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.
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— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 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, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 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; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.
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Thanks for listening.