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.
Wednesday, July 5: John 3:31-36
The Catechism states that the kingdom of heaven is opened through gospel preaching and Christian discipline: “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 truth faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins.” First, the authority to open the kingdom of heaven belongs to Christ alone. The Church has sometimes attempted to locate the authority to open the kingdom of heaven in pastors or popes, or in a “special code” or insight discerned by a “spiritual director.” The keys of the kingdom to point to the pre-eminence of Christ and His authority over all life through the gospel. Second, Christ calls all people to repentance and faith through His Church. Through gospel preaching He invites all people to new life. Through gospel discipline He invites everyone to daily growth in grace. When we practice the keys of the kingdom, therefore, we stand on the threshold of an eternity that is more than we could ever ask or imagine. Finally, since the pre-eminent One is daily revealed to us through gospel preaching and gospel discipline, we had better make it our business to listen to the message. If we repent and believe, we enter eternal life. If we refuse to repent, we invite upon ourselves “the anger of God and eternal condemnation.” Let’s all take to heart the essential point. The difference between eternal life and eternal death is faith in Jesus Christ: “God’s judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.” “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on Him” (John 3:36). Will you embrace this gospel?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn