Saturday, June 17, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 25: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, QUESTION 65-68

Reformation 500 WEEK 25: Heidelberg Catechism, QUESTION 65-68

Question 65: Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from? The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

     We have learned that salvation is received by faith alone in Christ alone. Now we will learn where our faith in Christ comes from, and how it is strengthened.

     We have already learned in Question 8 that we are spiritually dead, unable to believe in Christ, unless we are regenerated. Therefore, our faith in Christ is “not of ourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “For to you it has been grantedto believe in Him” (Phil. 1:29). Saving faith is given to us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Saving faith is given only to God’s elect.

     Question 65 correctly teaches that, “the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel.” “How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? …So, then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:14, 17). It pleases God “through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21); you have “been born again…through the word of God...which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23, 25). While Paul preached to Lydia, “the Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14; cf. 10:44). “Justifying faith is, therefore, “not ordinarily produced in adults without the preaching of the gospel” (Ursinus, 113).

     After the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts He confirms it, that is, strengthens it “by the use of the holy sacraments [i.e. baptism and the Lord’s Supper].”  The Bible’s teaching concerning the sacraments is explained in Questions 66-82.

Question 66: What are the sacraments? The sacraments are visible holy signs and seals appointed by God for this end, that by their use He may the more fully declare and seal to us [believers] the promise of the Gospel, namely, that of free grace He grants us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life for the sake of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.

     The word sacrament (sacred or holy ceremony) is the word the Christian church has traditionally used to refer to the holy ceremonies of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

     Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the NT signs and seals of salvation for believers, replacing the OT signs and seals of salvation: circumcision and Passover. A sign symbolizes or points to something. A seal confirms or certifies something (like a seal on a diploma or a signature on a contract). The terms sign and seal come from Romans 4:11 where Paul spoke of Abraham receiving “the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised.” God first established His covenant of grace with Abraham by saving him through faith in Christ (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 3:17). Then He gave him circumcision as “a sign of the covenant” (Gen. 17:11), to certify Abraham’s salvation in Christ. The cutting of the foreskin symbolized and certified the removal of sin’s penalty and corruption in Christ who “was cut off” for the sins of His people (Isaiah 53:8). In this way, Abraham’s faith in Christ was confirmed and strengthened (John 8:58). The Passover was also a sign of salvation for believers. The blood of the Passover Lamb – “the blood shall be a sign for you” (Ex. 12:13) – was a picture of salvation from the bondage of sin through the blood of “Christ, our Passover, sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7) – “the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20). “This is My blood of the new covenant” (Mark 14:24). 

     Now that the true blood has flowed, there is no longer the shedding of blood in either circumcision or Passover. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are now the signs and seals of God’s covenant of grace with believers in Christ. “Sacraments are, therefore, the signs of the everlasting covenant between God and the faithful” (Ursinus, 354).

     The holy sacraments symbolize and certify what God promises all believers in the Gospel: forgiveness of sins and everlasting life for the sake of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross (Acts 10:43-48).

Question 67: Are both the Word and the sacraments designed to direct our faith to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation? Yes, truly, for the Holy Spirit teaches in the Gospel and assures us by the holy sacraments, that our whole salvation stands in the one sacrifice of Christ made for us on the cross.

     The word and sacraments preach the same Gospel, only in different ways. The Holy Spirit teaches us believers in the Gospel that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross is the only ground of our salvation. There is no other reason why God saves us from our sins “except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). The Holy Spirit uses the sacraments (the symbols of salvation through the cross) to assures us of the same Gospel. The water in baptism symbolizes and certifies that “the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper symbolize and certify that we are saved only because of His broken body and shed blood on the cross. “The sacraments differ from the word in this, that they signify by actions and gestures what the word does by language” (Ursinus, 356). It is like showing your love with a kiss after saying, “I love you.” The kiss without the words is not a sign of love (Judas kissed Jesus!). Water, bread and wine without the Gospel are not signs and seals of salvation. They need the word of the cross to set them apart from ordinary use so they become holy (set apart) signs and seals of salvation for believers.

Question 68: How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Testament? Two: Holy Baptism and the Holy Supper.


     Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the only two sacraments instituted by Christ. The Roman Catholic Church adds confirmation, penance, ordination, extreme unction, and marriage. But the Bible does not support this. Neither do the ancient church fathers, two of whom, Ambrose and Augustine, said the only two sacraments were baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These two sacraments are to be faithfully observed in the church until Christ returns (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 11:26); so “they may be marks by which the true church may be known and distinguished from all other religions” (Ursinus, 342). 


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 65-68

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 25


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, June 10, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 24: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 62-64

Reformation 500 WEEK 24: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 62-64

Question 62: But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God? Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

     We have learned that, “to justify” means “to declare one righteous.” The key question is: on what basis does God declare the believer in Christ to be righteous?

     For the Roman Catholic Church, God declares someone righteous only if they are first sanctified, that is, made inwardly righteous by an infusion of grace (which happens by baptism) and then they cooperate with infused grace by doing righteous things (good works). As long as they keep doing good works, God will keep declaring them righteous. Those who commit a mortal sin lose the grace of justification. But they can be restored to a state of justification through the sacrament of penance. Therefore, for Rome, we are justified on the basis of an imperfect righteousness done by us.

     How does Rome interpret Paul’s statement in Romans 3:28: “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law”? They argue that “works of the law” refers only to the ceremonies of the law (e.g. circumcision, animal sacrifices, etc.), and not the moral law (i.e. the Ten Commandments). Therefore, they maintain that no one is justified by the ceremonial works of the law, but they are justified by doing the good works required in the NT. With this understanding, they appeal to James 2:24, “a man is justified by works [i.e. good works], and not by faith only.”

     But Rome misinterprets both Paul and James. First of all, nowhere does Paul say a man is not justified by ceremonial works but he is justified by good works. Second, James uses the term justify differently than Paul. “To be justified” has another meaning besides “to be declared righteous before God.” It can also mean “shown to be righteousness before men” (e.g. Luke 7:35; Rom. 3:4). Therefore, Paul speaks “of that righteousness by which we are justified before God…but James speaks of that righteousness by which we are justified before men by our works” (Ursinus, 338). James is rebuking the person who claims to believe in Jesus, but does not have good works to show for it. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” (James 2:14). True believers bear fruit out of thankfulness for salvation: “every good tree produces good fruit” (Matt. 7:17). Therefore, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). James challenges the professing believer without good works, to show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (2:18). Thus, the correct way to understand James 2:24 is: “a man is justified [shown to be righteous] by works, and not by faith only.”

     Rome’s fatal mistake is to refuse to accept the biblical truth that perfect righteousness is the requirement for eternal life (Gal. 3:21), which is precisely why we need Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us!

     Thus, our “works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by His grace. Nevertheless, they are of no account towards our justification, for it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works (Belgic Confession, Article 24).
Question 63: Do our good works merit [DESERVE] nothing, even though it is God's will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come? The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.

The Bible says that God will reward our good works, both in this life and in that which is to come (Psalm 18:20; 19:10-11; Mark 10:28-29; Matt. 5:11-12; 6:6; Heb. 6:10; 11:6; Rev. 22:12). The rewards include peace, joy, and spiritual prosperity (Deut. 12:28; Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 119:165; Prov. 3:13-17; John 10:10; 14:21).

But this does not mean our good works deserve to be rewarded. Only perfect righteousness deserves to be rewarded. “Therefore, we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?); nay, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not He to us, since it is He who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure [Phil. 2:13]. Let us therefore attend to what is written: When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, we are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do [Luke 17:10]. In the meantime, we do not deny that God rewards good works, but it is through His grace that He crowns His gifts” (Belgic Confession, article 24).

Question 64: But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane? No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

     The Roman Catholics slander the reformed doctrine of justification by saying that it makes men careless and profane. They maintain that if you teach people to believe they are justified by faith in Christ even before they do good works, then that will make them care less about doing good works and encourage them to live in sin.

     But the easy reply is that being set free from eternal condemnation makes us thankful, not profane! For when we are united to Christ by true faith we receive both justification and sanctification (1 Cor. 6:11; see again Question 43). God first justifies us by declaring us perfectly righteousness in Christ, and then by His Holy Spirit He begins the process of sanctification which restores God’s holy image in us, purifying us from the inward corruption of sin, and making us inwardly righteous and holy, so that we hate sin and do good works out of thankfulness for salvation (Eph. 4:24-25; Tit. 2:14; 1 John 2:4; 3:10). True believers are “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some hundred” (Mark 4:20). “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Good works are the fruit of justification – which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); “the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth” (Eph. 5:9). Since the Holy Spirit is producing good fruit in our lives (He “makes me heartily willing and ready to live unto Him,” Question 1), it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness (Jer. 32:40; Ezek. 36:27).

     “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).



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 62-64

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 24


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, June 3, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 23: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 59-61

Reformation 500 WEEK 23: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 59-61


Question 59: What does it help you now, that you believe all this [that is, the articles of the Apostles creed]? That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.

     Remember that Question 21 taught us that true faith is to believe everything God has revealed in His Word is truth (John 17:17), and especially to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Since the articles of the Apostles’ Creed are a summary of who Jesus is and what He has done to save His people from their sins, to believe these articles means we have true faith, and are united to the ascended Lord Jesus Christ (we are in Him) in order to receive all the benefits of the salvation He obtained for us by His life and death.

     The first and primary benefit for the believer is, “I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.” Righteousness is perfect obedience to God, and is the requirement for eternal life, for disobedience brings death. God told a sinless Adam and Eve: “obey Me perfectly or die.” Jesus Christ obeyed God perfectly and died on the cross to fully pay for our disobedience. Therefore, when we are united to Him by true faith, His perfect righteousness – “the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17) – is ours and thus we have eternal life. How it becomes ours is explained in Question 60.


Question 60: How are you righteous before God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is: although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me, if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.


     The question, “How can a man be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2) is the same question as, “How can man be justified before God?” (Job 25:4). For “to justify,” means “to recognize and declare one righteous [Psalm 51:6]” (Ursinus, 330).

     God cannot justify or declare us righteous because of any righteousness which we have done. “For [as David confessed to God] in Your sight no one living is righteous” (Psalm 143:2); “that is, no one shall be acquitted, or declared just by inherent righteousness” (Ursinus, 327). This is because “his works are unholy before his justification,” and “after his justification they are also imperfect [Luke 17:10]” (Ursinus, 328). We need perfect righteousness in order for God to declare us righteous.

     The good news is that when we are united to Christ by true faith, God gives us the gift of Christ’s perfect righteousness. “Christ fulfilled the law by the holiness of His human nature, and by His obedience, even unto the death of the cross [Phil. 2:8]” (Ursinus, 328). Indeed, the “entire humiliation of Christ, from the moment of His conception to His glorification, including His assumption of humanity, His subjugation to the law, His poverty, reproach, weakness, sufferings, death, …is all included in the satisfaction which He made for us [Rom. 5:15-19; Gal. 3:10-13]” (Ursinus, 327).


     The only way that Christ’s perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness can become ours is if God imputes it to us. The word impute is taken directly from the Bible, and it means to credit someone with doing what someone else did for them [Philemon 1:18]. “God imputes righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:6). To impute righteousness “is to regard one that is unrighteous, as righteous, and to absolve him from guilt, and not to punish him, all of which is done on account of the satisfaction of another imputed to him” (Ursinus, 329). God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. He credits us for doing what Christ did for us, as if we had never committed nor had any sin, and had ourselves accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for us!

     Therefore, on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed to us God justifies us, declaring us righteous! God does not treat us as guilty sinners deserving of condemnation. He treats us as if we had no sin! This means God will not punish us for our sins (Rom. 8:31-38). We are forgiven the eternal penalty of sin! God imputed our sins to Jesus. He treated Jesus as a sinner even though He wasn’t, and made Him pay for our sins, so that He could treat us as perfectly righteous, even though we’re not, and not make us pay for our sins (2 Cor. 5:19, 21).

     We only have to accept this benefit with a believing heart (and even the faith to do this is a gift). How else do you receive the gift of imputed righteousness? If someone else did something for me, the only thing left for me is to believe and say thank you! If God wants to give perfect righteousness as a gift, the only proper response is to reach out the empty hand of faith to receive the gift, and say thank you. “Justifying or saving faith” is “when we firmly believe that the righteousness of Christ is granted and imputed to us, so that we are justified in the sight of God” (Ursinus, 111).

     “Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28).

Question 61: Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only? Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God; and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.

     We are justified by faith not because of faith. When someone gives you a gift, it is not because of your outreached hands, as if you were doing something worthy to receive the gift. Rather, you simply receive the gift by your outreached hands. Likewise, when God gives us the gift of righteousness it is not because of our faith, as if our faith makes us worthy of being declared righteous. Rather, we simply receive God’s gift by our faith. Faith is the only way to receive a gift. It “is of faith that it might be according to grace” (Rom. 4:16).


     “We are justified only by believing, and receiving the righteousness of another, and not by our own works, or merit. All works are excluded from justification, yes even faith itself in as far as it is a virtue, or work…. It is for this reason, that Paul always says, that we are justified by faith, and through faith, as by an instrument; and never on account of faith;” for “if we were justified on account of our faith, then faith would no longer be the acceptance of the righteousness of another, but it would be the merit, and cause of our own righteousness” (Ursinus, 332). 

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 59-61

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 23


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 27, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 22 JOHN CALVIN AND STRASSBURG

Reformation 500 WEEK 22    John calvin and strassburg


Calvin arrived in the German city of Strasbourg in September, 1538, a few months after he and Farel had been banished from Geneva. “Strasbourg was a crossroads between France, Germany, Switzerland and the Low Countries. Various currents of Reformation thought met there. German Lutherans stood side by side with French Evangelicals, Anabaptists from the Low Countries and Zwinglians from Switzerland. All the various doctrines mingled in a great stream of life and activity under the peaceable direction of [Martin] Bucer [1491-1551]” (Cadier, 91-92).

Bucer (17 years older than Calvin) had been won for the Reformation by Luther during the great Leipzig Debate (1518), and he had witnessed first-hand the failure of Luther and Zwingli to agree at the Marburg Colloquy (1529). “He tried to find a middle ground between Luther and Zwingli in regard to the nature of the Lord’s Supper” (Greg Singer, Dictionary of Christianity, 2:207).

While in Strasbourg, Calvin “became pastor of the church of the French refugees, followers of Luther in France who had fled to Strasbourg to escape persecution. He also gave lectures in theology” (Kuiper, 196). He “published his first commentary, that on the Epistle to the Romans,” which “shows clearly that Calvin was, from the first, a prince of exegetes” (Cadier, 96). He also prepared a greatly enlarged edition of the Institutes. “He converted many Anabaptists…who brought to him from the city and country their children for baptism” (Schaff, 8:369).

“God in His providence had placed Calvin’s future wife in his congregation. Idelette de Bure, her husband Jean Stordeur, and their two children had come to Strasbourg as Anabaptists. After listening to Calvin’s faithful exposition of God’s Word, as well as having private conversations with Calvin, they embraced his Reformed views and had their youngest child baptized. In the spring of 1540, Jean Stordeur was stricken with the plague and died. A few months later, just as Calvin had almost given up any hope of finding a wife, Bucer asked him to consider Idelette. John and Idelette were married in August 1540” (DeMar, Reformation, 206).

Meanwhile back in Geneva, certain enemies of Calvin were threatening to return the city to the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Sadoleto, a very able man, had written a clever letter in which he tried to persuade the citizens of Geneva to return to the Roman Church. At the request of the council of Geneva, “Calvin, setting aside all hard feeling against the Genevans…wrote a brilliant Rely to Sadoleto” (Kuiper, 196). This Reply “was one of the means of saving Geneva from the grasp of popery, and endearing Calvin to the friends of freedom” (Schaff, 8:425).

When the party which was friendly to Calvin held power again in Geneva, the city Council begged Calvin to return, “convinced that Calvin alone could save the city from anarchy” (Schaff, 8:430). Calvin at first refused, but when Farel wrote to threaten him again with the wrath of God, Calvin finally gave in again. ‘If I had any choice I would rather do anything than to give in to you in this matter, but since I remember that I no longer belong to myself, I offer my heart to God as a sacrifice’ (Cadier, 105).


“Amid great rejoicing and an enthusiastic ovation Calvin entered Geneva a second time, on September 13, 1541” (Kuiper, 197). 

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 Strassburg

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 22


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 22: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 57-58

Reformation 500 WEEK 22: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 57-58

Question 57: What comfort do you receive from ‘the resurrection of the body’? That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head, but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like the glorious body of Christ.

Question 57 summarizes the biblical teaching concerning article 11 of the Apostles Creed, “the resurrection of the body.” We have already learned from Question 45 that Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection, which will occur when Christ returns to usher in new heavens and a new earth (John 6:44; 1 Thess. 4:15-16; 1 Pet. 3:10-13). Our resurrection will follow the same basic pattern as His. His human soul after He died went immediately to heaven (Luke 23:43), and then returned to His body and came forth from the grave. Our soul after we die “shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head.” Paul said: “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8; cf. Phil. 1:23). The souls of believers go immediately to heaven; and the souls of unbelievers go immediately to hell (Luke 16:22; Rev. 6:10). During the time between death and the resurrection [“the intermediate state”], “the soul does not sleep,” but “feels, and understands without the body…although the manner of its operation without the body is altogether unknown to us” (Ursinus, 310).

The resurrection is when our souls shall be re-united with our bodies – which will be raised from the dust by the Lord’s almighty power (Job 19:26; Ezek. 37:12; Acts 26:8; 1 Cor. 15:42-44). Our resurrected body will be just like Christ’s “glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Christ’s resurrected body was the very same body that was crucified (John 20:24-29). It was still “flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39), but adorned with immortality (Luke 24:31, 51; Rev. 1:14). Our resurrected bodies will be the same as those which we now have, only they will be immortal, incorruptible, imperishable, free from all defects and imperfections. Yes, we will recognize each other (Matt. 8:11)!
The bodies of the wicked will also be raised but only to endure eternal punishment (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Matt. 25:30, 46).

Question 58: What comfort do you receive from the article ‘life everlasting’? That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, therein to praise God forever.


Since eternal life is a life in “fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3; cf. John 17:3), eternal life begins the moment God works truth faith in our hearts (John 5:24). As believers, we begin in this life to know what the unbelieving eyes and ears and hearts do not know, because “God has revealed them to us through His Spirit” (see 1 Cor. 2:8-10). But we have only a beginning of eternal joy (Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:2). God’s image is only partially restored in us (Gal. 5:22-23). But when Christ returns, God’s image will be perfectly restored in us; and on a new earth in our resurrected bodies we will see Him face to face (1 John 3:2); “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). We can only imagine!


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 57-58

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 22


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 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.