Thursday, April 19, 2012

What is our only comfort in life and in death?

I have never considered myself to be very credal. At least I haven't held to any of the major creeds or confessions; at least in terms of how a "confessional" church would define it. I think that some of the creeds do a fine job of summarizing the Christian faith like the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. And it is also true that the creeds and confessions can serve as a useful educational piece within the church. One of the confessions that my current church–the Reformed Church of America (RCA)–holds to is the Heidelberg Catechism. The RCA says the following about creeds and confessions:

"The RCA is confessional, which means that together we have statements of belief, called creeds and confessions. These statements guide our understanding of faith and shape its practice."

The idea is to have a standard statement of faith across the whole denomination. It is not that different than other denominations or churches having a statement of faith that one needs to accept before becoming a member. In a certain sense these creeds and confessions are just really old statements of faith. And as long as a church does not elevate the confession above or contradict scripture–and I do not believe that this is what the RCA is doing–then I don't see any real problem with them. In fact if they are used properly, they can play an important teaching role in the life of the church. To that end our Wednesday night adult Bible study has just started to look at the Heidelberg Catechism. Last night we looked at Question 1:

"What is your only comfort in life and in death?"

Instead of simply reading the Heidelberg answer, we split into smaller groups and read the scripture passages that the original writers used to come up with their answer. And then we wrote our own answer based on those scripture passages. In my group we didn't end up getting to all of the scripture passages so our answer doesn't touch on all aspects of the Heidelberg answer. But we still ended up with our own answer. This is what we came up with:

"Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and is not our own. We were bought by God and need to honor God with our bodies. We belong to the Lord in both life and death. He purifies us through his sacrifice; Christ's blood washes away all of our sins. Because we are children of God we are ultimately free from sin. Those who put their hope in Christ–because the Father has given this authority to Christ–are in the Father's hands. God will protect us. And in the last day, God will bring us home to heaven. Fear not! God values us. We are important to him and he will protect us."

Not a bad answer if you ask me.

Our answer was based on the following scripture passages:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Romans 14:7-9; 1 Corinthians 3:23; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 1 John 2:2; John 8:34-36; Hebrews 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11; John 6:39-40; John 10:27-30; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Peter 1:5; Matthew 10:29-31; and Luke 21:16-18.


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