Guido De Bres wrote the Belgic Confession in 1561. He was a pastor and a student of John Calvin, living amid persecution against Protestant Christians like himself by the medieval Roman Catholic Church. De Bres delivered his Confession to the Roman Catholic King of Spain Phillip II. He soon became a martyr for his beliefs.
Of the Belgic Confession’s 37 articles, five of them are exclusively about the Bible. What could this man have believed about the Bible that made him willing to die for his Confession?
Here’s what the Belgic Confession has to say about the Bible.
The Bible Is the Written Word of God
We confess that this Word of God was not sent, nor delivered by the will of man, but that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, as the apostle Peter says.
And that afterwards God, from a special care, which he has for us and our salvation, commanded his servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit his revealed word to writing; and he himself wrote with his own finger, the two tables of the law. Therefore we call such writings holy and divine Scriptures. (Article #3. Of the Written Word of God)
Here, the Belgic Confession quotes 1 Peter 1:20-21, which says, “ For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (NIV).
The Holy Spirit delivered God’s Word through human writers. These writers put words together, committing their own memories and thoughts to paper. But as they wrote the words of the Bible, God’s Spirit directed them in such a way that what they wrote was his Word.
Guido believed the Bible’s testimony about itself—that it truly is God’s Word.
The Written Word of God Contains 66 Books
In the fourth article of the Belgic Confession, Guido De Bres joined the chorus of church history in affirming that only 66 books of the Bible (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books) are inspired by God and authoritative.
In his next article, De Bres explains that these books (the canon) are authoritative because God, through his Holy Spirit, confirms the truth and authority of these books in his peoples’ hearts.
We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and conformation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesses in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves.” (Article #5. From Whence the Holy Scriptures Derive Their Dignity and Authority.)
Following this, De Bres says that the extra books (called “apocryphal”) may be useful to their readers, but only as much as they agree with and don’t detract from the teaching of the divinely inspired 66 books of the Bible.
God’s Written Word Is Our Final Authority
In this final article addressing the Bible in the Belgic Confession, De Bres makes it clear that he believes the canonical books are the primary and ultimate source of authority for the Church.
We believe that those Holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe, unto salvation, is sufficiently taught therein.
For, since the whole manner of worship, which God requires of us, is written in them at large, it is unlawful for anyone, though an apostle, to teach otherwise than we are now taught in the Holy Scriptures: nay, though it were an angel from heaven, as the apostle Paul says.
For, since it is forbidden, to add unto or take away anything from the word of God, it does thereby evidently appear, that the doctrine thereof is most perfect and complete in all respects.
Neither do we consider of equal value any writing of men, however holy these men may have been, with those divine Scriptures, nor ought we to consider custom, or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God, for the truth is above all; for all men are of themselves liars, and more vain than vanity itself.
Therefore, we reject with all our hearts, whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule, which the apostles have taught us, saying, Try the spirits whether they are of God. Likewise, if there come any unto you; and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house. (Article #7. The Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, to be the Only Rule of Faith.)
De Bres explains that the teachings of the Bible are complete and contain all that is needed for humanity to know the way of salvation, referencing the following passages from the Bible.
- “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8 ESV).
- “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV).
De Bres firmly admonishes readers to test all creeds, councils, confessions—even his own!—by the measuring rod of the Bible. He recognizes that he, too, is subject to the judgment and correction of the Bible.
Would You Sign the Belgic Confession?
What did Guido De Bres believe about the Bible that made him willing to die for his confession? The Belgic Confession says the Bible is the written Word of God, given to us in 66 books, which are the final authority for the church. He died for God’s Word—not man’s.
So would you sign the Belgic Confession?
If you would like to read more, you can find all 37 articles of the Belgic Confession here.