A Community of Forgiveness
HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 21
What do you believe concerning “the holy catholic church”?
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.
What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
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.
What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”?
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.
A Community of Forgiveness
Friday, May 19: Colossians 2:6-23
The chief characteristic of a Christ-centered, Spirit-driven Church is that she is a community of forgiveness. In fact, that is her foundational faith identity. Since the Catechism has already addressed Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin (Lord’s Days 5-6,12,15-16), its purpose here is to provide imperfect Christians pastoral assurance. Take a brief look at your own life. Do your past sins continue to haunt and shame you? Do your present sins humiliate and defeat you? Will the inevitability of future sin frustrate and perplex you? I bet they do. So, we share David’s cry: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4). And like him we are looking for a new heart and life. Now listen to the Catechism’s assurance. His Forgiveness covers the past: “God will never hold against me any of my sins.” It also covers our present: “God will never hold against me…my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life.” It also covers my future: “In his grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.” This is a forgiveness that is more than we could ever ask or imagine. Yet, how do we receive changed hearts that lead to new lives? David tells us: “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity…and you forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). “Therefore,” says Paul, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Church is the display of God’s glory because the Church is the display of His generous forgiveness. Let’s encourage one another with a truth we too easily forget. The Church is not for people who have achieved holiness, mastered justice, or earned mercy. Christ-centered, Spirit-driven Church reject performance driven faith. The Church is a community of forgiven sinners. We, too, are invited to celebrate that faith identity: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are” (1 John 3:1).
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn