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Catechism Class – LD7D Q22


What we MUST Believe!

1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

Heidelberg Catechism L/D7 Q22. What, then, must a Christian believe? All that is promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our universal and undoubted Christian faith teach us in a summary.  The Catechist goes on to remind us of the Apostles Creed, – a summary of Christian Doctrine. Interestingly, Christianity is not about what we feel, it is about what we BELIEVE.  Do you remember the Philippians jailer?  He asked what must I do to be saved?  In fact there was nothing he could do!  It was already done, by Jesus at the Cross.  Our response is to (passively) believe and to trust.  SO, WHAT WE BELIEVE, must be really important.  So much so that Paul summarises the irreducible minimum of the faith in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.  He tells us what we MUST believe.   That would not be popular in some circles if he were engaged in such a task today, for in many sections of the visible church today, the preaching of Christian Doctrine is studiously avoided! Some ministers will even go so far as to argue:

For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.

Hebrews 5:13


* That Doctrine is divisive, and that therefore we should avoid it! Doctrine is very important to the Lord, for His Word is full of it! Jude talks about “The faith once delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) Furthermore, correct biblically sound doctrine is God’s Truth, and unity without truth is false unity, for it is not based on the Word of God.

* That all that we need is a simple belief in Christ, and we should go no further! It is absolutely true that all that we need to come to Christ and be saved is a simple childlike trust in Him. But the Lord expects each of His people to GROW IN GRACE, and to learn more of Him. Furthermore, we are to OBEY our Lord, and how can we obey Him properly, and thus please Him with our lives if we do not know what He requires of us? How will we know? But understanding the nature and attributes of God, the true nature of man, the purpose of creation, the way of salvation, God’s ultimate purpose for our lives, but all of these are DOCTRINAL MATTERS!

* That doctrine leads to dogma, and dogma to intolerance! I would argue that doctrine does, without doubt lead to more certainty in the faith, and I would further argue that in this so called ‘age of tolerance’ what the church really needs is to be MORE CERTAIN about what it believes, and not less certain!

Paul had obviously encountered these arguments himself, for he opens this chapter with a rigorous defence of Christian Doctrine! Let us see:-

The Importance of Christian Doctrine!
Paul begins this chapter by making a declaration. It is an important declaration, for it could be translated “I make known unto you (Greek γνωριζω – derivative of γνοσκω). It is as if Paul is not just reminding them of some previously learned material, but rather that he is driving home these teachings for the very first time.

An exact declaration. He says, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.

* The Gospel is preached in its roundness! Now you will see in verse 4 & 5 that Paul’s idea of what comprises the Gospel is fairly all encompassing! In fact to declare the Gospel is far more than just telling people that they need to be saved! It is to declare the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD!

The Gospel is practised in its reception! Now they had already received this teaching, and yet Paul is laying it out again as if it had never been delivered in the first place! Why so? Had they not listened? Had they not understood? Had they not put it into practice? Is it not the case that Christians listen to the Word of God faithfully preached and yet do little about it save to compliment the preacher! These people had received the Word! So have we! The great question is what will we DO about the word we have received? Paul says in Philip. 2:12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (One of the many ‘misunderstood’ verses of the Bible! It does not mean that every man has the possibility of working to achieve salvation, or that everyone can calculate his own eternal destiny in his own chosen way! It does mean that our obedience to the Lord should be seen ‘outworked’ in our lives, and we live with fear and respect for the future judgement of the Lord)

* The Gospel is permanent in its rigidity! This great body of Christian Truth, this systematic theology, is the ground of the Christian’s security! Paul says ‘wherein ye stand!” The purpose of the Christian truth of the resurrection, and of Christian doctrine in general is to give us a place whereon to stand in this slippery, ever changing world! Have you ever seen such a time of change? For the Christian there is a great solidity and a great foundation. God never changes, God’s truth never changes, and that is the ground upon which we stand!

An emphatic declaration!

Doctrine and the Christian Path! By which also ye are saved Correct Doctrine is linked to Christian persistence and growth! Without a knowledge of Christian truth, you simply cannot grow in the faith, as you are required to grow! Ephes. 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. The word ‘saved’ in 15:2 is interesting. It is present tense! Paul is saying, ‘you are being saved if you hold fast that word, that body of truth! Doctrine is the DYNAMIC of the Christian life! Listen to the prayer of Jesus in John 17:17 Sanctify (separate, make holy – grow closer to God and further from the world) them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Doctrine and Christian Persistence! if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you Correct Doctrine must be held fast! Not just remembered, but adhered to! We must persevere in the faith, and in sound doctrine. Acts 2:42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Paul told Timothy, 1 Tim. 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

Doctrine and Christian Pretence! unless ye have believed in vain Incorrect doctrine casts doubt on the validity of our profession of faith in Christ! PAUL DRAWS A VERY EMPHATIC CONCLUSION FROM THE CORINTHIANS’ LACK OF SOUND DOCTRINE! Perhaps they were never saved at all! How can he make such a judgement? We are all supposed to be examiners of the fruit of those who claim to be Christians! We shall know another Christian by the fruit of their lives, and those fruits are not only practical and charitable (good works) but are DOCTRINAL! Look at the balanced Christian life of Paul in 2 Tim. 3:10 But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience. A true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus said of Him in John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.

The Implications for Christian Discernment!
Now, if doctrine will establish for us, (along with Christian practice) who is a true believer and who is not, then the obvious conclusion is that we should only associate with, and worship with, and recognise as believers, those whose doctrine is Biblical. But where do we draw the line? Which doctrines are just a matter of personal interpretation, what we might call ’secondary doctrines’ and which are absolutely vital and non negotiable? In verse 3 and 4, Paul lays out for the Corinthians, the very basics of the faith. You might say, the doctrines which cannot and must not ever be compromised under any circumstances! 1 Cor. 15:3-4 how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: Paul singles out in that text 4 great unassailable truths. Here they are:-

The Inspiration, Authority, Inerrancy, and Sufficiency of the Word of God! For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, Now there is much that we can learn about the Bible from this verse! Paul says “For I delivered unto you what I received.” This is the doctrine of REVELATION! Twice he says, “According to the Scriptures.” Paul does not depend upon his own philosophies or his own wisdom, he accepted the revelation that God had given, and he accepted it without reservation. For Paul, to compromise with a liberal or a higher critic or a sceptic or a moderniser who would cast doubt on God’s revealed truth would be unthinkable! The Reformers called this SOLA SCRIPTURA! 2 Tim. 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

The Vicarious Substitutionary Atonement of Christ! Paul says, Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures. The key word here is the word FOR. Jesus died FOR sinners! This doctrine of substitutionary atonement can never be compromised, nor can it be made the subject of debate or discussion. It is the very heart of the evangelical faith that there is, for the guilty sinner, the possibility of salvation through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, says Paul, Jesus death was on the behalf of sinners, he died in their place. Peter put it ‘the just for the unjust.’ (cf 1 Peter 3:18) And you simply cannot be a Christian if you have not had your sins atoned for! If you have not been born again, never been saved by God’s grace, you may call yourself a Christian, but in God’s eyes you are still in your sins, for there is only one way to God, not through a church, or through the sacraments, or through works, but only through faith in Christ as Saviour. The Reformers spoke of this in two ways, SOLA FIDES, SOLA GRATIA.

The Utter Sinfulness and Total Depravity of Mankind! for our sins. In this context this point arises from Paul’s teaching on substitution atonement. If men had not been sinners, Christ’s death on the Cross would not have been necessary. But we are. In fact this is the reason that Paul can call this whole counsel of God a ‘gospel.’ It truly is good news for the sinner who will humbly lay aside his own preconceived ideas and self righteous attempts to placate a God who is angry with our sins, and come to Christ, with all his burdens and his problems, and lay them all at the feet of the Saviour.

The Person and Physical Bodily Resurrection Of Christ! And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (2 John 1:9-10) Paul is reinforcing some great truths. It was CHRIST who died! He is Christ, the Messiah, the Chosen and Anointed One of God and He actually and literally died, and He actually and literally rose from the dead. Paul expands this teaching in Philippians 2:5-10. There would be no salvation without the death of Christ, there would be no New Covenant, had not the testator died, and the substitution purpose of Christ’s death would have been rendered null and void without the Virgin Birth of Christ, for to atone for sins required a spotless sinless sacrifice! If we remove any element of the death of Christ we are left with a meaningless pointless death and a wasted life! And so a true evangelical will never compromise on the eternal Sonship of Christ, His Virgin Birth, His Sinless Life, His Physical Death, His Bodily Resurrection, His Ascension into Glory, His Intercessory Work, or His Coming Again as Judge. We will guard ever aspect of the person of Christ, ‘according to the Scriptures.’ Savoy chapter 8 reads It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus his only begotten Son, according to a covenant made between them both, to be the Mediator between God and man; the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head and Saviour of his Church, the Heir of all things and Judge of the world; unto whom he did from all eternity give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.

Now do you see the great importance and significance of Christian Truth? As evangelicals, these are our boundaries! If we enter into worship or fellowship or even dialogue with someone, whether an individual or a church body, who does not wholeheartedly and without reservation accept those basic truths, then our fellowship with them is no fellowship! The Bible says, 2 Cor. 6:14  Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? Ephes. 5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 

The Christian MUST have fellowship with other believers, and must do so irrespective of their denominational affiliation. (I do not for a moment think that because a person, or a fellowship is aligned to an evangelical grouping that they are automatically suitable for fellowship, nor should fellowship be refused with a true evangelical person or fellowship within a ‘mixed’ denomination) But the basis of such fellowship is TRUTH, not compromise and the basis of true ecumenism is truth, and any form of ecumenism or fellowship where truth has to be compromised or suppressed for that fellowship to take place is an unequal yoke! Paul writes in Romans 16:17  Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. 

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