforted according to their need.
By this means everything will be done well and in good order in the
church, when such persons are elected who are faithful and are chosen
according to the rule that Paul gave to Timothy.75
751 Tim. 3
Article 31: The Officers of the Church
We believe that ministers of the Word of God, elders, and deacons
ought to be chosen to their offices by a legitimate election of the
church, with prayer in the name of the Lord, and in good order, as the
Word of God teaches.
So everyone must be careful not to push himself forward improperly,
but he must wait for God’s call, so that he may be assured of his
calling and be certain that he is chosen by the Lord.
As for the ministers of the Word, they all have the same power and
authority, no matter where they may be, since they are all servants of
Jesus Christ, the only universal bishop, and the only head of the
Moreover, to keep God’s holy order from being violated or despised,
we say that everyone ought, as much as possible, to hold the ministers
of the Word and elders of the church in special esteem, because of the
work they do, and be at peace with them, without grumbling, quarreling,
Article 32: The Order and Discipline of the Church
We also believe that although it is useful and good for those who
govern the churches to establish and set up a certain order among
themselves for maintaining the body of the church, they ought always to
guard against deviating from what Christ, our only Master, has ordained
Therefore we reject all human innovations and all laws imposed on us,
in our worship of God, which bind and force our consciences in any way.
So we accept only what is proper to maintain harmony and unity and to
keep all in obedience to God.
To that end excommunication, with all it involves, according to the
Word of God, is required.
Article 33: The Sacraments
We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness,
has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge his
good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our
He has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to
our external senses both what he enables us to understand by his Word
and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation
he imparts to us.
For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and
invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the
Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive
us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.
Moreover, we are satisfied with the number of sacraments that Christ
our Master has ordained for us. There are only two: the sacrament of
baptism and the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ.
Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism
We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, in whom the law is
fulfilled, has by his shed blood put an end to every other shedding of
blood, which anyone might do or wish to do in order to atone or satisfy
Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, he
established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received
into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien
religions, that we may be dedicated entirely to him, bearing his mark
and sign. It also witnesses to us that he will be our God forever, since
he is our gracious Father.
Therefore he has commanded that all those who belong to him be
baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the
In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the
dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of
the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ
does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It
washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the
children of wrath into the children of God.
This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of
the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which
we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharaoh, who is the devil, and to
enter the spiritual land of Canaan.
So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the
sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament
signifies, namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying,
and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our
hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of
his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the "new man" and stripping off
the "old," with all its works.
For this reason we believe that anyone who aspires to reach eternal
life ought to be baptized only once without ever repeating it, for we
cannot be born twice. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the
water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.
For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not
content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism
of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be
baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children
were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our
And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little
children of believers than he did for adults.
Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ
has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by
offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of
Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the
sacrament of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for
the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the "circumcision of
76Matt. 28:19 77Col. 2:11
Article 35: The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper
We believe and confess that our Savior Jesus Christ has ordained and
instituted the sacrament of the Holy Supper to nourish and sustain those
who are already born again and ingrafted into his family: his church.
Now those who are born again have two lives in them. The one is
physical and temporal, they have it from the moment of their first
birth, and it is common to all. The other is spiritual and heavenly, and
is given them in their second birth; it comes through the Word of the
gospel in the communion of the body of Christ; and this life is common
to God’s elect only.
Thus, to support the physical and earthly life God has prescribed for
us an appropriate earthly and material bread, which is as common to all
as life itself also is. But to maintain the spiritual and heavenly life
that belongs to believers he has sent a living bread that came down from
heaven: namely Jesus Christ, who nourishes and maintains the spiritual
life of believers when eaten, that is, when appropriated and received
spiritually by faith.
To represent to us this spiritual and heavenly bread Christ has
instituted an earthly and visible bread as the sacrament of his body and
wine as the sacrament of his blood. He did this to testify to us that
just as truly as we take and hold the sacraments in our hands and eat
and drink it in our mouths, by which our life is then sustained, so
truly we receive into our souls, for our spiritual life, the true body
and true blood of Christ, our only Savior. We receive these by faith,
which is the hand and mouth of our souls.
Now it is certain that Jesus Christ did not prescribe his sacraments
for us in vain, since he works in us all he represents by these holy
signs, although the manner in which he does it goes beyond our
understanding and is incomprehensible to us, just as the operation of
God’s Spirit is hidden and incomprehensible.
Yet we do not go wrong when we say that what is eaten is Christ’s own
natural body and what is drunk is his own blood, but the manner in which
we eat it is not by the mouth but by the Spirit, through faith.
In that way Jesus Christ remains always seated at the right hand of
God the Father in heaven, but he never refrains on that account to
communicate himself to us through faith.
This banquet is a spiritual table at which Christ communicates
himself to us with all his benefits. At that table he makes us enjoy
himself as much as the merits of his suffering and death, as he
nourishes, strengthens, and comforts our poor, desolate souls by the
eating of his flesh, and relieves and renews them by the drinking of his
Moreover, though the sacraments and thing signified are joined
together, not all receive both of them. The wicked person certainly
takes the sacrament, to his condemnation, but does not receive the truth
of the sacrament, just as Judas and Simon the Sorcerer both indeed
received the sacrament, but not Christ, who was signified by it. He is
communicated only to believers.
Finally, with humility and reverence we receive the holy sacrament in
the gathering of God’s people, as we engage together, with thanksgiving,
in a holy remembrance of the death of Christ our Savior, and as we thus
confess our faith and Christian religion. Therefore no one should come
to this table without examining himself carefully, lest "by eating this
bread and drinking this cup he eat and drink to his own judgment."78
In short, by the use of this holy sacrament we are moved to a fervent
love of God and our neighbors.
Therefore we reject as desecrations of the sacraments all the muddled
ideas and damnable inventions that men have added and mixed in with
them. And we say that we should be content with the procedure that
Christ and the apostles have taught us and speak of these things as they
have spoken of them.
78 1 Cor. 11:27
Article 36: The Civil Government
We believe that because of the depravity of the human race our good
God has ordained kings, princes, and civil officers. He wants the world
to be governed by laws and policies so that human lawlessness may be
restrained and that everything may be conducted in good order among
For that purpose he has placed the sword in the hands of the
government, to punish evil people and protect the good.
And being called in this manner to contribute to the advancement of a
society that is pleasing to God, the civil rulers have the task, subject
to God’s law, of removing every obstacle to the preaching of the gospel
and to every aspect of divine worship.
They should do this while completely refraining from every tendency
toward exercising absolute authority, and while functioning in the
sphere entrusted to them, with the means belonging to them.
They should do it in order that the Word of God may have free course;
the kingdom of Jesus Christ may make progress; and every anti-Christian
power may be resisted.*
*The Synod of 1958, in line with 1910 and 1938, substituted the
above statement for the following (which it judged unbiblical):
And the government’s task is not limited to caring for and watching
over the public domain but extends also to upholding the sacred
ministry, with a view to removing and destroying all idolatry and
false worship of the Antichrist; to promoting the kingdom of Jesus
Christ; and to furthering the preaching of the gospel everywhere; to
the end that God may be honored and served by everyone, as he
requires in his Word.
Moreover everyone, regardless of status, condition, or rank, must be
subject to the government, and pay taxes, and hold its representatives
in honor and respect, and obey them in all things that are not in
conflict with God’s Word, praying for them that the Lord may be willing
to lead them in all their ways and that we may live a peaceful and quiet
life in all piety and decency.*
*The Synod of 1985 directed
that the following paragraph be taken from the body of the text and be
placed in a footnote: And on this matter we denounce the Anabaptists,
other anarchists, and in general all those who want to reject the
authorities and civil officers and to subvert justice by introducing
common ownership of goods and corrupting the moral order that God has
established among human beings.
Article 37: The Last Judgment
Finally we believe, according to God’s Word, that when the time
appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and
the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come
from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and
majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead. He
will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it.
Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great
judge, men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until
the end of the world.
They will be summoned there by the voice of the archangel and by the
sound of the divine trumpet.79
For all those who died before that time will be raised from the
earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in
which they lived. And as for those who are still alive, they will not
die like the others but will be changed "in the twinkling of an eye"
from "corruptible to incorruptible."80
Then "the books" (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the
dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world,81
whether good or evil. Indeed, all people will give account of all the
idle words they have spoken,82 which the world regards as
only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of men will be
publicly uncovered in the sight of all.
Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible
and dreadful to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a
great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption
will then be accomplished. They will then receive the fruits of their
labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be
openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that
God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented
them in this world.
The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own
consciences, and shall be made immortal, but only to be tormented in the
everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.83
In contrast, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and
honor. The Son of God will "confess their names"84 before God
his Father and the holy and elect angels; all tears will be "wiped from
their eyes";85 and their cause, at present condemned as
heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers, will be
acknowledged as the "cause of the Son of God."
And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such
as the heart of man could never imagine.
So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy
fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
79 1 Thess. 4:16 80 1 Cor. 15:51-53 81
Rev. 20:12 82 Matt. 12:36 83 Matt. 25:14 84
Matt. 10:32 85 Rev. 7:17