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.
Friday, July 7: 2 Timothy 3:16-17
The keys of the kingdom – “the preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline toward repentance” – call us to be living disciples of Jesus. In fact, the words of Lord’s Day 31 are intended to draw us to the beauty and majesty of Christ and the life lived in His name. The world, the flesh and the devil are certainly serious foes of all that is good and right. Yet, as every loving parent understands, serious threats require serious warnings. Lord’s Day 31 is God’s gracious and loving warning to remain firmly rooted in His truth. The keys of the kingdom, therefore, relentlessly invite all to drink of the grace that leads to new life and bold Christ-centered witness. But what, ultimately, does that mean? Allow me to remind you what I wrote on June 9 (Lord’s Day 24):
We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved to do good works. The Catechism labels the good works of holy obedience as the “fruits of gratitude.” Obedience is our natural response of gratitude to the revealed, completed and sufficient work of Jesus Christ that reconciles us to the Father, restores us to true human life, and forges us as the embodiment of His will. Grace overflows into gratitude. This means we thank Him for the gifts He has placed in our lives (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Ephesians 4:7-16). It also means that we are free to express gratitude as CEO’s in corporate America, as educators in the public schools, as research scientists advancing a clean and healthy environment, as financial planners helping others live wisely, or as doctors treating new infectious diseases. Finally, in Christ we are given the proper motivation to express our gratitude. We do all things in His name and for the praise of His glory: “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10; cf. Colossians 3:17). Grace overflows into that kind of gratitude. It is unfortunate, therefore, that people still speak of full-time Christian service in distinction to life in the secular world. The Bible’s vision is better than that. The whole earth belongs to the Lord, everything is ruled by Him, and Satan is a defeated enemy. So, let His grace stir your gratitude in every square inch of life in this world. May your whole life in Christ bear witness to His great work of redemption, restoration and reconciliation of all things (Colossians 1:15-20).
That is the life of purposeful discipleship, the fruit of the keys of the kingdom.
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn