The New City Catechism Question 3

Question: How Many Persons Are There in God?

Answer: There are three persons in the one true and living God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

 

Importance of The Doctrines of the Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity has been one of the most foundational, essential beliefs of the Christian church throughout our history. This doctrine was taught by the apostles and by God himself through his word. And specific beliefs regarding the Trinity were clarified by councils and creeds of the early church.

 

Nature, Persons, Substance, and Essence

One necessary distinction that is made is that between persons and being. God is three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But, he is one being, meaning that he has one nature, substance, and essence.

 

We do not have three individual gods; Christianity is a monotheistic religion. As stated by the Shema from Deuteronomy 6, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Nevertheless, our unified God exists in three distinct persons.

 

Following is an explanation of the divinity of each of the three persons of the Trinity.

 

The Father as God

The first person of the Trinity is the Father. 1 Corinthians 8:6 says that “for us, there is one God, the Father. All things are from him, and we exist for him.”

 

Not as much of a defense needs to be made for the deity of the Father. This is clear throughout all of scripture and is not disputed by any who claim to be Christians.

 

The Son as God

In John 8, a group of Jews was challenging Jesus’ authority and teaching. They asked Jesus “You aren’t fifty years old yet, and you’ve seen Abraham?” Abraham had died over 2,000 years before Jesus was born, yet Jesus talked as if they knew each other. To their questions Jesus responded, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”

 

Jesus response was an echo of what God said to Moses when asked what his name is: I AM who I AM.” Jesus was claiming to be the God of Abraham, the God who spoke to Moses, and the God who existed before any of creation. He is claiming to be God.

 

Moreover, Paul teaches Christ’s divinity in Colossians when he says “The entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ.”

 

Not only in these passages, but also in many other passages and in many other ways does the Bible teach the divinity of Jesus.

 

The Spirit as God

The Bible also identifies the Holy Spirit as God in many passages. One of the clearest is when the apostle Peter rebukes Ananias saying “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit… You have not lied to people but to God.”

 

This passage shows the belief of the early church that the Holy Spirit was God. This is further confirmed in other passages throughout the Bible so that there is no doubt regarding the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

 

Historical Confessions

Many confessions and creeds have been written by the church from its beginnings to modernity that affirm and clarify the orthodox Christian beliefs on the doctrine of the Trinity. Some of the more well-known include the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

 

The Athanasian Creed states that “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Persons of the Father: another of the Son: and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead… is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.”

 

Not Neglecting Worship

Our Triune God created us to worship and glorify him. When we neglect any person of the Trinity, we cease to worship God rightly, and we are not accomplishing our true calling.

 

The scriptures have laid out for us what we must believe about God. Therefore, deviating from the doctrine of the Trinity leaves us as idolaters and not true worshippers of God.

 

Our job is not to understand the complexities of God, nor is it to be able to fully explain what is meant to be a mystery to us. We cannot understand everything about God, and some things are left unexplained because God intends it that way.

 

Our job is to be faithful in holding steadfast to the things that God has revealed in his Word. This means being faithful to the worshipping our one God who exists eternally in three distinct persons. All of whom deserve our reverence and worship.

 

Unity Throughout History

We should also seek to be unified with all of those in the church for the last 2,000 years. This is why adherence to orthodoxy is so vital to us. This is why studying and memorizing confessions, creeds, and catechisms are crucial to us. These documents, these doctrines are the chain links that connect us with those have gone before us and those who will follow us as God continues to build his church on earth.

 

By Brooks Szewczyk

Pastoral Intern

The New City Catechism Question 2

Question: What is God?

 

Answer: God is the creator and sustainer of everyone and everything. He is eternal, infinite, and unchangeable in his power and perfection, goodness and glory, wisdom, justice, and truth. Nothing happens except through him and by his will.

 

When it comes to the question What is God a foundational question is being asked. It may sound odd to ask the question what about a being, but it’s an important question. The question of who is a question about being and person, but when we ask what is God the aim is to define God. This is important because the question of who is God cannot be answered until we know what is God, just as we cannot identify who is a human until we know what is human.

 

So then, to answer this question, there are a few significant points that we need to consider. To define what is God we need to look at some of the attributes that characterize God. First and foremost, God is the creator of everyone and everything. He made everything that is in existence. From the birds in the sky, fish in the sea, and the creature that walks on land. God created the Earth. God made the sun and the stars. The creation account is found in Genesis 1. Genesis does not stand alone in this profession of God being the creator, but all throughout the Old and New Testament speaks to this truth (cf. Nehemiah 9:6; Isaiah 66:2, Colossians 1:16-17). Knowing that God is the creator is an important truth. If God is the creator of all things, then it must be that He is uncreated. He is not the product of another being that is larger than himself. If this were the case, then God would not be worthy of our worship and adoration. Because God created everyone and everything, and God is uncreated, then it stands to reason that God is also eternal. God has no beginning, nor no end. He has existed, and He will always exist. He is completely independent and relies on nothing for his own existence. If God’s existence was contingent on something or someone else, there is, once again, something or someone else deserving of our worship. As the Psalmist rightly states in Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth,  or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

 

Here are several additional defining attributes of God. He is omniscient. For instance, 1 John 3:20 states that God “knows everything.” God is also all-powerful, or omnipresent. Psalm 115:3 shows us that God can do, in fact, does, whatever He pleases. God is omnipresent. Psalm 139: 7-10 tells us that wherever the Psalmist chooses to go and hide, God will be there. Thus He is infinitely everywhere all the time. A god who lacks any of these attributes is not worthy of our worship.

 

Last, it is necessary to talk about God’s unchangeable nature. God does not change like us (Malachi 3:6). This is a beautiful truth. A fickle God could love us one moment than smite the next like many of the other gods of false religions. Instead, we know that God is good (Psalm 136:1). God is wise (Romans 11:33). God is just (Romans 3:25-26). God is true (John 3:33). God is love (1 John 4:8). And God is holy (Isaiah 6:3). While this is not an exhaustive list of God’s nature, we can be sure that these attributes of God will always be true. God will never change nor be evil. Nor will He be unjust, a liar, a fool, or wicked. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

And why is it important to know the attributes of God? Why is it necessary to know, “What is God?” As alluded to before, it is essential to understand the characteristics of God so that we can answer, Who is God? We can know the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are God. But the what provides the definition for the who.

 

Along with this, our worship should be affected by meditating on what is God. When we think on all that God is, it should drive us to our knees in adoration, awe, and wonder. Look to the stars in the dead of a clear night. Look at the moon. Soak in their splendor, brightness, beauty and know that it is God who made them. This is a type of worship that can be practiced minute by minute by what we see. And it doesn’t end here. Meditate, daily, on God’s infinitude, his eternal being, his nature. Remind yourself of his glory and greatness, and each day worship our magnificent God.

 

By Logan Kane

Pastoral Resident

The New City Catechism – Question 1

Q: What is our only hope in life and death?

A: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Main Idea

Adam and Eve were created knowing that their only hope in life and death was found in God, their Creator. But they eventually turned away from God by disobeying God’s command (Genesis 3:1-7). And since Adam and Eve’s sin mankind continually find their hope for life and death in anything other than God. From materialism, intellectual assent, or inward self-reliance, hope has been misplaced. Mankind hopes in anything but the God who created them. Sin has a powerful way of deceiving the heart and mind. However, God in his mercy and grace provides a more powerful way for a person to place hope in life and death properly. It says in 2 Corinthians 5: 21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus Christ took on our sin when he died on the cross. Jesus defeated the power of sin when he rose from the grave. And through saving faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ hope in life and death can be properly understood. Romans 14:7-8 sums up what it means for Christians to find their all-satisfying hope in Jesus.

 

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

 

In short, all people ultimately belong to the Sovereign God of the universe. But only by faith in Jesus Christ can a person understand that they belong to God and, therefore have true lasting hope in this life, and in eternity.

 

How Do I Apply Question 1?

To know where you place your only hope has remarkable consequences. If your only hope in life and death is in the triune God than what you do, what you say, how you spend time and money will orientate around God. You will not live to please yourself, but you will live to please God. If you know that you belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God than how you view eternity changes. You will experience this temporal life with eternity in view. Christians need to flee the temptation to live unto themselves, unlike Adam and Eve. Instead strive, by the grace of God, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, live wholly unto God.

 

Soli Deo Gloria.

Catechism Intro: The Truth of God for Our Mind and Heart

What is a Catechism?

Among many evangelical circles, the word catechism might be foreign. Perhaps even archaic. But catechisms are wonderful. The practice of catechesis is a means to internalize biblical truth. A good catechism is theologically rich, expresses the attributes of God, provide color to the reading of Scripture, and helps a person understand God’s creation, mankind’s sin, and God’s plan of redemption. In greek catechism means “to teach orally or to instruct by word of mouth.” In Galatians 6:6 Paul writes, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.” The Greek word for “the one who is taught” is katechoumenos, which means the one who is criticized.1 Therefore, the aim of using The New City Catechism is to be taught the truth of God from the Scriptures. The question and answer format of catechisms reflect the oral teaching and learning. But with a much higher literacy rate in the 21st century than from the 1st century, catechism can be learned from what we read, hear, and say.

 

Why use a Catechism?

The use of a catechism isn’t as foreign as one may think. Catechisms have been in use for centuries. Various catechisms aided the growth and movement of the Reformation. The Heidelberg Catechism of 1563 and Westminster Shorter and Longer catechism of 1648 stand out. Timothy Keller lists out three reasons why catechisms are significant and why churches need to rediscover catechism.

 

Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrine of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life. 2

 

Catechisms are lovely gospel truths which shape the mind and heart. Catechisms, by its nature, involves more than one person. While a person can sit down and memorize the question and answer it is ideal that catechisms are learned in groups. From a reader-response on a Sunday morning sermon to a Father disciplining his child, catechism invites community.

 

How will Catechism be used at Redemption Hill Church?

It is because of the reasons listed above, and many others, that Redemption Hill Church embraces catechism. In particular, we will be using the New City Catechism. You can expect to see catechism as apart of our call to worship on Sunday mornings; in Redemption Hill Kids; and parents have the opportunity to disciple their children at home. The goal is to connect and integrate what parents and children hear at church to foster discipleship and family devotions at home.

 

This blog will serve as a resource to think deeply about the truth of God and to present possible points of application and to connect theological truth with Scripture.

 

New City Catechism Resources

There are cheap and free resources for The New City Catechism. I encourage parents to download the app and to purchase The New City Catechism for Kids. The app is wonderful. It provides memorable songs that young children will enjoy.

 

Preach, Pray, and People

I recently watched a short video by The Gospel Coalition where Kevin DeYoung was featured. DeYoung shared his thoughts on what his time in seminary did not teach him about ministry. In this short clip, he also stated three areas he felt called to focus on when he entered the ministry. In typical alliteration, DeYoung focuses on preaching, prayer, and people. Since most good ideas are borrowed from other people, I’ve decided to borrow DeYoung’s ministerial focus and apply it to myself. Now, in my own words, I want to explain what it means for me to preach, pray, and be with people as a pastor at Redemption Hill Church.

 

Preach  

One of my favorite quotes on preaching comes from John Calvin. “Wherever we find the Word of God surely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there, it is not to be doubted, is a church of God.” I’ll table the conversation about the sacraments (Calvin is referencing communion and baptism) and focus on why preaching is central to a local church.

 

If the Bible is the revelation from God, then it needs to be opened up and shared with the church. The pastor preaches from God’s revealed Word and the congregation hears the preached Word. When God’s Word is preached dead hearts can come alive and weary hearts are strengthened. It is the delightful duty of the pastor to open up the Bible to show the church the glories of the gospel of God. When the pastor rightly points to Christ from the Bible, the people fall more in love with their Savior.

 

The Bible shows us more of Christ, and it also trains and teaches the church how to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). Second Timothy 3:16 tells us the value of having God’s Word preached and heard. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Therefore, all of the Bible, old and new testaments are for the good of the church.

 

Pray

The apostle Paul demonstrates for us the importance of a pastor to be praying for the church. In his introductions to the Colossian and Thessalonian churches, he says, “We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you (Colossians 1:3).” And, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers (1 Thessalonians 1:2).” Paul’s emphasis on pray is repeated throughout his letters. Prayer is a discipline, and it is also a reflection of his love and affection for the local church. How should a pastor pray for members of the local church? Let’s allow Ephesians to be the guide. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people” (Ephesians 1:18).

 

A pastor, an undershepherd to the Chief Shepherd, can pray that the sheep of His local fold will know more of God today than they did yesterday.

 

People

Pastors need to be about preaching, prayer and have a passion for people. Having a passion for people can go in several directions, but I’ll keep my focus on people in the local church. A pastor must be about caring for people that are in his local church. Caring includes rejoicing at the birth of a child and grieving when there is death in the family. It’s about marrying two love-birds and then walking with them through a hard season of marriage five years after the wedding date. A pastor should strive to know the people in his church. But to know his people he must be with his people.

 

The metaphor of pastor/shepherd and church member/sheep is helpful. The smell of the sheep is on the shepherd, and the smell of the shepherd is on the sheep. Richard Baxter, a 17th-century puritan pastor, modeled the importance of knowing the smell of his sheep. Twice a week he visited people in his church. During his visits, Baxter offered counsel and instruction from the scriptures. Baxter would make his way through the entire church directory and then start the cycle over when he finished with letter Z. While pastoring in the 21st century is different from the 17th century, Baxter’s focus on knowing and caring for the members of his local church is exemplary.

 

There are other facets of pastoral ministry. DeYoung even mentions the need for a pastor to be patient in ministry (And this point is well taken). But if a pastor can hone in on using his time on the preaching of God’s Word, praying for members, and caring for people in his church, it will be time well served.

 

Soli deo Gloria

Every Day On Mission

God is on mission to redeem his people through Jesus Christ. We read about God’s mission in the scriptures where we also read that the gospel mission is the message of the church. Since my seminary days, this theological statement has shaped how I read the Bible and how I understand the mission of God.

 

I have made this statement several times over the years. It has a threefold emphasis: 1) God’s mission. 2) The location where we read about God’s mission. 3) And the role of the church in God’s mission to redeem elect sheep (John 10:3). It’s the third emphasis that I want to highlight by thinking about how the extraordinary gospel works through ordinary people.

 

American culture celebrates the extraordinary and looks past the ordinary. Local churches in America tend to do the same. Pompous and grandiose Easter services dominate the spring. Christmas Eve services include real live camels and a life-sized manger scene. And in between C and E, Sunday services resembles a rock concert with strobe lights and the fog machine. I am easily amused, so I get it. But in all the extraordinary events that dominate the 21st-century American church, the ordinary events of gospel kindness and hospitality are routinely lost. Evan at church. The command to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31) becomes giving an Easter invitation to said smoke and light show but not holding the door for the elderly at the supermarket, or inviting your neighbor to your house for a meal. The message of the gospel is getting lost in the smoke and strobe lights.

 

Muse with me for a moment. In Acts 16 we read about spiritually extraordinary moments that resulted in ordinary responses. God opened the heart of Lydia through the ministry of the apostle Paul (v. 14). How did she respond to the gospel? Lydia was baptized, and then she immediately opened up her home to Paul and his companions. Lydia began to understand what it means to be on mission with God by demonstrating biblical hospitality. No strobe lights. No super extra special Christmas Eve service with live camels. Lydia simply responded by ordinary means after the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to her heart.

 

The Philippian Jailer was also saved (v. 33) through the ministry of Paul. You can read the remarkable narrative in Acts 16. And look at the ordinary response of the Philippian Jailer. He was baptized like Lydia. He also took care of the wounds of his new friends (v. 33). The Philippian Jailer fed Paul and his friends (v. 34). And because of the extraordinary message of the gospel the Philippian Jailer rejoiced! Again, after you cut through the noise offered by many 21st century churches, what is left? Jesus.

 

When we read the book of Acts, Paul’s extraordinary ministry dominates the pages as he traversed through ancient Achaia, Asia, Galatia, etc. And it’s good to look to Paul as an example as one who looked to Christ (1 Corinthians 1:11). But do not look past the seemingly ordinary response to the gospel of saints like Lydia and the Philippian Jailer. It is the ordinary response to the mission of God that the gospel typically goes forth and we can let God handle the extraordinary.