Honoring Authority: H.C. Lord's Day 39

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 39

Q 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 
A 104: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline; and also that I be patient with their failings—for through them God chooses to rule us.

The notion of honoring those in authority over us is not one that we would consider automatic in American culture anymore.  While the 5th commandment is indeed one that is still applicable to Christain life and family life in general, culture continually pushes towards autonomy, individualism, and self-determination.

While none of these things are bad, in and of themselves, when they take precedence over the God-given authority of parents, leaders, and other governing authorities, that can lead to problems.  Specifically, in families, children are given the ability choose things for themselves at ages much too young for the full ramifications of such a choice.  Children are not capable of governing themselves (think “Lord of the Flies”); that is why God set in place the parental authority and emphasized it so heavily in Scripture.

To be fair, parents and leaders in our culture have not necessarily done a bang-up job of exercising authority either.  Countless stories of parental abuse of authority coupled with the copious amount of blame shifting that seems to go on in our culture when things don’t go right (because apparently, it is always someone else’s fault) has led us to a fundamental mistrust of authority, not to mention a deep divide of ideologies when it comes to governmental authority.

However, Scripture does not give us a pass when it comes to honoring those in authority over us.  Neither does it give us excuses for the abuse of authority or the skirting of the roles we are given either.  Quite simply, parents are called to raise their children, to be the primary source of their learning, identity formation, and spiritual formation.  Parents are also responsible for teaching respect to their children through guidance and discipline.

Whereas it is often seen as natural for children to “rebel” from their parents in our culture, no such provision was given to children in the Bible.  Those who were unruly were cast out; the Law even says that such children are to be stoned.

Thankfully that is no longer the case.  We don’t live in a culture that threatens death for being unruly.  However, there is a way to exercise independence, learning to make decisions, failing every now and then, and gaining maturity and wisdom that can happen without casting aside the relationships we have or dishonoring the authorities in our lives.

Like all things that have provisions in Scripture, the paradigm of authority structures that is set up by God Himself is not meant to be burdensome, but to reveal God’s love for us.  Scripture says that God disciplines those He loves, thus setting the model for loving discipline between parents and children.  God’s goal, as ours should be as parents, is to see His children grow in wisdom, maturity, and identity.  This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.

This is not accomplished in Scripture by God allowing His people to do whatever they wanted.  In fact, every time we see that happen in the Bible, things go horribly wrong and they end up in bondage to someone or something.  God’s ultimate desire for His people is flourishing in the way He originally intended.  Flourishing, however, does not mean following our whims and wishes, following after things that we think will make us happy.  Indeed, a flourishing life often understands and respects both boundaries and authorities, understanding them not to be limitations but guides in the exercise of freedom.

When we do this well, whether it be exercising authority or honoring it, we begin to experience the freedom and flourishing that God has planned for us in life.  What’s more?  Those around us begin to experience this as well as the light and life of God spreads through us and our lives point back to Him.



Resurrection: H.C. Question 45

How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?

Romans 4:25 – He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

1 Corinthians 15:16-20 – For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

1 Peter 1:3-5 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

Romans 6:5-11 – For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-6 – But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

Colossians 3:1-4 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Romans 8:11 – And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

1 Corinthians 15:12-23 – But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

Philippians 3:20-21 – But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.



Jesus the Son of God: H.C. Lord's Day 13

Q 33. Why is he called God’s “only begotten Son” when we also are God’s children?
A 33. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.  We, however, are adopted children of God—adopted by grace through Christ.

Q 34. Why do you call him “our Lord”?
A 34. Because—not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood— he has set us free from sin and from the tyranny of the devil, and has bought us, body and soul, to be his very own.

Sometimes when I am reading things I am presented with a question I didn’t even know existed.  Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 33 is like that.  In church, we talk at length about how we are called God’s Children and what that actually means for us and our identity.  We are adopted into God’s family, made co-heirs with Christ, and are prepared to receive all the benefits of being God’s children.  Sometimes we forget, though, that this title and identity is something that is given to us, not something we are necessarily born into.

Scripture is very clear about the position of our natural birth before God.  Ephesians 2:2-3 says, because of Adam’s Sin, we were by nature children of wrath and sons (and daughters) of disobedience.  Yet it follows that up by saying that “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”  What amazing grace!

Jesus has always been the natural Son of God, begotten from all eternity, the very essence and image of God.  The Son didn’t become the Son all of the sudden when Jesus was born.  We, however, become children of God when we receive God’s adoption of us through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace alone.

The other subject that this particular week of the Heidelberg Catechism covers is the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  God’s Word is clear that God has laid everything at the feet of Christ, who is before all things and in whom all things hold together.  More than this, Colossians 1 talks about Jesus as being the creator of all things too.  Therefore, when Jesus sacrificed Himself for the redemption of all things, He was given Lordship over them by the Father.

What exactly does this mean?  Well, as Lord Jesus governs the whole universe and guards His people, protecting them against the schemes of the enemy.  It also means that He had rights over us.  Jesus, because of what He has done for us and the power He has given us, has the right to call us to live a transformed life.  In Scriptural language, this is called “dying to self.”  When we put our faith in Jesus we are claiming Him as our Lord which, incidentally, means that we are abdicating our own Lordship over our lives.

To be clear, Jesus wasn’t just arbitrarily given this position.  His Lordship is costly… very costly.  Jesus did gain this position through military rule, governmental overthrowing, or any other earthly method of power transfer, He gained it through His own death on the cross.  He bore God’s wrath and judgment, and through it He set us free from the tyranny of the devil.



Lordship: H.C. Question 34

Why do you call [Jesus] “our Lord”?

1 Peter 1:18-19 – For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Colossians 1:13-14 – For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 2:14-15 – Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

1 Corinthians 6:20 – you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.



1 Peter 2 – "Living Godly Lives in a Pagan Society"

Read 1 Peter 2

Could there be any more appropriate words to greet us two days after the election?  In the face of an over-abundance of persecution, Peter reminds his fellow believers that, while God is the ultimate authority, we are also called to submit to human authorities and to respect both our leaders and each other.

…in this election cycle, we have failed at this…

You know, there has been a profound outcry from some in the Christian community against Donald Trump because of his “foolishness.”  Indeed, the Donald, in his candidacy, fit the Biblical description of a fool almost too perfectly.

There has also been an outcry from others in the Christian community against Hillary Clinton.  Scripture has a lot to say about someone who is greedy, corrupt, and a has been caught in his/her own lies.

So what does Peter tell us to do in response to this?  Should we be bashing each other?  Should we be calling for love in ways that are divisive?  Should we commit to opposing the next government administration because it doesn’t fit our own preferences or ideology?  No.  Peter writes,

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority:whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.  Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

At the time of this writing, the emperor was trying to kill Christians; and Peter calls them to honor him.  I wonder if there is an application for us here?

The fact of the matter is this, there is no authority here on earth that is not subordinate to God’s authority.  That does not necessarily mean that those governments will follow the will of God though, and Peter’s words for those situations are also clear: “By doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”

Friends, no government is going to save us, our religion, or our nation.  It is Christians living into their faith, loving our neighbors, our brothers and sisters, loving God, and living into the mission that we are called to as the Church of Jesus Christ.



1 Timothy 5 – Treating Others

Read 1 Timothy 5

Chapter 5 seems to be full of rules and regulations about how to treat different groups of people within the church.  At first glance all we really see is “do this” and “don’t do that,” “take care of this group” but “that group can take care of themselves.”  Honestly, given the teachings of Jesus and the freedom that Paul touts so often, this seems like a bit of a reversal to all that.

However, Paul’s continuing desire to equip and empower the believers to live into their faith sometimes requires some boundaries and rules regarding how that all works out.  These things, like some of the boundaries that we have in our own churches, are necessary things to have in place so that the church can continue to function, so that people understand practical examples of what “loving your neighbor” and “freedom” mean, and so that the church isn’t caught in a position of enabling people to be lazy or advantage of her generosity and thus sinning in some way, shape, or form.

We often talk about Law vs. Freedom as if there can only be one or the other.  People tend to see rules and policies as part of the law, something that enslaves us or keeps our hands tied.  While there can be truth in that, boundaries that govern the limits of our freedom are often a good thing.  In the case of Timothy and the church in Ephesus, allowing younger widows to be “on the list” could encourage idle behavior… or worse yet encourage sins like gossip and slander.  Churches must tread carefully in these circumstances, balancing the joy of generosity with the danger of enabling.

The same can be true with regards to the treatment of leaders.  All leaders should be held accountable to the higher calling that they have in the time of leadership.  However, we must also be careful to not allow the discontented voice of 1 or 2 to sway the perceptions of all.  Once again, we must balance these things, taking appropriate action when necessary and also trusting in God’s call on their lives.



Exodus 1 "Womb or Tomb?"

Sermon Series: Leaving Egypt (drawing from the book by Dr. Chuck DeGroat)

As the people of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, so we too find ourselves in our own personal “Egypts,” places that used to have been places of growth and prosperity, now turned into places of bondage.  But God doesn’t leave us there… He has paved a way out of Egypt through the work of His Son Jesus Christ.

Questions for Further Discussion:

  • Read Exodus 1:1-14 again. Notice the shift from Israel growing and thriving to Pharaoh’s persecution.  What do you suppose provoked Pharaoh’s wrath?  What do you think causes this in our own lives?
  • How is your story mirrored in Exodus 1? How does this chapter speak to your journey?  Do you see reflections of this at HCRC?  What are they?  Have you contributed to it?  How so?
  • Think of some good thing that has become misdirected in your life (ie. desire for success that turned into workaholism, love for food that became overeating, etc.). What good thing behind these things might you be longing for?
    1. Think about this in terms of ministry. Are there ministries that have become misdirected?  What good thing are those seeking after?
  • “Institutionalization” is defined as the process of becoming embedded in a conception, norm, role, value, or mode of behavior within an organization, social system, or society as a whole. It is where we accept the current reality, no matter how bad or harsh, and even fight to keep it.  How have you become “institutionalized”?  What about the church?
  • How does it make you feel to know that Jesus has also taken the Exodus journey?


Galatians 5 – Christian Freedom

Read Galatians 5

The Statue of Liberty has represented freedom for many years

Using the word “freedom” in a Christian context can often be confusing because so much if what we understand “freedom” to mean comes from the cultural context of the United States of America.  We are the “land of the free” and any of our national symbols have become synonymous with freedom and liberty.

There has also been a struggle within the church in the United States which has wrongly portrayed civic duty and patriotism as being part of our “Christian duty” along with the notion that the U.S. is a “Christian nation.”

While it may be true that the U.S.A may have been founded using some Christian principles, mentioning God in historical documents and the like, but it doesn’t take a lot of looking around at culture to recognize that we are certainly not a Christian nation, at least not anymore.

When Paul talks about freedom in today’s passage, he is representing the freedom from the bondage of sin that is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ.  He is also continuing the themes of the last several chapters, helping us to understand that our salvation is not based on works of any sort, but by grace through faith.

In this freedom, we are no longer bound by sin in any form and not required to perform any ritual acts to absolve us from those sins.  Paul lists a number of them here, following it by a list of effects that freedom in Christ has on our lives.  No longer do we need to look out for ourselves, but we are free to love others as Christ loved us.

I love the freedoms that we celebrate and far too often take for granted in the U.S.  However, the freedom we have in Christ is so much deeper and greater than any human freedom could ever be.



1 Corinthians 16 – Final Instructions

Read 1 Corinthians 16

Today’s reading seems to be a great deal more context specific than the rest of the book.  As we talked about at the end of the book of Romans, however, even these parting words are a part of Scripture and are therefore useful and instructive to us.

Especially at the beginning of this chapter, Paul lays down some of the groundwork that has become the foundation for Christian giving practices throughout the last 2,000 years.  For him, giving was not always arbitrary or spontaneous, but rather a part of the Christian life as a response to the grace of God that is in Jesus Christ.

Spontaneous giving is not bad; certainly, Paul is not suggesting that.  However, when Paul picks up this topic again, we will see that giving is grounded in the Christian life and therefore is something we are intentional about, especially when it comes to giving back to God.

Now, this may seem oddly self-serving coming from a pastor.  It is important for us, and especially for me, to be truthful and honest when it comes to what Scripture says about this.  Paul, actually, did not receive money from the church.  In fact, he was a “tent maker,” holding a job for some time in order to fund his own work.  So when he speaks about this, he is not talking about it from some self-interested point of view but rather as a continuing application to what it means for us to live in our freedom in Christ.

No longer do we have to live, concerned for what we need, God will take care of us.  We have been freed from those concerns.  No longer do we need to hoard our possessions to take care of ourselves.  We are freed from those concerns.  God has shown time and again, His faithfulness and provision in all things and so, as we turn to Him in faith we also trust Him with our lives knowing that He who has created all things is more than able to care for and provide for all that we need.



1 Corinthians 14 – Good Worship

Read 1 Corinthians 14

For someone who talks a lot about freedom, Paul sure does spend a lot of time giving direction about having good order in worship.  This is an important section in Paul’s letter, though, not just for them, but for us as well.

He begins by grounding what we do in worship in the deep love of God that he just expressed in chapter 13.  This is the deep, “Agape” love that Jesus showed us by dying for us and loving us unconditionally.  Once again, Paul is pointing out that, while we have freedom in Christ, that freedom should always be directed outward in consideration of others.

The application here, then, is worship.  How are we to worship God in response to what Paul has explained here?  Simply put, worship needs to happen in good order so that the body of Christ may be built up.  If worship is chaotic and unintelligible, with people using their spiritual gifts as a display for themselves, nothing is accomplished and believers, especially new believers, would find themselves confused and perhaps even put off.

There are a number of reasons for this.  Paul is making sure that Christian worship doesn’t represent the temple cult worship of pagan gods, which was often chaotic and full of self-promoting displays.  This is one of the reasons Paul encourages prophecy over speaking in tongues as well.  People speaking unintelligibly in worship helps no one and may even serve as a way of judging others; those who speak in tongues being “more spiritual” than those who don’t.

In all of this, however, Paul says that we need to show our love.  Good worship is worship that honors God and therefore edifies the church.  Building each other up is an act of love, placing our own needs and desires aside for the sake of our brothers and sisters.  If we all truly did this today, we’d probably stop arguing about music styles and experience an abundance of worship renewal.