Word and Sacrament: H.C. Question 67

Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?

Romans 6:3 – Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Galatians 3:27 – for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.



Ephesians 5:21-6:9 "Patterned After Christ"

The language of submission is not popular in the prevailing culture of the 21st century, and with good reason. The words of Scripture have been twisted and distorted to defend abuse and many other sinful actions and attitudes. Yet the word “submit,” can also be translated as “value,” and draws its deep meaning from the image of mutual submission and mutual valuing from the relationship of God in the Trinity. Each looking to the other, valuing the other, submitting to the other in a perfect, loving relationship.

Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” On Father’s Day, we might typically hear sermons challenging fathers towards greater valuing of their families (which is certainly important). Today, however, we are all challenged to a greater valuing of others, whether biological family, faith family, or our neighbors all around us looking to Jesus as our pattern and guide.

What are some things that I value in my own life? How do I show that in how I live each day?

What are some of the main values that Scripture encourages for Christians? How do we see Jesus Christ modeling them in His life?

Does my life reflect the values that Jesus modeled in His life and ministry, those set down in Scripture, or do I value my own interests? How can I continue to be, or change toward being more in line with what Christ calls me to?



Here, There, Everywhere: H.C. Lord's Day 18

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 18

Q 46. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A 46. That Christ while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Q 47. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A 47. Christ is true human and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.

Q 48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
A 48. Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.

Q 49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A 49. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power, we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The ascension of Christ is not something that falls under anyone’s “first things I think about in the morning” list.  This event is treated by Christians and the Church in most places as an afterthought, almost like it seems to appear in Scripture, the segway between Christ’s death and resurrection and the beginning of the Christian movement.

But the reality of what the Ascension of Jesus Christ accomplishes for us is quite important.  It also raises some important questions that we also should consider as we think about such things.

The first has to do with the dual natures of Christ, being both fully human and fully God.  As we have talked about before, Jesus has to be 100% of both to accomplish the work of salvation that He did.  It is an important point to make, though, that while Jesus is indeed fully God and fully human, these two natures are never separated.  It was not the human Jesus that died while God the Son looked on.  Neither was it God the Son that endured the wrath of the Father while the human Jesus was somehow unconscious.  Both endured, both died, and both were raised; never are they separate.

Why does this matter?  Well, two main reasons are brought up in the Heidelberg Catechism and therefore deserve mentioning.  First, it is important to know that Jesus, being now in heaven and seated at the right hand of God is both human and God.  His human presence in heaven is a guarantee that we too, as humans, will be welcome into heaven.  His presence as God ensures that He can and will rule and reign over the entire universe as the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.

The second is brought up by questions 47 and 48 have to do with Christ’s presence here with us.  We often talk about how Jesus is with us always, He even states that at the end of the Great Commission: “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  But, how is this possible if Jesus Christ is in heaven and His natures as both God and human cannot be divided.  Human Jesus is not sitting up in heaven while God Jesus is floating around the earth.  Does this make Him a liar?  Or is our theology incorrect?

The answer to this question lies, quite perfectly, in the nature of the Trinity.  God is one God in three persons.  Jesus speaks a lot about sending the Holy Spirit, something we will talk more about in the coming weeks, and it is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God continue to be revealed to us.  It is also through the Holy Spirit that, as Scripture says, we are “united to Christ.”

God’s spirit is implanted in our hearts and on our minds, a gift and a deposit which guarantees our inheritance in Christ.  Because the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, though being distinct in person, Christ is with us and we are united to Him, and He to us through the Holy Spirit.  And through Him, we participate in the united life of the Trinity and God fulfills His promise moment by moment, faithfully walking with us through every experience of our lives.



Only Jesus? H.C. Question 30

Do those who look for their salvation in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?

1 Corinthians 1:12-13 – What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Galatians 5:4 – You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.

Colossians 1:19-20 – For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 2:10 – and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.

1 John 1:7 – But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Psalm 146:3-5 – Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.  When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.  Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.



Mediator: H.C. Question 15

Heidelberg Catechism Question 15

What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

Romans 1:3 – regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David,

1 Corinthians 15:21 – For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

Hebrews 2:17 – For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:9 – He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Hebrews 7:26 – Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jeremiah 23:6 – In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.



Introduction to John

The Gospel of John is the fourth and most unique of the four Canonical Gospels.  John the Apostle wrote this Gospel later than Matthew, Mark, and Luke and writes to a much wider audience as well.

John records the life of Jesus in an effort to prove Jesus’ identity as the divine Son of God who is one with the Father.  His writing is highly symbolic, a literary masterpiece.  One could read John on the surface and gain considerable knowledge and wisdom, or start to dig deep and find truths and wisdom that come alive in the text.  I have heard it likened to a swimming pool: you can splash around in the shallow end or dive into the deep end; in either case you will still get wet!

Because of the way John writes, this Gospel is not considered a “Synoptic” Gospel.  John records things in a way that brings out the truth that is being proclaimed here.  Some have argued that, because of John’s lack coherence with the other Gospels, it calls into question the truth of Jesus.  Yet it is important for us to know that “facts” and “truth” are not necessarily always the same thing.  While facts are always true (think: timelines, dates, weights, etc.), truths are boundless and timeless (think: parables, stories, proverbs, etc.).  The Gospel of John contains some of the deepest truths about Christ, even if its timeline is not the same as the other Gospels.

Things to look out for:

John’s Outline:

  • Prologue – 1:1-1:18
  • Book of Signs – 1:19-12:50
    • Sometimes considered the general revelation of Jesus.  Contains 7 miracles of Jesus during His public ministry.
  • Book of Glory – 13:1-20:31
    • Sometimes considered the special revelation of Jesus.  His public ministry finished, Jesus shares with His disciples and then goes to the cross.
  • Epilogue – 21:1-21:25

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God. Photo Credit: http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/

John records 7 statements made by Jesus, all pointing to who He is as God.
Photo Credit: http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/



Matthew 26 – Put Your Sword Away

Read Matthew 26

There is so much that could be covered in today’s chapter.  Matthew puts much of the “passion narrative” together into chapters 26 and 27 which makes drawing out specific themes somewhat difficult.  However, the thing that strikes me the most here is the way that Jesus approaches what is about to take place.

It is clear that there is some apprehension; Jesus struggles with the “cup” He is to bear.  However, He is never unwilling and He never resists.  Indeed, this whole chapter is marked by Jesus’ willingness for the task set before Him.  Hebrew 12 says, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  The Joy?!?  For me, that seems unfathomable.

This is another example of how the Kingdom of Heaven looks; not the suffering, but the willful setting aside of one’s self for the sake of others.  Jesus has said many times that the one who will be great in God’s Kingdom is the one who humbles him/herself and takes on the role of a servant.  In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

God’s Kingdom will not come about through the forceful conquest of military or weapons.  It will not come through advanced technology nor will it come from protesting loudly against culture.  The Kingdom of Heaven is revealed in the humble acts of those who love and serve their neighbor, their family, and their friends.

I wonder what the Church would look like if we focused in on living out God’s love in this way.  I wonder if the marginalization that the church experiences right now would fade if we lived and loved as Christ did.



Matthew 14 – The Solitary Place

Read Matthew 14

What strikes me about this passage is not the miracles that Jesus performed but rather Jesus’ response and commitment to personal time with God.  I’ve heard sermons about these passages but never recognized Jesus’ actions in this series of events until now.

I think that all too often we fall prey to what Charles Hummel describes as “The Tyranny of the Urgent,” the things that are right in front of us and often seem too important to set aside.  It doesn’t matter your age, job, or life stage you, there will always be these things.

What I am not saying is that these things are bad.  Especially in today’s world, they are simply reality.  We can do all sorts of work to “live more simply,” but busyness is a fact of life.

Jesus experienced this too.  He leaves to mourn the death of His relative, but the crowds just follow Him.  It is an important example to us that Jesus does not turn His back on the crowds who need Him, but He also does not forget the importance of His needed alone time to pray and be with His Heavenly Father either.  He probably could have written it off, pointing out the busyness of the day.

He probably could have written it off, pointing out the busyness of the day.  I know I’ve done that before; you just try again tomorrow right?  Jesus doesn’t do that.  He takes the time He knows He needs, the time He desires with His Father at the next earliest time.  I think Jesus recognizes what we should recognize, that our relationship with God is not about the militant keeping of a “scheduled time” at the expense of others, but rather the desire of Jesus’ heart realized in both serving and solitude.



Matthew 13 – New Treasures and Old

Read Matthew 13

Apart from His direct teachings, which we heard back in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus often taught using parables.  A parable is a story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.  Matthew again makes a point of referencing earlier Scripture as a way of pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah that the Jews were waiting for.

Matthew is not the only one drawing on the Old Testament for teaching; Jesus too draws from Scripture to illustrate the work that He has come to do, the Kingdom of Heaven He is ushering in.  Remember with me back in Matthew 5, Jesus says, “I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.”  Jesus points this out once again in verse 52; He is bringing out “new treasures” as well as old.

What would have been interesting, though, is how Jesus’ teachings would have been accepted by the Jews that were hearing them.  Most of the people of Israel at that time were certain that the Messiah was going to come and make things “how it was;” you know, the “good ‘ol days.”  They were also quite certain about who Jesus was talking about when He referenced the “Kingdom of Heaven.”  Sometimes we get to be like this too, spending much more time thinking about who is “in” and who is “out” rather than listening for the Spirit’s movement and teaching in our own hearts.

Jesus is painting a picture for His followers, one that illustrates some things that they may already know, or think they know, while also giving them a new, possibly broader image of what God’s Kingdom will really look like.  He names good and bad, like the fruit from Matthew 12, but makes the point that He will make that determination, not us.



Matthew 12 – Sabbath Fruit

Read Matthew 12

I can remember, back when I was much younger, the rules about Sunday activities that we had.  We didn’t follow them as militantly as some, and over the years those rules tended to drift away, but I will never forget them.  Sundays were for rest and in some cases, we were forced to rest, whether we liked it or not.

Looking back now, I wonder who this was benefitting.  I know that we are called to honor the sabbath, respect that day as being different from the others, but to what end?

This, I think, is the direction Jesus’ teachings are taking in this chapter.  The Pharisees are questioning the actions of Jesus and His disciples strictly on the basis of the day they happened on rather than the intention in which they took place.  Jesus, after making some unassailable points about the sabbath, teaches about good and bad fruit and how it relates to the living out of our faith.

As has been true, Jesus’ fruit teaching accents the things that have just happened in the passage.  He left the synagogue after healing the shrivled hand and as He went He healed many.  All of this, we see, was the fulfillment of Scrpiture.  When questioned about His actions, He shows them that the fruit of one’s ministry will be an indicator of its source, whether good or bad.

Christians tend to have a sad history of questioning other Christians’ ministries, especially when said ministries are new.  Whether it happens to be a new church, program, music, liturgy, or even order of a worship service, we tend to be pretty quick to judge those things as dangerous and “not God honoring.”  Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is: “what kind of fruit is it bearing?”