The Gospel for Real Life

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #33

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 33 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 88-91.

Transition

This week, we will continue to work our way through the section on the believer’s gratitude for God’s gracious work in our lives. But don’t get the impression that this whole section is about the various ways that we experience and express the emotion of gratitude; it might be better to think of this section in terms of the appropriate response that we should show in heart and in life to the grace of God.

Gratitude is not expressed in emotions alone; it also directs our actions. Think heart and life! How do we respond in heart and life to the grace that God has shown us? Today we are going to discuss what is involved in conversion.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 88: What is involved in Genuine repentance or conversion?

Answer: Two things: the dying away of the old self, and the coming to life of the new.

I appreciate Kevin DeYoung’s opening thoughts on this question. Kevin writes,

Conversion is essential to the gospel. The world needs to learn, and we frequently need to be reminded that Christian is not about refurbishing a few morals here, or helping you find your own unique spiritual journey there, or simply trying to get you to agree to a few theology statements. We need to be converted.[1]

Within our American culture, the idea of conversion has been set aside, on purpose. We all accept the fact that we are not perfect people, most of us can accept the fact that we are broken people, but few are willing to accept the fact that we need to be converted, utterly changed. Maybe we just need to turn over a new leaf. We just need to have a fresh start. We just need to meet some new people, take a vacation, and get our minds right.

This way of thinking assumes that our problems are actually small and that we can handle them on our own. But when the Bible speaks about our problems, our deep-down needs, it refers to them as anything but small. According to Scripture, “we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1).” According to the Bible, “there is none good, not even one…We have all gone astray (Rom 3:10-18).”

In Genesis 6, God gives us an assessment of the state of mankind and it is not even close to being manageable, at least not for us.

Gen 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Our human condition is far more serious that we care to admit and therefore the remedy is far more involved than we often realize. We don’t simply need to make a few changes, we need to be changed, utterly converted, from the inside out.

So, this issue of conversion is essential to the gospel. But there are a few more words that we need to learn. Conversion is important. It is understood to be the human response, though initiated as a work of grace, it is our response to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration.

Regeneration, or new birth, is a secret act of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. The work of regeneration belongs to God alone; he is active and we are passive, in fact the Scriptures not only say that we are inactive in this but that we are dead, which is why regeneration must occur for us to be saved.

Regeneration is a mysterious act of God where he reaches down and cleanses us from sin by the blood of Christ; He creates in us a new heart and fills us with His Spirit who guides us in truth and righteousness and this enables us to respond to the call of God with faith and repentance.

That response to God’s call is what we understand to be conversion. Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation.[2]

We would understand that conversion has two sides to it, a divine side and a human side. Our repentance and faith are active, meaning the opposite of passive. We believe and we repent, but the Spirit of God is at work in us to empower and direct us in both believing and repenting.

Now that we have a little bit of the theological backstory in mind let’s look back at that first question, which states that two things are involved in genuine repentance and they are: dying away of the old self and coming to life of the new.

True conversion entails our dying to our old sinful way of life (mortification) and coming to live in a new way of life (vivification).

Question 89: What is the dying away of the old self?

Answer: It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.

Conversion involves both the heart and the life. It involves the heart because true repentance begins with a genuine sorrow over sin. In 2 Cor 7, the Apostle Paul talks about the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow is when we feel bad that we got caught. Godly sorrow is when we feel bad that we sinned against God.

True repentance starts in the heart and it grieves over our sin. But that grief eventually leads to action. We begin to hate our sin and eventually we turn and run away from it. Theologians call this contrition. Contrition is a kind of grief that leads to repentance and it is motivated by godly remorse.

David in Psalm 51 showed true godly sorrow. He grieved over his sin with Bathsheba and against Uriah. He grieved because he had sinned against the God of Grace. His grief led him to genuine repentance. True repentance is not just being stirred in our hearts, it is when the stirring of our hearts leads to a change in our life.

Question 90: What is the coming to life of the new self?

Answer: It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to.

This is the second half of true conversion. We go from a wholehearted grief over sin that leads us to reform our lives, to being filled with joy in the gospel and a sincere desire to obey God out of gratitude for His grace.

It might be helpful to think about it this way, when we were dead in our sins our heart and life were completely given over to the world. But in true conversion our heart and life are completely renewed by God. We were blind but now we see. We were in prison but now we’re free and that freedom bring joy to our hearts and a new direction in life.

Conversion is about transformation. When I was a kid in school, I studied the life cycle of a caterpillar. I’m sure that many of you did the same thing. The caterpillar started out as a slow, dull and very limited creature. But a time came in its life cycle when it would build a cocoon and it would live inside that cocoon undergoing a radical change.

We call this change, metamorphosis. And when the time comes the caterpillar will emerge from the cocoon and it is no longer what it once was. It has completely transformed into a butterfly. Metamorphosis is a picture of human conversion. By the power and grace of God we are completely changed from dead in sin (heart and life) to alive in Christ (heart and life).

Question 91: What do we do that is good?

Answer: Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for His glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.

I love Ephesians 2:1-10 because it gives us theological understanding for what takes place in the whole process of salvation and the Christian life. It talks about our spiritual state apart from Jesus. It reveals just how sinful our sin was. Then it moves to show us that behind the scenes work of God. Even when we were dead in sin, God made us alive through Jesus.

But the summary of all God’s work comes in verses 8-10,

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

There is a beautiful complexity in Ephesians 2 but there is also a profound simplicity. God has done a work of Grace in our hearts to bring us to salvation by faith in Jesus. He has done this work in us so that we will accomplish good works. He wants us to do good in this world. He wants our heart and life to reflect His goodness and glory.

The good that we do is not based on our own ideas or even our established cultural traditions. The good we are called by God to walk in has been outlined for us with God’s Word.

Over the next several weeks we are going to learn the scope and sequence of the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in, so I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 34 and questions 92-95.

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] Kevin DeYoung, The Good News We Almost Forgot (Pg. 159)

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology Pg. 709

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #32

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 32 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 86-87.

Transition

This week, we begin the third and final section of the Catechism. We have completed the sections that focused on our guilt before God and the grace that God has shown us; now we turn our attention to the section on our gratitude for God’s gracious work in our lives. The aim of this sections is to understand how God’s grace motivates the response of our heart and life.

To kick off this new section on gratitude, we are going to look at questions today that try to make sense our Christian commitment to good works, despite the fact that our salvation is completely a work of God’s grace. If it’s all of grace, then why should we do good works at all. And just so we’re clear, this is not a new question. In fact, the Apostles James, John and Paul all addressed this question in the NT letters they wrote.

In Romans 6, Paul wrote, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

In James 2, we read, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

In 1 John 2, John wrote, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The question of how the grace of God goes hand in hand with the obedience of good works in the believer is an important one and the Heidelberg does a really good job of answering it.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 86: We have been delivered from our misery by God’s grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?

Answer: To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by His blood. But we do good because Christ by His Spirit is also renewing us to be like Himself, so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all He has done for us, and so that He may be praised through us. And we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.  

The Catechism gives us five reasons why good works must be the pursuit of our Christian life.

1. Because Christ by His Spirit is renewing us to be like Himself. The Holy Spirit is working in our hearts to convict us of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come. The Spirit is growing us in the knowledge of God’s Word and in the obedience of God’s Word to the point that we are becoming more like Jesus.

2 Cor 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2. We do good works to show our thankfulness to God. Gratitude for God’s mercy and grace is not only a right response but it’s also a response that is noted in Scripture.

1 Pet 2:1 So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

The fact that we have tasted the goodness and kindness of the Lord, is what fuels and motivates our turning from sin and longing to grow up in the word.

3. We do good works so that God might be praised.

Matt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

When we obey God’s commands, we prove that He is good. We display His goodness to the world.

4. We do good works so that we can be assured of our faith by our fruits. Yes, God alone saves us by grace and through faith. We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone. When we do good works in response to our salvation by grace, we are producing fruit from a heart that is rooted in Christ.

Lk 6:43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

5. We do good works in the hopes that others might see, and the gospel might be commended to them.

1 Pet 2:12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Phil 2:14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.

The bottom line is that the New Testament is filled with passages that call us to respond to the grace of God in our lives with faithful obedience to the commands of Christ. It doesn’t call us to perfect obedience, perfection was achieved by Christ alone and His perfection was attributed to us when we believed. But in response to His amazing grace and love we are called to love Him and to obey His commands.

Question 87: Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent ways?

Answer: By no means. Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like is going to inherit the Kingdom of God.

If obedience to the commands of Christ is important for those who are saved it is also a key component to determining whether or not a person is truly saved. Christ teaches us that, “Unless we repent, we will all perish (Luke 13).” People who claim to be Christians but continue to live in unrepentant sin are a walking contradiction.

We just finished studying through the NT letter of 1 John. Throughout that letter, John is trying to help the church understand relationship between our faith in Christ and our obedience to Christ. He wants us to know the truth that our relationship to God (spiritual reality) has a huge impact on the way we conduct ourselves in this world (physical life).

John writes “If we say we have fellowship with God, who is light, but we continue to walk in darkness, then our word (what we say) is a lie and we are not practicing (walking in) the truth.”

John is pointing out that there must be consistency between one’s profession of faith and one’s conduct. You can say you are right with God all day, but if your life is defined by sin, then you are lying about your relationship with God. You might have made a profession of faith, but if your life is defined by sin, then your profession of faith is suspect and quite possible a lie.

Now, John is not saying that we must be perfectly sinless. When he uses the phrase walking in darkness, the verb tense is present active, which indicates an ongoing action. This is a person who has never truly come to a knowledge of Christ. This is a person who has never truly repented of sin and begun to follow Jesus. He is not referring to a person who struggles with temptation and sin as a believer, but to a person whose life is defined by sin. 

This is a person who keeps on walking in the darkness, someone who is comfortably living in sin thinking that it has no impact on their spiritual condition. There is a major difference between a person whose life is controlled by sin and a person who is seeking to repent of and overcome temptations to sin.

If we are not walking in the light, then we have no reason for believing that our sins are covered. There is no assurance of salvation while you continue to live under the dominion of sin.

But, if we are trusting in Christ as the light of the world sent to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and if we are walking in the light as He is in the light then we should have confidence that we belong to Him and that our sins are covered by His precious blood. And when we stumble in sin, we can have confidence that if we confess our sins to Him that He will be faithful to forgive us and cleanse us.

Your faith in Christ matters and so does your faithfulness to Christ. Some people might say that this doesn’t sound like good news, but it is. A gospel that is powerless to change your life is not a very powerful gospel. Grace that leaves you wallowing in sin is cheap grace. But the grace that truly saves is also a grace that changes us from sons of darkness to children of light.

Next week we will continue our study of the gratitude that flows out of the grace of God. I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 33 and questions 88-91.

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 #31

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 31 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 83-85.

Transition

This week, we are talking about the keys of the Kingdom. Last week, we read in the answer to question 82 that, “According to the instruction of Christ and His apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.” The question had to do with whether or not unbelievers and ungodly people could come to the Lord’s Table and the answer is no! The authority to withhold the Table from such people falls to the church and something to do with the administration of the Keys of the Kingdom.

It all sounds very mysterious and important, but what does this mean? That is what we will be discussing today.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 83: What are the Keys of the Kingdom?

Answer: The preaching of the Holy Gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.

First of all, where does this language of the Keys of the Kingdom come from? It comes directly from Jesus and it was first discussed with the disciples as a symbolic description of the authority that Jesus was giving to the church.

Matt 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The imagery here is clear. Jesus is going to build His church upon the truth that Peter confessed (You are the Christ, the Son of the living God) and Jesus is going to give authority to that church to open the doors and to close the doors. The door to the Kingdom of Heaven swings in both directions, it opens and it closes.

Now what does this have to do with Jesus’ mission? And why does He use this language?

Many ancient peoples believed that heaven and hell were closed by gates to which certain deities and angelic beings had keys. In Greek mythology Pluto kept the key to Hades. Jewish writings near the time of Jesus give God the key to the abode of the dead. In the Book of Revelation John sees Christ holding the keys of Death and Hades (Rv 1:18; see 3:7).

The words “bind” and “loose” were used by rabbis near the time of Christ to declare someone under a ban (“binding”) and relief of the ban (“loosing”). Sometimes this referred to expulsion or reinstatement at a synagogue. At other times binding and loosing indicated consignment to God’s judgment or acquittal from it. The “power of the keys” (or binding and loosing) of which Jesus speaks is a spiritual authority like that he gave the disciples in John 20:23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”[1]

Now, the Catechism understands that these keys are symbolic of two functions: the preaching of the gospel and the administration of church discipline. But how does this work?

Question 84: How does preaching the gospel open and close the Kingdom of Heaven?

Answer: According to the command of Christ: The Kingdom of Heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins.

Not only is the preaching of the gospel one of the keys of the Kingdom, it is also one of the marks of a true church. Historically, the marks of a true church have been defined as: (1) the true preaching of God’s Word, (2) the right administration of the sacraments, and (3) the practice of church discipline.

It is not a coincidence that we looked at the Sacraments over the past few weeks and that we have now begun to look at the preaching of the word and discipline. These things hold together as responsibilities given to the church. We have a responsibility to preach the Word of God faithfully and when we do so our preaching will not fail to be punctuated by the clear teaching of the gospel.

Calvin stated that, “It is not to be doubted that church of God exists…wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard.” Luther made the distinction that the true preaching of the Word consisted of “the gospel being rightly taught” as by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone and in Christ Alone. He was distinguishing a Protestant understanding of the gospel from a Catholic understanding of the Gospel.

When the gospel is preached faithfully, it is a summons for all to come to Jesus in repentance and faith. All who accept Christ in true faith will receive forgiveness for all their sins. The Kingdom of Heaven is open to them. But to all the reject the gospel, who refuse to believe and repent, the Kingdom is closed.

The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the anger of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.

Preachers, like myself, have been granted a certain authority and with that authority comes the responsibility to be bold and faithful. We must preach the gospel to all without discrimination or differentiation. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13).” But we must also preach that apart from repentance and faith no man will be saved.

Preaching the gospel is the first key and the second is church discipline.

Question 85: How is the Kingdom of Heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?

Answer: According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and after repeated and loving counsel refuse to abandon their errors and wickedness, and after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers, fail to respond also to their admonition – such persons the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship by withholding the sacraments from them, and God himself excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.

As a church elder/pastor, there are few responsibilities that weigh more heavily on my soul than church discipline. It is a weighty responsibility and I am thankful that I do not bear its weight alone. God is good to instruct us to appoint multiple elders/pastors in every church (Titus 1:5) so that by a plurality of men these responsibilities can be undertaken.

The Practice of Church Discipline does not refer exclusively to the excommunication of wayward believers, but when viewed as a whole it refers to the careful exercise of Biblical leadership within the church. Within the context of discipline, we understand that the Word of God is to be active among us: making us more like Christ, equipping us for the work of the saints, exhorting, correcting, rebuking and training us in righteous. Discipline is aimed to restore a sinning believer, to deter sin within the body and to protect the purity of the church.

We think of church discipline in two ways: Formative and Corrective. Formative discipline takes place all the time because it involves the regular and faithful building up of the church. For us at Cornerstone, formative discipline happens in Sunday school, In Bible study and in worship. It takes place in Community groups and prayer meetings. It is the overall process of the church to disciple believers by helping them grow in Christian maturity.

But corrective discipline is a specific type of teaching. It involves correction, admonishment and rebuke. This occurs when a brother or sister is either believing or living in contradiction to the clear teachings of Christ. Jesus outlines for us the way He would have us walk through this in Matthew 18:15-20. It involves a process of seeking to reconcile the person back to faithfulness and away from error. But in some cases that repentance and reconciliation never come.

At those times, it is the responsibility of the church and her leaders to remove a person from fellowship with the body and to bar their way to the Lord’s Table. In this way the Kingdom is being closed to them. But that is not the end goal as the final line in answer 85 shows us.

Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of His church.

Genuine reform is the goal. Full restoration is what we pray for. We are called to close the doors to the kingdom in the hopes that repentance and faith will result and on that day we throw open the doors again.

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 32 and questions 86-87.

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] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Keys of the Kingdom. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2, p. 1262). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #30

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 30 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 80-82.

Transition

This week, we are talking about the difference between our Protestant views on the Lord’s Supper and the Roman Catholic views of the Mass. This week things will get a little heated. So far, Heidelberg has kept the dialogue pretty mild and has aimed more toward articulating Protestant Orthodoxy than at attacking Catholic teaching, but not today. The final statement in the Answer to question 80 states that the Catholic Mass is, “Nothing but a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ and the condemnable idolatry.”

When you call a church practice a condemnable idolatry you have taken the gloves off. So let’s jump into this discussion and try to get our minds around why things have gotten so heated over bread and wine.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 80: How does the Lord’s Supper differ from the Roman Catholic mass?

Answer: The Lord’s Supper declares to us that our sins have been completely forgiven on the cross once for all. It also declares to us that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ, who with His very body is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father where He wants us to worship Him.

This part of A/80 is summarizing what we have learned over the past few weeks. The Lord’s Supper is, within our Protestant understanding, a memorial meal declaring that we who trust in Christ by faith have had our sins forgiven. When Jesus died on the cross His body was broken for us, His blood was shed for us and His sacrifice, on the cross, secures our forgiveness once and for all. No additional sacrifice is needed.

But the Supper also declares that we are united to Christ by faith and are His very body, bride and family. Our Lord is alive in Heaven with the Father and we worship Him as Lord. The Supper reminds us of these truths and celebrates these truths until the day when He returns to be with us and eat this meal with us.

So, there is a two-sentence summary highlighting the importance of the Lord’s Supper for us. But the question is how does this differ from what the Roman Catholic church teaches?

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

Heidelberg points out three ways that our theology differs: (1) the Mass doesn’t declare our sins forgiven, (2) the Mass is not just a memorial of Christ’s but a time when Christ is actually present in the bread and wine and therefore is to be worshipped as such and (3) the Mass teaches that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not a once-for-all sacrifice. All of this causes Heidelberg to condemn the Roman Catholic Mass as accursed idolatry.

For some of you the theology of the Mass is something of a mystery so let’s take some time to talk about what the Catholic Church actually teaches. The word Mass refers to the Eucharist which is the ceremony commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus with bread and wine. The term Mass actually means to dismiss the people and early on the church celebrated two Masses.

The early church divided their liturgy into two separate parts. The first part was the service of the word, where anyone was permitted to attend to hear the Scriptures taught and when this service was complete the people would be dismissed (Mass). Then a second service of the Table would begin, and only baptized believers were admitted to this table. This was often called the mass of the faithful and included the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.[1]

Over the years this practice has changed in the RC church, but the language is still the same. Today, the Mass refers to the Catholic worship service and, in this service, the main event is the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Catholic priests may give a short ten-minute homily or teaching from the Scriptures, but the main event is the bread and wine, which they believe to be the actual body and blood of Jesus.

We learned last week that the heart of the Catholic understanding of the Lord’s Supper is that, “during the mass a miracle takes place by which the substance of the ordinary elements of bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.”[2] This is called transubstantiation and it means that the Catholic Mass is not just a service where we remember Jesus death, the Eucharist is a sacrifice.

In their theology, Jesus is actually present in the bread and wine. His sacrifice on the cross is brought into the room and the faithful feast on Christ again and again to obtain new mercy and find new grace, which means your sins aren’t’ forgiven. The Eucharist is often referred to as the bloodless sacrifice, but make no mistake, the RC church teaches that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus.

Scott and Kimberly Hahn are popular Catholic apologists, and they help us understand what it is like to experience Mass with these things in mind.

One evening, we had an opportunity to be at a Mass where there was a Eucharistic procession at the end. I had never seen this before. As I watched row after row of grown men and women kneel and bow when the (Elements)[3] passed by, I thought, these people believe that this is the Lord, not just bread and wine. If this is Jesus, that is the only appropriate response. If one should kneel before a king today, how much more before the King of Kings? But, I continue to ruminate, what if its not? If that is not Jesus in the elements, then what they are doing is gross idolatry?[4]

That is the same conclusion that Heidelberg has come to. If the bread and wine are only bread and wine, meant to remind us of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus, then the Catholic Mass is idolatry and should be condemned as such.

Question 81: Who are to come to the Lord’s Table?

Answer: Those who are displeased with themselves because of their sins, but who nevertheless trust that their sins are pardoned and that their continuing weakness is covered by the suffering and death of Christ, and who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to lead a better life. Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however, eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Communion is for the broken believer who has come to understand that we needed a Savior and Christ died to save us. It is not for people who profess something that isn’t true of them. It is not for religious people who simply want to be part of a mystical service. It is not for those who think the meal actually affords them some saving merit. It is for the broken.

We come to the table because we hate our sin. We come to the table because we know we need forgiveness. We come to the table in our weakness and we find our strength and hope in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

The supper strengthens our faith because it reminds us of our need and of Jesus’ supply. The supper calls us to repentance and faith again, it refocuses our desire to live a faithful life in response to Jesus’ saving grace.

Question 82: Are those to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?

Answer: No, that would dishonor God’s covenant and bring down God’s anger upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ and His apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom, until they reform their lives.

When unbelievers come to the Table, they aren’t welcome because the Lord’s Supper is a family meal. For an unbeliever to eat the bread and drink the cup is a form of hypocrisy.

The Supper is not for perfect people, it is for broken people; but that doesn’t mean that everyone can come. There are times in the life of the church when sin has to be addressed and unfortunately there are times when those being rebuked refuse to repent. When members are under discipline and they refuse to turn from their sin, it has been the practice of Jesus’ followers to withhold the elements of bread and wine from them

We do this to show that unrepentant sin separates us from fellowship with the Lord and it creates a barrier to fellowship with His people. So not everyone can come, but only those true baptized believers who have come to see their sin for what it is and who have put their hope in Jesus to redeem them and bring them to God

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 31 and questions 83-85.

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] Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, pg. 697)

[2] R.C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Tyndale, pg. 235)

[3] Monstrance is the vessel used to carry the host and the wine that have been transubstantiated so they can be revered and adored by the people.

[4] Scott and Kimberly Hahn, quoted from Kevin DeYoung THe Good News We Almost Forgot (pg. 148)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #29

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 29 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 78-79.

Transition

This week, we are once again focusing our attention upon 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 Jesus’ body that was broken and blood that was shed for the salvation of His people.

Last week, was an introduction of this topic and we focused on what the supper means, what the elements point to and we looked at the passages in the NT that supported all of this. But today, we are going to wade into one of the most significant theological debates of church history and this debate has to do with whether or not the elements of bread and wine are ever more than just bread and wine.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 78: Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

Now some of you already know why this question is being asked in the first place, because you are familiar with the Roman Catholic view of Communion known as Transubstantiation. That is, they believe the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. I’ll explain why they believe that in just a minute. But for now, let’s take a look at how Heidelberg answers the question.

Answer: No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ’s blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply God’s sign and assurance, so too the bread of the Lord’s Supper is not changed into the actual body of Christ even though it is called the body of Christ in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.

Next to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, no issue was more hotly debated during the protestant reformation than the doctrine of communion. The Roman Catholic church held to the view of transubstantiation and taught that, “during the mass a miracle takes place by which the substance of the ordinary elements of bread and wine changes into the substance of the body and blood of Christ.”[1] They still teach this by the way as does the Orthodox church.

They arrived at this position in large part by following the teaching of Aristotle who believed that every object is made up of two parts, substance and accidents. The substance referred to the deep essence of a thing while the accidents referred to the surface appearance. Normally, the substance and accidents of a thing existed in an inseparable relationship, but in the case of a miracle, the substance could undergo a change.

That is why the mass is defined as a miracle that takes place resulting in the change of substance in the bread and wine. The protestant reformers rejected this view for many reasons but not the least of all is the fact that the Scriptures do not teach this. But the chief reformers (Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli) did not agree on how the church should understand the elements of the communion.

Luther taught that while the elements did not become the body and blood of Christ, nevertheless Christ was still present when the Supper was being eaten. Luther argued for what is termed the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. His view has been titled consubstantiation.

Calvin taught that the elements of bread and wine remained bread and wine. Calvin taught that the Lord’s Supper was a memorial meal and that there was no real presence, read physical, presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. But he did argue for the spiritual presence of Christ at the supper. In Calvin’s view, the participants feast on Christ by faith and that we experience his presence through the work of the Holy Spirit.

I can buy some of Calvin’s teaching on this, but his view is far too mystical for me to accept it all. Yes, Christ is with us in the person of the Holy Spirit always. Jesus said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. But none of this means that Christ is present with us in some greater way through the Lord’s Supper than He is at other times.

Zwingli taught what is called the memorial view where the Lord’s Supper is simply a feast of remembrance. There is nothing mystical about the Supper, there is no real or spiritual presence to get all worked up about. The bread and wine remain bread and wine as a symbol and reminder of Jesus’ death and all that it means for the believer. In case you were wondering, this memorial view is the one that we hold at Cornerstone.

Here’s the article on the Lord’s Supper from our Statement of Faith,

The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ, to be administered with the elements of bread and wine, and to be observed by his churches till the end of the world. It is in no sense a sacrifice. Rather, it serves to commemorate his death, to confirm the faith and other graces of Christians, and to be a bond, pledge and renewal of their communion with him, and of their church fellowship.

I believe that this statement is consistent with Scripture as well as with what we read here in Question 79.

Question 79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body and the cup His blood, or the New Covenant in His blood?

Answer: Christ has good reason for these words. He wants to teach us that as bread and wine nourish our temporal life, so too His crucified body and poured out blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life. But more important, He wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that we, through the Holy Spirit’s work, share in His true body and blood as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in His remembrance, and that all of His suffering and obedience are as definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.

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. When we eat the bread and wine we are remembering His death, we are declaring our trust in Him again, and as we eat our faith is nourished as the body is nourished by food.

I said it a few weeks ago and I’ll say it again that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are blessings from Jesus to us. They are blessings because they are physical tangible reminders of the spiritual realities that mark us and give us hope and confidence as Christians. We don’t just think about what Christ has done, we experience it through baptism. We don’t just think on Christ’s death we celebrate it with a meal that turns our memory into worship.

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.

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 30 and questions 80-82.

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] R.C. Sproul Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Tyndale, pg. 235)

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.