Last week, we heard all about the first question from the Shorter catechism which inquire about our chief end. We understood this means we are called to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Glorifying God means to live in gratitude to God for his work of redemption and Enjoy God means assigning our happiness only to God and his glory now here on earth as well as there in heaven. This is our chief end.
Today, we will move on the next section of the first major part. These are matters which men are called to believe concerning God. On this section, the Shorter catechism lays down the great doctrines drawn from Scripture and first doctrine it touches is about Scripture itself. Questions 2 and 3 specifically focus on the Doctrine of Scripture and it assigns Scripture as the primary basis for faith and practice. God’s Word reveals to us how we can glorify God and enjoy him forever. If the first question of the catechism points for us the goal we are called to aim, the second and third questions informs us the way to attain it. God’s glory is revealed from God’s Word.
So we have two sermon points this morning and they are: 1) The Authority of Scripture; 2) The Teachings of Scripture. The first point establishes God’s Word as the sole authority governing our lives and the second point reveals to us the two main contents of Scripture mainly, what man believes concerning God and what duty God requires of man.
Before we begin, let us pray…
Blessed Lord, who has caused Holy Scripture to be written for our learning, grant that we may hear, read, learn, and inwardly digest them, that through the comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which You have given us in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Authority of Scripture
Q#2: What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
Answer: The word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him
So what do mean when we say Scripture is God’s Word. What is Scripture and why do do we say it is God’s Word?
Simply put, Scriptures mean writings. These are books collective known popularly as the Bible. Scriptures (plural) known as the Old Testament are the books from Genesis to Malachi while the books known as New Testament span from Matthew to Revelation. There are 39 books from the Old Testament and 27 books from the New Testament and all in all there are 66 books from the Bible which collective we also refer to as the Scripture.
Now, we call these Scriptures as God’s word because we believe they are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:14-16). It claims divine authorship. Scripture are God’s Word committed into writing and passed on from generation to generation. Until now, it is known as the most widely used and most popularly distributed piece of literature in history. While written by several human authors, these books both from the Old and New testaments have God as its primary author (2 Peter 1:21)
Jesus himself views Scripture as necessary because it contains God’s special revelation. Yes, God reveals himself in creation as part of his general revelation but man can only know God’s redemptive purpose and work in his written Word, in his God’s special revelation. Jesus implies this point when he said: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (John 5:39).” In context, some Jews were condemning Jesus because he claims equality with God by calling him his Father (verse 18). So Jesus condemns these Jews for their ignorance not because they searched Scripture (they were right in doing) but apparently they missed the point because they failed to see its specially reveals God’s redemptive work in Christ. Likewise, Jesus establishes the authority of God’s Word over God’s people when he said: “If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— (John 10:35).” In context, Jesus rebukes these Jews who were charging him with blasphemy. He quoted from Psalm 82:6 claiming them to be God’s Word and proclaiming that it cannot be broken, meaning its words will remain true and it cannot fail.
Therefore, our catechism points to Scripture as the primary way or the sole authority over matters of faith and practice. In It alone we can find the way to eternal life found solely in God. Only God’s Word can direct God’s people to a life of gratitude towards God’s redemptive work and find happiness in God and his glory. As the psalmist in chapter 119:105 proclaims: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” In context, the word referred to here is particularly applied to the Torah and yet broadly, we can consider it to represent the whole of Scripture. God’s special revelation serves as the lamp and light to illuminate our understand of God and ourselves. It enables us to see clearly what God ordains for us to receive and understand from his redemptive work.
We need the illuminating light of Scripture to guide us and show us God’s perfect will and wisdom. There we can find God’s work of redemption, his grace and mercy. And because we are sinners and spiritually discerned, we also need God’s inward work of illumination in order for to receive the authority of God’s Word. Scripture claims to be God’s Word and demands our submission. And by God’s grace, we acquiesce to this authority.
Christian, we only pay lip service to God if we say we accept him as our Lord and Savior and yet neglect or even rebel against his authoritative Word. We cannot insist on our autonomy in matters of faith and pratice. Unless we abandon self-authority we will fail to give God all the glory and never find our happiness in Him. Let us pray that God will open our hearts to receive his Word with gladness in our hearts.
The Teachings of Scripture
Q#3: What do the scriptures principally teach?
Answer: The scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
We will only briefly dwell on this question because we will expand on this topic in the succeeding week so we simply introduce it for now and focus on the details later. So if we are called to live in gratitude to God and his glory and assign our ultimate happiness to him in this world and the world to come, and we are called to draw from Scripture alone everything about Him both from the Old and the New Testament. What can we find from it?
Scripture contains everything we need to believe and follow. It sufficiently provides us doctrines we need to believe and duties we need to follow. Again, we will examine each of its contents as we come it soon but briefly put the doctrines are Theology which explains God in creation, providence and decrees, then Anthropology which explains man’s failure to give God glory then Christology which assigns for us God the Son as our Mediator, then finally Pneumatology wherein the catechism will explain how the accomplishments of Christ’s benefits are applied to his people. These all belongs to the first of the catechism then on the second part we come to the duty of man before God which mainly focuses on God’s Law and God’s salvation. The Ten commandment as God’s moral standard will occupy the first section then continue with the internal and external means of salvation specifically assigned as Faith and Repentance, then Word, Sacrament and Prayer.
Now, can we find all these sufficiently from Scripture or do we need to relay on other form of authority like what happened during the Medieval churches where Rome insist on the traditions of the church and the supreme authority of the Pope?
Well, Paul designates all of Scripture as inspired of God and sufficiently contains everything we need for faith and practice. In 2 Timothy 3:16b, he exhorts his student Timothy to continue coming to Scripture as it alone is, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In context, Paul refers to the writings of the Old Testament here specifically but we know in general again it represents the whole of Scripture including the New Testament because even Peter equates Paul’s letters with the Old Testament Scripture when he reminded his readers in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” In context, Peter exhorts the congregation to patient study Paul’s letters even though they find some parts of it difficult to understand because just like the rest of Scripture (meaning the Old Testament) in particular they also need to discern its with wisdom.
So Christian, we come to the Scripture as God’s authoritative Word and regard it as the only necessary and sufficient source of God’s special revelation for his people. Both the Old and New Testament are God’s Word and we draw from it everything we need for our faith and practice.
ZCRC (Imus), let us continue to search Scripture, dwell in it, and submit to God and his authority over us. Let us seek his will over matters of faith and practice from all of Scripture and receive it with faith and gladness in our hearts. Amen.