Once again it’s Wednesday, and here on URC Psalmody that means it’s time for another installment of our Heidelberg Catechism series. Today we focus on Lord’s Day 7, which explains the Christian’s salvation, our faith, and our joyful confession.
20 Q. Are all men saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?
Only those are saved
who by true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his blessings.
21 Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is
not only a knowledge and conviction
that everything God reveals in his Word is true;
it is also a deep-rooted assurance,
created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel
that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ,
not only others, but I too,
have had my sins forgiven,
have been made forever right with God,
and have been granted salvation.
22 Q. What then must a Christian believe?
A. Everything God promises us in the gospel.
That gospel is summarized for us
in the articles of our Christian faith–
a creed beyond doubt,
and confessed throughout the world.
23 Q. What are these articles?
A. 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 sitteth at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from thence he shall come
to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit;
I believe a holy catholic church, the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.
Once again, the plenitude of psalms that speak of God’s plan of salvation and the believer’s faith in him make it nearly impossible to choose the perfect songs for this Lord’s Day. In particular, just about anything from Psalm 119 (Psalter Hymnal numbers 235-257) says something about salvation, faith, or God’s Word. Nevertheless, I’ve endeavored to pick out a few shining examples below.
250, “Deceit and Falsehood I Abhor” (Psalm 119)
“Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings.” While many portions of Psalm 119 contrast the paths of believers and unbelievers, number 250 (which versifies Psalm 119:113-120) also points to the centrality of God’s Word and the truth of salvation sola fide, by faith alone.
According to Thy gracious Word
Uphold me, Lord, deliver me;
O do not let me be ashamed
Of patient hope and trust in Thee;
O hold Thou me, and I shall stand
And ever follow Thy command.
The froward Thou hast set at nought,
Who vainly wander from the right;
The wicked Thou dost count as dross;
Thy just decrees are my delight;
For fear of Thee I stand I awe
And reverence Thy most holy law.
256, “Though Mighty Foes Assail Me, Lord” (Psalm 119)
“True faith is…a knowledge and conviction that everything God reveals in his Word is true.” Number 256 (Psalm 119:161-168) builds on number 250 by pointing to the unshakable foundation of the Christian’s faith—the inerrant, infallible Word of God. The second stanza declares joyfully:
Great peace has he who loves Thy law,
Unmoved, he safely stands;
For Thy salvation I have hoped
And followed Thy commands.
Thy testimonies I have kept,
They are my chief delight;
Observant of Thy law and truth,
I walk before Thy sight.
228, “I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life and Grace” (Psalm 116)
“True faith…is also a deep-rooted assurance, created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too…have been granted salvation.” Psalm 116 is a masterpiece describing the wondrous truth of our salvation and the faith that accompanies it. The psalmist (as adapted by William Kuipers) opens by declaring, “I love the Lord, the fount of life and grace,” then goes on to describe his sore bondage (“The cords of death held me in deep despair”) and his redemption by the Lord (“Jehovah heard; I pledge Him my devotion”). The fifth and ninth stanzas render these truths gloriously:
Thou, O Jehovah, in Thy sovereign grace,
Hast saved my soul from death and woe appalling,
Dried all my tears, secured my feet from falling.
Lo, I shall live and walk before Thy face.
I am, O Lord, Thy servant, bound yet free,
Thy handmaid’s son, whose shackles Thou hast broken;
Redeemed by grace I’ll render as a token
Of gratitude my constant praise to Thee.
55, “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass” (Psalm 32)
“Out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ, not only others, but I too, have had my sins forgiven, have been made forever right with God, and have been granted salvation.” When he sought to describe the “righteousness that is by faith” to the saints in Rome (see Romans 4), the apostle Paul quoted Psalm 32—and for good reason. This is undoubtedly one of the clearest depictions of redemption in all of Scripture.
So let the godly seek Thee
In times when Thou art near;
No whelming floods shall reach them,
Nor cause their hearts to fear.
In Thee, O Lord, I hide me,
Thou savest me from ill,
And songs of Thy salvation
My heart with rapture thrill.
The sorrows of the wicked
In number shall abound,
But those that trust Jehovah
His mercy shall surround.
Then in the Lord be joyful,
In song lift up your voice;
Be glad in God, ye righteous,
Rejoice, ye saints, rejoice.
72, “Before Thy People I Confess” (Psalm 40)
“What then must a Christian believe? Everything God promises us in the gospel.” Another song of redemption is found in Psalm 40, where the psalmist recounts the Lord’s faithfulness to him. A natural result of our regeneration is our public profession of faith: “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:10 ESV).
Before Thy people I confess
The wonders of Thy righteousness;
Thou knowest, Lord, that I have made
Thy great salvation known,
Thy truth and faithfulness displayed,
Thy loving-kindness shown.
Let all who seek to see Thy face
Be glad and joyful in Thy grace;
Let those who Thy salvation love
O praise the Lord who dwells above,
And magnify His Name!
287, “With All My Heart Will I Record” (Psalm 138)
If there is any one song that adequately summarizes the contents of Lord’s Day 7, it is this rousing Genevan versification of Psalm 138. The psalmist praises God’s truth and grace, recounting his wonderful works to mankind and personally to himself. He exalts the Word of God as the key to our salvation, and he ends with the unshakable confidence that “Thou wilt finish perfectly/What Thou for me hast undertaken.” I’ll end with the complete text of this setting, along with this excellent congregational recording from a Canadian Reformed Church in Langley, British Columbia.
With all my heart will I record
Thy praise, O Lord, and exaltation.
Before the gods with joyful song
Will I prolong my adoration.
I worship toward Thy holy place
And for Thy grace and truth extol Thee.
Above Thy Name, Thou, Lord Most High,
Didst magnify Thy Word so holy.
O God, whene’er I cried to Thee,
Thou heardest me and didst deliver;
For by Thy strength, when sore afraid,
My soul was stayed, O gracious Giver.
The kings of earth in one accord
Shall thank Thee, Lord, with praise unbroken,
When over all the earth is heard
The wondrous Word which Thou hast spoken.
They all shall sing in joyful lays
And laud Thy ways with jubilation,
For great is God in majesty,
The Lord is He of all creation.
Jehovah looketh from on high
With kindly eye upon the lowly,
But knoweth those from far who hide
In sinful pride their ways unholy.
Lord, though I walk ‘mid troubles sore,
Thou wilt restore my faltering spirit;
Though angry foes my soul alarm,
Thy mighty arm will save and cheer it.
Yea, Thou wilt finish perfectly
What Thou for me hast undertaken;
May not Thy works, in mercy wrought,
E’er come to nought or be forsaken.