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.
Sunday, July 2: Matthew 16:13-20
The keys of the Kingdom – “the preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance” – call us to practice the Church’s unique mission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The Church is not just another secular organization engaged in good humanitarian or social justice efforts. The Church is the Bride of Christ, God’s community, called to proclaim His Word to the ends of the earth. Her identity is rooted in the gospel and her every practice is to be an exercise of gospel-directed discipleship. The Biblical teaching of the keys of the kingdom raises for the Church this ultimate question: “How do all of our efforts to bear witness to the kingdom of God invite others to come to faith in Jesus Christ?” The Kingdom of heaven has come in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (Mark 1:15a). Entrance into the kingdom is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Mark 1:15b). It seems, however, that the Church is continually forced to choose between either a gospel focused ministry or a social justice focused program. This tension is not new, but it is unfortunate. First, a gospel focus without a vision for kingdom transformation is usually reduced to nothing more than a life of fear that wants to escape the world for heaven. Second, a social justice focus without a gospel foundation tends to be a form of humanitarianism enslaved to the latest social secular fad. The keys of the kingdom provide the proper Biblical balance for Christian discipleship. The great task of the Church is to preach the gospel that leads to repentance from sin, to teach each other the meaning of new life in Christ according to Scripture, and to nourish Christian discipleship in obedience to Christ’s command to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. The enemy of the Church would have us choose between either a gospel focus or social justice focus. He is quite content to have the Church either escape culture or merely become a humanitarian organization. Jesus, however, has defeated Satan and the powers of evil. In His name and according to His word we preach repentance. And in His name and according to His Word we pray: “Your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Let’s embrace the keys. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing in the life of the Church. Let’s preach the gospel and disciple the nations.
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn