Heidelberg Catechism Meditations (366)

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May 24 – LD 21, Day 4: The Holiness of the Church

Tuesday the 24th of May

in Heidelberg Catechism Meditations

Read: Revelation 21

The Apostles Creed puts in our mouths the confession, “I believe an holy, catholic church.” It also speaks of the church as “catholic.” Our teacher in the Heidelberg Catechism explains this to mean that the Son of God gathers his church “out of the whole human race.”

The human race was divided into nations, tribes, and languages at Babel (Gen 11:1-9). While God changed the languages of all the people at Babel to prevent the premature coming of the Antichrist, God also had a positive purpose in Babel: to gather a church which is truly catholic. It is a church in which there are no two members alike, for all the many differences between the saints are used by God to reveal the infinite riches of his grace in saving each individual.

But, the Apostolic Confession and our Heidelberg Catechism also speak of the holiness of the church. This comes as something of a surprise, for if we look about us in the church, we see something quite different from a holy church. The individual members of the church are all very sinful as yet, and are far from attaining holiness, that is, freedom from all sin. Thus it is not surprising that denominations or individual congregations are not holy either, for they are composed of sinful people. We want to question our teacher: Are you sure the church is holy? I do not see much evidence of that when I look at the church.

The truth of Scripture, we must remember, is the object of our faith. I believe an holy catholic church. We walk by faith, not by sight, Paul says in II Cor 5:7. The fact is that God sees his church in Christ; and he sees them, therefore, as without sin and clothed in Christ’s righteousness. He also deals with them as a holy people and promises them that, in fact, he will make them holy so that they are able to dwell with him in glory forever.

Scripture is not hesitant to call the church holy. It does so in many places, In I Pet 2:9 Peter writes: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people (not an odd people, but a specially chosen people); that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

Yet, at the same time, Scripture calls God’s people to be holy. In I Pet 1:15, 16, Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes: “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” We must struggle through prayer and faith to become what one day we shall be.

What a blessing that I am and forever shall remain a member of that church!


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