Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 25

Our church is reciting the appropriate section of the Heidelberg Catechism each Sunday. This past Sunday we did Lord's Day 25, which focuses on the Sacraments.

Q: 65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all his benefits by faith only, whence does this faith proceed?
A: From the Holy Spirit, who works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.

Q: 66. What are the sacraments?
A: The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, he may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, that is, that he grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.

Q: 67. Are both word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
A: Yes, indeed: for the Holy Spirit teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which he offered for us on the cross.

Q: 68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
A: Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.

What are some things we can learn from these four questions? Kevin DeYoung in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot gives us four points. 
First, we are not saved by the sacraments, but by faith alone...The sacraments are means of grace only insofar as we receive by faith the gospel truths promised in the elements. 
Second, the Reformers agreed, against the Roman Catholic Church, that the number of sacraments instituted by Christ was only two: baptism and the Lord's supper.
Third, the Reformers agreed that the sacraments could in no way add to or repeat Christ's one sacrifice upon the cross.
Fourth, the sacraments are signs and seals...The sacraments do not create faith; rather they confirm it, make us understand the gospel promises more clearly and assure of us of our salvation...They are holy signs symbolizing  the spiritual realities of the gospel, and seals reminding us of God's sure promises.
DeYoung closes with this:
We often forget amidst the calls for sensory worship and appeals to visual learning styles that God has  already given us His own self-appointed means of using our senses in worship. He's given us the sacraments that we might see, smell, taste, and touch the same promises of the gospel we hear proclaimed in the preaching of the Word. 
And that is why we do the Lord's Supper every week.

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Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud on their beds, let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; to bind the kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron. Psalm 149:5-8