One of the classes we offer the covenant kids here at Christ Church is a course in memorizing the Heidelberg Catechism. I know, say what you will, but we FVers can be pretty audacious at times. We even pretend to ourselves that we believe this stuff.
Anyhoo, one of my parishioners emailed me because he works through the questions with his daughter, using G.I. Williamson’s commentary as an aid. And he came across something that seemed to resemble what he has heard from the pulpit here on the nature of living faith — but which is hotly disputed by certain members of the Internet Airedales for Truth Brigade. Thought I should share it, with many thanks for the living eye illustration.
“Faith itself is not the source of our righteousness. The source is exclusively Jesus. He lived a sinless life and was therefore well-pleasing to the Heavenly Father. Jesus was also willing to give that righteousness to us. Not only that, but he was willing to bear our sin, our guilt, and our punishment as our substitute. On the basis of this double imputation (of his righteousness to us, and our sin to him), he was condemned and we are put right with God. What puts faith in the spotlight, as it were, is the fact that it is by faith alone that we receive this righteousness. Just as it is by a living eye (not a glass eye) that we can see (receive) the light of a beautiful sunset, so it is by a genuine faith (not a dead faith, as James says) that we receive the righteousness of the Lord Jesus. There is no other way that we can receive the righteousness of Christ. We receive it only by relying on him completely.
It should be obvious that when we say “by faith only” we do not mean “faith in isolation.” Here again, it may help us to think of the seeing eye in order to understand this. It is by the eye alone that we can see things. But there never was an eye that could see in isolation. If you ever see a human eye lying on a slab in a laboratory, you can be sure that the eye sees nothing. The reason is that an eye functions only as a living part of a human body. So it is with faith. If you have “faith” all by itself–faith in isolation–then your faith is dead rather than living (James 2:26). In other words, genuine faith in the Lord Jesus will be accompanied by a repentant heart and a willingness to obey his commandments. Nonetheless, it is by faith alone that I am righteous. All I need to do is accept the gift of God by faith in order to become right with God (Lord’s Day 23, pp 107-108).
Really good stuff.