A Life of Hope: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 22


  1. What comfort do you receive from the “resurrection of the body”?

That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head,1 but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like the glorious body of Christ.2

[1] Lk. 23:43; Phil. 1:21–23. [2] 1 Cor. 15:53–54; Job 19:25–27; 1 Jn. 3:2.


  1. What comfort do you receive from the article “life everlasting”?

That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy,1 I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man,2 therein to praise God forever.3

[1] 2 Cor. 5:2–3. [2] 1 Cor. 2:9. [3] Jn. 17:3; *Rom. 8:23; *1 Pet. 1:8.

A Life of Hope

The Christian life is a life of hope.  Peter tells the saints in 1 Peter 3:15 to be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us.  Hope, according to Peter, will distinguish the Christian from the world and prompt the discussions that give the Christian an opportunity to witness to the gospel.  Jesus says in another place that love is the characteristic that will identify one as a disciple of Christ.  These two are closely related, however, for the love we have for one another flows out of the hope we have in the future.

Hope does not mean a sort of general optimism or wishful thinking, but a confident expectation in God’s promises.  That means that the Christian life is forward-thinking.  It is the opposite of the mindset that says, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”  Our goal is not to make the best of the present life, but to prepare for the future life.  This is what Paul means when he exhorts us to set our minds on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. 3:1-2).  It’s not about focusing on “otherworldly,” so-called “spiritual” things as opposed to everyday life like jobs, family, and the like.  Paul focuses our attention on the coming appearance of Christ, at which point our real life will begin.  This is where our hope is, and it drives our life now.  So the “things above” for Paul are the promises of God reserved in heaven with Christ for us, which will be granted to us in the future when Christ comes again.  The distinction Paul is drawing is not “physical” vs. “spiritual”, but “present” vs. “future”.

The physical resurrection must be kept in mind to understand this forward orientation properly.  If our eternal life were a merely spiritual existence, that would imply that our physical life now is simply irrelevant, an evil to be endured.  But our actual bodies will be raised, and we will do things with those bodies.  We will eat.  We will enjoy the physical creation.  We will build things, will interact with animals, and will do all sorts of other wonderful, physical things that we can’t even comprehend now.  That all means that our physical lives now, though badly hampered and afflicted with the effects of sin, are not irrelevant, but are preparatory as well.  In the present day we begin to learn how to rule over our bodies and how to think rightly about the physical creation, in preparation for what is to come.

In our physical existence now, we are learning to be truly human.  So Paul tells us to set our minds on things above, but then talks about marriages, families, professions, and the right use of our bodies and possessions.  This is no contradiction, for that perspective of hope teaches us the right way to use all of those things—not to squeeze all the pleasure we can get out of them right now with no thought for the future, the attitude of the drunkard, glutton and fornicator—but to use them moderately and according to God’s truth, knowing that we will not get true satisfaction and joy out of the things of this life, but will only be able to enjoy God’s blessings properly, including physical blessings, in the life which is to come when the sin that ruins our proper enjoyment of things now is finally eliminated.

So many of our failings in this life are driven by a fear of missing out.  How sad it would be to never have joy, never have beauty, never have intimacy or the enjoyment of the finest things in life, or to have all of these things only in very limited quantities.  What if I can never travel, or never have very good health, or never have a very good circle of friends?  What if my house is never all that nice?  But if we believe in a real physical resurrection, to a real physical world chock full of all the greatest joys and pleasures God can derive for us, then we need never fear missing out.  The best architects and the biggest bank account will never buy you a mansion as beautiful as the one you’ll have in eternity.  We’ll be what we were created to be.  We’ll be able to explore, create, produce, and learn in eternity, and enjoy all of this in the community of God’s perfected saints, for we know that this is what God created Adam to be.

Our life in eternity will be a full, real, vibrant life.  Too often Christians have thought of our eternal life as a truncated “spiritual” existence totally foreign to what we experience now, a kind of gnostic otherworldly “angel sitting on a cloud” kind of thing.  But the promise throughout Scripture is very different.  We will worship and praise God for all eternity, the way Adam was created to—by bearing God’s image and likeness through dominion over creation.

This hope drives the Christian life, not the defective and inadequate temptations of the present existence.  Hope changes the way we view everything now, and teaches us to hold lightly the things of this world, and to trust in Christ and the future glory for the satisfaction of all our desires.  That is the comfort and hope of the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


The Church- Salvation Applied: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 21


  1. What do you believe concerning the “holy, catholic Church”?

That out of the whole human race,1 from the beginning to the end of the world,2 the Son of God,3 by His Spirit and Word,4 gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself unto everlasting life a chosen communion5 in the unity of the true faith;6 and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of this communion.7

[1] Gen. 26:4. [2] Jn. 10:10. [3] Eph. 1:10–13. [4] Rom. 1:16; Isa. 59:21; Rom. 10:14–17; Eph. 5:26. [5] Rom. 8:29–30; Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:3–6. [6] Acts 2:46; Ps. 71:18; 1 Cor. 11:26; Jn. 10:28–30; 1 Cor. 1:8–9. [7] 1 Jn. 3:21; 1 Jn. 2:19; *Gal. 3:28.


  1. What do you understand by the “communion of saints”?

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts;1 second, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.2

[1] 1 Jn. 1:3. [2] 1 Cor. 12:12–13, 21; 13:5–6; Phil. 2:4–6; *Heb. 3:14.


  1. What do you believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins”?

That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction,1 will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long;2 but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.3

[1] 1 Jn. 2:2. [2] 2 Cor. 5:19, 21; Rom. 7:24–25; Ps. 103:3, 10–12; Jer. 31:34; Rom. 8:1–4. [3] Jn. 3:18; *Eph. 1:7; *Rom. 4:7–8; 7:18.

Salvation Applied

As was discussed in last week’s notes, the work of the Holy Spirit is to apply the decrees of God to creation.  The Spirit of God hovered over the waters when God was about to create and order everything on earth, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove on Christ when He was to begin His ministry.  The Spirit of God descended like tongues of fire on the first Christians when the time came to empower them to begin taking the truth of the church out to the world.  This Lord’s Day tells us some things about how the Spirit of God applies salvation to the elect of God.

We live in a very individualistic culture, and this starts with our Christianity.  The forms of Christianity which have always been popular in America, suited to a spread-out, ruggedly self-contained kind of people who often came to America precisely to get away from a strangling class system and oppressive government, have been forms of Christianity that were often suspicious of the institutional church, and their experience with the church in Europe gave them good reason.  But today this individualism has reached epidemic levels, so that people see Christianity purely as an individual thing, a personal relationship between God and man in which some local church may or may not have some role.

The catechism shows us, reflecting the ancient creed itself, that the church exists right at the center of God’s plan for salvation.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to draw those that God is saving into the church, and in that church to do the work of salvation in their lives.  It is a “chosen communion” which Christ is drawing to Himself, and all who are saved in Christ are part of this holy communion.  The Word of God is and must be central to this communion, for it is the truth of that word which draws the communion together and which provides the basis for the unity of that communion.  We are one with other believers because we believe the same things, not because of familial or ethnic or linguistic ties.

This common fellowship is not just an abstract idea.  As question 55 teaches us, this fellowship is experienced and lived out as we interact with other believers in a real and concrete manner.  The passages which question 55 refer to, like 1 Corinthians 12 and Philippians 2:4-6, indicate a real interaction with other believers, doing specific good things for one another like teaching each other, helping in times of trouble, forgiving each other’s failings and being concerned with what will benefit others rather than only myself.  That means that to be part of the church, one has to be part of a church, part of a local fellowship of believers with all the messiness and difficulty that usually involves.  The invisible, catholic, universal church, so vital to our life as Christians, is experienced within the visible church; otherwise, it is just an abstraction, something you say, that has nothing to do with what you do.

Our salvation in Jesus Christ is all about restoring the human race to what it was always supposed to be.  It is about creating for God a holy nation and royal priesthood, a group of people living in love and truth toward one another and toward God.  The church is the place where we start to be that people, imperfectly and messily and surrounded with hypocrites and false brothers, all of which prepares us and shapes us to be who God has for us to be.

Question 56 is about the forgiveness of sins and might seem out of context in this section, belonging more to the teaching of what Jesus has done for us rather than what the Spirit does for us in applying our salvation.  But the forgiveness of sins is the basis for the whole Christian life.  It is relevant throughout our lives, not just at the beginning of our Christian walk.  We are continually forgiven, continually learning what it means to be forgiven, and what it means to forgive others, as I struggle “all my life long” with a sinful nature.  It is in the body of believers where forgiveness begins to be most fully experienced by the believer, as it is taught from the pulpit, modeled by other believers, and lived out in our lives as we fail and are failed by others.  The life of the church, to the degree that it is healthy at all, will be a life of forgiveness and grace toward others.

We cannot claim to be united to Christ without being united to His people.  If I am connected to the vine, then I am also connected to all the other branches.  It cannot be otherwise.  The Spirit of God works life in me by connecting me to the body of Christ, with Christ as the head, and through that body and the truth of the gospel which unites it, teaches me, strengthens me, comforts me, chastises me and heals me.  It is often painful, but it’s supposed to be.  The church will always have hypocrites in it, but it’s supposed to; they teach me patience and grace, and by their false example point me to the true.  My own sins and failings will be highlighted and painfully poked and prodded, and one expects this is the real reason so many avoid church, more than the failings of other people.  But through all of this I will have the life of Christ worked in me. I will learn the true magnitude of what He did for me on the cross.  And through the power of grace and forgiveness, I will start to become the holy creature the Father has predestined me to be, to bring glory forever to His name.

The Spirit’s Role in Salvation: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 20


  1. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Spirit”?

First, that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son.1 Second, that He is also given unto me:2 by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits,3 comforts me,4 and shall abide with me forever.5

[1] Gen. 1:2; Isa. 48:16; 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Acts 5:3–4. [2] Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 1:21–22. [3] 1 Pet. 1:2; 1 Cor. 6:17. [4] Acts 9:31. [5] Jn. 14:16; 1 Pet. 4:14; *1 Jn. 4:13; *Rom. 15:13.

One of the texts the Catechism uses to prove the deity of the Spirit is 1 Corinthians 6:19, where Paul asserts that the believer is a temple to the Holy Spirit.  But only God has a right to a temple being erected to Him.  Therefore the Holy Spirit must be God.  But the Spirit is also distinct from God, because the Spirit is received by us from God, according to 1 Cor. 6:19.  So we have the doctrine of separate persons in the Trinity, yet persons who are equally God.

But this is no mere doctrinal abstraction.  In the passage, Paul is exhorting them against lawlessness (sexual immorality in particular), and to seek to be obedient to God.  There are many ins and outs of the whole argument that are beyond our scope here.  But in verse 19 he reminds them of something they should know already, that their bodies are temples to the Holy Spirit.   The Old Testament temple was the place where God made His presence known in symbolic and covenantal fashion to His people.  But the temple was always a shadow of something coming, something more real and permanent than an earthly building, and that came when the Spirit of God was poured out at Pentecost.  The presence of God at the old tabernacle was manifested by fire falling from heaven and consuming the sacrifice, a fire that was always kept burning.  At Pentecost, the Spirit descended like tongues of fire, showing the new consecration of God’s temple in every believer.

In Charles Wesley’s great hymn, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, the third verse says,

Come, Almighty, to deliver;

Let us all thy life receive;

Suddenly return, and never,

Nevermore thy temples leave.

The Spirit of God is the life of God’s people, and we have this promise, that Wesley evokes here, that after the Messiah comes, God would rebuild His temple and would never again leave it.  Pentecost is the fulfillment of that promise, which is ongoing in the hearts and lives of all those whom God calls to Himself.  We are all God’s temples, and God will never leave us.

God is pure and holy and will not allow His temple to be corrupted by idolatry and sin.  In the Old Testament that was a fearful threat, and ultimately the reason for the destruction of the nation was just this, their filling of the temple in Jerusalem with idols and immorality (Ezekiel 8).  In the New Testament, however, we have the promise of God that He would never again abandon His people, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross made good on that promise.  Therefore, God will work through His Spirit to cleanse His temple, to work the knowledge of life and the power to overcome sin in our hearts and minds.

That is the meaning of the word “sanctification”.  It really has two implications- one is to make morally righteous, and the other is to set apart for holy service.  Both come together here, for God, through His Spirit, sets us apart for His holy service, and in doing so makes us righteous.  He grants us strength and life to turn from sin, to understand better who He is and what He has made us to be, and in that knowledge to live our lives more and more according to His truth and for His glory.  He inhabits us as His temples, and then cleans us up so that we will glorify Him through holy service, as He intended.

Another way of saying this is just what the catechism says, that the Spirit of God makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits.  He works faith in me, which is to say He creates the capacity within me to understand and believe what Jesus has promised us in His Word.  So the Spirit of God communicates to me, in a mystical way, but through the mechanism of faith, the power of Christ’s perfected humanity, so that I become conformed to His image, more and more like Him every day.  He was and is the perfect servant of God, always doing all that His Father gave Him to do.  Being made like Him means becoming more and more perfect servants of God ourselves.

The work of the Spirit is too often turned into some transcendental, ecstatic experience, being worked up into some emotional, irrational frenzy.  This is to separate the work of the Spirit in salvation from the work of the Father and the Son, always a no-no in sound Trinitarian theology, and to deny that the Spirit of God is the Spirit of Truth, as the Scriptures say.  The work of salvation, decreed by the Father and achieved by the Son, is applied to us by the Spirit, so that the Trinity as a whole is perfectly united and God’s intention for salvation infallibly comes to pass.  We can rest comforted, as the Catechism says, in the assurance that God’s work will be complete, that it is His power that does it and not mine, and joyfully and in faith strive to obey Him in my life and partake of the Spirit’s power through the means He has given us.

The Great Comfort of Christ’s Glorification: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 19

51. What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us?
First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us,
His members;1 then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.2
[1] Eph. 4:10–12. [2] Ps. 2:9; Jn. 10:28–30; *1 Cor. 15:25–26; *Acts 2:33.

52. What comfort is it to you that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead”?
That in all my sorrows and persecutions, I, with uplifted head, look for the very One who offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven,1 who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation,2 but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.3
[1] Lk. 21:28; Rom. 8:23–24; Phil. 3:20–21; Tit. 2:13. [2] 2 Th ess. 1:6, 10; 1 Th ess. 4:16–18; Matt. 25:41. [3] *Acts 1:10–11; *Heb. 9:28.

All of these truths about who Christ is and what He has done and is doing, truths we have discussed over the last few Lord’s Day lessons, come together to work in the Christian life a profound comfort.

Life can be quite hard. Whether we have a lot of hardships in our life or somewhat fewer, whether we suffer greatly from the hatred of our societies or from the ravages of disease, whether we struggle with conflict in our marriages and families or experience financial hardship and want, the truth is that the world is not our home. God is very gracious in this present life and gives us many good gifts and luxuries, and yet the most privileged and pampered life will still fall far short of the glory we are created for. Above all we will all struggle with our own sin and misery. No amount of wealth and pleasure can overcome our own guilt over sin. And every believer will suffer the hostility, more or less obvious, of a world that hates the truth of God’s word.

If God is not sovereign and Christ is not ruling, then there can never really be any reason for the great tragedies we suffer. The death of a child will just be something that happened. You make a mistake, marry the wrong woman, and the rest of your life is ruined. Wicked men prosper by their wickedness and there is no answer, no cure for it, no reason. It’s just something that happens. No amount of man’s effort has ever fixed these problems.

But with Christ at the right hand of God, sending us His Spirit to guide us home and directing all the affairs of history to the accomplishment of His purpose and glory, we can take comfort even in the greatest sorrow. He has promised to return once He is done achieving everything He wishes to achieve in this present age of history, and Jesus always keeps His promises. So one day He’ll come back to earth, purge it with fire, right every wrong, and settle every score. He’ll raise all His people from the dead to enjoy eternal blessedness with Him.

A major theme of the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy is the exhortation not to be ashamed of Christ. This is especially true because Paul is in prison, a criminal and enemy of the Roman state. It would be easy in such a position to be embarrassed of the gospel, since one of its chief proponents had been denounced and defeated by its enemies. It’s just as easy to fall into that state of mind because of disease, poverty, or other hardship. But if Timothy understands the gospel and believes its promises, then he will not be ashamed. He need not be embarrassed that he trusted that promise, for notwithstanding Paul’s present state, Christ is glorified, has achieved His purpose and will fulfill His promise. Paul says, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that day.” (2 Tim. 1:12) And therefore he is not ashamed. This is a powerful statement of confidence that Christ will keep His promise and that Paul’s faith in Christ’s promise will not go unfulfilled. But Paul knows that He must look to the return of Christ for the fulfillment of that promise.

Persecution can take a lot of different forms. We are perhaps more keenly aware of the persecution of our brothers and sisters in places where it is illegal to be a Christian, and where Christians are beaten and imprisoned, where their church services run the risk of being discovered by the police or the local mob and attacked, or where Christians are even enslaved or beheaded for the faith. But persecution isn’t really about causing suffering. It’s about pressure, pressure to conform. When we in America live pretty comfortable lives and can worship freely, but are subjected to the constant ridicule and contempt of the dominant power, we experience a powerful form of pressure. The material comforts we enjoy can even make the pressure greater, as it provides additional levers to use against us, by threatening us with their loss. The success of that pressure will depend on how highly we as Christians value our material comforts, so be warned.

Sometimes we can get fooled by influence and power into thinking that the achievement of earthly goals is the purpose of the Christian life, but when we lack that influence, as is the case around the globe and increasingly in present-day America, it’s easy to fall into despair and become ashamed. Both errors are the result of looking to the present age for the fulfillment of the promise of the gospel, instead of to eternity. The victory of Christ is already accomplished, but this is the age of faith, not the age of sight. Faith shows us a victorious and sovereign Christ Who will preserve all of His people and advance His church throughout the world and throughout the age, and at the end will return to complete the accomplishment of all His plans for His complete triumph and the abundant reward of all those who put their trust in Him and who were not ashamed of the promise of His salvation.