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.
Monday, July 3: 2 Timothy 4:1-5
The Bible is the foundation for both making and sustaining disciples of Jesus Christ. Speaking of the Bible, the Belgic Confession states that “we,” the Church, “receive all these books and these only as holy and canonical, for the regulating, founding, and establishing of our faith” (Article 5), and “that this Holy Scripture contains the will of God completely and that everything one must believe to be saved is sufficiently taught in it” (Article 7). Essential to the Church’s life and witness, therefore, is the key of the kingdom called “the preaching of the holy gospel…toward repentance.” The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy to “preach the Word” whether or not it is popular (2 Timothy 4:2). And for good reason. Christians are born again “through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 2:22-25). The Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 2:20), lives as “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), is called to “guard what has been entrusted” to her care (1 Timothy 6:20), and “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). It is interesting that Paul reminds Timothy that people will seek “to suit their own desires” and listen to “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). Some seek dreams, visions or revelations more than they listen to Biblical teaching. Others claim to believe in Christ but never allow the Word to penetrate their attitudes, choices or lifestyle. Both implicitly question the authority and sufficiency of the Bible, or, as Paul states, “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:4). The key of the kingdom called “the preaching of the holy gospel” is an invitation to meet Jesus in repentance and faith in order to live the life of discipleship. The Word alone – a doctrine dear to Biblically-minded Reformed believers – is the Holy Spirit’s voice that convicts hearts so “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn