Gospel Joy

“‘The gospel is the true power of God in salvation to everyone believing’ (Rom. 1:16), the consolation of the afflicted, the deliverance of the captives (Luke 4:18-19), the life of the dead and lost, the joy of the heart overcoming every feeling. Who would not rejoice in hearing that his enemy (which he is not able to flee, in the full power of which he exists) has been conquered and destroyed? That death and inevitable damnation be turned from him into life and eternal salvation? Hell to the kingdom of heaven? The horror of the company of devils, in the citizenship of heaven and the adoption of the children of God? That which is announced to us by the death of Jesus, who, by the power of the Father who is in Him has saved us, ridding us of our servile fear of the threats of the law, because ‘there is no damnation to those who are in Jesus’ (Rom. 8:1)” (William Farel’s “Summary” (1529) in 16th & 17th Century Reformed Confessions, Vol. 1, 58).

Christ’s Character and Conduct

“The keeping of commandments and obedience are thus witnessed by our Lord and the inspired writers as defining his character and conduct [cf. John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 10:17, 18, 12:49, 50, 15:10; Matt. 26:39, 42; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:10, 5:8, 9]. These, of course, go together. They are definitive of each other. if they describe what was most characteristic in the case of our Lord, they constitute what is most relevant to us by way of example. . . . Do we recoil from the notion of obedience, of law observance, of keeping commandments? Is it alien to our way of thinking? If so, then our Lord’s way is not our way”  (Collected Writings of John Murray, Vol. 1, 181).

“Having the knowledge of the Father through the Son”

“And that the Father for His own love, not for love for us, not for our works, merits, and righteousness (which are only abominations), saves us, makes us alive, accepting us as His sons and heirs, joint heirs with Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:17), in whom are made members all those who have true faith in Him, and consequently are unified and incorporated into the body of Jesus (1 Cor. 12:27). By the divine virtue, which dwells in the Head, all contrary power is destroyed. By the perfect and immortal life, our death is abolished. By the infinite holiness, justice, purity, and innocence which are in Him, all our evil, iniquity, and filth are annihilated. And by this great power, we are restored to a state more noble than what was ever before the sin of Adam in Paradise; not that which is terrestrial, but celestial: not to a life corporeal, corruptible, and that can be lost, but spiritual, without corruption, and which can never be lost. Whoever knows and understands this by a true and living faith, truly he has eternal life, and no more fixes himself on the creatures, nor other vain things, having the knowledge of the Father through the Son: in whom he knows and understands the great goodness of God, and His infinite mercy” (William Farel’s “Summary” (1529) in 16th & 17th Century Reformed Confessions, Vol. 1, 57).

First Glorify, Then Enjoy

“Why does the catechism place glorifying God before enjoying God? Because the most important element in the purpose of human life is glorifying God, while enjoying God is strictly subordinate to glorifying God. In our religious life, we should always place the chief emphasis on glorifying God. The person who does this will truly enjoy God, both here and hereafter. But the person who thinks of enjoying God apart from glorifying God is in danger of supposing that God exists for man instead of man for God. To stress enjoying God more than glorifying God will result in a falsely mystical or emotional type of religion”  (Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, ed. G.I. Williamson, 4).

Meditation & Self-Examination

“The Larger Catechism’s exposition of the law is in fact a useful basis for meditation and self-examination as it opens up the meaning of the commandments for the benefit of the believer who seeks to lead a godly life” (“An Introduction to the Westminster Larger Catechism” by W. Robert Godfrey in Johannes G. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary, ed. G.I. Williamson, xiii).

Word of God

Given God’s intention to rule the church by a written document consisting of his personal words, it would be anomalous in the extreme if he put them in a place where we couldn’t find them. Through OT History, God has taken pains to put these words in an obvious place, the tabernacle, and later the temple. Josephus says that the books kept in the temple, before its destruction in A.D. 70, were the books recognized as canonical by the Jews. Although the Jews read other books for edification, the temple books were those with fully divine authority. So there is no mystery about the extent of the OT canon. God put the books in a place where they could function as he intended, where they would be recognized as his. . . .

The problem with much current literature on the canon is that it does not take account of God’s expressed intentions. It seeks, rather, through autonomous reasoning (see chap. 3), to determine whether any first-century books deserve canonical status, and using that method it arrives at conclusions that are uncertain at best. But once we understand God’s use of a canon from the time of Moses, we must approach our present problem with a presupposition: that God will not let his people walk in darkness, that he will provide for us the words we need to have, within our reach.

The early church was divided by many controversies concerning basic doctrines . . . But remarkably, when in A.D. 367 Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria published a list of books accepted in his church, there was no clamor. From that time on, Christians of all traditions—Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant—agreed on the NT canon. Indeed, through the centuries since, agreement on the NT canon has been more unanimous than on the OT canon, though on the surface it might seem that ascertaining the former would have been more difficult (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, 135-136).

Faithful Instruction for the Future Faithful Generation

The biblical and Reformational model is catechizing, a method of teaching in which hearing and speaking are central. If the church needs men and women of faith for the days ahead, we must return to listening to the Word and from there to asking questions and getting answers. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). If we expect our children to mature, to stand fast for the truth, to contend earnestly for the faith, to resist the great deceiver, and to fight as the saints who nobly fought of old, they will need basic training more rigorous than making slingshots to understand the story of David and Goliath  (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 13).

Sunday School?

The modern Sunday school movement began in 1780 by reaching unchurched children. The movement was outside the official ministry of the church, although its efforts were evangelistic and admirable. . . . Catechism [however] is specifically designed to teach children of the church (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 12-13).

Catechism & New Testament

There are several places in the New Testament where the example of catechizing and the command to teach are emphasized. Apollos was “catechized” in the way of the Lord (Acts 18). Jesus commanded Peter in John 21:19 to feed his lambs. Teaching is obedience to the Holy Spirit’s command through Paul to Timothy, “These things command and teach” (1 Tim. 4:11)  (Donald Van Dyken, Rediscovering Catechism: The Art of Equipping Covenant Children, 12).