How Our Love for the Means of Grace Show Our Heart for God

Good Morning,

If we were to note one of the doctrines of Christianity that was somewhat missing from the shorter catechism it would be the twin blessings of the Church and her worship. It is not that the WSC did not care about it. There are certain advantages to being the Larger catechism. The opportunity has arisen in the WLC where the writers can now introduce this particular aspect of the life of the believer. Our divines are interested in helping men and women know what to do with the convictions of sin they have felt from the deep, and clear, expositions of the law they read in the Ten Commandments from Q. 91 through Q. 152. God’s work in His word is to bring people to Christ. As 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” All godly ministers have (or at least should have) the same desire, so it should surprise us not that our standards provide a warm invitation to close with the Redeemer and find peace in Him.

God has given ways, or what we call means or instruments to see that sinners might know the way to the redemption purchased by Jesus. They are not complicated, nor are they via secret handshakes or flashy showcases. The plain use of words through the power of the Holy Spirit is the manner in which He seeks that the lost might be found. Key to understanding the beauty of New Testament worship is being reminded that the shadows have passed. Our pattern for worship today is to be found in the exile life of the synagogue as we await the return of Christ. It is not the Temple of sacrifices and trumpets, but the simple exposition and praise of the word of God for men. The Church gets it wrong when it thinks it needs to gussy up the message of salvation. However, before we go too much into the explaining let’s go to the Q/A’s:

Q. 153. What doth God require of us, that we may escape his wrath and curse due to us by reason of the transgression of the law?

A. That we may escape the wrath and curse of God due to us by reason of the transgression of the law, he requires of us repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, and the diligent use of the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation.

Q. 154. What are the outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation?

A. The outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of his mediation, are all his ordinances; especially the word, sacraments, and prayer; all which are made effectual to the elect for their salvation.

There is a distinction made at the beginning of Q.153 that needs clarified. The terms Outward and Inward are both important, but fundamentally different, and not necessarily in the way you might think. First of all no one in the Reformed faith believes that a person can be reasoned or argued into the kingdom of God alone. The Scriptures declare that while the minister plants the seed and another waters the ground it is the Lord who gives growth. (1 Cor. 3:5-6). The success of gospel preaching begins and ends with the electing grace of the free gift. Yet that does not then mean the work of the preacher is immaterial to the convincing of a man or woman towards their need of Christ. The declaration of the word of God must be done well and with purpose. The inward work of the Spirit necessitates the outward communication of the way unto eternal life. It is a truism that if you want corn in the fall you have to put corn in the ground in the spring.

As we think about the worship of God’s people we also need to bring transparency to what we are talking of when the discussion comes to worship. We are describing what happens when the body of Christ gathers together on the Christian Sabbath (Rev. 1:10) to commune as one. There is no sense in the Bible where anyone can worship either by themselves or in a way not provided by the Lord Himself. No one who makes the claim that “time spent with God” in the woods, in the mountains, or on the golf course, or worse yet in the tailgate lot at Bank of America Stadium has received that information from the Scriptures, but from a different father. There is a call to separation which takes place in the house of prayer on the Lord’s Day which illustrates for us the means mentioned in Q. 154. The word, sacraments, and of course prayer are made effectual only if you are present for them. To choose worldly recreations over the grace offered in corporate worship is an expression of idolatry, and it also belies a misunderstanding of the call to worship our God gives to His covenant Church, for the worship on Sunday is for the Church primarily.

In closing, it is important to remember that when we hear the word diligent in the closing of Q. 153, that desire to be regularly in the presence of the Lord comes first from a conviction of our true need. No one needs the physician unless they are sick. Jesus hasn’t come to call righteous men to repentance, but sinners. If you can hear the word read in worship and not be impressed in your need of a savior then that is not a good sign. What I and the catechism are speaking to here is not an emotional response to the Bible, a pentacostalesque movement of the spirit. The meaning is that of Romans 7:9, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” The goodness of worship and the reading of the word and the singing of the psalms and the communion of the saints along with the signs of the covenant found in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper all work in their own unique and significant way to show us Christ. The question is if we are interested enough to listen, be corrected, and find peace in His shed blood?

Here is another take:

Blessings in Christ,

Rev. Benjamin Glaser

Pastor, Bethany ARP Church

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