Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 2:40 pm
The Messenger, April 19, 2012
Lord’s Day 21, Questions 54-56
By CAMILLE KENDALL
Special to The Messenger
In the Heidelberg Catechism, we have been working through the Apostles’ Creed. Today, we consider these lines: “I believe in … the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins…”
Hebrews 11 has been called “The Hall of Faith.” The chapter begins, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It then lists Old Testament saints who lived “by faith”: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, Samuel, the prophets. Hebrews 12:1 brings this roll-call of faith right up into the present: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …”
I love this passage because it reminds me that God’s church extends beyond my local congregation to include believers from every culture, every socio-economic group, every level of education, every variation of physical and mental ability. God’s church even reaches across time, so that I stand among saints such as Moses, David, Elijah and Paul.
Question 54 of the Heidelberg Catechism puts it like this: What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”? Answer: I believe that the Son of God through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.
The word “catholic” simply means “universal” — the whole church, all those redeemed by God throughout time and from all corners of the globe. Before He created Adam and Eve, God purposed to redeem a people for Himself. And since creation, He has been about the task of gathering, protecting, and preserving His people, the church. How awesome to be counted part of this fellowship.
Question 55 continues: What do you understand by “the communion of saints”? Answer: First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all His treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.
If I am a believer, what treasures are mine in Christ? Faith, repentance, forgiveness and restored fellowship with the God who made me. New life, and the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide me in growth as a new creature. Assurance that God will accomplish in me the work that He has begun. Hope, joy, peace and purpose in this life, and then eternity in the glorious presence of the One I am made to worship. Rich gifts indeed!
If I share in Christ and “in all His treasures and gifts,” then to what end am I to apply the gifts He has given me? Well, to what end did Christ apply Himself? Christ gave Himself to redeem His people, the church. His life and death were devoted to His bride, the church. Even now, Jesus intercedes continually for His church. If Jesus loves the church that much — to the point of sacrificing Himself to secure it — then the church should certainly be precious to me. I cannot claim to truly love Jesus and then scorn His church.
Yes, I have been guilty of thinking, “I’m much too busy/tired/financially-stressed to invest more in my local church.” “I love the church, but this particular style of worship just doesn’t minister to me.” “This class is so far over my head that I don’t feel like I’m getting anything out of it.” “There are lots of other folks more qualified to serve than I am.”
How on earth can I break free of such sinful thinking? How on earth can I move past “What’s in it for me?” — to anything like the kind of love Jesus demonstrates for His church?!
The answer can be found in Question 56 of the Heidelberg Catechism: What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”? Answer: I believe that God, because of Christ’s atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in His grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.
Because Christ loves me so much, because He made atonement for my sins and covers me with His righteousness, because He frees me forever from the wrath of God — because of all this, I can labor today, “freely and cheerfully,” in the service of Christ’s church and for the enrichment of its members. Indeed, Christ’s atoning work is the very foundation of “the holy catholic church,” and it is in affirming Christ’s work and resting in it that we share sweet communion with all the saints.
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: Camille Kendall, wife, homeschool mom and redeemed sinner, is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy.