The Gospel of Peace and the Heidelberg Catechism

Whole Armor WSCAL ConferenceI think this is our 10th annual faculty conference. We began in 2004 with the “Foolishness of the Gospel.” This year we’re remembering the 450th anniversaries of the Belgic Confession (1562) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) while meditating on Ephesians 6. I’ll be talking about Ephesians 6:15, “…as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace” as it came to expression in the Heidelberg Catechism.

When we think of the Reformation, we think of the recovery of the good news of free acceptance with God for Christ’s sake alone. That perception of the Reformation is certainly correct. What is less well known is that almost as soon as the gospel was recovered it was attacked.

  • In the 1520s Anabaptists rejected the Protestant gospel on the ground that it would lead to careless living.
  • By 1530 there was a Lutheran theologian teaching that we are accepted by God on the basis of the indwelling Christ within us.
  • In 1547, Rome decreed that anyone who confessed justification by grace alone, through faith alone is eternally condemned.
  • In the early 1550s a leading Lutheran theologian was teaching that good works are necessary as a condition of righteousness before God.
  • In the same year the Heidelberg Catechism was published, a leading Lutheran theologian was denying that all of Jesus’ perfect obedience was for us and is imputed to us. This denial of the imputation of the active obedience of Christ would open the way for some to later say that Christ makes it possible for us to be saved but we must do our part.

In 1562, when Frederick III commissioned the Heidelberg Catechism, the confession of the Gospel by the magisterial Protestant churches was clear enough but on the picture on the ground was not so clear. Further, the Palatinate church had been through two revolutions in the previous twenty years. In 1543 they were Roman Catholic. By 1553 they were Protestant and ten years after that they were about to become confessionally Reformed. The churches needed a clear, unambiguous articulation about what Scripture teaches concerning the most important questions of the Christian faith and life. Nothing is more important than the question of how we are right with God and nothing is clearer in the catechism than the confession of the good news of free acceptance with God in Christ.

Register for the conference here.

ps. There’s a last minute addition to the Q & A session on Saturday. Check it out!

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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