The Church: H.C. Question 54

What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?

John 10:14-16 – “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Acts 20:28 – Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Romans 10:14-17 – How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Genesis 26:3-4 – Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,

Revelation 5:9 – And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Isaiah 59:21 – “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.

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

Matthew 16:18 – And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

John 10:28-30 – I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Romans 8:28-30 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

God the Holy Spirit: H.C. Lord’s Day 20

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 20

Q 53. What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?
A 53. First, that the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.

Second, that the Spirit is given also to me, so that, through true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his benefits through true faith, comforts me, and will remain with me forever.

*disclaimer: this post uses the masculine pronoun “he” to refer to the Holy Spirit.  I chose to use this word following the traditional translations of Scripture, specifically found in John 15 and 16, where Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, as “He.”  In doing so, I am not making the claim that the Holy Spirit is masculine, but rather seeking to honor Scripture’s traditional interpretation understanding that the Greek words used here as pronouns carry the interpretations of both masculine and feminine pronouns (He & She) as well as the gender neutral pronoun (it).

The Holy Spirit is by and large the most forgotten person of the Triune Godhead.  Even with the renewed awareness of His work in the lives of Christians throughout the world, the focus that the Church has taken throughout most of Christian history is a focus on Christ.

Interestingly, if we were to ask the Holy Spirit what He thought about that, He’d probably respond by saying “that’s great!”  And while the Holy Spirit is an important part of the Trinity, certainly co-equal with the Father and the Son and therefore worthy of our worship, the Spirit’s job and purpose is largely described in Scripture as testifying to Jesus in the hearts and minds of people.

As Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit being sent, recorded in John 14-16, He says multiple times that the “Advocate” or the “Spirit of Truth” will come.  His coming will herald a new and better understanding of Jesus; the Holy Spirit will complete the work that Christ has done in the world by revealing Christ and His love to all believers.  The Spirit does not seek glory for Himself but instead, comes to glorify the Father through the testimony of the Son.

This posture, taken by the Holy Spirit, may also serve to inform our own posture when it comes to how we interact around faith, church, and a number of other things that have to do with Christianity.  Both Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have experienced and demonstrated the sort of self-giving love and other-focused activity that Scripture calls for.  If the Spirit were selfish, we’d probably be getting a lot more prompting to worship the Holy Spirit and our focus would shift away from the central act of our salvation, found only in Jesus Christ.

But, it seems, at times we have shifted that focus in our churches and in our personal life.  When we want something different in our church, we often rally behind the cry of a more “spirit-driven” worship.  We want the Spirit to be “more active,” or suggest that we “leave room for the Spirit.”  All of this seems well and good; certainly not a request that would be heretical or out of bounds for Christians.  What we don’t realize, however, is that if the Spirit’s primary function is testify about Jesus, and if our worship is focused on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our worship is indeed Spirit-driven.

“Spirit-driven” worship does not depend on emotional highs and lows, or the manipulation of those emotions by music, lighting, well-crafted speeches, or technology.  Its focus is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  “Spirit-led” worship is not about spontinaity, using a lack of planning as a reasoning or excuse for the “Spirit to do what it wants.”  God is a God of order and gives us the ability to plan and prepare, but also to not be rigid, allowing for the movements of the Spirit as they come.  Perhaps “Spirit-led” worship is more about being open to listening to that still small voice, and less about a chaotic worship service in which no on knows what will happen.

The Heidelberg Catechism points us to another benefit of the Holy Spirit, that being “comfort.”  This too is rooted in the Gospel message of hope in Jesus Christ, to which the Spirit testifies because our comfort comes from the fact that our salvation and hope are for things beyond this world and this life.  No matter what we are going through, no matter where life takes us, we are not alone.  The spirit dwells within our hearts and therefore God is always with us.  Scripture says that He never leaves us or forsakes us.

The Holy Spirit: H.C Question 53

What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?

Genesis 1:1-2 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 5:3-4 – Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 3:14 – He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

John 15:26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

Acts 9:31 – Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

John 14:16-17 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

1 Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

Judgment Seat: H.C. Lord’s Day 19

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 19

Q 50. Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?
A 50. Because Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.

Q 51. How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
A 51. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts from heaven upon us his members.

Second, by his power he defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

Q 52. How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A 52. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.

It is a rare day indeed when the prospect of being judged, especially when it’s something as seemingly final as the last judgment, is actually comforting.  I can’t say that I ever found any of my final exams, tests, or even quizzes in school to be even the least be comforting; even when I knew I would do well.  However, the Catechism here seems to take a different approach to this judgment.

To really have a true understanding about this, though, we have to draw on all that we have talked about for the past couple of weeks regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.  After His resurrection and ascension, we read in Scripture that Jesus “sits down” at the right hand of the Father.  This “being seated,” as Paul writes at the beginning of the book of Ephesians, is a symbol of Christ’s work being finished.

Imagine, if you will, a lawyer making his closing arguments in a trial.  He eloquently defends the accused person that he represents and then says “your honor, I rest my case,” sitting down next to the defendant.  There’s nothing else to do, there’s nothing else to say; it is in the hands of the judge now.  The same is true here with Christ; He sits down at the right hand of the Father because the work is finished.  He doesn’t have to do more, He did it all when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.

Adding to this image, what would it look like if the lawyer defending the accused, which in this case is you and me, was also the judge?  He rests His case and then sits down in the judge’s place, rendering the verdict that He Himself has fought for.  The accuser has no say in anything because our defender is also our judge and He has paid the price for us.

Now that, my friends, is comforting.

It goes far beyond that as well.  There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and a final judgment of all people will come to pass.  For those who are in Christ, there is nothing to worry about because the one who will judge the world is also the one who paid our debt.  But for those who do not know Christ, whose sins are not forgiven, this may be cause for considerable angst.  Without Christ, the verdict is guilty… no matter how good a life we have lived… and the punishment is eternal.

Enter the idea of hell: eternal punishment and separation from God.  How is this comforting?  For many, especially in the insulated western world is the United States, the notion of Hell is repulsive and horrifying, something we are very quick to shy away from.  We don’t understand what it means to have real enemies.  Our greatest enemies are more likely our in-laws, or the guy that cut of off on the road the other day.  They certainly annoy us, but we would not wish eternal punishment on them… the definitely aren’t the enemies of God.

In other parts of the world, however, there is a different feel.  The enemies of God, those who actively oppose the Gospel and all who follow Christ, are real, dangerous, and deadly.  They behead Christians with swords, burn them alive in cages, and even sell Christian women and children into slavery and forced sexual servitude in the name of their god (who is not the same as the Christian God, mind you).  These are the enemies of God and they are ruthless; justice in these situations looks a lot different.

Now, I’m not saying that we should wish Hell on anyone.  We are called to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us.  However, we cannot argue that there is a comfort associated with knowing that, no matter how bad the world gets, Christ wins in the end and the enemies of God will be brought to true justice as well.  It is hard for us to fathom here in the U.S.  We experience only a micro-fraction of what Christians in other parts of the world live with daily… but for them and for us one thing is very clear: the battle has been won, the work has been finished, and judgment has been rendered, and as Job so eloquently states:

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!  Job 19:25-27

Return of the King: H.C. Question 52

 How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?

Luke 21:28 – When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Romans 8:22-25 – We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Philippians 3:20-21 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Titus 2:13-14 – while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

Matthew 25:31-46 – “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 – God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

King of kings: H.C. Question 51

How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?

Acts 2:33 – Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Ephesians 4:7-12 – But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:

“When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Psalm 110:1-2 – The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
The Lord will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

John 10:27-30 – My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Revelation 19:11-16 – I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.

 

Enthroned: H.C. Question 50

Why the next words: “and is seated at the right hand of God”?

Ephesians 1:20-23 – he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Colossians 1:18 – And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 5:22-23 – Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.