Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Heidelberg Catechism

Below is an excerpt from John Calvin's view of this portion of the Apostle's Creed "Descended in to Hell". This sounds very troubling in our day. But, it is understanding why some people even in early Chruch History would want to either not include this phrase or refer to it as being "in the Grave". But, below are some good points made by John Calvin that really make you think and wonder about what Jesus went through not just physically, but spiritually. Let me know what you think.
Grace and Peace,
Chris Allen
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John Calvin:
JOHN CALVIN'S: INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGIONEDITED BY JOHN T. MCNEILLAuburn Professor Emeritus of Church History Union Theological Seminary New YorkTRANSLATED AND INDEXED BY FORD LEWIS BATTLES
10. THE "DESCENT INTO HELL" AS AN EXPRESSION OF THE SPIRITUAL TORMENT THAT CHRIST UNDERWENT FOR US
But we must seek a surer explanation, apart from the Creed, of Christ’s descent into hell. The explanation given to us in God’s Word is not only holy and pious, but also full of wonderful consolation. If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual. No — it was expedient at the same time for him to undergo the severity of God’s vengeance, to appease his wrath and satisfy his just judgment. For this reason, he must also grapple hand to hand with the armies of hell and the dread of everlasting death.
f439 A little while ago f440 we referred to the prophet’s statement that "the chastisement of our peace was laid upon him," "he was wounded for our transgressions" by the Father, "he was bruised for our infirmities" [Isaiah 53:5 p.]. By these words he means that Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge — submitting himself even as the accused — to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained. All — with this one exception: "He could not be held by the pangs of death" [Acts 2:24 p.]. No wonder, then, if he is said to have descended into hell, for he suffered the death that, God in his wrath had inflicted upon the wicked! Those who — on the ground that it is absurd to put after his burial what preceded it — say that the order is reversed in this way are making a very trifling and ridiculous objection. f441 The point is that the Creed sets forth what Christ suffered in the sight of men, and then appositely speaks of that invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he underwent in the sight of God in order that we might know not only that Christ’s body was given as the price of our redemption, but that he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man.
11. DEFENSE OF THIS EXPLANATION FROM SCRIPTURE PASSAGES
In this sense Peter says: "Christ arose, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held or conquered by them" [Acts 2:24 p.]. Peter does not simply name death, but expressly states that the Son of God had been laid hold of by the pangs of death that arose from God’s curse and wrath — the source of death. For what a smallthing it would have been to have gone forward with nothing to fear and, as if in sport, to suffer death! But this was a true proof of his boundless mercy, that he did not shun death, however much he dreaded it. There is no doubt that the apostle means the same thing when he writes in the Letter to the Hebrews: Christ "was heard for his …fear" [Hebrews 5:7 p.]. (Others render it "reverence" or "piety,"
f442 but how inappropriately is evident from the fact itself, as well as the form of speaking.) Christ, therefore, "praying with tears and loud cries, …is heard for his …fear" [Hebrews 5:7 p.]; he does not pray to be spared death, but he prays not to be swallowed up by it as a sinner because he there bore our nature, and surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him, not to be heard. It is as if God himself had plotted your ruin. We see that Christ was so cast down as to be compelled to cry out in deep anguish: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" [Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46]. Now some would have it that he was expressing the opinion of others rather than his own feeling. f443 This is not at all probable, for his words clearly were drawn forth from anguish deep within his heart. Yet we do not suggest that God was ever inimical or angry toward him. How could he be angry toward his beloved Son, "in whom his heart reposed" [cf. Matthew 3:17]? How could Christ by his intercession appease the Father toward others, if he were himself hateful to God? This is what we are saying: he bore the weight of divine severity, since he was "stricken and afflicted" [cf. Isaiah 53:5] by God’s hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God. Therefore Hilary reasons: by his descent into hell we have obtained this, that death has been overcome. In other passages he does not differ from our view, as when he says: "The cross, death, hell — these are our life." In another place: "The Son of God is in hell, but man is borne up to heaven." f444 And why do I quote the testimony of a private individual when the apostle, recalling this fruit of victory, asserts the same thing, that they were "delivered who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage"? [Hebrews 2:l5 p.]. He had, therefore, to conquer that fear which by nature continually torments and oppresses all mortals. This he could do only by fighting it. Now it will soon be more apparent that his was no common sorrow or one engendered by a light cause. Therefore, by his wrestling hand to hand with the devil’s power, with the dread of death,with the pains of hell, he was victorious and triumphed over them, that in death we may not now fear those things which our Prince has swallowed up [cf. 1 Peter 3:22, Vg.].
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Lord’s Day 7
20. Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?
No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.[1]
[1] Ps 2:12; Mt 7:14; Jn 1:12-13, 3:16, 18, 36; Rom. 11:16-21; 1 Cor 15:22; Heb 4:2-3, 10:39
21. What is true faith?
True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word,[1] but also a hearty trust,[2] which the Holy Spirit[3] works in me by the Gospel,[4] that not only to others, but to me also,[5] forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God,[6] merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.[7]
[1] Jn 17:3, 17; Heb 11:1-3; Jas 1:6, 2:19; [2] Rom 4:16-21, 5:1, 10:10; Heb 4:16; [3] 2 Cor 4:13; Php 1:19, 29; [4] Acts 16:4; Rom 1:16, 10:17; 1 Cor 1:21; [5] Gal 2:20; [6] Rom. 1:17; Heb 10:10, 11:1-2; [7] Acts 10:43; Rom 3:20-26; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:7-10
22. What, then, is necessary for a Christian to believe?
All that is promised us in the Gospel,[1] which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in summary.
[1] Mt 28:19-20; Jn 20:30-31; 2 Tim 3:15; 2 Pt 1:21
The Apostles’ Creed
23. What are these articles?
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, a holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
The Holy Trinity

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