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The Promise…


Catechism Class

Lord’s Day 25 Q66 and 67 – The Promise of the Gospel

Sacraments, must be instituted, for their use within the church, by the Lord Jesus himself. There are two of them, Baptism and The Lord’s Supper, sometimes called Holy Communion. They are visible reinforcements of the gospel. In Q66, the Catechist asks us  What are the sacraments? A. The sacraments are holy, visible signs and seals. They were instituted by God so that by their use he might the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel.  And this is the promise: that God graciously grants us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.

The key, I think lies in the Catechist’s use of the word VISIBLE in his answer. They are visible signs, things that we can SEE, that point us to something away from themselves, to Christ, and to the promise of the Gospel.  So what is “The promise of the gospel?”

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There is a theme, a promise that God makes to his people that runs right throughout the Bible, from Genesis to the last chapters of Revelation. It sounds something like this, “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” It is an eternal covenant promise, made by God to those whom he has chosen. Look for it when you are doing your Bible readings, it’s not always worded quite like that, but every time you find it, in whatever form, underline it, for it is really important. We call it ‘THE COVENANT OF GRACE’ because it is a covenant made with us, when we really don’t deserve it, for we are sinners, and deserve nothing from God, except eternal separation and condemnation. Yet in his Grace and mercy, God has promised us salvation. Revelation 21:1-3,  

READ Genesis 17:1-14.  Look especially at verse 7.  There’s that promise of salvation. It is given to Abraham, and to his seed, those who come after him. The important aspect of this covenant promise, as far as this catechism question is concerned, is that there was a VISIBLE SIGN that the covenant had been given. It wasn’t the sign that saved God’s people, – the sign simply pointed to the promise which had been given. That visible sign was CIRCUMCISION. Genesis 17:11   What would the people witnessing a circumcision SEE? They would see the cutting off of sinful flesh and shed blood. You can see the significance. There is no other way for a soul to be saved but by the shedding of blood. Hebrews 9:22  Circumcision was a signpost to point to Jesus, whose blood was shed to atone for tour sin. Romans 8:3 So Abraham received a marvellous promise, for many nations, that his seed would be blessed, and inherit everlasting life, and he gave them a sign, a guarantee that pointed them to how this covenant would be established, in the blood of His only Son, whose death dealt once and for all with our sin. Hebrews 13:20-21.

But an outward sign does not cleanse us from sin in and of itself, we need the application of the Word of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to generate the faith that we need to accept the forgiveness offered to us in the gospel. Deuteronomy 30:6  But how does all this apply to us, today? You now need to read Galatians 3:22-29. where Paul is speaking to Gentile Christians. 

  • We are ALL sinners. Jew and Gentile alike.  
  • So God gave the Law, which is our schoolmaster, teaching us that we fall short of God’s requirements, and driving us to look for a Saviour, now revealed as God’s Son, Jesus, v23 
  • But justification is not through the law, which we cannot ever keep, it is through faith in Christ alone. 25  There are now only two types of people in this world, those who are ‘in Christ’ – the saved, and those who are lost.
  • And since there is no longer any difference between Jews and everyone else, – for there will be no-one in heaven who has not come by way of Christ, WE, believers in Jesus, are the inheritors of that promise of the Gospel that was made to Abraham! V29 

But circumcision, the original visible sign of the covenant, is no longer needed, because we have the reality that the sign pointed to, – Christ has shed his blood for us. So Paul reminds us of a new visible sign, one instituted by Jesus Himself, in the Great Commission, – a sacrament, in verse V27   Baptism points US to Christ, just as much as circumcision pointed Abraham to Christ. That’s what Peter meant in Acts 2:38. (READ)

So the sacraments are things that we can see, “HOLY” things, according to the catechism – the things of God, not for common use, but visual aids to help us to understand the Gospel, and to claim God’s promises for ourselves.  The sacraments work in tandem with the Word of God, preached, heard by the sinner, applied by the Holy Spirit, bringing new life in Christ through faith alone. Q67 asks, Are both the Word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation? Answer: Yes, indeed.  The Holy Spirit teaches us in the gospel and assures us by the sacraments that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

Finally, the catechist wants us to be in no doubt what the ‘promise of the gospel’ is. And this is the promise: that God graciously grants us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.

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