Keys to the Kingdom: H.C. Question 83

What are the keys of the kingdom? 

Matthew 16:19 – I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

John 20:22-23 – And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Ephesians 6:10-15; Romans 3:21-26; 6:15-18 “The Breastplate of Righteousness”

Having put on the Belt of Truth, affirming God’s standards and opinions as they are revealed through Scripture, we now seek to align our lives with that Truth. This is the meaning of the breastplate of righteousness. For us, it isn’t enough to simply know the Truth, we are called to put it into action in our lives.

Discussions about righteousness, however, can quickly lead to legalism. For those in Christ, however, righteousness is not an outer change that leads to inner salvation. The Truth of this righteousness is that is comes from Christ’s sacrifice, imputed to us by grace through faith, and begins the transformation with in our hearts that leads to a transformed life.

Questions to take home:
Do you think that “right living” can act as a guard against the enemy’s attacks? Have you seen wrong choices and behavior become an invitation for the enemy’s work in your own life or in the life of someone you love? How?

Righteousness often times gets confused with perfectionism, our own attempts at making ourselves right with God. What do our Scripture passages on Sunday say to this? How can you use this Truth to combat the lie of perfectionism?

In Christ, we are made righteous. This transformation occurs from the inside out and is led by the Holy Spirit’s work, with our cooperation. How does knowing that the Holy Spirit is the One doing much of the work encourage you to cooperate with Him?

Where is one place in your life that you know you are making wrong decisions that you will start cooperating with the Holy Spirit’s work? How will you do this?

Regarding the Mass: H.C. Lord’s Day 30

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 30

Q 80. How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass? 
A 80. The Lord’s Supper declares to us that all our sins are completely forgiven through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself accomplished on the cross once for all.  It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, who with his true body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where he wants us to worship him.

But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have their sins forgiven through the suffering of Christ unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests. It also teaches that Christ is bodily present under the form of bread and wine where Christ is therefore to be worshiped. Thus the Mass is basically nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and a condemnable idolatry.

Q 81. Who should come to the Lord’s table? 
A 81. Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their remaining weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life.

Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Q 82. Should those be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly? 
A 82. No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s wrath upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.

On the whole, the Heidelberg Catechism does a good job of teaching and explaining the Christian faith, particularly a reformed understanding of it.  Unlike some documents and movements of that time (16th century A.D.), there is little in the way of condemnation of other modes of belief or what we would consider denominations.  In that day, there was considerable contempt and condemnation that was going around between the Reformed Protestants, the Lutheran Protestants, the Anabaptists, and the Catholic church.  None really had good things to say about the other.  Yet, in the midst of this, the Heidelberg Catechism offered nothing more than a teaching tool for why the Reformers believed what they did, largely staying away from pointed remarks against other Christians.

…That is… until now…

Lord’s Day 30 addresses specifically the Catholic practice of the Mass, something that has been the worship structure of the Roman Catholic church since its modern inception sometime in the early part of the last millennium.

Different than the worship structure of Protestant churches in general, the focal point of the Mass is the celebration of the Eucharist, or the Lord’s Supper, whereas Protestant churches see the focal point in the opening of God’s Word.  While there may be a short homily in a Catholic Mass, the main emphasis of worship is placed on the ritual celebration of communion.

While this is not necessarily a wrong emphasis, and many would argue the importance of celebrating the Lord’s Supper, the danger (and reasoning for the Heidelberger’s speaking out on this point) comes largely from the reasoning of this emphasis.  As we talked about last week, the Roman Catholic church believes in the transubstantiation of the elements, the bread and the wine.  This means that bread (wafers) and cup (wine) are physically transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ.  So when they are taking communion, those attending the Catholic Mass are literally feasting on the body and blood of Christ.

There are a number of dangers here:

First, the Catholic theology suggests that the Mass and the celebration of the Eucharist participate in the “ongoing sacrifice” of Jesus on the cross.  By participating in it, we are taking part in this sacrifice that is drawn forward from the original moment to now.  Catholics do not believe that the Mass is a “re-sacrifice,” but the wording comes close to that.  1 Peter 3:18 says that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.”  Apart from the general verb tense that is used here, which is very clearly the past tense, it also points to the same language as is used in Hebrews 10, that Christ died once for all.  His sacrifice is not repeated nor is it ongoing, it happened and, as Jesus said, “It is finished.”  We don’t want to continue this work through the Eucharist or any other acts.  By thinking that we do, we add an element of “works righteousness” into the mix which, essentially, nullifies or minimizes Christ’s work on the cross.

Second, if the emphasis of worship is on the celebration of communion, and on the literal feasting on Christ’s body and blood, there may be an inadvertent teaching that this act is in itself a saving act.  There is nothing salvific about the sacraments; receiving them does not save us.  They are visible signs of God’s grace and through our participation in them we are proclaiming the Gospel of God’s love in Jesus Christ.  Again, this can cause us to stray into a false belief in “works righteousness” or a belief that we are saved by the “work worked.”  That means that, through our participation in the sacrament and the receiving of Jesus literal body and blood, we too are saved despite where our hearts may be.  Clearly, this flies in the face of Scripture’s revelation of justification by faith.

Finally, there is a danger that comes in thinking that Christ’s literal body and blood are present in the celebration of the Eucharist.  If they were, it would be right that we would worship the elements as they appear, being that their presence would mean the incarnated presence of God’s Son, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, among us.  If this were the case, it would be right to worship them.  However, this literal reading of Scripture does not necessarily make sense as Jesus said he was many different physical things and we take none of them literal.  He is not a literal gate, a literal shepherd, or even a literal well of living water inside of us.  Instead, these are analogies of the impact of Jesus’ life, ministry, and presence in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.  If then, we wrongly worship the bread and the wine as Jesus’ literal body and blood when they are not, we are committing a horrible idolatry at one of the most significant moments in worship.

I think it is important to note that, even here in the Heidelberg Catechism, and in our discussion today, we are asking important questions so that we can better understand the nature of our beliefs and worship.  This discussion is not meant to be a condemnation of our brothers and sisters in Christ, but rather a clarification of why those who are “reformed” believe the way that they do.  Scripture is very clear that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” and that the only one who is in the position to judge us is Christ, He who went to the cross to die for our sins.  Let us remember that as we consider our hearts and that of others when we participate in the sacraments.  God the Father invites us to His table to commune with Him, despite our sinful selves, because we have been washed in the bloood of Jesus.  Let us, therefore, endevor to understand in the best possible way, the event we are participating in, and revel in the glorious mystery and beautiful grace that is present there as we encounter God anew at His Table.

Walk the Talk: H.C. Question 82

Should those be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they profess and how they live that they are unbelieving and ungodly? 

1 Corinthians 11:17-32 – In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

Psalm 50:14-16 – “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

But to the wicked person, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?

Isaiah 1:11-17 – “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord.

“I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.

They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood! Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.

Who Should Come? H.C. Question 81

Who should come to the Lord’s table? 

1 Corinthians 10:19-22 – Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

1 Corinthians 11:26-32 – For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

Different than the Mass? H.C. Question 80

How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass? 

John 19:30 – When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Hebrews 7:27 – Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

Hebrews 9:12 – He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.

Hebrews 9:25-26 – Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 10:10-18 – And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

1 Corinthians 6:17 – But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 – Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

Acts 7:55-56 – But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

Hebrews 1:3 – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Hebrews 8:1 – Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,

Matthew 6:20-21 – But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

John 4:21-24 – “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Colossians 3:1-3 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Ephesians 6:10-14; John 17:6-19 “The Belt of Truth”

Scripture says that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Paul also warns us that “his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness.” As we begin to look at the specific elements of the armor of God, we come to our first and, arguably, most important defense against the father of lies: the Belt of Truth.

Despite what culture says, Truth is not relative. God’s Truth, His opinion on everything does not change based on our feelings, thoughts, rationalizations, or any cultural influence. God’s Word is the revelation of His Truth, both living and active as well as unchanging and timeless. Jesus says, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Questions to take home:
1. God’s Word is the ultimate Truth; all things are revealed when they are exposed to the light. Do we take time in our lives to run our decisions, thoughts, or the suggestions that come our way against God’s Word? What would that change?

2. What lies are you experiencing in your own life? How have they colored the way that you view yourself, those around you, and/or God? What Truth is present in Scripture that reminds you of the Truth to combat that lie?

3. Read Psalm 139:23-24; How do you think your would your relationship with God change if you prayed this Psalm each morning.