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.
Thursday, July 6: Luke 15:1-32
The Catechism states that the kingdom of heaven is closed through gospel preaching and Christian discipline: “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.” These are unpopular words. Yet, they reveal Biblical truth (Revelation 21:6-8). Still, we need some honesty. We do not and should not enjoy the idea of “eternal condemnation.” One person said it best: “The pain of watching a child die does not even begin to compare with the pain of watching a child walk away from Jesus.” It is no wonder, then, that the Bible reveals the character of our heavenly Father: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). I hope we are so impressed with the Father’s love and longing for His lost children, and equally saddened that some of our own sisters and brothers may be on a journey to eternal judgment, that it stirs our passion to bear witness to the presence, power and purifying purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus has given us a gracious vision of the Father’s joy when the lost are found (Luke 15:1-32). Our choice now is either to obey His call to make disciples (Matthew 18:18-20) or to rest content with the fire of hell. Is your desire the same as that of our Father?
Pastor Calvin Hoogendoorn