Larger Catechism

You are currently browsing articles tagged Larger Catechism.

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Preparing for the Lord’s Supper

With no observable reflection of Presbyterian history on this November 14, we look at the necessary preparation which every Christian must have before they partake of the Lord’s Supper.  In colonial days and up to the present in some churches, there was a spiritual examination of every member of the congregation by the pastor as to their readiness to come to the Lord’s table.  Those who were found ready were given tokens, or little round metal pieces, which were then exchanged for the privilege of partaking of the bread and wine.  Those who failed that examination were forbidden to partake, and urged to do the necessary spiritual work to partake aright the next time the sacrament was offered.  Such practices are few and far apart in Reformed congregations and people today, though some Scottish and Irish Presbyterian churches continue the practice.

It is good to know then of a Larger Catechism which speaks to the need for self-examination so as to prepare ourselves properly for the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Larger Catechism 171 states, “They that receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are, before they come, to prepare themselves thereunto, by examining themselves of their being in Christ, of their sins and wants; of the truth and measure of their knowledge, faith, repentance; love to God and the brethren, charity to all men, forgiving those that have done them wrong; of their desires after Christ, and of their new obedience; and by renewing the exercise of these graces, by serious meditation, and fervent prayer.”

Self-examination!  Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:28 tells us that one must not come and partake of the Lord’s Supper without it.  “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”  (KJV)  Before partaking, examine yourself to see if you are worthy to partake of the elements of bread and juice.  The content of this self-examination is as follows.

First, are you really a child of God?  Have you by faith come to Christ, confessing your sins and your need of His saving grace and mercy?  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves. . . .” (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV).

Second, examine yourself of your sins and wants. Examine the living out of the faith that you profess. Are there sins of commission and omission found in you? If so, if you have failed to confess and acknowledge their presence in you, then do so. Separation from the sins which so easily beset us is needed before we partake of the Lord’s Supper.

Next, self-examination of the truth and measure, the reality and growth of our spiritual knowledge, faith, repentance, love both upward to God and outward to man, including charity to all, with forgiveness extended to those who have wronged us, our desires after Christ, and our practice of obedience to God and His Word.  Our Confessional fathers have given us a lot of areas to spiritually “chew upon”, but each and every one by self-examination can be used by the Holy Spirit to revive us spiritually, and prepare us for participation in the right observance of the Lord’s Supper.

When we find shortcomings, or as we find shortcomings in these graces, we can then renew ourselves in the exercise of them, by serious meditation and fervent prayer.

Words to live by:  Before you come, whether it is the preceding week, the Saturday night before the Lord’s Day, the Sunday time proceeding church, or the preparatory service conducted by the church, here are your spiritual “marching orders” of preparatory attitudes and actions. Christians today need to pay closer spiritual attention to preparing for their observance of the Lord’s table. How will you do so?

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 13 – 14

Through the Standards:  The necessity of baptism

WCF 28:5
“Although it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Celebrations at a Memorial Service

With few Presbyterian historical events to remember on this date, we turn our attention to Shorter Catechism question and answer number 96.  It asks, “What is the Lord’s Supper?” and answers “The Lord’s Supper is a Sacrament, wherein, by giving and receiving bread and wine, according to Christ’s appointment, his death is showed forth; and the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.”

Here is the other Sacrament after the initial one of baptism.  Its essence is by “giving and receiving bread and wine,” Christ’s death is “showed forth.”  In one phrase, the truth of the substitutionary atonement of Christ dying in place of sinners is represented.  Christ clearly appointed that meaning when he instituted it near the end of His earthly life.

The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is put forth as a spiritual edification or building up of the Lord’s people. That this is so, is made clear by our Confessional fathers when they specifically state that “the worthy receivers are, not after a corporal and carnal manner, but by faith, make partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.”

The churches of the Reformation divided over the manner of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. Roman Catholics believe that the actual body and blood of Christ are present in the bread and wine. Lutherans believe that the actual body and blood of Christ are in, with, and under the elements. Presbyterians believe that Christ is spiritually present in the Lord’s Supper, while He in His physical body is in heaven as a glorified body, seated at the right hand of God. So, when we partake of the elements of bread and wine, we do  in a spiritual manner partake of His body and blood. Rightly partaking of them will strengthen, encourage, and spiritually build us up in the totality of the Christian faith and walk.

Words to live by: In succeeding days, when we have nothing to report of historical persons, places, and things of Presbyterianism, we will look at the Larger Catechism’s treatment as to what duties we are to perform before, during, and after our observance of the Lord’s Supper. For now, do not be carelessly absent when the Lord’s Supper is offered at your congregation. It is a means of grace to our souls, a channel of blessings of the covenant of grace.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 10 – 12

Through the Standards:  The subjects of baptism according to the Shorter Catechism

WSC 95 — “To whom is baptism to be administered?
A.  Baptism is not to be administered to any that are out of the visible church, till they profess their faith in Christ, and obedience to him; but the infants of such as are members of the visible church are to be baptized.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

Have You Been Improving Your Baptism?

Without a meaningful Presbyterian topic on this November 10th, we close our out confession and catechism study on Baptism by noting Larger Catechism question and answer 167.  It deals with a needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism.  It states, “The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration  of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privilege and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.”

Neither one of the other creedal statements in the Confession or Shorter Catechism  make reference to this duty of improving our baptism.  There is one phrase in the Confession which leads into it however.  It is when our confessional fathers state in chapter 28, section 6, that “the efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time, wherein it is administered.”  Frankly, this false concept that we Presbyterians tie the efficacy of Baptism to the exact time the infant or adult is baptized, is one of the reasons why people oppose this sacrament.  But we believe that baptism is not tied to the time it is initiated in a person’s life, but that baptism applies to the whole life of the baptized person.  We are to improve our baptism, that is experience its meaning and work out its application to our spiritual lives.  The fact that this is misunderstood so much shows in the Fathers making reference to “the needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism.”  It was needful and much neglected duty back in the seventeenth century, as it continues to be today in the twenty-first century.

Especially are we to fulfil this duty when we are in times of temptation and/or present when the vows are taken at baptism of others, including infants.  In the first case, when we are tempted by sin, we need to remember that we are God’s people, not  only in name, but also in practice.  We have covenanted, or our parents have covenanted for us, that we are to live godly and righteous in this world.  The other occasion of improving our baptism is when the sacrament takes place, and we hear the questions charged to either parents or adults, overhearing their affirmative answers.  We can reflect on our answers taken in the past,  indeed, we can reaffirm our covenant vows at that time again with respect to ourselves or our children.

The rest of the catechism answer deals with several ways of  improving our baptism. It speaks of being humbled for the remnant of the sin nature still within us.  It describes our growing more and more in the realization of pardon of sin.  We are to be constantly drawing strength from the atonement of Christ, to put sin to death and not have it reign over us, as well as saving and sanctifying grace being realized more and more.  We are to conduct ourselves in holiness and righteousness as we live by faith and for faith.  And one last point is given.  We are to walk in brotherly love, understanding that we are one body.

Also this day:

Words to live by:  It is very possible that you as a baptism person did not know that there was to be improvement in your baptism.  Well, now you do!  Let it be said of you that this improvement of your baptism is to be no longer a neglected duty in your spiritual life.  Indeed, let it be a needful duty for you, your family, and your friends.

Through the Scriptures:  Acts 1, 2

Through the Standards: Mode of baptism

W.C.F. 28:3

“Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person.”

Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

How to Listen to a Sermon

Finding no persons, places, or things in Presbyterian history on October 16, the companion catechism to our focus on October 12—about how your preacher is to proclaim sound doctrine—is Larger Catechism No. 160.  It deals with how you are to listen to a sermon.  It says, “It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God: meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.”

Presupposed in this answer is that we “attend” unto the preached word with our attendance in the services of the Lord’s Day.  Our Lord was the Son of God, and yet it is said in Luke 4:16 that his “custom” or  habit was to be in His place of worship on the sabbath day.  We are to  not to “forsake or neglect to assemble together [as believers].” (Amplified of Hebrews 10:25)

As we attend to it, we are to do it “with diligence, preparation, and prayer.”   In other words, simply warming a pew or chair by our posture does not fulfill our duty with respect to the preached Word. The church member, and even the visitor, should not be passive, but active to the sermon.  You would not be persistently late to show up for your work or school, so don’t come late to the worship of God, and disrupt the other worshipers.  Preparation to worship the Lord is necessary also.  Take care of your business or assignments so that you won’t be reviewing them during the sermon or planning them.
Are you prepared to pray the prayer of the Psalmist David “Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.” (Psalm 119:18 NASB)

Should the worshiper accept everything the preacher says?  Certainly not!  Our confessional fathers urged us to be like the Bereans of old (See Acts 17:11) and “examine what they hear by the scriptures.”   You should test what you hear by the Bible.

But  having said that, the catechism speaks of “receiving the truth with faith, love, meekness,and readiness of mind, as the word of God.”  In other words, it is important to have a receptive heart and mind, not a continual critical heart and mouth with respect to the preaching of the Word.  This will be facilitated if we learn how to “meditate” and “confer of it,” like what does it mean, and what does it mean to me.  A discussion in the family as to what was the application of it to each members of the family.  Some churches encourage Bible studies on sermons heard the previous week, which is profitable indeed.

Hiding it in our life and bringing forth the fruit of it in those lives, are two neglected exercises in modern-day Christians.  Yet both are biblical.   David prayed in Psalm 119:11 “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”  James in his book, chapter 1, verse 22 wrote about “proving yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”  In other words, show that you are a Christian by doing what you have heard in church.

All this is required — it is your duty — with respect to the preaching Word of God.

Words to live by:  Happy is the church whose minister preaches sound doctrine in the manner of Larger Catechism 157 and whose members listen to the preached word in the manner of Larger Catechism 160.  In fact, write this answer on the flyleaf of your Bibles, and review your reception of the Word in comparison to it.  If you have a good memory, commit the answer to memory.  God’s Word is too important, and the challenges of the world, the flesh, and the devil are so serious, that the Church cannot afford to have lukewarm Christians.

Through the Scriptures: Matthew 5 – 7

Through the Standards:  Proof texts for the Church

Ephesians 4:11, 12
“And His gifts were [varied: He Himself appointed and gave men to us] some to be apostles (special messengers,) some prophets (inspired messengers), some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers.  His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ’s body (the church).” (Amplified)

Matthew 16:18
“And I (Jesus) tell you, you are Peter [Greek: Petros — a large piece of rock], and on this rock [Greek, petra — huge rock like Gibraltar] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades (the powers of the infernal region) shall not overpower it [or be strong to its detriment or hold out against it]. (Amplified)


Tags: , , ,

This Day in Presbyterian History:

A Reminder to the Preachers 

With persons, places, and things of historic Presbyterianism difficult to find for this October 12, I want to follow our last devotional in the Larger Catechism (See October 4) with another emphasis on the Word of God, only this time with an emphasis to the preaching pastors of our readership.  Larger Catechism number 159 reads: “They that are called to labor in the ministry of the word, are to preach sound doctrine, diligently, in season and out of season; plainly, not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power; faithfully, making known the whole counsel of God; wisely, applying themselves to the necessities and capacities of the hearers; zealously, and fervent love to God and the souls of his people; sincerely, aiming at his glory, and their conversion, edification, and salvation.”

What strikes this writer first is the biblical nature of this catechism, taking phrases straight out of Scripture. Titus 2:1 speaks of “the things which become sound doctrine.” (KJV)  Apollos, in Acts 18:25, “spoke and taught diligently the things of the Lord.” (KJV)  The phrase “in season and out of season” come literally from 2 Timothy 4:2. That we pastors are to speak plainly thought “not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” is right out of 1 Corinthians 2:4. Making known “the whole counsel of God,” was Paul’s testimony to the Ephesians in Acts 20:28. Inspired Scripture can be found in all the remaining phrases as well.

Standing out second of all, to this retired pastor  are all the adverbs which describe the manner of our preaching, fellow pastors. We are to preach “diligently,” “plainly,” “faithfully,” “wisely,” “zealously,” and “sincerely.” Now here is a check list for us on Monday morning, as we listen again to the tape recording of our sermons the previous Sunday. (I once had the embarrassing case of falling asleep, listening to my recorded sermon the following day.  If I did that to my own preaching, what did the people do when they listened to it the first time?)  Review the adverbs of our answer, and ask yourself, do those characterize my proclamation in the pulpit?

Last, are the ends of my preaching those mentioned in this Larger Catechism?  Am I preaching sound doctrine in season and out of season?  If my people took one of those tests so often mentioned in our newspapers, would they know anything more than the poor records of Americans?  Am I depending on the Spirit and His power, and not in my own wisdom?  Is the whole counsel of God my focus, or am I riding some theological hobby-horse over and over again? Am I conscious of my people’s spiritual necessities and capacities, resulting from my in-home visitation with them? Or am I preaching over their theological heads and  hearts instead of down to their level? When it gets down to it, do I love God and my people being the people of God?  Do I aim at God’s glory, and if so, is He happy with my sermons? Is the final end their conversion, edification, and salvation?

These are questions which you alone might answer. Or, if you are really courageous, take them to a loved one, or even your ruling elders, or a beloved brother in the church, and find out their answers, and whether they agree with your answers.

Words to live by:  It is a good idea to write this catechism on the flyleaf of your Bible, and refer to it often, or place it in a noticeable place in your study, so you can use it as a guide in sermon preparation. Further than that, I tried to read a good sermon “how to” book at least once a year, taking from it principles and practices which I could incorporate into my sermons. And if you are a layperson who is reading this devotional guide this day, make the above catechism answer your prayer for your pastor in his pulpit ministry. Encourage him in these statements and compliment him when he engages in them. Lay the others matters before God. In short, your regular prayers for your pastor in the pulpit can make him a powerhouse for God in the hearts of God’s people.

Through the Scriptures:  Nehemiah 7 – 9

Through the Standards:  Definition of the visible church

WCF 25:2
“The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.”

WLC 62 — “What is the visible church?
A. The visible church is a society made up of all such as in all ages and places of the world do profess the true religion, and of their children.”


Tags: , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »