Have you ever had a conversation with someone where you are using the same words but seem to be having two different conversations? Unfortunately, this probably happens a lot more often than you think it does. People use the same words for different meanings all the time; over time, the cultural significance of a word can become muddled. For example, we use the word apologize all the time, what we typically mean by that word these days is to show remorse for what you have done. You might tell your children to apologize to each other for fighting, and what you want them to do is say sorry and become friends again. But that is not what the word has more traditionally meant. In the original Webster's dictionary, the 1828 edition, Webster defined apology as "An excuse; something said or written in defense or extenuation of what appears to others wrong, or unjustifiable." In essence, an apology is giving the reason for what happened. What we can see from this is that it is very important to know what we mean by the words we use. Last week we talked about the importance and necessity of true faith, but we can have true faith in all kinds of things. Today we will look at what we, who call ourselves Christians, must have true faith in.
What is Then Necessary for Christians to Believe?
Question 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks "What is then necessary for Christians to believe?" The answer is "All things promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic undoubted Christian faith briefly teach us." From the outset, we have a word here that we use differently than the authors of the Catechism used it. Catholic. The word catholic is the Latin word for universal, the catholic church historically has been understood the be the true church no matter where it is located. These days we use the word catholic as shorthand for Roman Catholic, notice I even use different capitalization. One is a term that describes many different churches, and the other is a specific group that calls themselves Roman Catholic. But what we mean in the catechism is the universal faith. This is the faith that Jude is talking about when he writes "Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). The point here is that there is no new faith. What we are to believe today is not different from what the Apostles taught or what the men of the Reformation believed.
What Are These Articles?
Simply put the essential articles of the Christian faith are found in what is known as the Apostles Creed. The writers of the catechism included it under question 23.
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe a holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
11. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting.
These are the things that we must have true faith in. Over the next several weeks we will take about each one of these 12 points and why they are important. If you have been reading the devotionals since the beginning you will notice that we have been over these once before. We are going to go over them again because they are essential truths we need to be reminded of constantly.
It is good to say that we have faith, but it matters what we mean by that faith. It is important to be able to communicate what that faith is in. The gospel message is essential, without it there is no salvation. Paul tells us in the first chapter of Romans that the gospel is the power of God to bring people to salvation. There is no salvation apart from the gospel message. These 12 articles are the essence of the gospel message. I hope you learn them and love them as have many faithful Christians who have come before us. Memorize them, so that you do not forget their importance and have true faith in them. True living faith that stands firm no matter what waves come to try and wash us away.
Soli Deo Gloria