by Rev. Vernon Pollema
59. What does it help you now, that you believe all this?
That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.
60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.
61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.
Question 59 above serves as the bridge between the content of true faith (see questions #22-58), and the benefits of true faith (questions #60-64). The previous Lord’s Day (23) concluded the exposition of the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, i.e., what is necessary for the Christian to believe.
The benefits of believing these necessary things (doctrines) are nothing short of astounding, amazing, wonderful, incredible, marvelous—there aren’t enough words to do justice to these benefits! Question 60 is considered by most to be the highest point of the Catechism, and is emphasized in some editions by the bold print of both the question and answer. Certainly that’s not difficult to understand, for what could be more important to know than how we are righteous before God and acceptable to Him? I have found this question and answer to be the most comforting and reassuring of the entire Catechism. To be declared not guilty on the basis of the imputed righteousness and holiness of Christ, and then to stand before God as if I never had committed any sin, but had myself accomplished all of the obedience Christ fulfilled for me, and then to have it credited to my account (imputation), is, indeed, beyond words.
We find here (see #61) the doctrine of all doctrines—justification by grace through faith, as well as the sound biblical theology of God the Father making His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, “who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21), with the result that, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1a); “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace” (Rom. 4:16a); “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).
Of all the questions and answers to be committed to memory, make #60, along with #1, the two you know and love the best. They will bring comfort to your soul.