Saturday, May 20, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 21: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 54-56

Reformation 500 WEEK 21: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 54-56


Question 54: What do you believe concerning ‘the Holy Catholic Church’? That out of the whole human race, from the beginning to the end of the world, the Son of God, by His Spirit and Word, gathers, defends and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life, a chosen communion in the unity of the true faith; and that I am and forever shall remain, a living member of this communion.

Questions 54 and 55 explain the biblical basis of article 9 of the Apostles Creed: “I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints.” The words holy and catholic (which means universal) are used to describe the church, because the Bible defines the church as the total number of God’s chosen (elect) people in every nation, who are or shall be saved and sanctified through faith in Jesus Christ (Gen. 26:4; John 10:10; Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:29-30; Eph. 4:4-6; Rev. 5:9-10). “We believe and profess one catholic or universal Church which is a holy congregation of true Christian believers” (Belgic Confession, article 27). Jesus promised, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

This one universal church is called the invisible church, because we cannot see the total number of believers in all times and places. Not every member of the visible church is a true believer. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Thus, the invisible church “lies concealed in the visible church” (Ursinus, 287).

This does not mean the visible church is unnecessary. The Bible commands believers to unite together with other believers in the outward and public profession of their faith, under the spiritual oversight of pastors and elders (Matt. 16:16-19; 18:15-18; 28:19-20; Acts 2:38-42; 1 Cor. 11:18-26; Heb. 10:25; 13:7). In fact, it is through the faithful ministry of God’s Word in the visible church that the Lord Jesus Christ saves and sanctifies (gathers, defends, and preserves) His chosen people by His Holy Spirit (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:18-21; Eph. 4:11-16). “The elect are not always members of the church, but it is necessary that they should be brought into the church [invisible and visible], even if it should occur in the very moment of death [like the thief on the cross]” (Ursinus, 302). This will be explained more fully in Questions 64-85.

“What then is it to believe the Holy Catholic Church? It is to believe that there always has been, is, and ever shall be, to the end of time such a church in the world, and that in the congregation composing the visible church there are always some who are truly converted, and that I am one of this number; and, therefore, I am a member of both the visible and invisible church, and shall forever remain such” (Ursinus, 293).

Question 55: What do you understand by ‘the Communion of Saints’? First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts; second, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.

Since the church (the total number of all believers) is a chosen communion in the unity of the true faith, it follows that the church is a communion of saints. The word “communion” means “fellowship, sharing things in common.” It refers to what all believers have in common. The word “saint” means “a holy one.” All believers (not just a select few) are saints or holy ones by virtue of being indwelt and sanctified by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:2).

Since all believers are united to Christ by the bond of the Holy Spirit (John 15:5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:23), all believers share with Christ in all His treasures and gifts – all the benefits of salvation. Paul told his fellow believers: “all things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21). In Christ, we possess the kingdom of heaven (Luke 12:32). All believers have communion with God and with each other as members of Christ’s body; “truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). All believers have in common the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and are enabled by the Spirit to follow Christ as prophets, priests, and kings, out of thankfulness for salvation.

In addition to the gifts which all believers have in common, Christ also gives to every believer different spiritual gifts “which are necessary for the edification of the church” (Ursinus, 305). “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them” (Rom. 12:4-5; cf. 1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:10). The extraordinary (miraculous) gifts, such as prophecy, tongues, and healing, were “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12), and therefore passed away with the office of apostle. The ordinary gifts are teaching, leading, giving, encouraging and showing mercy (Rom. 12:6-8). The Lord Jesus gives “pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:12). For example, Paul mentions the household of Stephanus, who “devoted themselves to the ministry of the saintsthey refreshed my spirit and yours” (1 Cor. 16:15, 18). The body needs the mutual assistance of every member. Thus, “the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:21). Out of the variety of spiritual gifts “arises unity in the church, as the various tones in music produce sweet melody” (John Calvin).

Question 56: What do you believe concerning ‘the forgiveness of sins? That God, for the sake of Christ's satisfaction, will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.


The forgiveness of sins (article 10 of the Apostles Creed) means that God will not punish our sins because Christ made satisfaction for our sins – He was fully punished for our sins on the cross. Christ was without sin, yet our guilt was imputed (transferred) to Him, which is why God punished Him as the sinner (Isaiah 53). Likewise, Christ’s perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sins is imputed (transferred) to us believers, as if we did it. This will be explained more fully in Question 60. For now, let us glory in the Lord’s forgiveness. He will remember our sins no more (Heb. 8:12)! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). God loves us just as much as if we had not sinned! Jesus says to every believer, “Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matt. 9:2).

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 HC QAs 54-56

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 21


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, May 13, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 20 JOHN CALVIN AND GENEVA

Reformation 500 WEEK 20    John calvin and geneva


Prior to Calvin’s arrival in Geneva in August 1536, “the Genevan city council had officially broken with the Roman Catholic Church, abolished the Sacrifice of the Mass, and called for the removal of all images and relics from the churches. Church properties had been converted to Protestant uses for religion, charity, and education. The council had committed the city to ‘live according to God’s law and God’s Word and to abandon idolatry’.” (DeMar, Reformation, 201).

“Before the city council had disestablished Roman Catholicism, the church ruled the state through the Roman Catholic bishop. Afterwards, the state ruled the church through the council.” Calvin’s goal was to change “this unbiblical approach to government,” and “to establish a church governmentally independent of the council while assuring that the council would not be independent of God’s law as it pertained to its civil jurisdiction…. Calvin drew a clear line of distinction between the civil magistrate, whose authority was confined to civil matters, and the elders of churches, whose authority was confined to ecclesiastical matters” (Ibid., 201).

In January 1537, when Calvin and Farel began their work of reform, the Genevan city authorities “were not sure what path to take, and they were certainly not sure about putting their collective futures in the hands of ‘that Frenchman,’ as they liked to call Calvin” (Nichols, Reformation, 75).

Calvin “was offered the position of ‘Professor of Sacred Scripture’ by the council. He accepted the position and began a series of reform efforts. As part of his duties, he prepared a confession of faith to be accepted by everyone who wished to be a citizen of Geneva; he planned an educational program for the populace; and he insisted on the biblical doctrine of excommunication for those who broke God’s law and refused to repent.

“It was over the issues of a strict moral code and church discipline that Calvin’s efforts were opposed. The council believed that it, not the church, should have the authority and power to set the moral agenda and exercise discipline in the church. Calvin maintained that only the church and its government are given the authority to discipline church members” (DeMar, 203).


In 1538, new officials (Libertines, as Calvin described them) were elected to the city council, and they “decided to bring matters to a head. The form of worship in the neighboring city of Bern differed somewhat from that in use in Geneva. For some time, Bern had wished to have it adopted in Geneva. Now the city council insisted on introducing this form of worship. Calvin and Farel did not think that the differences were very important. But they refused to introduce the liturgy of Bern, because it was being imposed upon the Geneva church by the civil government without consultation with the church officers.” Consequently, Calvin and Farel were banished from Geneva on April 23, 1538. Farel went to Neuchatel, where he remained until his death in 1565. “Martin Bucer, who had been won for the Reformation by Luther during the great Leipzig Debate, invited Calvin to Strasbourg. Calvin gladly accepted this invitation. It had brought him to the city where he had been so eager to go in the first place” (Kuiper, Church in History, 195). Surprisingly, he would soon return to Geneva. 

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 and Geneva

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 20


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 20: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 53

Reformation 500 WEEK 20: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 53

Question 53: What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit? First, that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son. Second, that He is also given unto me: by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits, comforts me, and shall abide with me forever.

Article 8 of the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” is the beginning of the third part of the Creed, which deals with the Holy Spirit and our Sanctification (see again Question 24).
The first thing we need to know about the Holy Spirit is that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son. Co-eternal means also-eternal. He is “the eternal Spirit” (Heb. 9:4). From Questions 24-25 we learned that the three distinct divine persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are indivisibly One God, having in common all the divine perfections and qualities. All the attributes of the divine essence are attributed to the Holy Spirit (e.g. Gen. 1:2; Psalm 33:6; 1 Cor. 2:10-12).

The Holy Spirit is clearly declared to be God (Acts 5:3-4) and also to be distinct from the Father and the Son (cf. Luke 12:10). “I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever” (John 14:16); “when the Helper comes, whom I shall to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). “He is said to be sent by the Father and the Son, and must, therefore, be another person; for no one is sent of himself. A person may, indeed, come of his own accord, and of himself; but no one can send himself” (Ursinus, 273).

The Holy Spirit is that Person of the Trinity who has been given to us believers to live in us. By working true faith in our hearts, He has united us to the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, so that we receive all the benefits of Christ’s death, namely, justification, adoption, sanctification, and ultimately glorification. “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?” (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit sanctifies us by causing us to obey God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).

The Holy Spirit dwells in us to comfort us (Acts 9:31), especially in times of sorrow: “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). “God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us” (2 Cor. 7:10). “The Holy Spirit strengthens and establishes us when weak and wavering in our faith, and assures us of our salvation [Rom. 8:15-16, 26-27]” (Ursinus, 278).



The Holy Spirit will abide with us forever (John 14:16). “For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). True believers “are sometimes for a season deserted by God [2 Chron. 32:31], either for the purpose of testing, or chastising, or humbling them [Heb. 12:3-11]; yet they are nevertheless brought to repentance, so as not to perish” (Ursinus, 474). David in his fall, lost the joy which he had felt in his soul, the purity of his conscience, and many other gifts, which he earnestly prayed might be restored to him; but he had not wholly lost the Holy Spirit, or else he would not have said, ‘Take not Thy Holy Spirit from me’ [Ps. 51:11], from which it is plain that he had not wholly lost the Spirit of God” (Ursinus, 284).


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 HC QAs 53

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 20


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, May 6, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 19: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA's 50-52

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 19: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM  QAS  50-52

[No Reformation History this week due to the length of the Catechism explanation]

Question 50: Why is it added: ‘And sits at the right hand of the Father’? Because Christ ascended into heaven for this end, that He might there appear as the Head of His Church, by whom the Father governs all things.

God raised Jesus “from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20). To sit at the right hand is a metaphor borrowed from the ancient custom of kings who placed at their right side those whom they wished to honor and to whom they entrusted certain departments of government (cf. 1 Kings 2:19). God has entrusted to Jesus Christ “all authority…in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). “He is that King by whom God governs all things” (Ursinus, 255). The “Son was always that person by whom the Father governed all things from the beginning, as He also created all things by Him [John 1:1-3] …. Christ was always at the right hand of God according to His Divinity, by virtue of His appointment to the office of mediator which was made from everlasting [Psalm 2:7-9].” In fact, He “commenced to execute, and has executed the office of mediator from the very beginning of the world [Gen. 3:15]” (Ursinus, 257). At His ascension, Christ was seated according to His human nature, which then received a dignity and glory it did not have before His ascension (Luke 24:26; Phil. 2:8-9). Before His ascension, His glory as the Son of God was concealed by His humanity and humiliation (cf. Matt. 17:1-8). When Christ ascended into heaven, He laid aside His humiliation, and there was an open declaration of the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Christ has a universal kingdom over all things (Eph. 1:20-23). He is “the ruler over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). “He is the head of the whole world by way of dominion, but a head to the church by way of union and special influence (John 17:2).… The Church is His special care and charge. He rules the world for its good” (Flavel, The Mystery of Providence, 27).

Question 51: What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us? First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out the heavenly gifts upon us, His members; then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.

On the Day of Pentecost, ten days after Christ’s ascension, Peter told the Jews that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was proof that Jesus had been enthroned as King of God’s promised kingdom (Acts 2:33-36). “The benefits of the kingdom of Christ are, that He rules us through the ministry of His Word and Spirit [Eph. 4:7-12], that He preserves His ministry, gives His Church resting places, makes His Word effectual to the conversion of the elect [Rom. 10:17].” He “intercedes prevailingly for us in heaven, so that the Father does not refuse us anything on account of the virtue and force of His intercession [Luke 22:32].” He bestows upon us heavenly gifts, “such as a true knowledge of God, faith, repentance, and every Christian virtue [Gal. 5:22-23], and He will accomplish all this for us [1 Thess. 5:24],” so “there is no reason why we should doubt in regard to our salvation, for He will preserve it safely for us [John 10:28]” (Ursinus, 259). He will defend us against all enemies (the devil, the evil world, and our sinful nature), and will at length bring us to heavenly glory. “For He must reign, until He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25-26).  

Question 52: What comfort is it to you that Christ ‘shall come to judge the living and the dead’? That in all my sorrows and persecutions, I, with uplifted head, look for the very One, who offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven, who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.

Article 7 of the Apostles’ Creed is taken directly from the Bible: “the Lord Jesus Christ…will judge the living and the dead at His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:1; cf. Acts 10:42; 1 Peter 4:5). “But of that day and hour no one knows” (Matt. 24:36). There is only one second coming of Christ. Nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus is going to return twice, once for His church and then again seven years later. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time” (Heb. 9:28) – not a third time! “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God [“the last trumpet,” 1 Cor. 15:52]. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [raptured] together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). It does not say we will secretly meet Christ in the air, and then He will reverse His direction and take us back to heaven only to return again later.
And when Christ comes, it will be “the last day” (John 6:39), “the end of the age” (Matt. 13:39) – the end of the world: “at His coming. Then comes the end” (1 Cor. 15:23). For “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and …both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Then God will create “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Then it’s Judgment Day! He shall come to judge everyone – the living and the dead. Everyone will be resurrected and judged the same day (Matt. 25:31-32)! The “hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28). God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world” (Acts 17:30). At the conclusion of Judgement Day, the wicked “will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46).
                Now we are in a position to interpret Revelation 20, the only place in the Bible which mentions the millennium – the 1000 year-reign of Christ. We must interpret Revelation 20 in light of the rest of the NT (not the other way around). Since the rest of the NT says that there are only two ages – “this present age and the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:30), it follows that the millennium must fit in somehow with Christ’s present reign in heaven. It is not a violation of Scripture to interpret the number 1000 symbolically to refer to a long, indefinite time period (Deut. 7:9; Joshua 23:10; Psalm 50:10). Regardless, we are called to comfort one another with Christ’s promised return and to confess together, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

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 HC QAs 50-52

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 19


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, April 29, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 18: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTIONS 46-49

Reformation 500 WEEK 18: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTIONS 46-49

[No Reformation History this week due to the length of the Catechism explanation]

Question 46: WHAT DO YOU UNDERSTAND BY THE WORDS, “HE ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN”? That Christ, in the sight of His disciples, was taken up from earth into heaven, and continues there in our behalf until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

Question 46 begins to explain the biblical basis of article 6 of the Apostles’ Creed: “He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” “After Christ had given many infallible proofs to His apostles of His resurrection from the dead, and of His true humanity, He ascended into heaven, in the sight of His disciples, on the 40th day after His resurrection [Acts 1:3-9]” (Ursinus, 242). “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10-11; cf. Phil. 3:20).

Heaven is said to be God’s “dwelling place” (1 Kings 8:30); not that He is contained or confined there (He is everywhere), but because it is there that He especially manifests His glory and presence to the angels and to “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Heb. 12:23). Heaven is a real place (“I go to prepare a place for you”) – high above and outside the visible universe. God created things “visible and invisible” (Col. 1:16). Christ “ascended far above all the heavens” (Eph. 4:10). He has entered “into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Heb. 9:24).

Question 47: But is not Christ with us even unto the end of the world, as He has promised? Christ is true man and true God. According to His human nature He is now not on earth, but according to His Godhead [i.e. divine nature], majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.

Christ ascended into heaven according to His resurrected and glorified human nature, not according to His divine nature, “for this was already in heaven before His ascension…. Cyprian says, ‘The Lord ascended into heaven, not where the Word of God had not been before…but where the Word made flesh did not sit before’.” (Ursinus, 243-44). Therefore, when Christ said, “I go away,” or “I leave the world,” He was speaking according to His human nature; and when He said, “I am with you always,” He was speaking according to His divine nature.

Question 48: But if His human nature is not present wherever His divine nature is, are not, then, the two natures of Christ separated from one another? Not at all, for since the divine nature is incomprehensible and everywhere present, it must follow that it is indeed beyond the limits of the human nature which it has assumed, but it is yet nonetheless in the human nature also, and remains personally united to it.

Christ’s everywhere present divine nature remains personally united to His finite human nature in heaven: “these two natures are so closely united in one Person that they were not separated even by His death (Belgic Confession, article 19). The writers of the Catechism were careful to maintain the historic position of the Christian church, stated in the creed of Chalcedon: “the two natures subsist in the single person of Christ, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.”

Question 49: WHAT BENEFIT DO WE RECEIVE FROM CHRIST’S ASCENSION INTO HEAVEN?  First, that He is our Advocate in heaven [1 John 2:1]. Second, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge, that He as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself [Eph. 2:6]. Third, that He sends us His Spirit as an earnest [guarantee], by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, and not things on earth [Col. 3:1-2].

The first benefit of Christ’s ascension is He is our Advocate in heaven. “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). An advocate is an intercessor, one who pleads in behalf of another. When we sin as believers, Christ does not plead our innocence or temporary insanity or extenuating circumstances. Rather, as part of His priestly office He makes intercession for us by pleading His perfect sacrifice for our sins: “the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). “Christ presents before the Father the very body and soul in which our sins were completely punished and paid for, in order that the Father, by virtue of the one sacrifice accomplished in Christ’s body and soul, might turn away His anger from our sin” (Casper Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, page 79).

                The second benefit of Christ’s ascension is that it is a guarantee that when we die, Christ will take our souls up to Himself in heaven (Luke 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:8). As our only High Priest, Jesus ascended into heaven to bring us free from all sin into God’s Most Holy Presence (Heb. 9:12; 10:19)! Jesus said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). The fact that we are inseparably united to Christ in heaven (Eph.1:23; 5:30) means that we already possess heaven in Christ our Head and Brother (Eph. 2:6); “for if He who is our Head has ascended, we also, who are His members, shall certainly ascend” (Ursinus, 252).


The third benefit of Christ’s ascension is that He has “sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 1:22) – a “guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:14; cf. 1 Pet. 1:4). The Spirit’s presence in our hearts is like a down payment that one day we believers will receive our full inheritance – which is to see Jesus face to face. Jesus had to convince His discouraged disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away to the Father, so that He could send them the Holy Spirit (John 16:7) – not only to give them a fuller revelation of Jesus as the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord-Messiah (John 14:17-24), but also to pour out His Holy Spirit upon all His elect in all nations and bring them all into heavenly joy and glory (Acts 2:17). By the Spirit’s power we seek “those things which are above” (Col. 3:1) – we seek to keep our eyes on Jesus in heaven (Heb. 12:2), to obey His Word out of thankfulness for salvation, until the day He takes us up to Himself. Jesus desires us and all His elect to be with Him where He is (John 17:24); and by the Spirit’s grace we do too (Acts 7:59)! 

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 HC QAs 46-49

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 18


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, April 22, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 17 JOHN CALVIN AND FAREL

Reformation 500 WEEK 17    John calvin and Farel

After the publication of the first edition of his Institutes in early 1536, Calvin decided to go to the German-Swiss city of Strasbourg, to pursue the quiet life of a scholar, and to partner with Martin Bucer. “However, because of hostilities between Francis I and Charles V and troop movements resulting in blocked roads” (DeMar, Reformation, 201), he took a detour; and “on a warm day in August, 1536, arrived through the gates of Geneva [population then about 10,000]” (Kuiper, 192).

“A postcard-picture spot, Geneva nestles against a lake surrounded by mountains. The city could boast inhabitants as far back as the days of Julius Caesar.  (Nichols, Reformation, 75). “Near-by, through a pass in the Alps, runs an important trade route connecting Italy, German, and France” (Kuiper, 192).

“When Calvin entered Geneva, he did not think anyone in that city knew of him.  He himself was a total stranger there, and of the situation in Geneva he knew little or nothing” (Kuiper, 193). He did not know that William Farel (1489-1565), an old acquaintance from Paris, had come as an exile to Geneva in 1532 and after much effort had convinced the citizens of Geneva to forsake Catholicism in favor of the Reformation. “On May 21, 1536, the General Assembly of the citizens voted in favor of the Reformation and made Protestantism the official religion of Geneva” (Kuiper, 192).

“All through this time, Geneva was in revolt against its bishop, and against its lord, the Duke of Savoy. Farel was of a fiery temper, and gifted with eloquence and a powerful voice. But he did not feel himself equal to the task of bringing peace and order to the distracted city. Then he heard that Calvin had come to Geneva [unknown to Calvin, his Institutes had already made him famous all over Europe]. It came to Farel as a revelation that this young Frenchman of twenty-seven was just the man for the place. Farel hurried to the inn where Calvin was stopping for the night [hoping to convince him to remain and help with reform efforts]” (Kuiper, 193). “Calvin protested, pleading his youth, his inexperience, his need of further study, his natural timidity and bashfulness, which made him unfit for public action” (Schaff, 8:348).

When Calvin gave his final answer of “No!” Farel “rose from his chair, and, straightening himself out to his full height as his long beard swept his chest, he directed his piercing look full at the young man before him and thundered: ‘May God curse your studies if now in her time of need you refuse to lend your aid to His Church’.” (Kuiper 193-94).


In the Preface to his commentary on Psalms, Calvin describes his encounter with Farel: “I had resolved to pass quickly by Geneva, without staying longer than a single night in that city.” But Farel “strained every nerve to detain me. And after having learned that my heart was set upon devoting myself to private studies, for which I wished to keep myself free from other pursuits, and finding that he gained nothing by entreaties, he proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement, and the tranquility of my studies, if I should refuse to give assistance, when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation [which I felt to be as if God had from heaven laid His mighty hand upon me to stop me] I was so stricken with terror, that I ceased from my journey [to Strasbourg and agreed to stay in Geneva].”

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 and William Farel

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 17


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 17: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 45

Reformation 500 WEEK 17: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 45


Question 45: WHAT BENEFIT DO WE RECEIVE FROM THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST? First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, so that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which He has obtained for us by His death. Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life. Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.

     Question 45 explains the biblical basis of article 5 of the Apostles’ Creed: “The third day He arose from the dead.” The core of the gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The soul of Christ, which (for three days) had been in the hands of His Father in heaven, truly did return to His body in the tomb and come forth from the grave. His resurrected body was adorned with immortality, no longer subject to the frailties of a human body, but it was still flesh and bones (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29). Christ’s resurrection “is proven by the testimony of angels, women, evangelists, apostles, and other saints, who saw Him, felt Him, and talked with Him after His resurrection [Matt. 28:1-9; 1 Cor.5-8; Acts 1:2-3]” (Ursinus, 233). Even Christ’s enemies could not deny but tried to cover up the fact of the empty tomb (Matt. 28:11-15).


     Christ’s resurrection was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 16:8-11; Luke 24:46-47). Christ Himself foretold His own resurrection (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 26:32). His resurrection proved He truly was the Messiah, the Son of God, who came to give eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 20:30-31; Rom. 1:1-4).  


     Christ rose from the dead to give us believers the benefits which He obtained for us by His death. The first benefit is justification (which will be explained more fully in Question 60). Christ “was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Justification is God’s verdict that we are forgiven the eternal penalty of sin and accepted as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Rom. 4:1-8; 22-24). We are justified the moment God works true faith in our hearts (Rom. 3:28). 


     The second benefit of Christ’s resurrection is that by the power of His Holy Spirit we are regenerated (born again), that is, raised spiritually from the dead, which is exactly why we believe in Jesus (Eph. 2:8), and confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9), and desire to please God out of thankfulness for our salvation (Rom. 6:4). “And you God made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. John 3:3).



     The third benefit of Christ’s resurrection is that it guarantees our physical bodies will also be raised from the dead (Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:20-23). Our salvation includes both soul and body. Both soul and body belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11). Since we still have to suffer death in our body, we “who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for … the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Our resurrected body will be like Christ’s resurrected body (this will be explained more fully in Question 57). “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).

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 HC QAs 45

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 17


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, April 15, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 16: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 40-44

Reformation 500 WEEK 16: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 40-44

[No Reformation History this week due to the length of the Catechism explanation]

Question 40: Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer death? Because the justice and truth of God required that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.

God is truthful and just. He said to our first parents Adam and Eve that they would die if they disobeyed His commandment (Gen. 2:16-17). The fact that they did not die instantly after they sinned shows that God in His mercy had planned to send His Son to suffer the death that all sinners deserve, and thereby to satisfy the justice of God. The eternal Son of God “died according to His human nature only…for the divine nature…cannot die” (Ursinus, 215). The Son of God in His humanity suffered the agonizing and painful separation of His human soul and body by God’s severe wrath.

Question 41: Why was He buried? To show thereby that He was really dead.

Jesus was buried, not only to fulfill the prophecy “He made His grave with the wicked” (Isaiah 53:9), but also so that we would not be able to doubt His death, on which our salvation depended. Pilate even posted a guard to make sure that Jesus’ tomb was sealed so His disciples could not steal His body (Matt. 27:64-66).

Question 42: Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also die? Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.

Since Christ died in our place, and has fully satisfied for all our sins, why do we still have to die? It is because when we are united to Christ by true faith, we do not receive all the benefits of His death all at once. We are justified but not perfectly sanctified in this life; and we do not receive our resurrected bodies until Christ returns (Rom. 8:23; 1 Cor. 15:23). We have to wait until He returns to receive the perfect enjoyment of all the benefits of His death, including the elimination of death itself (1 Cor. 15:26, 54). But since Christ died for us, our physical death is not a satisfaction or punishment for our sin. Rather, our physical death puts an end to our sinning and ushers our soul into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in heaven (2 Cor. 5:8; Heb. 12:22-24).

Question 43: What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross? That by His power our old man [our old sinful nature] is with Him crucified, slain, and buried; so that the evil lusts of the flesh may no more reign in us, but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.

When we are united to Christ by true faith, the first benefit we receive from Christ’s death is justification, which means we are forgiven the eternal punishment of sin (Rom. 8:1, 33). “The justice of God demands that the sinner should not be punished twice. And as God has punished our sins in Christ, He will not, therefore, punish the same in us” (Ursinus, 227). We also receive the further benefit of sanctification, which means that by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit we are set free from the enslaving power of our old sinful nature by receiving a brand new holy nature – “a new creation” (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 our old sinful nature. We have a new nature that desires to please God out of thankfulness for salvation. Thus, “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6). “He, therefore, who boasts of having applied to himself by faith the death of Christ, and yet has no desire to live a holy and godly life… gives conclusive evidence that the truth is not in him; for all those who are justified are willing and ready to do those things which are pleasing to God” (Ursinus, 227).

Question 44: Why is it added: He descended into hell? That in my greatest temptations I may be assured that Christ my Lord, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors, which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before, has redeemed me from the anguish and torment of hell.

In the Apostles’ Creed, the phrase “He descended into hell,” follows the words “crucified, dead and buried.” “The Roman Catholic Church takes it to mean that Christ literally went to hell to suffer for three days and then took the Old Testament believers, who had died, to heaven. The Lutherans say that Jesus’ soul went to hell not to suffer but to proclaim His victory over His enemies” (Norman Jones, Study Helps, 96).

The biblical view is that the term hell is used not only to refer to the place of the damned, but also to signify the most extreme distress and anguish. “The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of hell laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow” (Psalm 116:3). Therefore, the phrase, “He descended to hell,” refers to the torments that Christ suffered in His soul before He died. After He died, His soul did not go to hell, but His soul went to Paradise (which is heaven – see 2 Cor.12:2-4). Christ told the believing thief on the cross: “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43); and right before He breathed His last breath, He said to his Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46). “The soul of Christ, after His death, was, therefore, in the hands of His Father in Paradise, and not in hell” (Ursinus, 229). There was no need for Christ to suffer in hell, because His suffering to redeem His elect was finished when He died on the cross. Before His last breath He proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Plus, OT believers “were not in hell; therefore, they could not be liberated from that place” (Ursinus, 228). There was no need for Christ to go to hell to proclaim victory over His enemies, because the Bible says He did that by His resurrection and ascension (Eph. 4:8; 1 Pet. 3:21-22).

The reason why “He descended into hell” follows “crucified, dead, and buried,” is to explain that He not only suffered bodily, but “He also suffered in soul the most extreme torments, and hellish agonies such as all the ungodly shall forever endure. The chief, and heaviest part of the sufferings of Christ is, therefore, correctly placed last, according to the order in the Creed; for it proceeds from the pains of the body to those of the soul” (Ursinus, 232). When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He was suffering the inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors of hell. Therefore, He has redeemed all believers from the anguish and torment of hell!

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 HC QAs 40-44

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 15


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, April 8, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 15 JOHN CALVIN’S INSTITUTES

Reformation 500 WEEK 15    John calvin’s Institutes


     After a long and difficult journey, fleeing France because of persecution, Calvin finally found rest in Basel Switzerland in January 1535. “There, he heard that many followers of the Reformation where still being burned alive in France(S. Carr, John Calvin, 19). 

     To try to do something about it, Calvin published the first edition (only 6 chapters) of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, in August 1535, when he was only 26 years old. After several revisions, the final edition published in 1559 had 80 chapters; and had become, as Calvin intended, a manual to “instruct candidates in sacred theology for the reading of the divine Word” (Preface, 1559). 

     Calvin addressed the Institutes to the Roman Catholic king of France, Francis I, pleading with him to put an end to the unjust persecution of his French countrymen, who were being falsely accused of wanting (like the Anabaptists in Munster) to abolish all laws and overthrow civil government. Calvin wanted to prove that these allegations were not true, and to show all people what the Reformed Church really stood for.

     In the Preface, Calvin answers all the main Roman Catholic objections to the Reformation. The Catholics call our doctrine ‘new.’ They ask what miracles have confirmed it. They ask whether it is right to disagree with the church fathers and tradition. They want us to admit that our doctrine is divisive since it has given birth to so many different churches and factions, and so many violent disturbances.

     First, the only reason why our doctrine seems to be new is because the true gospel has been buried for a long time on account of man’s ungodliness. But God by His goodness has restored the true gospel to us. In demanding miracles of us, they act dishonestly. We are not inventing some new gospel, but are holding on to that very gospel which has already been confirmed by all the miracles that Jesus Christ and His apostles did.

     Scripture, not the church fathers or tradition, is the ultimate authority. Indeed, it is possible for the majority of people to be wrong, as was the case in the days of Noah. If the contest were to be determined by the church fathers, “the tide of victory…would turn to our side.” For example, the church fathers condemned images of Christ, and argued that priests should be allowed to marry. The Catholics are wrong to claim they are the true church. It is clear from Scripture that “the church can exist without any visible appearance [like the 7000 who did not bow to Baal];” and that when it is visible its mark is not outward magnificence but rather “the pure preaching of God's Word and the lawful administration of the sacraments.” Did not the visible church (scribes and Pharisees) err when they decided to crucify Christ? Lastly, Elijah, who was accused of being a “troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17), “taught us what we ought to reply to such charges: it is not we who either spread errors abroad or incite tumults; but it is they who contend against God's power [I Kings 18:18].” Should the apostles “have deserted the gospel because they saw that it was the seedbed of so many quarrels, the source of so many dangers, the occasion of so many scandals?”


Calvin scholar John T. McNeill called the Institutes a masterpiece, which “holds a place in the short list of books that have notably affected the course of history, molding the beliefs and behavior of generations of mankind.”

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's Institutes

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 15


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 15: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 37-39

Reformation 500 WEEK 15: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 37-39

Question 37: What do you understand by the word suffered? That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race; in order that by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.

Questions 37-44 explain the biblical basis of article 4 of the Apostles Creed: “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell.” We begin with the word “suffered.” From the moment of His birth to the hour of His death, Jesus Christ suffered all the miseries and weaknesses of our humanity, except for sin (Heb. 4:15). He hungered, thirsted, was fatigued, and afflicted with sadness and grief. “He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). His most bitter anguish of soul was on the cross, where He suffered the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race. It was this that caused Him to cry out, “My God, My God, why have Your forsaken Me” (Matt. 27:46). “Christ suffered… according to the human nature only, both in body and soul; for the divine nature is immutable, impassible [incapable of suffering or feeling pain], immortal, and life itself, and so cannot die” (Ursinus, 215). Christ suffered and was forsaken in His humanity in the place of humanity, so all who believe in Him will never be forsaken.

Question 38: Why did He suffer under Pontius Pilate as judge? That He, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge, and thereby deliver us from the severe judgment of God, to which we were exposed.

Jesus Christ suffered the grossest injustice under Pontius Pilate, because Pilate officially declared Him innocent (“I find no fault with this man”), but then condemned Him to die by crucifixion! This was God’s plan (John 19:11), so that it might be perfectly clear that Jesus Christ was condemned to die – not for his own sins, but for the sins of all who would believe in Him. The innocent was declared guilty so that the guilty might be declared innocent, as it says in 1 Peter 3:18: “Christ has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.”

Question 39: Is there anything more in His having been crucified than if He had suffered some other death? Yes, for thereby I am assured that He took upon Himself the curse which lay upon me, because the death of the cross was accursed of God.


It was necessary for Jesus Christ to die by crucifixion (being nailed to a cross made of two pieces of wood), because it was an Old Testament curse for a criminal’s dead body to be hung on a tree; as a warning to others that “he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23). If Jesus had died in some other way, then “His death would not have been counted as accursed of God, a punishment for sin on behalf of you and me” (Jones, Study Helps, 87). “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree)” (Gal. 3:13). Christ's accursed death on the cross saved us from God's eternal curse upon sin!

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 HC QAs 35-36

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 15


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.