One of the visible characteristics of Reformed (or reforming) churches is that it is confessional, not in a Roman Catholic sense where you confess your sins to a priest, but confessional like in doctrinal. Although I rejoice witnessing resurgence of Reformed interests, especially, from the neo-Reformed (so called “young, restless, reformed”), my concern is that one is not really Reformed without being confessional, namely historical confessions.
To think that somehow we just discovered the mammoth of theological truths is simply a sign of arrogance in our part, and does a huge injustice to historical theology. Hence, to help us to think through some aspects of this Passion Week, let me offer some of the confessions from our church history:
The Heidelberg Catechism (1563):
40. Why did Christ have to go all the way to death? Because God’s justice and truth demand it: only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.
41. Why was he “buried”? His burial testifies that he really died.
42. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die? Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.
43. What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross? Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.
44. Why does the creed [i.e. the Apostle’s Creed] add, “He descended into hell”? To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also ealier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell (from Lord’s Day 16).
The London Baptist Confession (1689):
Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator
4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.
5. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of God, procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.
6. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head; and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, being the same yesterday, and to-day and for ever.
Chapter 11: Of Justification
3. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are justified; and did, by the sacrifice of himself in the blood of his cross, undergoing in their stead the penalty due unto them, make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in their behalf; yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them, and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead, and both freely, not for anything in them, their justification is only of free grace, that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.