Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #28

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 28 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 75-77.

Transition

This week, we shift our focus from the ordinance of baptism to the ordinance of Communion or the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a simple meal of bread and wine, taken throughout our life of faith and each time we eat it we are to remember our Lord. We are to remember his body and his blood, broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sin. But Jesus doesn’t simply want our remembrance to be an exercise of the mind, He has given us bread to eat and wine to drink.

He has given us bread, which we can see, touch, smell and taste. He has given us wine also and these elements do more than just engage our memory they make the sacrifice of Christ come alive. Jesus has given us a meal that we are to sink our teeth into and as we do this we remember the price He paid for our salvation

Lord’s Day Focus...

I want to start by asking the question, “Why a meal?” Why did God give us a meal as a way to teach us and remind us of His loving and saving grace? I think part of the answer is that God has made us in such a way that meals have a powerful way of teaching us certain truths that God wants us to learn and never forget. Let me try to explain what I mean.

The Bible opens with Adam and Eve in the Garden with God. The Garden is filled with food and God tells them that they can eat from the fruit of every tree in the Garden save one. The Bible begins with a meal. Before the fall, Adam and Eve ate their meals in God’s presence, but when they sinned that celebration of fellowship came to an end and they were no longer able to come into God’s presence at all, much less to eat. No more eating in the presence of God.

Fast forward to the time of the Exodus. God has a plan to redeem His people from their slavery and to bring them back into His presence. To kick off this redemptive event God commanded them to eat a meal of roasted lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs. The meal had deep meaning.

The unleavened bread was a symbol of the fact that they didn’t have time to wait for the bread to rise, their salvation would come quickly. The herbs reminded them of the bitterness of their captivity, from which Yahweh was saving them. The lamb reminded them of the sacrifice made for their sin and brushed onto their door so that the judgment of God would Passover them.

They were told to eat this meal year after year to remember God’s saving work. They would teach this to their children generation after generation. It was sin that pushed them out of the Garden and it was God’s sacrifice that would bring them back in. The Passover meal was a meal filled with the hope that one day God’s people would once again eat in His presence.

Why a meal? Because God’s plan is to bring us back into fellowship with Him, back to His table. He wants us to have fellowship with Him again. The meal is what we enjoy together but it is also the way back in. When Israel ate the Passover meal, they were rehearsing the day when they would sit with God remembering the bitterness of their lives apart from Him and celebrating the sacrifice that brought them home.

Fast forward to the NT and we see Jesus eating the Passover meal with His disciples, but in the middle of the meal He changes a few things. In the middle of the Passover Seder, Jesus broke script when He picked up a thin slice of unleavened bread and started to break it up and give it to His disciples.

Instead of saying, “This is the bread of affliction that your fathers ate…” Jesus said to the disciples, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[1] He picked up the cup, the third cup, and he passed it to them telling them that this cup marked the New Covenant sealed by His blood.

Jesus changed the script and by doing so, He transforms the meal altogether. This meal is no longer to be a celebration to remember the OT Passover but is to be done in remembrance of Jesus himself who in His body took upon himself the punishment for our sin.

He has forever changed the way we understand the Passover. The lambs used in Egypt and for thousands of years after the Exodus where all pointing to One Final Lamb whose sacrifice would put an end to all sacrifice.

These two redemptive events are tied together, and one fulfills the other. Just as the Israelites watched helplessly as God saved them from their bondage, so too, Christians watch helplessly as Christ rescues us from our bondage to sin.

So when we eat the Lord’s Supper, what is going on?

Question 75: How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?

Answer: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises: first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.

The Lord’s Supper should function in two ways when we gather as a church to eat it. It should serve to remind us of our identity as debtors to God’s mercy and grace. The Lord’s supper is an identity shaping meal, it helps us to know who we are. When we come to the table we are once again accepting the fact that our only hope of being right with God and of having a seat at His table is through the broken body and shed blood of His Son. The Lord’s Supper brings us to a place of humility before God because it reminds us that we bring nothing to the table but our need.

The supper also serves as an identity declaring meal. Not only are we to recognize our inner desperation, we are also declaring that desperation along with everyone else. When we gather around the table it’s like we are looking everyone in the eye and saying my need is just like yours, my hope is just like yours. There is no room for arrogance at the Lord’s Table. The man who has learned to view himself as a great sinner before God will not see himself as a lord among men, but as a beggar telling other beggars where to find food.

Question 76 helps point this out to us…

Question 76: What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?

Answer: It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.

The Supper is an exercise in remembering the Good News through a meal. It strengthens our faith because we are reminding our hearts that Jesus did die for us, that He was raised to show our salvation was complete, that by faith in Him our sins are forgiven, and eternal life is ours.

Wayne Grudem, in His chapter on the Lord’s Supper says it well,

As I take the bread and cup for myself, by my actions I am proclaiming, “I need you and trust you, Lord Jesus, to forgive my sins and give life and health to my soul, for only by your broken body and shed blood can I be saved.” In fact, as I partake in the breaking of the bread when I eat it and the pouring out of the cup when I drink it, I proclaim again and again that my sins were part of the cause of Jesus suffering and death. In this way sorrow, joy, thanksgiving and deep love for Christ are richly intermingled in the beauty of the Lord’s Supper.[2]

Question 77: Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?

Answer: In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”

And this promise is also repeated by the Apostle Paul, where he says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

This Lord ’s Supper is for us a celebration to remember the work of Christ. The Supper is a reminder that a New Covenant has been stuck between God and His people and it is secured by blood that cannot fail. The Supper is a memorial of the body and blood of Jesus that purchased forgiveness and eternal life for all those who believe. Each time we eat this bread and drink this cup we remember the Lord and we declare our unity as His blood bought people.

Unlike the Passover meal and others that we see in the Old Testament, Jesus doesn’t give us specific details on when to observe the Lord’s Supper. As a church we take communion once each month on the first Sunday of that month.

Jesus doesn’t tell us how often to eat this meal but he does tell us what should be our focus when eating the meal. As often as eat and drink this meal we are to do it in remembrance of Christ.

Next week we will continue our study of the ordinances and I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 29 and questions 78-79.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Thiselton I Corinthians pg. 185

[2] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: Chapter 50 The Lord’s Supper, pg. 991

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #27

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 27 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 72-74.

Transition

This week, we are still on the subject of baptism and this will be the week when we have to take a major detour from what Heidelberg has to say. As we have worked through the catechism over this year, we have hit a few questions that made us scratch our heads, but on the whole, it has been really helpful, which is why we are working through it as a church.

However, from day one I knew we were going to reach a few points along the way where our understanding of certain doctrines would be quite different from what the Heidelberg teaches and today we have finally come to that point. Question 74 asks,

Question 74: Are infants also to be baptized?

Answer: Yes.

But I, and my fellow credobaptist brothers and sisters would answer that question with a clear and resounding, no. It is not newborn babies that we see being baptized in the NT, but only newborn believers in Christ. So, today we are going to briefly address the differences between our position and the paedobaptist position. I am also going to reword question 74 and ask, “Who can be baptized?” But let’s also not skip over questions 72 & 73.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 72: Is then the outward washing with water itself the washing away of sins?

Answer: No; for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.

Part of the reason this question is necessary is because we often have difficulty with understanding spiritual realities and their connection to physical realities. A few weeks ago I quoted Matthew Henry when he said,

“We live in a world of sense, not yet in a world of spirits; and because we therefore find it hard to look above the things that are seen, we are directed in a sacrament to look through them, to those things not seen, which the sacraments represent.” –Matthew Henry[1]

 I find this idea very compelling because it brings some clarity on why it is hard for us to understand the connection between the physical world and the spiritual world, but it also shows how God has given us these ordinances in order to help us see those connections more clearly.

The water of baptism, a physical experience, does not actually wash away and cleanse our hearts from the effects of sin, our spiritual need. Baptism is a sign and symbol of that cleansing but it doesn’t actually work that way.

When a person is baptized they are declaring themselves to be united with Jesus. The picture of baptism is one of the individual identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In this way baptism saves us not because there is magical sin cleansing power in the water but because we are trusting in the work of Christ to cleanse us from sin. Our baptism is an appeal to God that we are trusting in what He has provided to save us from judgment.

“The waters of baptism, like the waters of the flood, demonstrate that destruction is at hand, but believers are rescued from these waters in that they are baptized with Christ, who has also emerged from the waters of death through his resurrection (Schreiner).”[2]

Baptism is not an exercise of us trusting in the water to cleanse us and save us; it is an exercise of displaying our trust in the Jesus and the Spirit of God to save us and cleanse us.

Question 73: Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?

Answer: God speaks this way for good reason. He wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins just as water washes away dirt from our bodies. But more important, He wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that the washing away of our sins spiritual is as real as physical washing with water.

This question and answer are addressing the language that Paul uses in Titus 3 when he writes,

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

One of the interesting things to point out from this verse is that water baptism is not mentioned in it. The reason it is so often associated with baptism is the use of the term washing and the general context of the passage. But the main point of this text is not the physical washing of regeneration (new birth) but the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about that new birth in our hearts.

The catechism does a great job answering this question and showing the connection between the physical and the spiritual. “The blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins just as water washes away dirt from our bodies.”

Now, let’s look at the final question of the week and the one that is going to give us a few problems.

Question 74: Are infants also to be baptized?

Answer: Yes. Infants as well as adults are in God’s covenant and are His people. They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness of sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith. Therefore, by baptism, the mark of the covenant, infants should be received into the Christian church and should be distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.

Now, I not only think the question is the wrong question, but I also disagree with the answer itself. Those who hold to a paedobaptist view, do so, because of their understanding of the continuity between the covenant that God made with His people in the Old Testament and the covenant that God has made with His people in the New Testament. They would agree that there are some significant differences between the two covenants and their signs, but they see them as being a continuum.

Let me give you a couple of quotes from Stephen Wellum where he works to explain what I’m talking about.

The Reformed paedobaptist conception of “the covenant of grace” may be defined in a number of ways, but at its heart it is understood as God’s sovereign gracious choice by which he chooses to save a people for himself by providing sinners life and salvation through the last Adam, the covenantal head of his people, the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as all that is necessary to bring the elect to saving faith by the effectual work of the Holy Spirit. 

Given that the “covenant of grace” is an organic unity across the ages, this entails—so the argument goes—that the people of God (Israel and the church) are essentially one (in nature and structure), and that the covenant signs (circumcision and baptism) are also essentially one, especially in regard to the spiritual significance of those signs. Furthermore, Reformed paedobaptists argue that since one cannot find any repeal in the NT of the OT command to place the sign of “the covenant of grace” upon covenant children, so the same practice should continue today in the church, given the underlying unity of the covenant across the ages. In a nutshell that is the Reformed covenantal argument for infant baptism.

This is a modest framework of support that gives rise to much paedobaptist thinking and if you were to go back and read question 74 again, you would be able to spot some of this in the answer.

Reformed covenant theology is very helpful and true in many of its points, but I think it gets this wrong. I think there are significant differences between the Old and New Covenants and that paedobaptists are wrong to see the two on such a strict continuum. This podcast is going to be really long if I go through all the points of disagreement so ill just stick with one and it is one that we have already been talking about; the difference between the spiritual and the physical.

The members of the old covenant were distinguished by their physical connection to Abraham. They were descendants, blood relatives, and as such they received the sign of being part of the covenant that God made with Abraham. Circumcision was that sign and oddly enough, only the male children were to receive that sign.

But when we come to the new covenant we see that its members are distinguished not by our physical connection but by our spiritual rebirth (John 3).

John 3:3“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Those who are members of the New Covenant, those who are to receive the sign of the New Covenant, are those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit. And that is what we see throughout and exclusively in the New Testament. The gospel is proclaimed, men and women believe in Christ and turn from their sin, and then they are baptized and brought into fellowship with the community of faith.

What we are going to see is that at no point is there any deviation from this pattern of baptizing disciples only and from this we must conclude that baptism was only administered to those who gave a credible profession of faith in Christ.

A. Acts 2 - The first sermon that was preached after the ascension of Christ is recorded for us in Acts 2. Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and he stands with boldness to proclaim the gospel of Christ and after his sermon we read, “Those who received his word were baptized” (Acts 2:41). They heard the message of Christ, they received/accepted this message for themselves and then they were baptized.

B. Acts 8 – The next time we see a group of people being baptized comes in Acts 8:12. In this passage Philip is preaching the gospel in Samaria and this is what we read,

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

When they believed they were baptized. So once again faith precedes baptism.

C. Acts 10 – Here we see Peter preaching the gospel to those of Cornelius’ household and while he is preaching, the Scriptures say “that the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the word.”  So everyone who was present and heard the word was filled with the Holy Spirit and they began speaking in tongues, praising God and Peter declares, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

The household of Cornelius heard the gospel, they received the Holy Spirit, which was evidence of their conversion[3], and then they were baptized. (See Ephesians 1:13)

D. Acts 16 – In this chapter we see two instances of believer’s baptism. The first involves Lydia and the second involves the Philippian jailer. In Lydia’s case we read that Paul came and preached the good news to her and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Him…and after this she was baptized and her household as well. 

Next comes the jailer (vv. 32-33) who asks Paul what must I do to be saved?

Acts 16:31-33 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."  32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.

Now there is a phrase in here that I want to address because it has been used by paedobaptists over the years to support the baptizing of infants and it is where we read that Lydia and the jailer’s household was baptized. Paedobaptists argue that it is possible to infer from this phrase that unbelieving children were part of these households and therefore it is safe to assume that the early church practiced infant baptism. The problem with this is that there is no Biblical evidence to support the claim.

There is no text in the gospels, the book of Acts, or the epistles which give me warrant to believe that the baptism of anyone other than a converted believer in Christ was the common practice of the early church. Furthermore, if we are to make sense out of these household baptisms then we must let Scripture interpret scripture and we can expect that if an entire household is baptized it is because the entire household believed the gospel, because that is the consistent witness of the NT.[4]

And just so we are clear on this issue, Baptists and Presbyterians agree that there is no express command or clear example of infant baptism in the Bible.

John Murray (paedobaptist) wrote…

One of the most persuasive objections and one which closes the argument for a great many people is that there is no express command to baptize infants and no record in the New Testament of a clear case of infant baptism…The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference, and it is therefore quite indefensible to demand that the evidence required must be in the category of express command or explicit instance.[5]

I applaud men like Murray for their honesty, but I must question their final conclusion. If the Bible gives us no warrant to believe a proposed doctrine, that doctrine has no credibility. So for me it’s a matter of my conscience being bound to the plain teaching of God’s Word. The consistent witness of the New Testament and the command of Christ is that baptism is only intended for the individual who has received by faith the saving benefits of Christ’s atoning work and become His disciple.

So, if I could take the liberty to rephrase question 74, I would ask it this way;

Question 74: Who then should be baptized?

Answer: Those who, having been born of God’s Spirit, repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. In other words, only believers should be baptized.

There is plenty more that could be said but I hope that this conversation has been helpful to you.

Next week we will continue our study of the ordinances and I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 28 and questions 75-77.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Matthew Henry A Puritan Theology pg. 748.

[2] Schreiner, Tom NAC Commentary on 1 Peter (Pg. 194)

[3] See Eph 1:13

[4] It is important to note that those who hold this view of infant baptism do so with a clear conscience and I would not want to have them go against conscience unless they are convicted otherwise by Scripture. But I must do the same and my conscience is clear that the position of Believer’s Baptism is the consistent and plain teaching of the NT.

[5] John Murray, Christian Baptism pg. 72 as quoted from Fred Malone, The Baptism of Disciples Alone.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #26

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 26 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 69-71.

Transition

This week, we are following up on the topic that we introduced last week; the Holy Sacraments or Ordinances of the church. We discussed the ordinances in order to get a better understanding of what they are and the role they play in our lives as believers. Today, we are going to be looking at one of those ordinances specifically; the baptism of believers.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Matthew 28:18-20  And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

For most of us this is a very familiar passage. It is what we call the Great Commission and in these few verses we get our marching orders as the church in the gospel age.

Jesus tells us here, what we must not fail to do in our service to Him and for His kingdom. We could fail at many of the things that churches seek to accomplish today and it wouldn’t cause me to lose an hour of sleep; but if we fail to make disciples, that would be a different story, because making disciples is what Christ has commissioned us to do. Making disciples is the reason we are still here.

In this passage there is one main verb and three participles that modify or reinforce the main action. The main verb is Make Disciples (imp) and it is not a suggestion, it is a command. Then you have Go, Baptizing and Teaching which are the participles. The way that we should read this text is to see the command to make disciples as the one that carries the most force. The participles help us to understand how we are going to make disciples.

First, we “go” and this word could be translated “as you are going” because it is meant to encompass all of life. As we are going we are to be making disciples. Next, the manner in which we are to go about this task of making disciples is through Baptizing and Teaching. We are to baptize new disciples in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and we are to teach them all that Christ has commanded.

This is our great task. This is what we are called to do. This is what we must seek to get right as a church. Our charge is to share the good news of Jesus Christ and to urge others to receive Christ and to become His disciple. This command of Christ should inform and undergird all of our interaction with one another and our interaction with unbelievers.

We should take the task of evangelism seriously. We should take the responsibility of teaching and instructing disciples seriously. But this passage also helps us to understand that we should take baptism seriously? Baptism is an important part of the Great Commission and we shouldn’t ignore it, downplay it or fail to let the Scriptures inform us as to how we go about it.

Now, I think it is important to point out that my view of baptism and the view that our church holds (CBC) is different than the view being promoted in this catechism. Heidelberg holds to a paedobaptist view of this ordinance, while we hold to a credobaptism view. But the differences between these two theological views will not be made plain until next week.

This week, we are looking at the symbolism of baptism and trying to grasp what this sign means for believers in Christ.

Question 69: How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?

Answer: In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly His blood and His Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, in other words, all my sins.

We already looked at the Great Commission to learn what Christ has commanded us to do and we learned that He wants us to baptize new disciples and then to teach them His truth. But how are we to baptize? To answer that question, we should no doubt be looking to the Scriptures.

When we look at the type of baptisms administered by John the Baptist, Jesus, and Jesus disciples; we see a rather uniform pattern. Adults came to hear their message of Good News and upon believing that message, men and women were baptized to show their acceptance of the gospel and their desire to follow the teachings of Jesus as a disciple.

The practice of baptism in the New Testament was carried out in one way; the person being baptized was immersed or put completely under the water and then brought back up again. From the baptism of Jesus by John on into the early church immersion was the mode of baptism employed. In fact, the word baptizo means to plunge or immerse something in water. And this is the most common meaning of the term both inside and outside the Bible (Grudem).[1]

Not only does this word give us the picture of NT baptism by immersion but the text itself gives us this picture. When Jesus is baptized by John the text tells us that he came up out of the water and this is only necessary if he had been lowered down into it (Mark 1:10).

John sought out a place in the Jordan River where there was much water because the mode of baptism was to immerse people in it. The text suggests that not only does the word mean immerse, but the early churched practiced immersion exclusively.

The reason I am pointing this out is to draw attention to the symbolism that baptism is meant to convey. Being plunged beneath the water symbolizes our need to be washed clean of our sin, from head to toe. They didn’t simply need to wash their heads, or hands or even their feet; they needed to have their entire body washed clean from all of the sin that corrupts us.

Question 70: What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?

Answer: To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven my sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for me in His sacrifice on the cross. To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed me and set me apart to be a member of Christ so that more and more I become dead to sin and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.

When we think about being washed, the last thing that we would choose to wash ourselves with would be blood. In fact, most of us want nothing to do with blood, except to make sure ours stays inside our bodies. But in the bible blood has a pretty significant role.

God designed a way for man’s sin to be forgiven in His sight and it required the blood of a lamb to be shed as a substitute for the person who needed forgiveness. The men would place his hands on the animal to signify a transfer of guilt. The animal would then be sacrificed, made to suffer the penalty that the man deserved. The blood of that animal would be gathered into a bowl and then poured out on the altar of God as a sign that God’s wrath had been paid in full. The blood was also sprinkled on the man to show that the transaction was complete.

In this way, blood didn’t make them filthy, it actually made them clean. The same spiritual reality is true for those who believe in Jesus as their Savior and Lord. His blood atoned for our sin on the altar of God. His blood also covers us and makes us clean. Baptism is a sign that by our faith in Christ we have been washed clean in the eyes of God and have been set apart from the world to live for Jesus, in a holy and blameless life of faith.

Question 71: Where does Christ promise that we are washed with His blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?

Answer: In the institution of baptism where He says, “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.” “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe is condemned.” This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away of sins.

The NT is full of passages teaching on baptism and making the connection that is addressed here in Heidelberg. Baptism is a sign of our having truly believed in Christ and it symbolizes our having been washed clean by His blood

Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

Acts 22:16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.

Baptism is a beautiful display of the work of Christ in our lives. It is a sign and a seal of our union with Jesus. It serves as a joyful reminder of the spiritual reality of our new life in Him. It is a burden relieving picture that our sins have been washed away. But it is so much more.

Next week we will continue our study of this ordinance and I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 27 and questions 72-74.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology. Chapter 49. Baptism on page 967.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #25

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 25 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 65-68.

Transition

This week, we are talking about the Holy Sacraments or Ordinances and for the next several weeks we will be studying these to try and get a better understanding of what they are and the role they play in our lives as believers. Today, we will not be looking at the sacraments specifically but the general function and purpose of them in our lives.

Lord’s Day Focus...

But before we get to the questions, let’s take a minute to walk through a little bit of church history so that we can appreciate the role these things have played within the church. The word sacrament historically has been used to designate something that is sacred. It comes from an old Latin term sacramentum that roughly translates the New Testament word for mystery. If you put these together, a sacrament is something that is mysterious and sacred. In some ways, sacrament is a term that is used to describe all types of religious rites and ceremonies.

Why are religious rites and ceremonies thought to by mysterious and sacred? The ceremonies themselves served as outward visible symbols or signs that conveyed something of the mysterious nature of the inward spiritual reality. Over time the term sacrament became more narrowed and focused to refer only to a specific set of Christian practices that were ordained by Christ and are said to offer some spiritual (mysterious) benefit to the participant.

The Roman Catholic Church determined that there were seven sacraments and they include: Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Communion, Penance, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Extreme Unction. Protestants have historically argued that there are only two: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Many Protestants, including Baptists, have even changed the title of these things from Sacraments to Ordinances, in the hopes of removing some of the mystery from them and to focus on the fact that these things are important because Jesus ordained/commanded them to be performed.

So, whether you call them Sacraments or Ordinances, it is important to understand that we disagree with the Roman Catholic church. As Protestants we believe that there are only 2 ordinances that were (1) directly instituted by Jesus, (2) they are significant religious acts, (3) they are designed to be done until Christ returns, and (4) they are symbols meant to instruct and encourage believers.

Now that we have a little background on these Holy Sacraments, let’s move on a look at questions 65-68.

Question 65: It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all His blessings: where then does that faith come from?

Answer: The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it through our use of the holy sacraments.

It is fitting that we think of the sacraments in their connection to the gospel because the whole point of the sacraments is to serve as visible signs of the invisible grace that we have received by faith in Jesus. The Protestant reformers wrote about the doctrine of justification by faith alone more than any other point of doctrine. But coming in at a close second were the sacraments.

They didn’t all agree on the role and purpose of the sacraments, but they agreed about their connection to justification and their significance for the Christian life. Here in question 65, w Heidelberg wants us to see that the sacraments serve to confirm our faith but they are not the cause of our faith.

The Holy Spirit produces (faith) in our hearts through the preaching of the holy gospel, and (the Holy Spirit) confirms (our faith) through the use of the holy sacraments.

In other words, we owe our salvation to the work of God and the Gospel. But the Holy Spirit uses the sacraments to remind us of that fact. He uses them to confirm or corroborate that our faith is well-placed. These sacraments don’t save us, but they are vital to help us grow in our faith and even in our understand of how our faith needs to grow and be nourished by the gospel of grace.

Question 66: What are Sacraments?

Answer: Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them He might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel and might put His seal on that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to forgive our sins and give us eternal life by grace alone because of Christ’ one sacrifice finished on the cross.

Let’s start with question 66 by looking at what it means that the sacraments are signs and seals. They are signs in that they are outward visible symbols that help us understand our inward invisible status with God. They are a vital part of our worship because they make tangible the invisible reality of our faith.

The Sacraments are covenant symbols which remind us of the spiritual truth that binds our souls to God and seal His promises in our hearts. And what is God’s promise? That our sins are forgiven, and we have eternal life by grace alone. These sacraments nourish our faith in the gospel and they do so in an amazing way.

It is an amazing gift to the church that Jesus has given us two ordinances, which provide a feast for our physical senses. As Christians we are people who live by faith, and faith is trust in a savior that we cannot see with our eyes, feel with our hands, or hear with our ears.

Like Abraham we are called to live by faith and this has proven difficult for us many times over. Like Moses we often cry out to God to, “show us your glory!” because we want to see God with our own eyes. Like David we often cry out for God to speak to us because we want to hear His voice with our own ears. Prior to faith many of us were like Thomas who said, “Unless I see in his hands the marks of the nails, and place my fingers into the marks of the nails, and place my hands into his side, I will never believe (John 20:24-29).”

We are called to walk by faith and not by sight, but faith is hard. In fact, the Bible tells us that unless God opens the eyes of our hearts faith is impossible (2 Cor 4:1-6). But even as born-again believers we often, like the apostles, ask the Lord to strengthen our faith because believing while not seeing is hard.

This is all the more reason why it is an amazing gift from God that we have two ordinances intended to strengthen and renew our faith; and these ordinances are gloriously physical.

“We live in a world of sense, not yet in a world of spirits; and because we therefore find it hard to look above the things that are seen, we are directed in a sacrament to look through them, to those things not seen, which the sacraments represent.” –Matthew Henry[1]

The next question deals with what the sacraments represent?

Question 67: Are both the Word and the Sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?

Answer: Right! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and through the holy sacraments He assures us that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

Think about the fact that the Lord’s Supper is something simple; a small piece of unleavened bread and a small bit of wine. Both elements point to the fact of Jesus body and blood, they do not point to anything that we contribute to the table other than our sin. These elements are given to us as a gift to be received and in receiving them we are reminded,

1 Corinthians 11:23  That the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 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.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

When we eat the bread and drink the cup we remember Jesus. We remember His sacrifice for us, that saves us from our sin. The Lord’s Supper is a meal taken throughout our life of faith and each time we eat it we are to remember our Lord. We are to remember his body and his blood, broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sin. But Jesus doesn’t simply want our remembrance to be an exercise of the mind, He has given us bread to eat and wine to drink.

He has given us bread, which we can see, touch, smell and taste. He has given us wine also and these elements do more than just engage our memory they make the sacrifice of Christ come alive. Jesus has given us a meal that we are to sink our teeth into and as we do this we remember his body that was broken and his blood that was poured out for our salvation. Like Mr. Henry said, we look through these touchable things in order that we may see Christ more clearly.

Final question…

Question 68: How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?

Answer: two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be looking more closely at these two things and we will find that there is much for us to consider. But for now, it is important for us to remember that Our Lord has given us, not in order to confuse us, but to help us. These sacraments serve to strengthen and confirm our faith because they aid us in preaching the gospel to ourselves when we participate in them.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 26  and questions 69-71.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Matthew Henry A Puritan Theology pg. 748.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #24

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 24 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 62 - 64.

Transition

This week, we are going to discuss the role that our individual good works play in the big picture of our salvation and our Christian life. Last week, we learned that it is 100% necessary for us to possess a perfect righteousness in order to be made right with God. But we also learned that this necessary righteousness is not something that we earn but something that is given to us by faith.

In other words, the righteousness that gets us back into fellowship with God is not our own, it is a gift. We are saved by grace. We are made righteous by faith. We are saved by Jesus’ good works, not our own. But, if all this is true, and it is, then what is the point of being good? If we are saved by grace, what part does our personal pursuit of righteousness play in our lives?

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 62: But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?

Answer: Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment-seat of God, must be perfect throughout and wholly conformable to the divine law, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

In order to give some commentary on question 62 and its answer, I want us to think about something that Jesus said at the very beginning of His ministry. I want to draw our attention to the posture of heart that Jesus says is absolutely essential for anyone who is interested in the Kingdom of God. I want to take us all the way back to the Sermon on the Mount.

Of all Jesus’ teaching, none is more readily identified and associated with Him than the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. It appears in the first book of the New Testament and while it is not the first recorded statement of Jesus, it is by far the longest and most comprehensive of His public sermons. It seems clear that Matthew views this message as the foundation upon which Jesus’ life, ministry and kingdom are to be established.

The sermon is ground-breaking on multiple levels. It is the inauguration speech of the King of the Universe. It is the sermon that broke 400 years of divine silence and at the same time it introduced the world to the Kingdom of God in a way that it had never known before. This sermon describes what human life and human community look like when they come under the rule of God’s grace.[1]

Some people love this sermon, some hate it, but ignoring it isn’t really an option. This sermon is intended to shake things up. It takes the value system of our sinful world and turns it upside-down. It points an unflinching finger at religious legalists and hypocrites and tells them that they will have no part in the Kingdom of Heaven. But it also makes clear that not one part of the law of God will be overlooked.

But the sermon doesn’t do what many of us might expect. It doesn’t start with a list of religious duties that we must all perform in order to earn God’s love. Instead, it starts with the posture of heart that is necessary for entry into the Kingdom of God.

Matt 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

The phrase poor in spirit means to be completely impoverished. It means to recognize one’s own poverty of the soul. Even in our own day we use this term to refer to someone who leads the life of a beggar. This is someone who has no property, no money, no power, no status; someone who is completely dependent on others for support. This person is empty, with nothing to offer and they know it. But the type of poverty that Jesus is after deals with one’s soul.

The poor in spirit are those who have come to see and feel the brokenness in their heart and the bankruptcy in their soul. When it comes to righteousness, true righteousness, they are no better than a beggar on the street. Even if they had a little money in their pocket it wouldn’t come close to paying off the debt they owe to God, they are truly poor in spirit.

No one wants to find themselves in this place. Our natural inclination is to assume that we have much to offer and that our spiritual life, though not perfect, is far from a state of poverty. The Pharisees that gathered around to hear Jesus’ message would have scoffed at this opening statement. This is not what the religious people in the crowd wanted to hear, but this is the point of entry into the Kingdom of God. This is how we are made to feel when the gospel hits our ears for the first time.

The gospel does two things in us; it tears us down and then it builds us back up. The gospel shows that our hearts are so desperately wicked that there is no hope that we can overcome our past sin much less do enough to earn eternal life. The gospel holds up the law of God demanding that we keep it perfectly, and then shows us that we have no chance. We are utterly incapable of pleasing God on our own. The gospel puts us on our knees before God and that is exactly where Christ wants us to start because only those who have come to understand their poverty of spirit before God are fit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

To be poor in spirit means an absence of spiritual pride, an absence of self-assurance and self-reliance. It is this tremendous awareness that we are nothing in the presence of God (Lloyd-Jones).[2]

To be poor in spirit is to be like the prophet Isaiah who saw the Lord high and lifted up, but he fell to knees and cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost…I am unclean and everyone around me is unclean as well.”

To be poor in spirit is to be like the apostle Paul who could quote a spiritual resume that would shame everyone in this room, but when he stood before Christ he came to realize that all of his religious past was worthless. Paul said, “I count it all to be loss…like nothing but rubbish (dung) in the eyes of God.”

To be poor in spirit is to be like the Tax Collector in Luke 18 who would not even look up to heaven but instead beat his chest saying, “O God, be merciful to me as sinner.”

When Jesus says, “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven…” He is making it clear that the kingdom is fit only for those who feel that their only hope of salvation lies outside of themselves because on their own they are nothing more than a beggar.

There is no one in the Kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit. It is the fundamental posture of its citizens and it is the entry point into the Christian life.

That’s what question 62 is trying to help us understand. The righteousness that restores our relationship with God is not our own, because our own righteousness is imperfect and full of holes, like swiss cheese. Our good works are incomplete, but Jesus’ good works are perfect, and therein lies our hope.

Question 63: How is it that our good works merit nothing, while yet it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?

Answer: The reward comes not of merit but of grace.  

Years ago I read a quote that helped put this answer into perspective for me.

“Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.”[3]

This goes against our natural instincts. We naturally think that in order for us to obtain what we desire most we will have to work for it, at least, I think that most of us think that way. We are born with a debtors ethic, which causes us to think this way.

The gospel destroys that ethic. Undeserved mercy and unearned reward don’t make sense in the world, but they do in the Kingdom of God. The rewards of blessings in this life and heaven in the life to come are not the result of our effort, but the work of God’s grace.

Question 64: But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?

Answer: No; for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

Thinking back to the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if we hope to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Does this mean that we must keep all of the 240 commandments and 365 prohibitions that they added to the law of God? No! Christian righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees in type not in degree. The righteousness that is pleasing to God is the inward righteousness that begins in the heart and then faithfully seeks to live out the law in life.

We call this sanctification and it is an ongoing work of God’s grace where God’s people are, over the course of their lives, transformed more and more into the image of Christ. God enables us by His Spirit and His Word to grow in faithfulness more and more and to turn from sin more and more. This process starts when we are born again and it continues throughout our lives as a fulfillment of the promise that God made in Ezekiel 36.

Eze 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 

If you are a born-again believer in Christ then you have the Spirit of God within you, but that doesn’t mean that you can dispense with the law, because the work of the Spirit is to give us new hearts, to write God’s law on those new hearts, and to enable us to walk in obedience to God. Not in order to earn God’s love, but because God’s love has already been poured out on us by grace.

Jesus is not interested in empty, superficial, hypocritical religious practice. Religion is a word that has the ability to conjure up both positive and negative ideas when it is used. The term religion, when used in a negative sense, refers to the empty religious rituals and formalities that are devised by man and are sadly so prevalent in the church. Behind the negative use of the term is the belief that religious practices are sufficient for us to earn the favor of God. Religion says, “I obey the rules so that God will accept me” and when this idea is full blown it teaches people that in order to be saved we must simply keep all the rules.

But this is a lie and this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel says that “God accepts me on the basis of Jesus ‘works and in response to this grace, I obey (Eph 2:8-10).”

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 25 together and discuss questions 65 – 68 on the Holy Sacraments.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Pg. 18)

[2] MLJ, pg. 50.

[3] https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/49184-grace-is-not-opposed-to-effort-it-is-opposed-to

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #23

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 23 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 59 and 61.

Transition

This week, we have finally come to the “So what?” moment of the first half of the Catechism. So far we have learned a foundational understand of Christian truth and doctrine. We have worked our way through the Apostle’s Creed. We have learned about God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Today, we have come to the point where the Catechism says, “So what?” What does all of this mean to me? It’s detailed, it’s organized and it is profound; but what good does all of this Christian doctrine do for me?

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 59: What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?

Answer: In Christ I am right with God and heir to everlasting life.

Last week, Heidelberg asked about how the doctrines of the Christian faith give comfort to our souls. This week it is asking, “Why does any of this matter?” and the answer has to do with one of the greatest and most important doctrines of our faith; the doctrine of Justification.

Justification is defined as an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.

Let’s look at an instance of this from a popular New Testament parable…

Luke 18:9-14  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed1 thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'  13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'  14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Here we see Jesus use this term justified and we need to ask ourselves what he means by it. In context does it mean that this man had earned forgiveness based on his righteousness, No! Quite the opposite, he is declared to be righteous and is granted right standing before God over and against a man who was, practically speaking, more righteous. When Jesus says that this man went to his home justified, rather than the other, he means that this man was at peace with God, without respect to his own personal righteousness.

To justify means to make a legal pronouncement that the man in question is righteous before God and it is God himself that makes such a pronouncement. If you study this term very much at all you will read time and again that this is a legal/forensic[1] term and that it means the opposite of condemn. To condemn a man is to declare him evil and guilty of his crimes, but to justify means to declare a man righteous and innocent of all charges. In other words, when Jesus says that this man is justified, he is declaring the man cleared of any moral guilt and that he no longer deserves punishment for his sin.

Since our sin is removed, there is no longer a barrier between us and God. We are ready to be reconciled to Him and that means everything. By faith in Christ we are now right with God!

Question 58: How are you right with God?

Answer: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.  

This answer is beautiful. This truth is the foundation upon which all of salvation stands. This answer, this truth, is the reason that why the work of getting the gospel right is so incredibly important.

How are you right with God? It is not the result of any one of us having achieved perfection through the law. It is not the result of our having overcome our sin on our own. Being right with God is purely and completely a work of sheer grace, where the perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to our account by faith alone.

Martin Luther famously stated that a true Christian is simul iustus et peccator, “at the same time, justified and a sinner.” The catechism is pointing this out when it says that even though my conscience accuses me of my unrighteousness, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ.

Until Christ returns, we will remain sinful saints. On this side of heaven, we will not experience sinless perfection. But praise God, our salvation doesn’t depend on our sinless perfection. Our salvation is based on the sacrificial death of Christ in our place, which removes our guilt. Our justification is rooted in the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is granted to us who believe.

2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We have been given an alien righteousness, which is a phrase that theologians use to describe the fact that our righteousness is not our own, it comes from outside of us. Not from outer-space, but from Jesus.

Question 61: Why do you say by that by faith alone you are right with God?

Answer: It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.

The catechism is stressing the object of our faith, not just the presence of faith. In our culture today it is more appealing to have an ambiguous faith, an undefined faith; than it is to have a very specific faith. It is far more popular to be a spiritual person than it is to have a well-defined faith. But the faith that overcomes the world, the faith that alone saves, is a faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and risen Savior of the believing world.

To believe in Jesus means that you embrace that He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He is God in human flesh. To believe in Jesus Christ means that you entrust your eternal destiny and your right standing before God entirely to Him. It means that you believe in His substitutionary death on the cross for your sins. You believe that He paid the debt to God that you owe.

It is by faith alone because there is no other way to receive this. You can’t buy it, bargain for it, earn it, or steal it. It is to be received by the empty hands of faith. As needy sinners we bring nothing to the table but empty hands and when we walk away the thing that we cling to with all of our trust is not ourselves, but to Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 24 together and discuss questions 62 and following.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Forensic simply means that it is information used in and admissible in a court of law.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #22

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 22 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 57 and 58.

Transition

This week, we are going to finish up the section of this catechism that has us looking into the Apostle’s Creed. Today, I will be discussing the very last line that reads, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” So our topics will be our own personal resurrection and the eternal life that follows; what do we know about these things?

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 57: What comfort does the resurrection of the body afford you?

Answer: That not only my soul, after this life, shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head; but also, that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.

Once again, Heidelberg is asking about how the doctrines of the Christian faith give comfort to our hearts and minds. This might seem like a small thing but it shifts the focus from our minds only and puts a little emphasis on our hearts. I think this is a good thing.

We should always be keen to ensure that what we believe (head) is sound and biblical and true. We need to know the truth of God’s Word. But we are also to feel that truth in our hearts. We are to know the truth and that truth will set us free. Part of that freedom is the unshakeable comfort that the truth brings.

In this case, the question relates to how the Bible’s teaching on the resurrection brings us comfort. This is a great question for us to consider because the thing that necessarily precedes any discussion of resurrection is death, and death is something that has brought fear and discomfort to humanity since, forever.

Death is the great equalizer. We will all face it and it has a near flawless record. Only a few men in the history of the world have ever cheated death; Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah the prophet, who was carried into Heaven on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11). Then there was Jesus, but He didn’t cheat death, He conquered it.

But death is coming for all of us and the gospel that we believe give us comfort because it promises that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so will we be.

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I know this is a long passage, but it makes very clear that for those who trust in Christ, death is not the end. In fact, death will one day be no more. The curse of sin is death, but the day is coming when that curse will no longer have any claim on us. Christ’s victory will be our victory. His resurrection will become our resurrection.

This is a comfort to us because it means that we can face death with the confident knowledge that, “my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.”

Question 58: What comfort have you from the article of the Life Everlasting?

Answer: That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man; therein to praise God for ever.

Not only will our bodies be raised and forever united to our souls after death, but the resurrection will mark the beginning of eternal joy. What does that even mean? Eternal joy!

It’s hard for us to grasp what this means, and the Bible is quick to point that out.

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”

Death is not the end it marks the beginning of life in a way that we can’t fully grasp, because we can’t rightly imagine what God has in store for us. Time will be no more. Pain will be no more. Fear will be no more. Sorrow will be no more. Every experience, every relationship, every longing, every hope, every satisfaction will be perfect, and they will never end.

Kevin DeYoung tries to help us grasp what this might mean when he writes,

The blessedness of eternal life is like savoring your favorite food, drinking your favorite drink, laughing with your favorite friends; its like seeing your wife on your wedding day sparkling in her overpriced dress and grinning from ear to ear; its like holding a newborn baby or watching your grandkids play…It’s like all these moments (and all the others that I left out) – except these moments never stop and never wane.

But even more amazing than the reality of full satisfaction in everything forever; is the reality of being in the presence of God and worshipping Him in the fullness of His glory.

Imagine with me for a moment that there is someone you consider to be your favorite person in the world; perhaps an artist or an author, or an actor, or musician…a hero or heroine that you are a fan of. Let’s imagine that when it comes to this person you have a choice between one of two options:

Option A: You are allowed to go into a room that is filled with that person’s work. Books or art or movies or music. You have been given access to all that your favorite person has done and you are able to go in and to enjoy it, to share it with others and to keep it for the rest of your life.

Option B: You get to go into another room and spend the rest of eternity with that person face to face.

Eternal life with Christ is like Option B. To be face to face with Christ forever will be like having the best day of our lives every new day. It will be like the most precious, most delightful, most amazing, most satisfying, most encouraging, most awesome day and everyday will be better than the last. Food will have never tasted so good. Laughter will have never been so sweet. Every joy, every pleasure, ever moment will be more satisfying than we could ever imagine.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

A day will come when Christ will return and the veil of this world will be drawn back. King Jesus will have come to finish his work and establish His kingdom for all eternity. At that time he will initiate a resurrection from the dead, when all who have undergone physical death will be raised to stand trial in the courtroom of God.

Those who remain in unbelief and rebellion, who rejected Christ in life, will be called to account for their sin and according to Jesus they will be told, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is the second death.

But those made alive by the Holy Spirit, who were born again to trust in Christ by faith. The scriptures say that our robes, our garments will have been washed white by the blood of the lamb. When we stand to give an account for our sin before God, it will be clear that our sins have been paid for by the death of Jesus, “this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Death will be no more than a memory and even the bitterness of that will be wiped away.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 23 together and discuss questions 59 thru 61.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #21

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 21 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 54, 55, and 56.

Transition

This week, we are going to talk about the church, the gifts and the atonement.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 54: What do you believe concerning the Holy Catholic Church?

Answer: I believe that the Son of God through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

First of all, don’t be confused by the word Catholic here. This is not a reference to the Roman Catholic church but to the Holy Catholic church. Catholic simply means universal, so this is a reference to the universal church. The community of God’s people that is not defined by culture or ethnicity, but by a common faith in Jesus.

Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The church was Jesus’ idea. In Matthew 16, He told Peter and the rest of the Apostles that He would build His church (ekklesia) and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. The church consists of those people who have been born again by the Holy Spirit to believe the Word of the Gospel. They have been gathered together out of all the peoples of the world to be the family of God on earth.

The Bible tells us that God planned this church, community of believers, before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) that He sent His Son to ransom them from their sin, He adopted them, protects them and will preserve them in the faith until the end of the world. At that point, this community will enter into the eternal life that God has promised them.

And once you’re in, truly in, there is no way that you can lose your status. Our entry into the church is a work of God and He will continue His work in us until Jesus returns.

Rom 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Question 55: What do you understand by “The Communion of Saints?”

Answer: First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all His treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.

The first part of this answer points out that if you are a member of the church then you have a share in Christ and all of His treasures and gifts. To share in Christ means that we are united to Him. We belong to Him. He is our Redeemer, Lord and King. But He is also our brother and friend. All that He has been given by the Father is shared with us.

Gal 4:4 When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The logic in this passage is incredible to consider but easy enough to follow. Because of Jesus we have been adopted into the Family of God. God is our Father too, and we have become fellow heirs alongside Jesus. All of Christ’s good gifts are ours, not because we’ve earned them, but because God’s grace has made it so.

The second part of the answer to question 55 causes us to consider how we should respond to this truth. Since we have a share in all of Christ’s blessings, we should take it as a responsibility to use our gifts and privileges for the benefit and joy of others, not just for our own happiness and comfort. Every gift that God has given to us in Christ is meant to be enjoyed first and shared second.

The gifts of God are not intended to terminate on us, they are meant to be shared with others.

Rom 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Question 56: What do you believe concerning “The forgiveness of sins?”

Answer: I believe that God, because of Christ’s atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in His grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.

Question 56 is a great question and it is at the very heart of our understanding of the gospel as well as the Christian life. Forgiveness means pardon, it means to be released from an obligation. It means that a debt was being held against us, but that debt has been cancelled. What was the debt and how was it cancelled?

The debt that we owed we owed to God because we belong to Him and we have robbed Him of something. We have failed to obey our Creator. We have failed to properly glorify our God. We have rebelled against Him, His person and His law. We have sinned and the wages of sin is death. That is our debt, death brought on by our sin.

This debt was cancelled because someone else took our place. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and died the death that we deserved. He paid the debt for His people in full to the point that He could say, “It is finished.” He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness, which he earned by never rebelling against the Father.

Christ atoned for our sin, He paid sins price, and therefore our sin will never be held against us. Even though we still have hearts that are corrupted by sin and we still struggle with sinful temptation and tendencies all of our lives, the debt has been paid and none of our sin will be held against us.

And just so we don’t get the wrong impression, this glorious truth of the atonement is a work of grace. We didn’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. But God, in His grace, has pardoned our sin and set us free from judgment forever.

Gratitude is easy to fake but hard to feel. Not until we see the gift is truly valuable will our gratitude be heartfelt, but when we understand the true worth of a gift, the gratitude we feel will be expressed. There is no more precious gift in all the universe than that of Christ’s precious blood and the ultimate expression of our thankfulness to Him is praise.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 22 together and discuss questions 57 thru 61.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.