HEIDELBERG CATECHISM, LORD’S DAY 31
What are the keys of the kingdom?
The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance. Both preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.
How does the preaching of the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
According to the command of Christ: The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins. The kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not repent, the anger of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.
How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and after repeated and loving counsel refuse to abandon their errors and wickedness, and after being reported to the church, that is, to its offices, fail to respond also to their admonition – such persons the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship by withholding the sacraments from them, and God himself excludes them from the kingdom of Christ. Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of his church.
Saturday, July 8: Revelation 22:17
I spent June 8-18, 2017, in Kiev, Ukraine, with 16 young people from our Church. We partnered in a ministry that taught English to teenagers through Bible stories. The ministry was a display of the effective use of the keys of the kingdom. First, through preaching, teaching, and personal coaching, 12 students responded to the gospel, repented of sin, and placed faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We watched the Spirit soften hearts, open doors to grace, and shut doors on the power of evil. Second, the Ukrainian leadership team shared with us how they follow-up with each student in order to foster a life of discipleship. Finally, we also enjoyed conversation with many other students drawn to Jesus, but still scared for cultural reasons to profess His name. My greatest joy is to hear the heart of a person delivered in the name of Jesus from the burden of sin or guilt or shame or the fear of punishment. One of the students afforded me that privilege. She sat down, opened the Bible, and me read these words: “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)! Then she added, “That now is me.” As we live with the keys of the kingdom -- “the preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance” – I hope her words are also our living testimony as Christ’s disciples.
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn