Friday, August 18, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 34: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 92-95

Reformation 500 WEEK 34: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 92-95

Question 92: What is the Law of God? “And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [First Commandment] You shall have no other gods before Me. [Second] You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Third] You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. [Fourth] Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. [Fifth] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. [Sixth] You shall not murder. [Seventh] You shall not commit adultery. [Eighth] You shall not steal. [Ninth] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Tenth] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

     We were created in God’s image to imitate God by obeying His law – which harmonizes with His eternal and unchangeable wisdom. God created Adam and Eve with a knowledge of His law (Rom. 2:14-15). “The law was engraved upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally” (Ursinus, 104). “Since the fall, however, which resulted in the corruption and depravity of our nature, a considerable part of the natural law has become obscured and lost by reason of sin [Rom. 7:7], so that there is only a small portion concerning the obedience which we owe to God still left in the human mind. It is for this reason that God repeated, and declared to the church the entire doctrine and true sense of His law, as contained in the Decalogue [i.e. the Ten Commandments]” (492). God wrote the Ten Commandments in stone (Exodus 31:18) as His permanent will for mankind. The other laws (both ceremonial and judicial) were temporary, designed only for Israel in the Promised Land, and were abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).
     But the Ten Commandments were not abolished. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus fulfilled the law “by teaching it and restoring its true meaning and sense, which He did by freeing it from the corruptions and glosses of the Pharisees, as appears from His sermon on the Mount” (Ursinus, 496). He fulfilled the law by obeying it perfectly and suffering its curse on the cross (Gal. 3:13). “Christ fulfills the law in us by His Spirit, by whom He renews us in the image of God [Rom. 8:4] …. This obedience is commenced in us in this life by the Spirit of Christ, and will be perfected in the life to come” (Ursinus, 496). We were “created, and have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that we might keep this law … both in this life and in the life to come [2 John 1:7; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:19]” (Ursinus, 491).
The preface to the law, “I am the LORD your God, who delivered you from bondage,” makes it clear that God redeems His people from the bondage of sin in order that they might obey His law out of thankfulness for salvation (John 14:15; 15:14).  

Question 93: How are these Commandments divided? Into two tables: the first of which teaches, in four commandments, what duties we owe to God; the second, in six, what duties we owe to our neighbor.

     The Ten Commandments were written on “two tablets of stone” (Ex. 34:1), for they contain all we owe to God and our neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Question 94: What does God require in the first Commandment? That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures; and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.

     To have other gods is not to have the true God (the God of the Bible), or to worship anything that is not God. The unbelieving and ungodly have always “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Sorcery, enchantments, or praying to unseen spirits are just some of the many ways people try (vainly) to find answers and help apart from the true God (see Deut. 18:10-12). God saves us so that we might begin in this life to love and desire Him more than anyone or anything else, so that our greatest desire is to please Him, and to fear to do the least thing against His will (Luke 14:26-33). “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). “Make me walk in the path of Your commands, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35). 

Question 95: What is idolatry? Idolatry is to conceive or have something else in which to place our trust instead of, or besides, the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.


     Part of putting off the old man and putting on the new man is to avoid and flee all idolatry. Since we believers are not perfectly sanctified in this life, the sin of idolatry still clings to our heart, and therefore we must daily fight against it: “do not become idolaters as were some of them…. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:7, 14). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Every day we need to be reminded to put God first. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 33: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 88-91

Reformation 500 WEEK 33: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 88-91

Question 88: In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.

Having considered why we must do good works (out of thankfulness for salvation), we will now learn that doing good works is part of what it means to live a repentant and converted life – which is exactly what sanctification involves.

The terms repentance (change of mind) and conversion (turning around) basically mean the same thing: to turn from sin to God for forgiveness and to obey Him out of thankfulness for salvation in Christ (Acts 11:21). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). The repentance of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18) is called “the conversion of the Gentiles” (Acts 15:3).

                When God grants us true repentance so that we are truly converted, this is the beginning of our life-long experience of sanctification. By His Holy Spirit God has set us free from the enslaving power of our old sinful nature by giving us a new holy nature (2 Cor. 5:17). This does not mean we no longer have our old sinful nature, but it does mean we are no longer slaves to it (Rom. 6:6, 14). We have a new nature that hates sin and desires to please God out of thankfulness for salvation (Col. 3:10). “There is a part of us which is renewed [the new man] and a part which retains its natural corruption [the old man]” (Calvin). The process of sanctification is the process of repentance and conversion, of turning from our old sinful nature and living according to our new nature. Scripture says to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) or “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and … put on the new man which was created according to God [in His image], in righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-23). We are sanctified “so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblameable lives” (Q&A 70).

Question 89: What is the dying of the old man? Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.

The dying of the old man is the life-long process of mortification, of putting to death our sins by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:22-32). The Holy Spirit works in our hearts a godly sorrow for sin (Joel 2:13), which causes us to hate our sins and to turn from them more and more; “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10). “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). This is a very painful process (Gal. 5:17). The apostle Paul, speaking as a new man in Christ, expressed what is true for every believer, “I do the very thing I hate…. For I do not do the good I want to do but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin [my old sinful nature] that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15, 19-20). “Our conversion to God is not perfect in this life, but is here continually advancing, until it reaches the perfection which is promised in the life to come” (Ursinus, 474). “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Phil. 1:6). 

Question 90: What is the making alive of the new man? Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.

The making alive of the new man is the life-long process of God remaking us into His holy image, causing us out of thankfulness and joy to put on the new man. The old man must decrease. The new man must increase. Paul tells his fellow believers: “you have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering,” etc. (Col. 3:10, 12). “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Just as heartfelt sorrow causes us to hate sin and turn from it more and more, heartfelt joy in God through Christ causes us to take delight in living according to God’s will in all good works (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:20). “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). When we do not put our sins to death but give in to them, then we must confess our sins to God and pray for the renewal of the new man. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12; cf. Jer. 31:18; Luke 12:32). “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80:18).

To sum up, the sanctified life is putting off the old man and putting on the new man. For example, “putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with His neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor…that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification” (Eph. 5:28-29). To put it very simply: “Turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11).

Question 91: What are good works? Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

Three things are necessary for our works to be good: (1) A good root: True faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Remember that prior to regeneration we are spiritually dead incapable of doing anything good. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:18; cf. Matt. 12:33). The Lord makes us spiritually alive, giving us faith in Christ; and from the seed of faith comes a tree full of good fruit. True believers are “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit” (Mark 4:20; cf. Heb. 13:15); (2) A good standard: God’s law (John 14:15; 1 John 2:4) – not what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25); not according to the traditions or commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). (3) A good goal: God’s glory; “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). To do anything to the glory of God, “is to do it, that we may testify our love, reverence and obedience to God, and that for the sake of showing our thankfulness for the benefits which we have received,” and not “from a desire to advance our own selfish interests;” God must “be respected first whenever we do anything; nor must we care what men may say, whether they praise or reproach us” (Ursinus, 478). Our good works are not perfectly good, but the unregenerate have no good works at all!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 32: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 86-87

Reformation 500 WEEK 32: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 86-87

Question 86: Since, then, we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we do good works? Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Spirit after His own image, that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing, and that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.

     Having now considered the greatness of our sin and misery (Q&A 3-11), and how we believers have been redeemed from our sin and misery (Q&A 12-85), we will now learn how we are to show ourselves thankful for our redemption (Q&A 86-129).

     We have already learned from Q&A 64 that “it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.”

Good works are the fruit of redemption (Matt. 7:18; Mark 4:20; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14).  
There are five reasons why we must do good works: (1) to show that Christ, having redeemed us (from the eternal penalty of sin) by His blood, is also sanctifying and renewing us by His Holy Spirit (Col. 3:9-10) so that we become more like Him, “who went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). “He who says he abides in Christ ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6); (2) that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for our redemption. “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1); (3) that God may be glorified through us. “Whoever offers praise glorifies Me” (Psalm 50:23). “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15); “you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20; cf. Rom. 12:1); (4) that we may be assured of our faith, as we see the fruits of faith in our hearts and lives (Matt. 7:17; Gal. 5:6, 21-22; 2 Pet. 1:10). The first fruit of true faith is a confession of sins to God for forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Luke 18:13); (5) that by our godly walk we may bring others to Christ. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 3:1; Prov. 11:30).

Question 87: Can they, then, not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, unrepentent lifeBy no means, for, as Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God [1 Cor. 6:9-10].


     Because the unbeliever lives an unthankful and unrepentant life (Rom. 1:21), they do not do good works at all (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:12). Unlike the believer, they do not ask God to forgive their sins and to help them do good works. They are deceived if they think grace means it is not necessary to forsake their sins and obey God out of thankfulness. “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 86-87

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 32


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 32 JOHN CALVIN RETURNS TO GENEVA

Reformation 500 WEEK 32    John calvin Returns to Geneva


On September 13, 1541, Calvin returned to Geneva. “The following Sunday Calvin went up into the pulpit at Geneva, and simply began again to expound holy Scripture at the place where he had left off when he had been banished [does anyone know exactly where he had left off?]” (Cadier, The Man God Mastered, 107).

“Upon his return to Geneva, Calvin drew up a Church Order, a set of rules for the governing of the church…. It was based on the teaching of Scripture that Christ has ordained four offices in the Church: pastors, teachers or professors, elders, and deacons. The cornerstone of Calvin’s form of church government is the office of elder. Elders are chosen from among the members of the church. Together with the minister or pastor they form the consistory. The elders’ office is to watch over the purity of doctrine and life of the members of the church, of each other, and of the minister. To the consistory Calvin assigned the right of discipline of the members of the church to the point of excommunication…. For Calvin, the freedom of the Church was concentrated in the Church’s right of excommunication without outside interference.

“Upon one occasion, certain citizens of Geneva whom the consistory had excommunicated came into the church armed. Their plan was to force admission to the communion table. They threatened Calvin’s life if he should refuse to administer the sacrament to them. Protectingly, Calvin stretched out his hands over the bread and wine, and declared that they would be able to take of it only over his dead body. By sheer moral courage and strength, he made them desist from their attempt to gain admittance by force to the communion table.

“Bitter opposition often arose against the strict discipline of the Church over the moral life of the members. More than once it looked as if Calvin would be expelled a second time from Geneva. What in the end saved the day for Calvin was the influx into Geneva of refugees from other countries and the case of Servetus [which we will visit later]” (Kuiper, 197-198).

While Calvin was trying to make Geneva into a Christian city, back in Germany Martin Luther was dying. “Luther and Calvin never met, but they did exchange letters. In one letter [Jan. 21, 1545] Calvin wrote, ‘Would that I could fly to you, that I might even for a few hours enjoy the happiness of your society … but seeing that it is not granted to us on earth, I hope that shortly it will come to pass in the kingdom of God’.” (Nichols, Reformation, 78).


“Catholics and Protestants awaited news of Luther’s death – the Catholics hoped for a terrible death (to prove that he was wrong) and the Protestants a triumphant one (to prove that he was right) [a crowd of people surrounded his death bed and tried to comfort him, as he kept repeating the words, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son’] …. Martin Luther died in the early morning hours of February 18, 1546, only a few steps from the house in Eisleben where he was born sixty-two years earlier.” He “was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church of Wittenberg … an appropriate place. The pulpit was the place of his life’s work.  He was a preacher of the Word of God. And faithful to the end” (Legacy of Luther, 73-74). Among his most famous words were, “I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 John Calvin Returns to Geneva

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 32


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 31: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 83-85

Reformation 500 WEEK 31: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 83-85

Question 83: What is the Office of the Keys? The Preaching of the Holy Gospel and Christian discipline; by these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and shut against unbelievers.

                After Jesus said He would build His church upon the rock (the foundation) of the truth Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” He told Peter how He would build His church, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19). Jesus did not give the keys to Peter only, for what He said to Peter He said to all His disciples: “whatsoever ye [you plural] shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, whatsoever ye loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18 KJV). Jesus gave the keys to the whole church, which then elects pastors and elders to use the keys the way He commands in His Word (1 Tim. 3:1-7).

The authority of the keys is described in terms of binding and loosing, which terms were used by the Jewish elders for the authority to interpret and apply God’s law to particular cases, declaring what is permitted and not permitted, who would be admitted into membership and who would not. To bind is to shut or forbid. To loose is to open or permit. The keys of the kingdom are the authority “to make known the will of God by the preaching of the gospel, and church discipline,” “by which the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers, and shut against unbelievers” (Ursinus, 441).

Question 84: How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the Holy Gospel? In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, it is proclaimed and openly witnessed to believers, one and all, that as often as they accept with true faith the promise of the Gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted. According to this testimony of the Gospel, God will judge men both in this life and in that which is to come.

The first key is the official preaching of God’s Word by a man properly called and ordained by the church (Luke 11:52). Preachers are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), who have the authority of Christ to preach what He preached, to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is open to believers and shut against unbelievers. Believers are forgiven; unbelievers are not forgiven. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36); “unless you are converted…you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). When a minister faithfully declares the message of Christ, Christ uses His own message to save His elect people. Through His Word He opens the door to His kingdom! Peter reported that God “had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). While Lydia listened to Paul preach the gospel, “the Lord opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). Through His Word He grants assurance to every believer: “be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you” (Matt. 9:2; cf.1 John 1:9).

“Whenever the gospel of Christ is officially proclaimed by a minister of Jesus Christ, a ‘losing’ and a ‘binding’ take place: there is an opening and a shutting of the door of salvation. All who hear must be clearly informed as to which side of the door they are standing on. True preaching of the Word must clearly show both the marks of the godly, regenerated, forgiven soul and the marks of the hypocrite who still loves sin and is under condemnation” (Norman Jones, Study Helps). As ministers, we “are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and the other the aroma of life leading to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16).

Question 85: How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by Christian discipline? In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, if any under the Christian name show themselves unsound either in doctrine or in life, and after several brotherly admonitions do not turn from their errors or evil ways, they are complained of to the Church or to its proper officers; and, if they neglect to hear them also, are by them denied the holy sacraments and thereby excluded from the Christian communion, and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ; and if they promise and show real amendment, they are again received as members of Christ and His Church.

The second key is official church discipline. “And surely if no country or city can exist without discipline, laws and punishments, then certainly the church, which is the house of the living God also needs some form of government and discipline” (Ursinus, 442). Christ has given His Church the authority to discipline church members who openly live in sin and are unwilling to repent and abandon their sins (1 Cor. 5). Paul told the church at Corinth, “Put away from yourselves [excommunicate] the evil person” (1 Cor. 5:13). The church “shuts and binds by Christian discipline, when it excommunicates wicked and obstinate offenders, … and it opens and looses, when it again receives [back into membership] the same persons, if they repent” (Ursinus, 441).

The procedure to follow in the case of a private offense is given in Matthew 18:15-18: “if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector [as a last resort the unrepentant church member is excommunicated and treated like any other unbeliever who needs the gospel]. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven [the authority of heaven stands behind faithful church discipline].” The church’s officers “cannot cast any out of the kingdom of God, but they can and ought to declare the rejection of those whom God declares in His Word that He has rejected [so long as they do not repent]” (Ursinus, 461).

The purpose of discipline is not to lord it over souls (Mark 10:42; 1 Pet. 5:3), but so “that the offender, being thus put to shame [2 Thess. 3:14], may repent [1 Cor. 5:5; Acts 8:18-23], and that such things as bring reproach upon the cause of Christ, may be carefully guarded against [Titus 2:8]” (Ursinus, 442). If sin is not disciplined, then like leaven it will spread and corrupt the whole church (1 Cor. 5:6). 

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 83-85

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 31


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 30: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 80-82

Reformation 500 WEEK 30: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 80-82

Question 80: What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Pope’s Mass? The Lord’s Supper testifies to us that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross; and that by the Holy Spirit we are engrafted into Christ, who, with His true body, is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father, and is there to be worshipped. But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshiped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.

The first half of Question 80 is a brief summary of what was previously taught about the Lord’s Supper in Questions 75-79. The second half summarizes the Roman Catholic Mass. The word mass “means ‘to dismiss.’ In the early days of Christianity, those who could not partake of the Lord’s Supper were dismissed after the sermon and before the Lord’s Supper” (Norman Jones, Study Helps).

Catholic doctrine teaches that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross did not fully pay for all our sins; therefore, our faith in Christ is not enough to forgive all our sins. The cross only makes forgiveness possible as long as certain other conditions are met. The Mass is one of those conditions. The Mass teaches there is no forgiveness for the faithful (whether in this life or in purgatory) “unless Christ [whose flesh and blood are in the bread and wine] is still daily offered for them by the priests.” Catholics believe the Mass is a sacrificial offering of Christ on the altar by an ordained priest. They believe that when Jesus said “Do this in remembrance of Me,” He was making His apostles priests. The words “Do this” were not directed to all believers, but only to the apostles. “Do this” does not mean to eat the bread and drink the wine; it means “offer My body and blood in the form of bread and wine to God.” Since Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was not enough to turn away God’s wrath against our sins, the priests have to re-sacrifice Christ in the form of bread and wine every day during Mass.

The Mass is a denial of the truth that Christ needed to be sacrificed only once, because on the cross He truly did FINISH paying for all our sins! He “does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:27); “with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12, cf. vv.25-26); “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). He “offered one sacrifice for sins forever” (Heb. 10:12).

The Mass is an accursed idolatry, because it teaches people to worship bread and wine (which they think is Christ). “The Roman Church teaches that since Christ is really present in the bread and wine when transubstantiation takes places, He must be ‘adored’ (worshipped) in them. Therefore, when the priest holds up the wafer and cup (the host), all are to bow and worship those elements” (Jones, Study Helps). The Mass is an accursed [damnable] idolatry because it preaches a different gospel. “If anyone preaches any other gospel…let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9).

In case we think this is too severe, let me quote from an honest Roman Catholic priest: “the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism understand exactly what is Catholic doctrine. We do adore Christ in the Eucharist. We do genuflect to It … because the Eucharist is actually Jesus Christ…If Christ isn’t there on the altar…then we are idolaters for worshiping whatever else is there” (The Wanderer, April 2, 1987).

Question 81: Who are to come to the table of the Lord? Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the suffering and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the unrepentant and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.

                Only believers have the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice; therefore, only those who know themselves to be believers should partake of the symbols of those benefits. We learned from Question 2 that true believers know three things: sin, salvation, and service. Therefore, if we are displeased with ourselves for our sins [sin], trust that all our sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ [salvation], and desire more and more to strengthen our faith and to amend our life [service], then we are ready for the Lord’s Supper. Paul speaks of the necessity of self-examination before partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:28). The unrepentant and hypocrites “eat and drink judgment” to themselves (1 Cor. 11:29), “because they profane the covenant of God, by taking to themselves the signs of the covenant. They desire to appear in covenant with God, when in fact they are in league with the devil” (Ursinus, 428).

Question 82: Are they, then, also to be admitted to this Supper who show themselves by their confession and life to be unbelieving and ungodly? No, for thereby the covenant of God is profaned and His wrath provoked against the whole congregation; therefore, the Christian Church is bound, according to the order of Christ and His Apostles, to exclude such persons by the Office of the Keys until they amend their lives.


It is the church’s duty to admit to the Lord’s Supper, first of all, those who are baptized members of the church (just as in the OT only those who were first circumcised were permitted to eat the Passover). Second, those “who are of a proper age to examine themselves…. The infant children of the church are, therefore, not admitted to the use of the Lord’s supper, even though they are included among the number of the faithful.” Third, since “the church is not able to judge in regard to that which is secret and hidden. It admits… all whom it hears and sees professing repentance and faith by confession, and the external deportment of life [“the church should carefully observe and inquire into the character of those who are admitted”] … If the church were to admit to the Lord’s Supper, knowingly and willingly those who by confession and life,” declare themselves unbelievers or ungodly [Titus 1:16], the church would “profane the covenant of God, [which] is to commend and recognize those as the… friends of God, who are His enemies, and to represent God as…in league with hypocrites, and wicked men” (Ursinus, 429- 430). In which case, the wrath of God is kindled against the whole congregation (1 Cor. 11:30-31).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 80-82

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 30


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 29: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 78-79

Reformation 500 WEEK 29: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 78-79

Question 78: Do, then, the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ? No, but as the water in Baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token [symbol] and assurance thereof, so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.

Both Roman Catholics and Lutherans argue that Christ’s words, “This is My body,” and “This is My blood,” are to be understood literally, meaning that Christ’s physical body and blood are present in the communion bread and wine. The Roman Catholic view is that when the priest utters the words, “This is My body,” the substance of the bread miraculously changes into the real flesh and blood of Christ; all that remains of the bread and wine is its form, appearance, weight, smell, and taste. This view is called transubstantiation, which means change of substance. Only the bread (not the wine) is given to the people, because flesh has blood in it; and therefore, the people get “the blood” when they eat “the flesh.” The Lutherans do not believe the bread or wine changes; but that Christ’s glorified body in heaven is now (like His divine nature) everywhere present and therefore is present with the bread and wine. This is called consubstantiation, which means “with the substance.”

The truth is, the Catholics and Lutherans are not literal enough. Jesus did not say, “This changed into My body” or “This contains My body.” The verb “is” in the Bible never means “changed into” or “contains.” But it does mean represents or symbolizes. For example, “The field is the world” (Matt. 13:38). Jesus said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 6:41). Did Jesus mean He changed into or was inside a loaf of bread? The answer is obvious. He represented bread – heavenly bread in fact – the true manna from heaven! Remember the rock that was struck in the wilderness, and out came water for the people to drink? “That Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). Did the rock change into or contain Christ? Again, the answer is obvious. That Rock symbolized Christ – who was struck for our sins, to give us living water (John 4:13-14; 7:37-38). If I showed you a photograph of my mother and said, “This is my mother,” you would not think I was holding a piece of my mother’s flesh. Likewise, Jesus was not holding a piece of His own flesh, or a cup of His own blood. The disciples, who often misunderstood Jesus, did not need to ask Him what He meant, because it was obvious. The bread represents His body. The wine represents His blood “shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28).

“Christ’s physical body in heaven is one; it is not shredded into millions of pieces and scattered over the Communion tables of all churches in all ages!” (Jones, Study Helps, 180). Christ’s glorified human body is visible in heaven at the right hand of God. It is not invisible in the bread and wine. According to the creed of Chalcedon (AD 451), the historic position of the Christian Church is that Christ’s divine and human natures are so joined together that there is no change of the one into the other. But if Christ’s human nature became everywhere present then that would be a change!

Another problem with the Catholic and Lutheran position is inconsistency. They insist that ‘to drink Christ’s blood’ must be interpreted literally; and therefore, they think the communion wine changes into or contains the blood of Christ. But they do not argue that ‘to be washed by the blood of Christ’ (1 John 1:7) must be interpreted literally, so that the baptism water changes into or contains the blood of Christ. Rather, they admit, ‘to be washed by Christ’s blood” is figurative language, meaning, ‘to be forgiven by Christ’s blood.’ They are willing to interpret the washing of the blood figuratively; why not the drinking of the blood? For “to be washed with the blood of Christ, and to drink His blood is the same thing” (Ursinus, 396).

Let us look at the last phrase of Question 78: “in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.” This is simply a repeat of what was said in connection with baptism, that sometimes a symbol (like baptism) is called by the name of what it symbolizes (i.e. the washing away of sins). Circumcision, which was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, is called the covenant itself (“the covenant of circumcision,” Acts 7:8), even though it is only a symbol of the covenant. The rock in the wilderness is called Christ (“that Rock was Christ”), even though it was only a symbol of Christ. So, we should have no problem with calling the bread His body, and the cup His blood, even though they are only symbols of His body and blood.

Question 79: Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the New Testament in His blood; and the Apostle Paul, the communion of the body and the blood of Christ? Christ speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby, that like as the bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal; but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood by the working of the Holy Spirit, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens [symbols] in remembrance of Him; and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we ourselves had suffered and done all in our own person.


 Why are sacramental symbols called by the name of what they symbolize? This highlights the close connection between the symbol and what it symbolizes. The physical nourishment we receive from bread and wine (Psalm 104:15; Gen. 14:18) resembles the spiritual nourishment we receive every day as a result of believing in (“eating”) Christ’s crucified body and shed blood. Remember that eternal life is a life of union and communion (fellowship) with the risen and glorified Christ (through the Word and prayer) in the bond of the Holy Spirit so that we are spiritually sanctified and transformed more and more into His image. Christ calls the bread His crucified body and the wine His shed-blood because He wants to symbolically assure us believers that just as certainly as our mouth tastes the bread and wine (symbols of His sacrifice), we can be just as certain that our soul tastes (possesses) all the benefits of His sacrifice. He gives us symbols of His suffering and death to assure us that His suffering and death is imputed to us as if we ourselves had suffered and died. Christ wants us to taste with our mouth how near He is to us and how dear we are to Him. He told His disciples, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you” (Luke 22:15). His desire to have communion with His people has not changed (Heb. 13:8)!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 78-79

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 29


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 28: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 75-77

Reformation 500 WEEK 28: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 75-77

Question 75: How is it signified and sealed to you [the believer] in the Holy Supper that you partake of [benefit from] the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits? Thus: 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 [symbols] of the body and blood of Christ.

     Having learned that baptism is the sign and seal of the beginning of our salvation in forgiveness and regeneration (the Lord has once for all received us believers into His covenant of grace), we will now learn that the Lord’s Supper is the sign and seal of the continual growth of our salvation in communion with Christ (the Lord will preserve us in this covenant of fellowship with Him and all believers).

     The Lord Jesus Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper during His last Passover supper with His disciples, the night before His crucifixion, the same night in which He was betrayed. “The Passover was the solemn eating of a lamb, which God enjoined upon the Israelites in order, that this rite…might be a memorial to them of their deliverance from Egypt, and that it might especially declare to the faithful their spiritual deliverance from sin and death by Christ, who was to be slain upon the cross, and to be eaten by faith” (Ursinus, 437). The Lord’s Supper teaches that this is already accomplished. “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).

     Jesus took the bread and wine of the Passover supper and gave them their true significance as symbols of His crucified body and shed blood (His suffering and death) on the cross for all who believe in Him. The Lord commanded us believers to eat and drink symbols of His sacrifice for our sins as a visual symbolic reminder of the truth that He suffered and died for us to unite us to His glorified body in heaven, so that we might receive all the benefits of His crucified body and shed blood (John 15:1-5). For the sake of His sacrifice, we are not only forgiven and regenerated (which is symbolized in our baptism); we have eternal life, a life of communion (fellowship) with Christ (though the Word and prayer) in the bond of the Holy Spirit so that we are sanctified and transformed more and more into His image (John 17:3; 1 Cor. 6:17; 12:13; Eph. 5:30; 1 John 1:3).

     The bread is not only broken, to symbolize that “He was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5); the wine is not only poured into a cup, to symbolize that “He poured out His soul unto death” (Isaiah 53:12); the bread and wine are given to us to eat and drink to symbolize our communion with Christ – that He lives in us to nourish our souls every day and forever! As certainly as we swallow the bread and wine and they nourish our body (think of the physical benefits of bread and wine), that is how close Jesus is by His Spirit to strengthen and gladden our soul. In this way Christ strengthens our faith. The bread and wine remind us of the benefits He has already bestowed upon us, which causes us to give Him thanks – that’s communion!

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

     Over a year before Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:41-63). The Jews thought He was speaking literally, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). But if we compare John 6:47, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life,” with verse 54, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life,” we see that the same effect of eternal life is attributed both to the eating of Him, and to believing in Him. Jesus clearly said His words have a spiritual meaning. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit” (John 6:63). To spiritually eat and drink Christ’s crucified body and shed blood is to embrace His sacrifice on the cross with a believing heart, believing Christ suffered and died in our place to save us from our sins, and asking God to forgive our sins for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice (1 John 1:9).

     This is how we obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal life – a life of union and communion with our risen and glorified Savior. Just as we continually need food and drink for our physical life, so (through the Word and prayer) we continually spiritually feed on Christ for our spiritual life, trusting in His sacrifice alone for our salvation, and hungering and thirsting to please Him out of thankfulness for our salvation (John 14:21-23; 15:5; Eph. 3:16-19; 4:12-15). “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him” (John 6:56). The daily communion we enjoy in our private lives (without the symbols) is enjoyed together publicly with the symbols (1 Cor. 10:16-17). We have communion with Christ in a spiritual yet real way; and together we are spiritually nourished and strengthened. “Christ teaches this eating of His flesh in the sixth chapter of John, and confirms it in the supper by external signs” (Ursinus, 382).


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? 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” [1 Cor. 11:23-26]. 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” [1 Cor. 10:16-17].

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 75-77

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 28


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 27: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 72-74

Reformation 500 WEEK 27: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 72-74

Question 72: Is, then, the outward washing with water itself the washing away of sinsNo, for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.

     Abraham did not receive a circumcised heart (a forgiven and regenerated heart) through circumcision. He was saved before he was circumcised. Circumcision was added to symbolize and certify what Abraham already had (Rom. 4:11). Likewise, baptism symbolizes and certifies what believers already have (Acts 10:48). Salvation from sin is through faith in Christ alone, apart from works, including the work of baptism. The repentant thief on the cross went to heaven without being baptized.

     There are two or three verses in the NT that appear to say that baptism is necessary for salvation. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). But notice that it does not say “he who is not baptized will be condemned,” but only “he who does not believe will be condemned.” It is the lack of belief not the lack of baptism that results in condemnation. Baptism is mentioned right after belief simply because it is the first fruit of faith. It is the first work commanded by Christ for all new believers. He who truly believes in Jesus will obey His command to be baptized. The person who refuses to be baptized shows he does not have true faith. Similarly, when Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), he mentions baptism right after repentance because it is the first fruit of repentance – which is inseparable from faith: “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). When Ananias told Paul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16), Paul was already converted (his sins were already washed away) before he was baptized – before he even met Ananias (see Acts 9:1-16). Therefore, his baptism was divine assurance of his spiritual cleansing, especially as he called upon the Lord to cleanse him from sin (1 John 1:9).

Question 73: Why then does the Holy Spirit call Baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins? God speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby that just as the filthiness of the body is taken away by water, so our sins are taken away by the blood and Spirit of Christ; but much more, that by this divine pledge and token He may assure us that we are as really washed from our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water.

     Sometimes a symbol (like baptism) is called by the name of what it symbolizes. For example, circumcision, which is the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, is sometimes called the covenant itself (“the covenant of circumcision,” Acts 7:8), even though it is only a symbol of the covenant. This highlights the close connection between the symbol and what it symbolizes. Baptism is called “the washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5) because it symbolically assures us believers of our regeneration: just as certainly as our bodies are washed with water, we can be just as certain that we are forgiven by Christ’s blood and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.

Question 74: Are infants also to be baptized? Yes, for since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God [Gen. 17:7], and through the blood of Christ both redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents [Isa. 59:21; Acts 2:39], they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be engrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers [1 Cor. 7:14], as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.

     God’s covenant of salvation with believing Abraham included his descendants. “I will be a God to you and to your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7); which is why God commanded Abraham to give the sign of this covenant to his descendants. God did not promise to save all of Abraham’s descendants; only that His elect would be among his descendants in every generation, and that from the seed of believers “He intends to raise up a seed for Himself” (Vos, “Doctrine of the Covenant”). It was this covenant promise that distinguished the seed of believers as a “holy seed” (Ezra 9:2). “God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Deut. 30:6). “My covenant I will establish with Isaac” (Gen. 17:20-21); “for in Isaac your seed shall be called [effectually!]” (Gen. 21:12). “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved” (Isa. 10:22); “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants, says the Lord, from this time and forevermore” (Isa. 59:21). In some cases, the hearts of God’s elect are regenerated in the womb, so they grow up loving the Lord. “From my mother’s womb, You have been my God” (Psalm 22:10). John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). Cf. Ps. 25:12-13.

     God’s covenant of salvation with believers and their seed has not been abolished in the NT; only the sign has changed from circumcision to baptism; and part of the newness of the new covenant is that females can receive the sign of salvation. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the Jews to repent and be baptized, because the promise of salvation “is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call [effectually!]” (Acts 2:39). The children of believers are still a “holy” seed (1 Cor. 7:14) – still distinguished by the same promise that distinguished them in the OT (Deut. 30:6). Paul told Timothy, “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Tim. 1:5). If the Baptists are right, that infants of believers should no longer receive the sign of God’s covenant of salvation, then this major change should be clearly indicted in the NT. But instead of change we see the same pattern. For example, when Lydia (an adult convert, like Abraham) believed, then “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15; cf. v.33) – just like Abraham had believed and then he and his household were circumcised! The Bible assumes a household usually includes children: “an elder must be one who rules his own household well, having his children in submission with all reverence” (1 Tim. 3:4)! There is no stipulation in the NT that only confessing believers are to be baptized. There is no example in the NT of a child from a Christian home who was baptized after confessing faith in Christ! Is not the Baptist view, an argument from silence?

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 72-74

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 27


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.