Beliefs and Testimonies of the UCC

 

Beliefs

Testimonies


 

What we [the UCC churches] believe:

From:
http://www.ucc.org/about-us/what-we-believe.html

January 25, 2011

 

  1. We believe in the triune God: Creator, resurrected Christ, the sole Head of the church, and the Holy Spirit, who guides and brings about the creative and redemptive work of God in the world.

 

  1. We believe that each person is unique and valuable. It is the will of God that every person belong to a family of faith where they have a strong sense of being valued and loved.

 

  1. We believe that each person is on a spiritual journey and that each of us is at a different stage of that journey.

 

  1. We believe that the persistent search for God produces an authentic relationship with God, engendering love, strengthening faith, dissolving guilt, and giving life purpose and direction.

 

  1. We believe that all of the baptized 'belong body and soul to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.' No matter who – no matter what – no matter where we are on life's journey – notwithstanding race, gender, sexual orientation, class or creed – we all belong to God and to one worldwide community of faith. All persons baptized – past, present and future – are connected to each other and to God through the sacrament of baptism. We baptize during worship when the community is present because baptism includes the community's promise of 'love, support and care' for the baptized – and we promise that we won't take it back – no matter where your journey leads you.

 

  1. We believe that all people of faith are invited to join Christ at Christ's table for the sacrament of Communion. Just as many grains of wheat are gathered to make one loaf of bread and many grapes are gathered to make one cup of wine, we, the many people of God, are made one in the body of Christ, the church. The breaking of bread and the pouring of wine reminds us of the costliness of Christ's sacrifice and the discipleship to which we are all called. In the breaking of bread, we remember and celebrate Christ's presence among us along with a 'cloud of witnesses' – our ancestors, family and friends who have gone before us. It is a great mystery; we claim it by faith.

 

  1. We believe the UCC is called to be a united and uniting church. "That they may all be one." (John 17:21) "In essentials–unity, in nonessentials–diversity, in all things–charity," These UCC mottos survive because they touch core values deep within us. The UCC has no rigid formulation of doctrine or attachment to creeds or structures. Its overarching creed is love. UCC pastors and teachers are known for their commitment to excellence in theological preparation, interpretation of the scripture and justice advocacy. Even so, love and unity in the midst of our diversity are our greatest assets.

 

  1. We believe that God calls us to be servants in the service of others and to be good stewards of the earth's resources. 'To believe is to care; to care is to do.'

 

  1. We believe that the UCC is called to be a prophetic church. As in the tradition of the prophets and apostles, God calls the church to speak truth to power, liberate the oppressed, care for the poor and comfort the afflicted.

 

10.      We believe in the power of peace, and work for nonviolent solutions to local, national, and international problems.

 

11.      We are a people of possibility. In the UCC, members, congregations and structures have the breathing room to explore and to hear ... for after all, God is still speaking, ... 

 

Testimonies, not tests of the faith

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/

The United Church of Christ embraces a theological heritage that affirms the Bible as the authoritative witness to the Word of God, the creeds of the ecumenical councils, and the confessions of the Reformation. The UCC has roots in the "covenantal" tradition—meaning there is no centralized authority or hierarchy that can impose any doctrine or form of worship on its members. Christ alone is Head of the church. We seek a balance between freedom of conscience and accountability to the apostolic faith. The UCC therefore receives the historic creeds and confessions of our ancestors as testimonies, but not tests of the faith.

At the bottom of the following Index of Testimonies you'll find links to the Theology Page—a growing library of articles on theological issues that face the church—and the Theology Forum where you can discuss these issues with other members of the church.


Index of Testimonies

Statement of Faith UCC
The Name of Jesus
Jesus Head of the Church
God's plan of salvation
The Apostles' Creed
Nicene Creed
Jesus Human and Divine
Luther's Small Catechism
Heidelberg Catechism
Principles Christian Church
Kansas City Statement
Evangelical Catechism
Barmen Declaration
Basis of Union
Preamble to Constitution of the United Church of Christ
Statement of Mission of the United Church of Christ
Toward the 21st Century - A Statement of Commitment
Presbyterian Catechism
Theology Page: What Theological Issues Stir Your Interest? Some examples

Theology Forums - A link to a place to discuss theological issues

 

Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/statement-of-faith.html

Traditional [Original] Version
Robert V. Moss Version
Doxological Version

United Church of Christ Statement of Faith—original version

We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father, and to his deeds we testify:

He calls the worlds into being, creates man in his own image and sets before him the ways of life and death.

He seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

He judges men and nations by his righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, he has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to himself.

He bestows upon us his Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

He calls us into his church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be his servants in the service of men, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

He promises to all who trust him forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, his presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in his kingdom which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto him.

Amen.


United Church of Christ Statement of Faith—adapted by Robert V. Moss

We believe in God, the Eternal Spirit, who is made known to us in Jesus our brother, and to whose deeds we testify:

God calls the worlds into being, creates humankind in the divine image, and sets before us the ways of life and death.

God seeks in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

God judges all humanity and all nations by that will of righteousness declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Lord, God has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the whole creation to its Creator.

God bestows upon us the Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

God calls us into the church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be servants in the service of the whole human family, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

God promises to all who trust in the gospel forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, the presence of the Holy Spirit in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in that kingdom which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto God.

Amen.


United Church of Christ Statement of Faith in the form of a doxology

We believe in you, O God, Eternal Spirit, God of our Savior Jesus Christ and our God, and to your deeds we testify:

You call the worlds into being, create persons in your own image, and set before each one the ways of life and death.

You seek in holy love to save all people from aimlessness and sin.

You judge people and nations by your righteous will declared through prophets and apostles.

In Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, our crucified and risen Savior, you have come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world to yourself.

You bestow upon us your Holy Spirit, creating and renewing the church of Jesus Christ, binding in covenant faithful people of all ages, tongues, and races.

You call us into your church to accept the cost and joy of discipleship, to be your servants in the service of others, to proclaim the gospel to all the world and resist the powers of evil, to share in Christ's baptism and eat at his table, to join him in his passion and victory.

You promise to all who trust you forgiveness of sins and fullness of grace, courage in the struggle for justice and peace, your presence in trial and rejoicing, and eternal life in your realm which has no end.

Blessing and honor, glory and power be unto you.

Amen.


About this testimony

The original (traditional) version of the UCC Statement of Faith was adopted in 1959 by General Synod and is widely regarded as one of the most significant Christian faith testimonies of the 20th century. The Statement of Faith in the Form of a Doxology was authorized by Executive Council in 1981. For these and other affirmations of the Christian faith, see the Book of Worship of United Church of Christ and The New Century Hymnal. Both resources are available from United Church Resources at 800-325-7061, or can be ordered from The Pilgrim Press at www.ThePilgrimPress.com

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The name of Jesus is above every name

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/the-name-of-jesus-is-above.html

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-22

About this testimony

One of the oldest Christian liturgical texts recorded in Scripture, this is the famous "kenotic hymn" or "Song of the Self-Emptying of Christ" from Philippians 2:1-11. It explores the mystery of Christ's humiliation and exaltation. The One who was handed over to a shameful death on the Cross is the One before whom all knees will bend and all tongues will confess, "Jesus Christ is Lord." But Christ's humility also teaches us how to live: we should "do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better" than ourselves. So, "let each you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." This is how Jesus lived. This is how we can live.

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Jesus Christ is head of the church

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/jesus-christ-is-head-of-the.html

Christ is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation;
for in Christ all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or principalities or authorities—
all things were created through Christ and for Christ.

Christ is before all things,
and in Christ all things hold together.

Christ is the head of the body, the church;
Christ is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in everything Christ might be preeminent.

For in Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
and through Christ all things are reconciled to God,
whether on earth or in heaven,
making peace by the blood of Christ's cross.

Colossians 1:15-20 

About this testimony

This testimony of faith, adapted from Colossians 1:15-20, is from the Book of Worship, United Church of Christ. In the words of Holy Scripture, it affirms our belief that Jesus Christ is the center of creation, the head of the church, and both the human and divine One "in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell." For information on how to order the Book of Worship, please call United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061.

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God's plan of salvation

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/gods-plan-of-salvation.html

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love.

God destined us for adoption as God's children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of God's will, to the praise of God's glorious grace that God freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of God's grace that God lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight God has made known to us the mystery of God's will, according to God's good pleasure that God set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of God who accomplishes all things according to God's counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of God's glory. In Christ you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in Christ, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God's own people, to the praise of God's glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14 

About this testimony

This is one of the oldest testimonies of faith in the Christian tradition. It is an ancient church hymn praising our salvation in Christ and can be found in Ephesians 1:3-14. Despite our fall from God, God destined us before time to be God's children "through Jesus Christ." Through Christ's blood we have the "forgiveness of our sins." The God praised in this hymn is a generous God who despite humanity's misery rushes to our side and restores our glorious inheritance—to be God's own adopted daughters and sons.

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The Apostles' Creed


From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/the-apostles-creed.html

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
      born of the Virgin Mary,
      suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to the dead.
      On the third day he rose again;
      he ascended into heaven,
      he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
      and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic Church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

From the English Language Liturgical Commission, 1988. Other affirmations of the faith for public worship are available in the New Century Hymnal and the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. A collection of ancient ecumenical and Protestant testimonies of the faith can be found in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press. All three books can be purchased from United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061. 

About this testimony

The Apostles' Creed evolved into its present form by the seventh century, although much of the text originated the first century. It is the creed par excellence of Baptism, widely used when candidates declare their readiness for membership in the Body of Christ and recited during the Great Vigil of Easter as a reminder of our baptismal covenant. It is frequently used in Protestant churches during Sunday worship, and forms an important part of the orders for daily Morning and Evening Prayer in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

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Nicene Creed

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/nicene-creed.html

We believe in one God,
      the Father, the Almighty,
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
      the only Son of God,
      eternally begotten of the Father,
      God from God, Light from Light,
      true God from true God,
      begotten, not made,
      of one Being with the Father;
      through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
      he came down from heaven,
      was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary
      and became truly human.
      For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
      he suffered death and was buried.
      On the third day he rose again
      in accordance with the Scriptures;
      he ascended into heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
      He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
      and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
      who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
      who with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified,
      who has spoken through the prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
      We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look for the resurrection of the dead,
      and the life of the world to come. Amen.

From the English Language Liturgical Commission, 1988. Other ancient creeds and testimonies of the faith are collected in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ. Affirmations of the faith for public worship are available in the New Century Hymnal and the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. All three books can be purchased from United Church Resources, 800-325-7061. 

About this testimony

Also known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, this classic testimony of the faith was the consensus of ecumenical councils in Nicea, 325, and Constantinople, 381. The creed was a response to the "Arian" movement, which challenged the church's teaching that Christ was both fully human and fully divine. Arians emphasized the humanity of Christ, and therefore believed he was "subordinate" to the Father. But the faith proclaimed in
Constantinople was in a Christ who was both, and therefore "of one being" with the Father. This creed is recited in the Sunday worship of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and many Lutheran and Reformed congregations also use the creed when they celebrate Holy Communion.

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Jesus Christ is both human and divine

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/jesus-christ-is-both-human.html

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one accord,
teach people to confess one and the same Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
at once complete in Godhead and complete in humanity,
truly God and truly human,
consisting of a rational soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,
and at the same time of one substance with us
as regards his humanity;
like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead,
begotten of the Father before the ages,
but yet as regards his humanity begotten,
for us and for our salvation,
of Mary the Virgin, the Theotokos [God-Bearer];

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change,
without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union,
but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved
and coming together to form one person and subsistence,
not as parted or separated into two persons,
but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God, the Word,
the Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,
and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

About this testimony

The "Definition of the Council of Chalcedon," 451, was the end result of the struggle to understand the relationship of the three persons of the Holy Trinity. It is accepted as a symbol of Christian doctrine by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed and Lutheran churches. The concern of
Chalcedon is the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. Seeking a middle way, it says "no" to doctrines that deny either that Christ was truly human or that Christ was truly divine. Christ is both, the definition says, united to the First Person of the Trinity in his divinity and united to us in his humanity. Even today, some Christians experience Jesus only as God, others only as a human being. The contribution of Chalcedon—which is now the mainstream of Christianity—is an inclusive Christology that affirms that both experiences are true, but neither is complete without the other.

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Martin Luther's Small Catechism:
a 'short course' in the Christian faith

 

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/martin-luthers-small.html

Contents of Luther's Small Catechism
The Ten Commandments
The Apostles' Creed
The Lord's Prayer
The Sacrament of Baptism
Confession and Absolution
The Sacrament of the Altar
Morning and Evening Prayers
Grace at Table


THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

The First Commandment:
"You shall have no other gods."

We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.

The Second Commandment:
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain."

We should fear and love God, and so we should not use his name to curse, swear, practice magic, lie or deceive, but in every time of need call upon him, pray to him, praise him and give him thanks.

The Third Commandment:
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy."

We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise his Word and the preaching of the same, but deem it holy and gladly hear and learn it.

The Fourth Commandment:
"Honor your father and your mother."

We should fear and love God, and so we should not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love and esteem them.

The Fifth Commandment:
"You shall not kill."

We should fear and love God, and so we should not endanger our neighbor's life, nor cause him any harm, but help and befriend him in every necessity of life.

The Sixth Commandment:
"You shall not commit adultery."

We should fear and love God, and so we should lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, each one loving and honoring his wife or her husband.

The Seventh Commandment:
"You shall not steal."

We should love and fear God, and so we should not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by dishonest trade or by dealing in shoddy wares, but help him to improve and protect his income and property.

The Eighth Commandment:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

We should love and fear God, and so we should not tell lies about our neighbor, nor betray, slander or defame him, but should apologize for him, speak well for him, and interpret charitably all that he does.

The Ninth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house."

We should love and fear God, and so we should not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor's inheritance or home, nor to obtain them under pretext of legal right, but be of service and help to him so that he may keep what is his.

The Tenth Commandment:
"You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant, or his maidservant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's."

We should love and fear God, and so we should not abduct, estrange or entice away our neighbor's wife, servants or cattle, but encourage them to remain and discharge their duty to him.

What does God declare concerning all these commandments?

He says, "I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments."

God threatens to punish all who transgress these commandments. We should therefore fear his wrath and not disobey these commandments. On the other hand, he promises grace and every blessing to all who keep them. We should therefore love him, trust in him, and cheerfully do what he has commanded.


THE APOSTLES' CREED

The First Article: Creation

"I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth."

I believe that God has created me and all that exists; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the faculties of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am bound to thank, praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

The Second Article: Redemption

"I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead."

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, delivered me and freed me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with silver and gold but with his holy and precious blood and with his innocent sufferings and death, in order that I may be his, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

The Third Article: Sanctification

"I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen."

I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church he daily and abundantly forgives all my sins, and the sins of all believers, and on the last day he will raise me and all the dead and will grant eternal life to me and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.


THE LORD'S PRAYER

"Our Father in heaven."

Here God would encourage us to believe that he is truly our Father and we are truly his children—in order that we may approach him boldly and confidently in prayer, even as beloved children approach their dear father.

"Hallowed be your name."

To be sure, God's name is holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may also be holy for us.

How is this done?

When the Word of God is taught clearly and purely and we, as children of God, lead holy loves in accordance with it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But whoever teaches and lives otherwise than the Word of God teaches, profanes the name of God among us. From this preserve us, heavenly Father!

"Your kingdom come."

To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us.

How is this done?

When the heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit so that by his grace we may believe his holy Word and live a godly life, both in time and hereafter forever.

"Your will be done, on earth as in heaven."

To be sure, the good and gracious will of God is done without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also be done by us.

How is this done?

When God curbs and destroys every evil counsel and purpose of the devil, of the world, and of our flesh which would hinder us from hallowing his name and prevent the coming of his reign, and when he strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his Word and in faith even to the end. This is his good and gracious will.

"Give us today our daily bread."

To be sure, God provides daily bread, even to the wicked, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that God may make us aware of his gifts and enable us to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.

What is meant by daily bread?

Everything required to satisfy our bodily needs, such as food and clothing, house and home, fields and flocks, money and property; a pious spouse and good children, trustworthy servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government; seasonable weather, peace and health, order and honor; true friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

"Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

We pray in this petition that our heavenly Father may not look upon our sins, and on their account deny our prayers, for we neither merit nor deserve those things for which we pray. Although we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment, we nevertheless pray that God may grant us all things by his grace. And assuredly we on our part will heartily forgive and cheerfully do good to those who may sin against us.

"Save us from the time of trial."

God tempts no one to sin, but we pray in this petition that God may so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us or mislead us into unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins, but that, although we may be so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory.

"And deliver us from evil."

We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven may deliver us from all manner of evil, whether it affect body or soul, property or reputation, and that at last, when the hour of death comes, he may grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.

"Amen."

It means that I should be assured that such petitions are acceptable to our heavenly Father and are heard by him, for he himself commanded us to pray like this and promised to hear us. "Amen, amen" means "Yes, yes, it shall be so."


THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM

What is baptism?

Baptism is not merely water, but it is water used according to God's command and connected with God's Word.

What is this Word of God?

As recorded in Matthew 28:19, our Lord Christ said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

What gifts or benefits does Baptism bestow?

If effects forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare.

What is this Word and promise of God?

As recorded in Mark 16:16, our Lord Christ said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned."

How can water produce such great effects?

It is not the water that produces these effects, but the Word of God connected with the water, and our faith which relies on the Word of God connected with the water. For without the Word of God the water is merely water and no Baptism. But when connected with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Spirit, as St. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-8): "He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. This saying is sure."

What does such baptizing with water signify?

It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence.

Where is this written?

In Romans 6:4, St. Paul wrote: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."


CONFESSION AND ABSOLUTION

What is confession?

Confession consists of two parts. One is that we confess our sins. The other is that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the confessor as from God himself, by no means doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven.

What sins should we confess?

Before God we should acknowledge that we are guilty of all manner of sins, even those of which we are not aware, as we do in the Lord's Prayer. Before the confessor, however, we should confess only those sins of which we have knowledge and which trouble us.

What are such sins?

Reflect on your condition in the light of the Ten Commandments: whether you are a father or mother, a son or daughter, a master or servant; whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, lazy, ill-tempered, or quarrelsome; whether you have harmed anyone by word or deed; and whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted anything, or done other evil.

[Here Luther gives two examples of a confession.] . . . Then the confessor shall say: "God be merciful to you and strengthen your faith. Amen."

Again he shall say: "Do you believe that the forgiveness I declare is the forgiveness of God?"

Answer: "Yes, I do."

Then he shall say: "Be it done for you as you have believed. According to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Go in peace."

A confessor will know additional passages of the Scriptures with which to comfort and to strengthen the faith of those whose consciences are heavily burdened or who are distressed and sorely tried. . . .


THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR

What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

Instituted by Jesus Christ himself, it is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink.

Where is this written?

The holy evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke, and also St. Paul, write thus: "Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."

What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

We are told in the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." By these words the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to us in the sacrament, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there are also life and salvation.

How can bodily eating and drinking produce such great effects?

The eating and drinking do not in themselves produce them, but the words "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." These words, when accompanied by the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the sacrament, and he who believes these words has what they say and declare: the forgiveness of sins.

Who, then, receives this sacrament worthily?

Fasting and bodily preparation are a good external discipline, but he is truly worthy and well prepared who believes these words: "for you" and "for the forgiveness of sins." On the other hand, he who does not believe these words, or doubts them, is unworthy and unprepared, for the words "for you" require truly believing hearts.


MORNING AND EVENING PRAYERS

In the morning

. . . when you rise, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I beseech you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, that in all my thoughts, words and deeds I may please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."

After singing a hymn (possibly a hymn on the Ten Commandments) or whatever your devotion may suggest, you should go to your work joyfully.

In the evening

. . . when you retire, make the sign of the cross and say, "In the name of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Then, kneeling or standing, say the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer. Then you may say this prayer:

"I give you thanks, heavenly Father, through your dear Son Jesus Christ, that you have graciously protected me through this day. I beseech you to forgive all my sin and wrong which I have done. Graciously protect me during the coming night. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angels have charge of me, that the wicked one may have no power over me. Amen."

Then quickly lie down and sleep in peace.


GRACE AT TABLE

Blessing before eating

When the children and the whole household gather at the table, they should reverently fold their hands and say:

"The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand. You satisfy the desire of every living thing."

(It is to be observed that "satisfying the desire of every living thing" means that all creatures receive enough to eat to make them joyful and of good cheer. Greed and anxiety about food prevent such satisfaction.)

Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:

"Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these your gifts which of you bountiful goodness you have bestowed upon us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Thanksgiving after eating

After eating, likewise, they should fold their hands reverently and say:

"O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. He gives to the beasts their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."

Then the Lord's Prayer should be said, and afterwards this prayer:

"We give you thanks, Lord God, our Father, for all your benefits, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns forever. Amen." 

About this testimony

Martin Luther's Small Catechism, 1529, was written to answer the need for a basic exposition of the Christian faith for lay people. It follows the historic form of a catechism, based on explanations of the Apostles' Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer, to which Luther has added sections on Baptism, Confession and the Sacrament of the Altar, along with forms for Morning and Evening Prayer and Grace at Table.

Historically, a catechism was a short course in Christianity to prepare converts for Baptism. "Luther's Small Catechism is often seen as the beginning of catechesis in the modern sense," writes UCC church historian John B. Payne. "It had enormous influence on all subsequent catechisms, both Protestant and Catholic." It entered the UCC tradition as a faith testimony through one of our antecedent churches: the German Evangelical Synod of North America. Other historic creeds and confessions are collected in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press and available from United Church Resources at 1-800-325-7061.

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Heidelberg Catechism

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/heidelberg-catechism.html

Contents of Heidelberg Catechism
Introduction
Of Human Misery
Of Human Redemption
Of God the Father
Of God the Son
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Sacraments
Holy Baptism
The Holy Supper
Gratitude
The Ten Commandments
Prayer
The Lord's Prayer

Introduction

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven:
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are;
second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;
third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance


Of Human Misery

How do you come to know your misery??

The law of God tells me.

What does God's law require of us?

Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22—

Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
This is the first and greatest commandment.

And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.

All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.

Can you live up to all this perfectly?

No, I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

No.
God created them good and in his own image,
that is, in true righteousness and holiness,
so that they might
truly know God their creator,
love him with all their heart,
and live with him in eternal happiness
for his praise and glory.

Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,
Adam and Eve, in
Paradise.
This fall has so poisoned our nature
that we are born sinners—
corrupt from conception on.

But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.

But doesn't God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law.
They, however, tempted by the devil,
in reckless disobedience,
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

Certainly not.
He is terribly angry
about the sin we are born with
as well as the sins we personally commit.
As a just judge
he punishes them now and in eternity.
He has declared:
"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do
everything written in the Book of the Law."

But isn't God also merciful?

God is certainly merciful,
but he is also just.
His justice demands
that sin, committed against his supreme majesty,
be punished with the supreme penalty—
eternal punishment of body and soul.


Of Human Redemption

According to God's righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor?

God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore the claims of his justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or another.

Can we pay this debt ourselves?

Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

No.
To begin with,
God will not punish another creature
for what a human is guilty of.

Besides,
no mere creature can bear the weight
of God's eternal anger against sin
and release others from it.

What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

One who is truly human and truly righteous,
yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.

Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

God's justice demands
that human nature, which has sinned,
must pay for its sin;
but a sinner could never pay for others.

Why must he also be true God?

So that,
by the power of his divinity,
he might bear the weight of God's anger in his humanity
and earn for us
and restore to us
righteousness and life.

And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

Our Lord Jesus Christ,
who was given us
to set us completely free
and to make us right with God.

How do you come to know this?

The holy gospel tells me.
God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;
later, he proclaimed it
by the holy patriarchs and prophets,
and portrayed it
by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;
finally, he fulfilled it
through his own dear Son.

Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?

No.
Only those are saved
who by true faith
are grafted into Christ
and accept all his blessings.

What is true faith?

True faith is
not only a knowledge and conviction
that everything God reveals in his Word is true;
it is also a deep-rooted assurance,
created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel,
that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ,
not only others, but I too,
have had my sins forgiven,
have been made forever right with God,
and have been granted salvation.

What then must a Christian believe?

Everything God promises us in the gospel.
That gospel is summarized for us
in the articles of our Christian faith—
a creed beyond doubt,
and confessed throughout the world.

What are these articles?

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

How are these articles divided?

Into three parts:
God the Father and our creation;
God the Son and our deliverance;
God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Since there is but one God, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Because that is how
God has revealed himself in his Word:
these three distinct persons
are one, true, eternal God.


Of God the Father

What do you believe when you say, "I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth"?

That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them,
who still upholds and rules them
by his eternal counsel and providence,
is my God and Father
because of Christ his Son.

I trust him so much that I do not doubt
he will provide whatever I need
for body and soul,
and he will turn to my good
whatever adversity he sends me
in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God;
he desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

What do you understand by the providence of God?

Providence is
the almighty and ever present power of God
by which he upholds, as with his hand,
heaven and earth and all creatures,
and so rules them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty—
all things, in fact, come to us
not by chance
but from his fatherly hand.

How does the knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?

We can be patient when things go against us,
thankful when things go well,
and for the future we can have
good confidence in our faithful God and Father
that nothing will separate us from his love.
All creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will
they can neither move nor be moved.


Of God the Son

Why is the Son of God called "Jesus," meaning "Savior"?

Because he saves us from our sins.
Salvation cannot be found in anyone else;
it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere.

Do those who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?

No.
Although they boast of being his,
by their deeds they deny
the only savior and deliverer, Jesus.

Either Jesus is not a perfect savior,
or those who in true faith accept this savior
have in him all they need for their salvation.

Why is he called "Christ," meaning "Anointed"?

Because he has been ordained by God the Father
and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit
to be our chief prophet and teacher
who perfectly reveals to us
the secret counsel and will of God for our deliverance;
our only high priest
who has set us free by the one sacrifice of his body,
and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;
and our eternal king
who governs us by his Word and Spirit,
and who guards us and keeps us
in the freedom he has won for us.

But why are you called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ
and so I share in his anointing.
I am anointed
to confess his name,
to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,
to strive with a good conscience against sin and the devil
in this life, and afterward
to reign with Christ over all creation
for all eternity.

Why is he called God's "only Son" when we also are God's children

Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.
We, however, are adopted children of God—
adopted by grace through Christ.

Why do you call him "our Lord"?

Because not with gold or silver,
but with his precious blood,
he has set us free
from sin and from the tyranny of the devil,
and has bought us, body and soul,
to be his very own.

What does it mean that he "was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary"?

That the eternal Son of God,
who is and remains true and eternal God,
took to himself,
through the working of the Holy Spirit,
from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,
a truly human nature
so that he might become David's true descendant,
like his brothers and sisters in every way
except for sin.

How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?

He is our mediator,
and with his innocence and perfect holiness
he removes from God's sight
my sin—mine since I was conceived.

What do you understand by the word "suffered"?

That during his whole life on earth,
but especially at the end,
Christ sustained
in body and soul
the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.

This he did in order that,
by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,
he might set us free, body and soul,
from eternal condemnation,
and gain for us
God's grace,
righteousness,
and eternal life.

Why did Jesus suffer "under Pontius Pilate" as judge?

So that he, though innocent,
might be condemned by a civil judge,
and so free us from the severe judgment of God
that was to fall on us.

Is it significant that he was "crucified" instead of dying some other way?

Yes.
This death convinces me
that he shouldered the curse
which lay on me,
since death by crucifixion was accursed by God.

Why did Christ have to go all the way to death?

Because God's justice and truth demand it:
only the death of God's Son could pay for our sin.

Why was he "buried"?

His burial testifies that he really died.

Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?

Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.
Rather, it puts an end to our sinning
and is our entrance into eternal life.

What further advantage do we receive from Christ's sacrifice and death on the cross?

Through Christ's death
our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,
so that the evil desires of the flesh
may no longer rule us,
but that instead we may dedicate ourselves
as an offering of gratitude to him.

Why does the creed add, "He descended to hell?"

To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation
that Christ my Lord,
by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul,
especially on the cross but also earlier,
has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

How does Christ's resurrection benefit us?

First, by his resurrection he has overcome death,
so that he might make us share in the righteousness
he won for us by his death.

Second, by his power we too
are already now resurrected to a new life.

Third, Christ's resurrection
is a guarantee of our glorious resurrection.

What do you mean by saying, "He ascended to heaven"?

That Christ,
while his disciples watched,
was lifted up from the earth to heaven
and will be there for our good
until he comes again
to judge the living and the dead.

But isn't Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?

Christ is truly human and truly God.
In his human nature Christ is not now on earth;
but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
he is not absent from us for a moment.

If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren't the two natures of Christ separated from each other?

Certainly not.
Since divinity is not limited
and is present everywhere,
it is evident that Christ's divinity
is surely beyond the bounds
of the humanity he has taken on,
but at the same time his divinity is in
and remains personally united to
his humanity.

How does Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?

First, he pleads our cause in heaven
in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven—
a guarantee that Christ our head,
will take us, his members,
to himself in heaven.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth
as a further guarantee.
By the Spirit's power
we make the goal of our lives,
not earthly things,
but the things above where Christ is,
sitting at God's right hand.

Why the next words: "and is seated at the right hand of God"?

Christ ascended to heaven,
there to show that he is head of his church,
and that the Father rules all things through him.

How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?

First, through his Holy Spirit
he pours out his gifts from heaven
upon us his members.

Second, by his power
he defends us and keeps us safe
from all enemies.

How does Christ's return "to judge the living and the dead" comfort you?

In all my distress and persecution
I turn my eyes to the heavens
and confidently await as judge the very One
who has already stood trial in my place before God
and so has removed the whole curse from me.
All his enemies and mine
he will condemn to everlasting punishment:
but me and all his chosen ones
he will take along with him
into the joy and the glory of heaven.


The Holy Spirit

What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"?

First, he, as well as the Father and the Son,
is eternal God.

Second, he has been given to me personally,
so that, by true faith,
he makes me share in Christ and all his blessings,
comforts me,
and remains with me forever.

What do you believe concerning "the holy catholic church"?

I believe that the Son of God
through his Spirit and Word,
out of the entire human race,
from the beginning of the world to its end,
gathers, protects, and preserves for himself
a community chosen for eternal life
and united in true faith.
And of this community I am and always will be
a living member.

What do you understand by "the communion of saints"?

First, that believers one and all,
as members of this community,
share in Christ
and in all his treasures and gifts.

Second, that each member
should consider it a duty
to use these gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.

What do you believe concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?

I believe that God,
because of Christ's atonement,
will never hold against me
any of my sins
nor my sinful nature
which I need to struggle against all my life.

Rather, in his grace
God grants me the righteousness of Christ
to free me forever from judgment.

How does "the resurrection of the body" comfort you?

Not only my soul
will be taken immediately after this life
to Christ its head,
but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul
and made like Christ's glorious body.

How does the article concerning "life everlasting" comfort you?

Even as I already now
experience in my heart
the beginning of eternal joy,
so after this life I will have
perfect blessedness such as
no eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no human heart has ever imagined:
a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.

What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?

In Christ I am right with God
and heir to life everlasting.

How are you right with God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
nevertheless,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.

All I need to do
is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.

Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?

It is not because of any value my faith has
that God is pleased with me.
Only Christ's satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness
make me right with God.
And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine
in no other way than by faith alone.

Why can't the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?

Because the righteousness
which can pass God's scrutiny
must be entirely perfect
and must in every way measure up to the divine law.
Even the very best we do in this life
is imperfect
and stained with sin.

How can you say that the good we do doesn't earn anything, when God promises to reward it in this life and the next?

This reward is not earned;
it is a gift of grace.

But doesn't this teaching make people indifferent and wicked?

No.
It is impossible
for those grafted into Christ by true faith
not to produce fruits of gratitude.


The Holy Sacraments

It is by faith alone that we share in Christ and all his blessings: where then does that faith come from?

The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts
by the preaching of the holy gospel,
and confirms it
through our use of the holy sacraments.

What are sacraments?

Sacraments are holy signs and seals for us to see.
They were instituted by God so that
by our use of them
he might make us understand more clearly
the promise of the gospel,
and might put his seal on that promise.

And this is God's gospel promise:
to forgive our sins and give us eternal life
by grace alone
because of Christ's one sacrifice
finished on the cross.

Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?

Right!
In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us
and through the holy sacraments he assures us
that our entire salvation
rests on Christ's one sacrifice for us on the cross.

How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?

Two: baptism and the Lord's Supper.


Holy Baptism

How does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?

In this way:
Christ instituted this outward washing
and with it gave the promise that,
as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body,
so certainly his blood and his Spirit
wash away my soul's impurity,
in other words, all my sins.

What does it mean to be washed with Christ's blood and Spirit?

To be washed with Christ's blood means
that God, by grace, has forgiven my sins
because of Christ's blood
poured out for me in his sacrifice on the cross.

To be washed with Christ's Spirit means
that the Holy Spirit has renewed me
and set me apart to be a member of Christ
so that more and more I become dead to sin
and increasingly live a holy and blameless life.

Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?

In the institution of baptism where he says:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit."

"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,
but whoever does not believe will be condemned."*

This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism
the washing of rebirth and
the washing away of sins.

*Earlier and better manuscripts of Mark 16 omit the words "Whoever believes and is baptized . . . condemned."

Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?

No, only Jesus Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.

Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away of sins?

God has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins
just as water washes away dirt from our bodies.

But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign,
that the washing away of our sins spiritually
is as real as physical washing with water.

Should infants, too, be baptized?

Yes.
Infants as well as adults
are in God's covenant and are his people.
They, no less than adults, are promised
the forgiveness of sin through Christ's blood
and the Holy Spirit who produces faith.

Therefore, by baptism, the mark of the covenant,
infants should be received into the Christian church
and should be distinguished from the children
of unbelievers.
This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,
which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.


The Holy Supper

How does the Lord's Supper remind you and assure you that you share in Christ's one sacrifice on the cross and in all his gifts?

In this way:
Christ has commanded me and all believers
to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup.
With this command he gave this promise:

First,
as surely as I see with my eyes
the bread of the Lord broken for me
and the cup given to me,
so surely
his body was offered and broken for me
and his blood poured out for me
on the cross.

Second,
as surely as
I receive from the hand of the one who serves,
and taste with my mouth
the bread and cup of the Lord,
given me as sure signs of Christ's body and blood,
so surely
he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life
with his crucified body and poured-out blood.

What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood?

It means
to accept with a believing heart
the entire suffering and death of Christ
and by believing
to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

But it means more.
Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us,
we are united more and more to Christ's blessed body.
And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth,
we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.
And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit,
as members of our body are by one soul.

Where does Christ promise to nourish and refresh believers with his body and blood as surely as they eat this broken bread and drink this cup?

In the institution of the Lord's Supper:
"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed,
took bread, and when he had given thanks,
he broke it and said,
'This is my body, which is for you;
do this in remembrance of me.'
In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
'This cup is the new covenant in my blood;
do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me.'
For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup,
you proclaim the Lord's death
until he comes."

This promise is repeated by Paul in these words:
"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks
a participation in the blood of Christ?
And is not the bread that we break
a participation in the body of Christ?
Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf."

Are the bread and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?

No.
Just as the water of baptism
is not changed into Christ's blood
and does not itself wash away sins
but is simply God's sign and assurance,
so too the bread of the Lord's Supper
is not changed into the actual body of Christ
even though it is called the body of Christ
in keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.

Why then does Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant in his blood? (Paul uses the words, "a participation in Christ's body and blood.")

Christ has good reason for these words.
He wants to teach us that
as bread and wine nourish our temporal life,
so too his crucified body and poured-out blood
truly nourish our souls for eternal life.

But more important,
he wants to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge,
that we, through the Holy Spirit's work,
share in his true body and blood
as surely as our mouths
receive these holy signs in his remembrance,
and that all of his suffering and obedience
are as definitely ours
as if we personally
had suffered and paid for our sins.

How does the Lord's Supper differ from the Roman Catholic Mass?

The Lord's Supper declares to us
that our sins have been completely forgiven
through the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ
which he himself finished on the cross once for all.
It also declares to us
that the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ,
who with his very body
is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father
where he wants us to worship him.

But the Mass teaches
that the living and the dead
do not have their sins forgiven
through the suffering of Christ
unless Christ is still offered for them daily by the priests.
It also teaches
that Christ is bodily present
in the form of bread and wine
where Christ is therefore to be worshiped.
Thus the Mass is basically
nothing but a denial
of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ
and a condemnable idolatry.

Who are to come to the Lord's table?

Those who are displeased with themselves
because of their sins,
but who nevertheless trust
that their sins are pardoned
and that their continuing weakness is covered
by the suffering and death of Christ,
and who also desire more and more
to strengthen their faith
and to lead a better life.

Hypocrites and those who are unrepentant, however,
eat and drink judgment on themselves.

Are those to be admitted to the Lord's Supper who show by what they say and do that they are unbelieving and ungodly?

No, that would dishonor God's covenant
and bring down God's anger upon the entire congregation.
Therefore, according to the instruction of Christ
and his apostles,
the Christian church is duty-bound to exclude such people,
by the official use of the keys of the kingdom,
until they reform their lives.

What are the keys of the kingdom?

The preaching of the holy gospel
and Christian discipline toward repentance.
Both preaching and discipline
open the kingdom of heaven to believers
and close it to unbelievers.

How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?

According to the command of Christ:
The kingdom of heaven is opened
by proclaiming and publicly declaring
to all believers, each and every one, that,
as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith,
God, because of what Christ has done,
truly forgives all their sins.

The kingdom of heaven is closed, however,
by proclaiming and publicly declaring
to unbelievers and hypocrites that,
as long as they do not repent,
the anger of God and eternal condemnation
rest on them.

God's judgment, both in this life and in the life to come,
is based on this gospel testimony.

How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?

According to the command of Christ:

Those who, though called Christians,
profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives,
and after repeated and loving counsel
refuse to abandon their errors and wickedness,
and after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers,
fail to respond also to their admonition—
such persons the officers exclude
from the Christian fellowship
by withholding the sacraments from them,
and God himself excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.

Such persons,
when promising and demonstrating genuine reform,
are received again
as members of Christ
and of his church.


Gratitude

We have been delivered from our misery by God's grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?

To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood.
But we do good because
Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself,
so that in all our living
we may show that we are thankful to God
for all he has done for us,
and so that he may be praised through us.

And we do good
so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,
and so that by our godly living
our neighbors may be won over to Christ.

Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent ways?

By no means.
Scripture tells us that
no unchaste person,
no idolater, adulterer, thief,
no covetous person,
no drunkard, slanderer, robber,
or the like
is going to inherit the kingdom of God.

What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?

Two things:
the dying-away of the old self,
and the coming-to-life of the new.

What is the dying-away of the old self?

It is to be genuinely sorry for sin,
to hate it more and more,
and to run away from it.

What is the coming-to-life of the new self?

It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ
and a delight to do every kind of good
as God wants us to.

What do we do that is good?

Only that which
arises out of true faith,
conforms to God's law,
and is done for his glory;
and not that which is based
on what we think is right
or on established human tradition.


The Ten Commandments

What does the Lord say in his law?

God spoke all these words:

The First Commandment:
I am the Lord your God,
who brought you out of Egypt,
out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.

The Second Commandment:
You shall not make for yourself an idol
in the form of anything in heaven above
or on the earth beneath
or in the waters below.
You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God,
punishing the children for the sin of the fathers
to the third and fourth generation
of those who hate me,
but showing love to a thousand generations of those
who love me and keep my commandments.

The Third Commandment:
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,
for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless
who misuses his name.

The Fourth Commandment:
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.
On it you shall not do any work,
neither you, nor your son or daughter,
nor your manservant or maidservant,
nor your animals,
nor the alien within your gates.
For in six days the Lord made
the heavens and the earth, the sea,
and all that is in them,
but he rested on the seventh day.
Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day
and made it holy.

The Fifth Commandment:
Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long
in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

The Sixth Commandment:
You shall not murder.

The Seventh Commandment:
You shall not commit adultery.

The Eighth Commandment:
You shall not steal.

The Ninth Commandment:
You shall not give false testimony
against your neighbor.

The Tenth Commandment:
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
or his manservant or maidservant,
his ox or donkey,
or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

How are these commandments divided?

Into two tables.
The first has four commandments,
teaching us what our relation to God should be.
The second has six commandments,
teaching us what we owe our neighbor.

What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation,
avoid and shun
all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites,
and prayer to saints or to other creatures.

That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God,
trust him alone,
look to him for every good thing
humbly and patiently,
love him, fear him, and honor him
with all my heart.

In short,
that I give up anything
rather than go against his will in any way.

What is idolatry?

Idolatry is
having or inventing something in which one trusts
in place of or alongside of the only true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word.

What is God's will for us in the second commandment?

That we in no way make any image of God
nor worship him in any other way
than he has commanded in his Word.

May we then not make any image at all?

God can not and may not
be visibly portrayed in any way.

Although creatures may be portrayed,
yet God forbids making or having such images
if one's intention is to worship them
or to serve God through them.

But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?

No, we shouldn't try to be wiser than God.
He wants his people instructed
by the living preaching of his Word—
not by idols that cannot even talk.

What is God's will for us in the third commandment?

That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God
by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths,
nor share in such horrible sins
by being silent bystanders.

In a word, it requires
that we use the holy name of God
only with reverence and awe,
so that we may properly
confess him,
pray to him,
and praise him in everything we do and say.

Is blasphemy of God's name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and forbid it?

Yes, indeed.
No sin is greater,
no sin makes God more angry
than blaspheming his name.
That is why he commanded the death penalty for it.

But may we swear an oath in God's name if we do it reverently?

Yes, when the government demands it,
or when necessity requires it,
in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness
for God's glory and our neighbor's good.

Such oaths are approved in God's Word
and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.

May we swear by saints or other creatures?

No.
A legitimate oath means calling upon God
as the one who knows my heart
to witness to my truthfulness
and to punish me if I swear falsely.
No creature is worthy of such honor.

What is God's will for you in the fourth commandment?

First,
that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,
and that, especially on the festive day of rest,
I regularly attend the assembly of God's people
to learn what God's Word teaches,
to participate in the sacraments,
to pray to God publicly,
and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.

Second,
that every day of my life
I rest from my evil ways,
let the Lord work in me through his Spirit,
and so begin already in this life
the eternal Sabbath.

What is God's will for you in the fifth commandment?

That I honor, love, and be loyal to
my father and mother
and all those in authority over me;
that I obey and submit to them, as is proper,
when they correct and punish me;
and also that I be patient with their failings— for through them God chooses to rule us.

What is God's will for you in the sixth commandment?

I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor—
not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture,
and certainly not by actual deeds—
and I am not to be party to this in others;
rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.

Prevention of murder is also why
government is armed with the sword.

Does this commandment refer only to killing?

By forbidding murder God teaches us
that he hates the root of murder:
envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.
In God's sight all such are murder.

Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

No.
By condemning envy, hatred, and anger
God tells us
to love our neighbors as ourselves,
to be patient, peace-loving, gentle,
merciful, and friendly to them,
to protect them from harm as much as we can,
and to do good even to our enemies.

What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?

God condemns all unchastity.
We should therefore thoroughly detest it
and, married or single,
live decent and chaste lives.

Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,
and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.
That is why he forbids
everything which incites unchastity,
whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.

What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?

He forbids not only outright theft and robbery,
punishable by law.

But in God's sight theft also includes
cheating and swindling our neighbor
by schemes made to appear legitimate,
such as:
inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume;
fraudulent merchandising;
counterfeit money;
excessive interest;
or any other means forbidden by God.

In addition he forbids all greed
and pointless squandering of his gifts.

What does God require of you in this commandment?

That I do whatever I can
for my neighbor's good,
that I treat others
as I would like them to treat me,
and that I work faithfully
so that I may share with those in need.

What is God's will for you in the ninth commandment?

God's will is that I
never give false testimony against anyone,
twist no one's words,
not gossip or slander,
nor join in condemning anyone
without a hearing or without a just cause.

Rather, in court and everywhere else,
I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind;
these are devices the devil himself uses,
and they would call down on me God's intense anger.
I should love the truth,
speak it candidly,
and openly acknowledge it.
And I should do what I can
to guard and advance my neighbor's good name.

What is God's will for you in the tenth commandment?

That not even the slightest thought or desire
contrary to any one of God's commandments
should ever arise in my heart.

Rather, with all my heart
I should always hate sin
and take pleasure in whatever is right.

But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly?

No.
In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning of this obedience.

Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose,
they do begin to live
according to all, not only some,
of God's commandments.

No one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly: why then does God want them preached so pointedly?

First, so that the longer we live
the more we may come to know our sinfulness
and the more eagerly look to Christ
for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.

Second, so that,
while praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit,
we may never stop striving
to be renewed more and more after God's image,
until after this life we reach our goal:
perfection.


Prayer

Why do Christians need to pray?

Because prayer is the most important part
of the thankfulness God requires of us.
And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit
only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly,
asking God for these gifts
and thanking him for them.

How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?

First, we must pray from the heart
to no other than the one true God,
who has revealed himself in his Word,
asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for.

Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery,
hiding nothing,
and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.

Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation:
even though we do not deserve it,
God will surely listen to our prayer
because of Christ our Lord.
That is what he promised us in his Word.

What did God command us to pray for?

Everything we need, spiritually and physically,
as embraced in the prayer
Christ our Lord himself taught us.

The Lord's Prayer

What is this prayer?
A prayer which Jesus taught us to pray by His example:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever.
Amen.*

*Earlier and better manuscripts of Matthew 6 omit the words "For yours is . . . Amen

Why did Christ command us to call God "our Father"?

At the very beginning of our prayer
Christ wants to kindle in us
what is basic to our prayer—
the childlike awe and trust
that God through Christ has become
our Father.

Our fathers do not refuse us
the things of this life;
God our Father will even less refuse to give us
what we ask in faith.

Why the words "in heaven"?

These words teach us
not to think of God's heavenly majesty
as something earthly,
and to expect everything
for body and soul
from his almighty power.

What does the first request mean?

"Hallowed be your name" means,

Help us to really know you,
to bless, worship, and praise you
for all your works
and for all that shines forth from them:
your almighty power, wisdom, kindness,
justice, mercy, and truth.

And it means,

Help us to direct all our living—
what we think, say, and do—
so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us
but always honored and praised.

What does the second request mean?

"Your kingdom come" means,

Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way
that more and more we submit to you.

Keep your church strong, and add to it.

Destroy the devil's work;
destroy every force which revolts against you
and every conspiracy against your Word.

Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect
that in it you are
all in all.

What does the third request mean?

"Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" means,

Help us and all people
to reject our own wills
and to obey your will without any back talk.
Your will alone is good.

Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,
as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

What does the fourth request mean?

"Give us today our daily bread" means,

Do take care of all our physical needs
so that we come to know
that you are the only source of everything good,
and that neither our work and worry
nor your gifts
can do us any good without your blessing.

And so help us to give up our trust in creatures
and to put trust in you alone.

What does the fifth request mean?

"Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors" means,

Because of Christ's blood,
do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined,
as evidence of your grace in us,
to forgive our neighbors.

What does the sixth request mean?

"And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one" means,

By ourselves we are too weak
to hold our own even for a moment.

And our sworn enemies—
the devil, the world, and our own flesh—
never stop attacking us.

And so, Lord,
uphold us and make us strong
with the strength of your Holy Spirit,
so that we may not go down to defeat
in this spiritual struggle,
but may firmly resist our enemies
until we finally win the complete victory.

What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

"For yours is the kingdom
and the power
and the glory forever" means,

We have made all these requests of you
because, as our all-powerful king,
you not only want to,
but are able to give us all that is good;
and because your holy name,
and not we ourselves,
should receive all the praise, forever.

What does that little word "Amen" express?

"Amen" means,

This is sure to be!

It is even more sure
that God listens to my prayer,
than that I really desire
what I pray for. 

About this testimony

The Heidelberg Catechism was published in the German university town of Heidelberg in 1563, a year before the death of the Reformer John Calvin who inspired its core testimony: that God does not abandon humanity to death but in sovereign freedom restores the broken relationship between God and God's children. The center of this drama is Jesus Christ. In the words of the 20th-century theologian Karl Barth (quoting a German hymn), the message of the Heidelberg Catechism is: "Get out of the way, you spirits of sadness, for Christ the sovereign of joy is coming in!" The Catechism was widely used in the Reformed Church in the United States—one of our antecedent denominations—and is still held in high regard by all churches of the Reformed tradition.

We are able to publish this contemporary version of the Heidelberg Catechism through the courtesy of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Another CRC website includes a study plan for the catechism organized according to the Revised Common Lectionary. Other ancient creeds and testimonies of the faith are collected in The Living Theological Heritage of the United Church of Christ, published by the Pilgrim Press and available from United Church Resources at 800-325-7061.

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Principles of the Christian Church

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/principles-of-the-christian.html

1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only head of the church.
2. "Christian" is a sufficient name for the church.
3. The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule of faith and practice.
4. Christian character is a sufficient test of fellowship and of church membership.
5. The right of private judgment and liberty of conscience is a right and a privilege that should be accorded to and exercised by all.
6. The purpose of this church will be consumated in the reformation of the world and the union of all Christians.

About this testimony

The "Christian Church" is the name shared by several branches of an early 19th-century movement for Christian unity on the American frontier. The oldest of these branches united in 1931 with the Congregational Churches to form the Congregational Christian Churches—now a part of the United Church of Christ. Among other descendants of this movement are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the independent Churches of Christ.

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Kansas City Statement of Faith

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/kansas-city-statement-of.html

Faith

We believe in God the Father,
      infinite in wisdom, goodness, and love,
      and in Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord and Savior,
      who for us and for our salvation lived and died and rose again
      and liveth evermore,
      and in the Holy Spirit,
      who taketh of the things of Christ
      and revealeth them to us,
      renewing, comforting, and inspiring the souls of men.

We are united in striving to know the will of God
      as taught in the Holy Scriptures,
      and in our purpose to walk in the ways of the Lord,
      made known or to be made known to us.

We hold it to be the mission of the Church of Christ
      to proclaim the Gospel to all mankind,
      exalting the worship of the one true God,
      and laboring for the progress of knowledge,
      the promotion of justice, the reign of peace,
      and the realization of human brotherhood.

Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance
      of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth,
      we work and pray for the transformation of the world
      into the Kingdom of God,
      and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness,
      and the life everlasting.

Polity

We believe in the freedom and responsibility
      of the individual soul, and the right of private judgment.

We hold to the autonomy of the local church
      and its independence of all ecclesiastical control.

We cherish the fellowship of the churches,
      united in district, state, and national bodies,
      for counsel and cooperation in matters of common concern.

The Wider Fellowship

While affirming the liberty of our churches,
      and the validity of our ministry,
      we hold to the unity and catholicity of the Church of Christ,
      and will unite with all its branches in hearty cooperation;
      and will earnestly seek, so far as in us lies,
      that the prayer of our Lord for his disciples may be answered,
      that they all may be one.

The section on "Faith" is from the Book of Worship of the United Church of Christ. The Book of Worship is available from United Church Resources at 800-325-7061. 

About this testimony

The Kansas City Statement was the most important affirmation of faith adopted by the Congregational Churches in the 20th century. In 1913, the churches' National Council met in
Kansas City to affirm traditional congregationalist principles in a form that would meet the needs of the new century. The preamble of the new Constitution adopted then said the churches sought to reaffirm "the faith which our fathers confessed, which from age to age has found its expression in the historic creeds of the Church universal and of this communion." The Statement's form reflects both classical creeds received by Congregationalists from the catholic (universal) church and the confidence—inherited from the church's Puritan forebears—that God was in control of history and would lead humanity to a reign of justice, community and peace. Written on the eve of World War I, its belief in "the reign of peace," "the realization of human brotherhood" and "the transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God" are particularly poignant. But these are beliefs that echo down to the 21st century, and which the United Church of Christ still holds today—although not in the exclusively masculine terms of 1913.

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Evangelical Catechism

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/evangelical-catechism.html

Contents of Evangelical Catechism
INTRODUCTION
PART I: GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES
PART II: THE THREE ARTICLES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
    The First Article of the Christian Faith
            The Law of God and The Ten Commandments
    The Second Article of the Christian Faith
    The Third Article of the Christian Faith
PART III: PRAYER
PART IV: SACRAMENTS AND THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM
PART V: THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER


INTRODUCTION

1. What should be the chief concern of man?

Man’s chief concern should be to seek after the Kingdom of God and his righteousness.

2. How do we obtain righteousness?

We obtain righteousness through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we are saved.

3. What then must we do to be saved?

We must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ

4. Where are we told what we must do to be saved?

God has told us what we must do to be saved in his Word, the Holy Bible, which was written by men who were moved by the Holy Spirit.

5. In what two ways has God in the Bible revealed his will toward man?

In the Bible god has revealed his will toward man by the Law and by the Gospel.

PART I: GOD AND HIS ATTRIBUTES

6. What has God revealed about himself in the Bible?

In the Bible God has revealed to us that he is One God, that he is Spirit, and that he is Life, Light, and Love.

7. What do we mean when we say: God is Life?

“God is Life” means that he is eternal, unchangeable, and ever present.

8. What do we mean when we say that God is Light?

“God is Light” means that he is true, all-knowing, all-wise, holy, almighty, and just.

9. What do we mean when we say: God is Love?

“God is Love” means that he is blessed, good, gracious, and merciful.

10. What mystery concerning God does the Bible reveal?

The Bible reveals to us the mystery that in the one God there are three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that these three are one.

PART II: THE THREE ARTICLES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

11. In what creed does the Christian Church confess its faith in the Triune God?

The Christian Church confesses its faith in the Triune God in the Apostles’ Creed.

THE APOSTLES' CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate: was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the one holy universal Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

The First Article of the Christian Faith

12. What is the First Article of the Christian Faith?

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

13. Of what does the First article of the Christian Faith treat?

The First Article of the Christian Faith treats of God the Father and of the work of Creation.

14. What do we mean when we say, “God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”?

In the beginning God created heaven and earth by the power of his Word.

15. How does God constantly prove himself to be the Creator?

God constantly proves himself to be the Creator by his fatherly providence, whereby he preserves and governs all things.

16. What has God done for you?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that he has given me and still preserves my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, also food and clothing, home and family, and all my possessions.

17. What does God still do for you?

God daily and abundantly provides me with all the necessaries of life, protects and preserves me from all danger.

18. Why does God do this for you?

God does all this out of sheer fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part.

19. What do you owe God for all this?

For all this I am in duty bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him.

20. What are angels?

The angels are ministering spirits who are sent forth by God to do his will.

21. Have all the angels always obeyed the will of God?

No; for many of the angels once sinned against God and were banished to hell as enemies of God and man. The chief among the evil spirits is called the devil, or satan.

22. What is the principal creature on earth?

The principal creature on earth is Man, created in the image of God, so that we could know him and live in blessed fellowship with him.

23. Did man remain as he was created?

No; for our first parents fell away from God when they permitted satan to lead them into unbelief and disobedience.

24. What were the sad consequences of this fall of man?

By this fall man lost the strength and beauty of God’s image and came under the power of satan, sin, and death. This corruption has been transmitted from Adam to all mankind.

25. What is man’s condition since the fall?

Since the fall, man is not prepared to do good, but inclined to do evil. This inherited corruption is called original sin.

26. What is sin?

Sin is unbelief and disobedience in thought and desire, word and deed, whereby evil is done or good is neglected, whether thoughtlessly or wilfully.

27. What is the punishment of sin?

The punishment of sin is death, as it is written Romans 6:23: The wages of sin is death.

28. How manifold is this death?

This death is threefold: physical, spiritual, and eternal.

29. What did God in his mercy resolve to do to save mankind from sin and its punishment?

God in his mercy resolved from all eternity to save fallen mankind through his only begotten Son.

30. How did God prepare mankind for the coming of the Savior?

God prepared mankind for the coming of the Savior by the promises given in Paradise and to the patriarchs of Israel, by the Law delivered to Moses, by forms of worship in the Old Covenant, and by the preaching of the prophets.

The Law of God

31. Where do we find the Law of God in brief form?

We find the law of God briefly given in the Ten Commandments.

32. What is the First Commandment?

I am the Lord thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other God’s before me.

33. What is meant by the First Commandment?

God forbids all idolatry and requires that we fear, love, and trust him above all things.

34. What is the Second Commandment?

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them. For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

35. What is meant by the Second Commandment?

God forbids us to worship him in any image; He requires us to worship him as he has taught us in his Word and revealed himself to us in his Son Jesus Christ.

36. What is the Third Commandment?

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

37. What is meant by the Third Commandment?

God forbids that we profane or abuse his name by cursing, false swearing, witchcraft, or unnecessary oaths, and requires that we use his holy name with fear and reverence.

38. What is the Fourth Commandment?

Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath-day and hallowed it.

39. What is meant by the Fourth Commandment?

God requires that we hallow the Lord’s Day by resting from worldly employment, by diligently going to church, and by using the day for the welfare of ourselves and others, and thus to the honor of God.

40. What is the Fifth Commandment?

Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

41. What is meant by the Fifth Commandment?

God requires that I always honor father and mother by loving, obeying, and serving them, and caring for them in sickness, need, and old age; likewise, that I should respect all who, in God’s providence, are my superiors.

42. What is the Sixth Commandment?

Thou shalt not kill.

43. What is meant by the Sixth Commandment?

God forbids not only murder, but every deed, word, and thought, whereby my own life or the life of my fellow-man is shortened or embittered; God requires that I help my fellow-man in every need and seek his welfare for this life and the life to come.

44. What is the Seventh Commandment?

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

45. What is meant by the Seventh Commandment?

God forbids the breaking of the marriage vow and requires all of us to be chaste in thought, word, and deed.

46. What is the Eighth Commandment?

Thou shalt not steal.

47. What is meant by the Eighth Commandment?

God forbids not only robbery and theft, but all unfair and dishonest dealings, and requires that we should help to improve and protect our neighbor’s possessions and livelihood.

48. What is the Ninth Commandment?

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

49. What is meant by the Ninth Commandment?

God forbids perjury, slander, and all manner of falsehood, and requires not only that we should be truthful and sincere in our lives, but also that we should protect the honor and good name of our fellow-man.

50. What is the Tenth Commandment?

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

51. What is meant by the Tenth Commandment?

God forbids all evil lusts and desires for wrongful possession or enjoyment, and requires that we seek our joy in him and in his loving care for us.

52. What is the summary of the Ten Commandments?

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. (Deut. 6:5.) Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Lev. 19:18.) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:40.)

53. What does God declare concerning these commandments?

God says: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10.) “Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and mine ordinances; which, if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.” (Lev. 18:5; Luke 10:28.)

54. What is meant by this declaration?

God threatens to punish all who break his Commandments, but to those who keep them he promises grace and blessing. We should therefore fear to do wrong and seek to do God’s will.

55. Have you, or has anyone, ever perfectly kept the Law of God?

No man has ever perfectly kept the Law of God. By nature we are inclined to evil and have in many ways disobeyed God’s Commandments and therefore well deserve the curse of the Law.

56. Can we in any way escape the curse of the Law and be saved?

We can escape the curse of the Law and be saved through the grace of God, by which the Gospel of Jesus Christ is given to us.

57. What has God in his grace and mercy done to save us?

God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Gal. 4:4-5.)

The Second Article of the Christian Faith

58. What is the Second Article of the Christian Faith?

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate: was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

59. Of what does the Second Article of the Christian Faith treat?

The Second Article treats of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and of the work of redemption.

60. Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person, my savior, redeemer, and Lord.

61. How does the Bible testify that Jesus Christ is true God?

In the Bible Jesus Christ is called God; furthermore, the Bible testifies to his divine nature and works, and demands divine honors for him.

62. How does the Bible testify that the Son of God became true man?

Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary; he thereby entered into human nature and became in all things as we are, yet without sin.

63. How did Christ reveal himself as the savior before his death?

Christ revealed himself as the Savior before his death by his holy life, in which he perfectly fulfilled the Law of God; by his preaching the forgiveness of sin through faith in him; by his miracles, which are all works of life.

64. Whereby did Christ accomplish our redemption?

Christ accomplished our redemption by his suffering and death, in which he endured, in our stead, the wrath of God against sin, thereby redeeming us from sin, satan, and death.

65. Why was the death of Christ necessary for our redemption?

The death of Christ was necessary for our redemption because we, lost sinners, could be redeemed neither by teaching nor by example, but only by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ in his suffering and death.

66. Of what importance is Christ’s burial?

Christ’s burial is a testimony that he had really died.

67. What is meant when we say, “He descended into hell”?

This statement means that Jesus went to the place of departed spirits and brought them the message of salvation.

68. What does it mean to us that Jesus Christ arose from the dead?

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that he is the Son of God; that he is our Redeemer, in whom we have newness of life; and that we also shall be raised from the dead.

69. What does it mean to us that Christ ascended into heaven?

Forty days after his resurrection, Christ was visibly taken up into heaven, there to prepare a place for us.

70. What do we confess by the words “He sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty”?

By these words we confess that the risen and ascended Christ is in heaven in the full power and glory of God.

71. What do we confess with the words “From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead”?

With these words we confess that Christ will come again on the last day with great power and glory to take into eternal life those who believe, and to deliver into eternal death those who do not believe.

72. In which passage of Holy Scripture do we find the humiliation and exaltation of Christ briefly described?

We find the humiliation and exaltation of Christ briefly described in the passage Philippians 2:5-11:

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

73. A Summary of the Second Article of the Christian Faith.

1. Who is Jesus Christ?

I believe that Jesus Christ–true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary–is my Lord.

2. What did Christ do for you?

He has redeemed, purchased, and delivered me, a lost and condemned creature, from all sins, from death and from the power of satan.

3. How did he redeem you?

Not with silver of gold, but with his holy, precious blood, and with his innocent suffering and death.

4. To what purpose did he redeem you?

That I might be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as he is risen from the dead, lives and reigns in all eternity.

The Third Article of the Christian Faith

74. What is the Third Article of the Christian Faith?

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the one holy universal Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

75. Of what does the Third Article of the Christian Faith treat?

The Third Article of the Christian Faith treats of God the Holy Spirit and of the godly life which he makes possible.

76. What do we believe about the Holy Spirit?

We believe that the Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, with the Father and the Son, true and eternal God, a Lord and distributor of all gifts, who enables us to come to Christ, our Lord, and to remain with him forever.

77. By what means does the Holy Spirit do his work?

The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and the Holy Sacraments, which are the means of grace.

78. In what manner does the Holy Spirit lead us to Christ?

The Holy Spirit makes known to us the call of God to come to Christ; he teaches us how, because of our sin, we need Christ; he leads us by repentance and faith to accept and follow Christ; he enables us thus to begin and live the new life of a child of God.

79. What is repentance?

True repentance consists in conviction of sin, sorrow for sin, confession and renunciation of sin, and longing for grace.

80. What is faith?

Faith is complete trust in God and willing acceptance of his grace in Jesus Christ.

81. What does God do for us when we come to him in repentance and faith?

When we come to God in repentance and faith, he forgives us our sins for Jesus’ sake, counts the merit of Christ as belonging to us, and accepts us as his children. This is justification.

82. How does the Bible speak of the change in our life brought about by repentance and faith?

The Bible speaks of this change as being born again, or as being converted. 83. What does it mean to be born again?

To be born again means the beginning of the new life within us by the power of God’s word and the sacrament of baptism. This is regeneration.

84. What does it mean to be converted?

To be converted means to turn from the broad way of the sinful life and to enter the narrow way of the godly life. (This is conversion.)

85. Whereby are we assured of our justification?

We are assured of our justification by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, as it is written Romans 8:15-16: For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

86. What is necessary for us to continue in the godly life?

In order that we may continue in the godly life the Holy Spirit must daily transform and renew us in all our thoughts and actions and make us acceptable to God. This is sanctification.

87. What is meant by “Church” in the Apostles’ Creed?

By the one holy universal Christian Church we mean the entire body of true Christians.

88. Why is the church called “one” Church?

The Christian Church is called the “one” Church because it has one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, as it is written in Ephesians 4:3-6:Giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all.

89. Why is the Church called holy?

The Church is called holy because the Holy Spirit works mightily in it by Word and Sacrament to the end that all its members shall be made holy.

90. Why is the Church called universal?

The Church is called universal because God has meant it for all men, and because everyone finds in it what he needs.

91. Why is the Church called the “Christian” Church?

The Church is called the Christian Church because Christ alone is its foundation, its head, and its ideal.

92. What is the mission of the Church?

The mission of the church is to extend the Kingdom of God, that is, to lead men to Christ and to establish Christian principles in every relation of life.

93. What is the Kingdom of God?

The Kingdom of God is the rule of God established in the hearts and lives of men.

94. Where did Christ set forth the principles of his Kingdom?

Christ set forth the principles of his Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7. Luke, chapter 6, verses 20-49.)

95. Has the Church already become all that we confess concerning it?

The Church has indeed existed at all times as the true Church, but has frequently erred and been corrupted; its future perfection, however, is certain, according to God’s promise.

96. What do we understand by the communion of saints?

By the communion of saints we understand that all Christians, as members of one body, should love and help one another in all things.

97. What do we mean by the words “I believe in the forgiveness of sins”? The forgiveness of sins is present in Christ for all mankind, and is offered by the grace of God to all sinners.

98. What do we understand by the resurrection of the body?

On the last day Christ will raise up all the dead, as it is written (John 5:28-29): For the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.

99. What do we mean by the life everlasting?

By the life everlasting we mean that in the resurrection all children of God shall receive the glory of Christ in body and soul and shall abide with him forever.

100. A summary of the Third Article of the Christian Faith.

1. How do you become a true Christian?

I believe that I can not by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord Jesus Christ, or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and preserved me in the true faith.

2. Through what institution does the Holy Spirit work?

The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and preserves the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

3. What do you receive in the Church through the Holy Spirit?

In the Christian Church the Holy Spirit daily and abundantly forgives me and all believers all sins.

4. What is your hope for the future?

On the last day Christ will raise up me and all the dead and will give to me and all believers everlasting life. This is most certainly true.

PART III: PRAYER

101. What is prayer?

Prayer is the conversation of the heart with God for the purpose of praising him, asking him to supply the needs of ourselves and others, and thanking him for whatever he gives us.

102. In what prayer has the Lord Jesus taught us how to pray?

Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen. (Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4.)

103. What is the meaning of “Our Father who art in heaven”?

Our heavenly Father desires us and all his children to call upon him with cheerful confidence, as beloved children entreat a kind and benevolent father, knowing that he is both willing and able to help us.

104. What do we pray for in the first petition: Hallowed be thy name?

We pray in this petition that God’s name may be kept holy among us as it is holy in itself. This is done when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we as the children of God lead a holy life in accordance with it.

105. What do we pray for in the second petition: Thy kingdom come?

In the second petition we pray that we and all others may share in the Kingdom of God which was established by the redemption through Jesus Christ, and that its rule may be extended over all the world.

106. What do we pray for in the third petition: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?

In the third petition we pray that God’s good and gracious will may be done by us and all men as cheerfully as it is done by the angels in heaven.

107. What do we pray for in the fourth petition: Give us this day our daily bread?

In the fourth petition we look to God as the One who supplies the needs of our body as well as of our soul, and we ask him to make us truly thankful for these his gifts.

108. What do we pray for in the fifth petition: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors?

In the fifth petition we ask God for gracious forgiveness of our sins, and for willingness and strength to forgive others.

109. What do we pray for in the sixth petition: Lead us not into temptation? In the sixth petition we pray that whenever we are tempted by satan, the world, and our flesh to do evil, God may protect and keep us from sinning.

110. What do we pray for in the seventh petition: But deliver us from evil?

In the seventh petition we pray that the heavenly Father may deliver us from every evil of body and soul; and finally, when our last hour has come, graciously take us from this world of sorrow to himself in heaven.

111. What is the meaning of the closing words: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever?

By these closing words we mean to express our confidence that God will hear and answer our petitions; for he himself has commanded us thus to pray and promised that we shall be heard. Amen: That is, Yea, yea, it shall be so.

112. Why is prayer necessary?

Prayer is necessary because God will give his grace and his Holy Spirit only to those who earnestly and without ceasing ask them of him and render thanks unto him.

113. How should we pray?

We should pray humbly because of our need and unworthiness; and yet with faith, believing that for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord, God will certainly hear our prayer.

114. Are all our prayers answered?

All prayers are answered either in the way we expect God to answer them or in the way God knows will be best for us.

PART IV: THE SACRAMENT OF HOLY BAPTISM

115. What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is a holy ordinance of the Church instituted by Christ himself in which by visible signs and means he imparts and preserves the new life.

116. How many sacraments has Christ instituted?

Christ has instituted two sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

117. With what words did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Baptism?

Christ instituted the sacrament of Holy Baptism with these words in Matthew 28:18-20:

All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

118. What does God do for us in Holy Baptism?

In Holy Baptism God imparts the gift of the new life unto man, receives him into his fellowship as his child, and admits him as a member of the Christian Church.

119. What does Holy Baptism require of us?

Holy Baptism requires of us that we by daily repentance renounce all sinful longings and desires, and by faith arise to a new life.

120. Why should little children be baptized?

Little children should be baptized because the new life is a gift of God’s love, which little children need as much and are as able to receive as adults, for the Lord Jesus has promised unto them his Kingdom.

121. What does the baptism of children require of the parents?

The baptism of children requires of the parents that they help their children to grow in godly life by Christian teaching and training, by prayer and example.

122. What is confirmation?

Confirmation is the renewal of the baptismal covenant. The baptized children, having been instructed in the Christian faith, publicly confess their faith in their Savior Jesus Christ, promise obedience to him until death, and are received by the Church into active membership.

PART V: THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORD’S SUPPER

123. With what words did Christ institute the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me. In like manner also he took the cup, after supper, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25.)

124. What are the visible signs and means of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper? The visible signs and means of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper are bread and wine, partaken of by the communicant.

125. What is the Lord’s Supper?

The Lord’s Supper is the sacrament by which we receive the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as the nourishment of our new life, strengthen the fellowship with Christ and all believers, and confess that he has died for us.

126. What blessings do we receive as we eat and drink in the Lord’s Supper?

As we eat and drink in the Lord’s Supper we receive forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. For so it is written: Broken and shed for you for the remission of sins.

127. On what condition do we receive the blessings of the Lord’s Supper?

We receive the blessings of the Lord’s Supper only as we eat and drink with heartfelt repentance and true faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

128. What does our communion daily require of us?

Our communion requires that we daily keep in remembrance the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus, and that we consider well how hard it was for our Savior to bear our sins and the sins of the whole world, and to gain eternal salvation for us by offering up his life and shedding his blood. And since our sins caused the Lord Jesus the greatest sufferings, yea bitter death, we should have no pleasure in sin, but earnestly flee and avoid it; and being reclaimed by our Savior and Redeemer we should live, suffer and die to his honor, so that at all times and especially in the hour of death we may cheerfully and confidently say:

Lord Jesus, for thee I live, for thee I suffer, for thee I die!
Lord Jesus, thine will I be in life and death!
Grant me, O Lord, eternal salvation!
Amen.

© United Church Press. Reprinted with permission.

About this testimony

This version of the Evangelical Catechism was authorized in 1929 by the Evangelical Synod of North America—one of the antecedents of the United Church of Christ. The Synod's roots were in the "unierte" or "united" church tradition in Germany. As such, it reconciled the separated Reformed and Lutheran expressions of the Christian faith, and affirmed the authority of both Reformed and Lutheran confessions of faith. The Catechism reflected the spirit of German Pietism with its emphasis on personal conversion to Jesus Christ. Evangelical congregations continued to use the Catechism for religious instruction well after the 1934 union of the Evangelical Synod with the Reformed Church in the U.S., which resulted in a new "Evangelical and Reformed Church," and the subsequent union in 1957 of that church with the Congregational Christian Churches, who together formed the United Church of Christ .

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Barmen Declaration

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/barmen-declaration.html

In view of the errors of the "German Christians" and of the present Reich Church Administration, which are ravaging the Church and at the same time also shattering the unity of the German Evangelical Church, we confess the following evangelical truths:

1. "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

"Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved." John 10:1,9

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God's revelation.

2. "Jesus Christ has been made wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption for us by God." 1 Cor. 1:30

As Jesus Christ is God's comforting pronouncement of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, with equal seriousness, he is also God's vigorous announcement of his claim upon our whole life. Through him there comes to us joyful liberation from the godless ties of this world for free, grateful service to his creatures.

We reject the false doctrine that there could be areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ but to other lords, areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

3. "Let us, however, speak the truth in love, and in every respect grow into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body is joined together." Eph. 4:15-16

The Christian Church is the community of brethren in which, in Word and Sacrament, through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ acts in the present as Lord. With both its faith and its obedience, with both its message and its order, it has to testify in the midst of the sinful world, as the Church of pardoned sinners, that it belongs to him alone and lives and may live by his comfort and under his direction alone, in expectation of his appearing.

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could have permission to hand over the form of its message and of its order to whatever it itself might wish or to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.

4. "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to have authority over you must be your servant." Matt. 20:25-26

The various offices in the Church do not provide a basis for some to exercise authority over others but for the ministry [lit., "service"] with which the whole community has been entrusted and charged to be carried out.

We reject the false doctrine that, apart from this ministry, the Church could, and could have permission to, give itself or allow itself to be given special leaders [Führer] vested with ruling authority.

5. "Fear God. Honor the Emperor." 1 Pet. 2:17

Scripture tells us that by divine appointment the State, in this still unredeemed world in which also the Church is situated, has the task of maintaining justice and peace, so far as human discernment and human ability make this possible, by means of the threat and use of force. The Church acknowledges with gratitude and reverence toward God the benefit of this, his appointment. It draws attention to God's Dominion [Reich], God's commandment and justice, and with these the responsibility of those who rule and those who are ruled. It trusts and obeys the power of the Word, by which God upholds all things.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the State should and could become the sole and total order of human life and so fulfil the vocation of the Church as well.

We reject the false doctrine that beyond its special commission the Church should and could take on the nature, tasks and dignity which belong to the State and thus become itself an organ of the State.

6. "See, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matt. 28:20 "God's Word is not fettered." 2 Tim. 2:9

The Church's commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ's stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God.

We reject the false doctrine that with human vainglory the Church could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of self-chosen desires, purposes and plans.

The Confessing Synod of the German Evangelical Church declares that it sees in the acknowledgment of these truths and in the rejection of these errors the indispensable theological basis of the German Evangelical Church as a confederation of Confessing Churches. It calls upon all who can stand in solidarity with its Declaration to be mindful of these theological findings in all their decisions concerning Church and State. It appeals to all concerned to return to unity in faith, hope and love.

Verbum Dei manet in aeternum.
The Word of God will last for ever.

Adapted from Robert McAfee Brown, Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church, published in 1990 by Wm. B. Eerdmans. 

About this testimony

The Barmen Declaration, 1934, was a call to resistance against the theological claims of the Nazi state. Almost immediately after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to "aryanize" the Church, expel Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopt the Nazi "Führer Principle" as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and some Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi "German Christian" movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a "German prophet" and preached that racial consciousness was a source of revelation alongside the Bible. But many Christians in Germany—including Lutheran and Reformed, liberal and neo-orthodox—opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church's proclamation. At Barmen, this emerging "Confessing Church" adopted a declaration drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God's revelation. Not all Christians courageously resisted the regime, but many who did—like the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg—were arrested and executed in concentration camps. The spirituality of the Barmen Declaration profoundly influenced many of the first generation of pastors and laypeople who formed the United Church of Christ in 1957.

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Basis of Union

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/basis-of-union.html

Preamble

We, the regularly constituted representatives of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church, moved by the conviction that we are united in spirit and purpose and are in agreement on the substance of the Christian faith and the essential character of the Christian life;

Affirming our devotion to one God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our membership in the holy catholic Church, which is greater than any single Church and than all the Churches together;

Believing that denominations exist not for themselves but as parts of that Church, within which each denomination is to live and labor and, if need be, die; and

Confronting the divisions and hostilities of our world, and hearing with a deepened sense of responsibility the prayer of our Lord "that they all may be one";

Do now declare ourselves to be one body, and do set forth the following articles of agreement as the basis of our life, fellowship, witness, and proclamation of the Gospel to all nations.

I. Name

The name of the Church formed by this union shall be UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST.

This name expresses a fact: it stands for the accomplished union of two church bodies each of which has arisen from a similar union of two church bodies. It also expresses a hope: that in time soon to come, by further union between this Church and other bodies, there shall arise a more inclusive United Church.

II. Faith

The faith which unites us and to which we bear witness is that faith in God which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments set forth, which the ancient Church expressed in the ecumenical creeds, to which our own spiritual fathers gave utterance in the evangelical confessions of the Reformation, and which we are in duty bound to express in the words of our time as God Himself gives us light. In all our expressions of that faith we seek to preserve unity of heart and spirit with those who have gone before us as well as those who now labor with us.

In token of that faith we unite in the following confession, as embodying those things most surely believed and taught among us:

We believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator and Sustainer of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and Savior, who for us and our salvation lived and died and rose again and lives for evermore; and in the Holy Spirit, who takes of the things of Christ and shows them to us, renewing, comforting and inspiring the souls of men.

We acknowledge one holy catholic Church, the innumerable company of those who, in every age and nation, are united by the Holy Spirit to God in Christ, are one body in Christ, and have communion with Him and with one another.

We acknowledge as part of this universal fellowship all throughout the world who profess this faith in Jesus Christ and follow Him as Lord and Savior.

We hold the Church to be established for calling men to repentance and faith, for the public worship of God, for the confession of His name by word and deed, for the administration of the sacraments, for witnessing to the saving grace of God in Christ, for the upbuilding of the saints, and for the universal propagation of the Gospel; and in the power of the love of God in Christ we labor for the progress of knowledge, the promotion of justice, the reign of peace, and the realization of human brotherhood.

Depending, as did our fathers, upon the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, we work and pray for the consummation of the Kingdom of God, and we look with faith for the triumph of righteousness and for the life everlasting.

About this testimony

The Basis of Union, 1943, was an early agreement between the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church. It was formulated during World War II, a time like our own when churches believed it was God's call to witness to unity as a sign of reconciliation in a divided and despairing world. The agreement set the stage for the 1957 union of the two communions into the United Church of Christ.

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Preamble to the Constitution of the United Church of Christ

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/preamble-to-the-constitution.html

The United Church of Christ acknowledges as its sole head, Jesus Christ, Son of God and Savior. It acknowledges as kindred in Christ all who share in this confession. It looks to the Word of God in the Scriptures, and to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, to prosper its creative and redemptive work in the world. It claims as its own the faith of the historic Church expressed in the ancient creeds and reclaimed in the basic insights of the Protestant Reformers. It affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God. In accordance with the teaching of our Lord and the practice prevailing among evangelical Christians, it recognizes two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion.

About this testimony

Adopted at the uniting General Synod of 1957, the Preamble of the Constitution of the United Church of Christ represents the core of the theological consensus that brought the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches together in covenant.

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Statement of Mission of the United Churches of Christ

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/statement-of-mission.html

As people of the United Church of Christ, affirming our Statement of Faith, we seek within the Church Universal to participate in God's mission and to follow the way of the crucified and risen Christ.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called and commit ourselves:

 To praise God, confess our sin, and joyfully accept God's forgiveness;

 To proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in our suffering world;

 To embody God's Love for all people;

 To hear and give voice to creation's cry for justice and peace;

 To name and confront the powers of evil within and among us;

 To repent our silence and complicity with the forces of chaos and death;

 To preach and teach with the power of the living Word;

 To join oppressed and troubled people in the struggle for liberation;

 To work for justice, healing, and wholeness of life;

 To embrace the unity of Christ's church;

 To discern and celebrate the present and coming reign of God. 

About this testimony

The UCC Statement of Mission, 1987, was drafted by a churchwide conference on mission in
Houston, Texas, in which representatives from all communities in the church—including evangelicals, liberals, and others—tried to find common ground. The statement was affirmed by General Synod XVI later that year.

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Toward the 21st Century: A Statement of Commitment

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/toward-the-21st-century.html

We, the United Church of Christ, look toward the twenty-first Century with anticipation. We trust God's promises. We are eager to respond to God's call. We believe that God does have more truth and light yet to break forth from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

A Church attentive to the Word

By God's grace, we will be an attentive church. We commit ourselves anew to listen for God's Word in Holy Scripture, in our rich heritage, in faithful witness, and in the fresh winds of the Holy Spirit so that we might discover God's way for us.

We are claimed in baptism as children of God, disciples of Christ, and members of Christ's church. Through sustained Biblical and theological reflection on the challenges, confusions. injustices, mercies and possibilities that confront us, we hope to discern baptism's claim so that we might be the faithful disciples these days require.

We want to remember whose we are. Therefore, we will be faithful in worship and study, attentive to the Word and nurtured at the Table. We will be a people of prayer.

We want to be faithful disciples. Therefore, we will relate our faith boldly to all of life's demands.

We want all people to know of God's gracious activity on our behalf. Therefore, we will share God's Good News so that God's way may be revealed, God's forgiveness received, and God's future affirmed.

A Church inclusive of all people

By God's grace, we will be an inclusive church. We commit ourselves to be a church for all people and, in Christ, we celebrate, affirm, and embrace the rich diversity of God's good creation.

We seek to be a fully inclusive community of faith, sharing bread and cup with all who see, in Christ, the way to our common future. We believe that God desires our oneness with all people, everywhere, and we long for the day when we may all be one.

We acknowledge that we are far less inclusive than we are called to be. Therefore, we will intentionally reach out into the world and lovingly invite all to Christ, and to participate fully in the ordering of our common life.

We acknowledge that we sometimes find it difficult to accept the gifts that others bring. Therefore, we will seek to be open to those gifts, affirm them, learn from them, and, at the leading of the Holy Spirit, be transformed by them.

We acknowledge that the world in which we live is far more diverse than we have hitherto imagined. We celebrate this rich diversity. Therefore, united in Christ, we will reach toward it in anticipation of God's reign.

A Church responsive to God's call

By God's grace, we will be a responsive church. We commit ourselves to be a church of justice and mercy and peace so that lives may be renewed, spirits revived, and worlds transformed.

So many of God's people suffer. So many are maltreated. God's good earth cries out in pain. Our world needs those who will pursue justice, show mercy, and seek peace. That is the church we hear God calling us to be. We want "to join oppressed and troubled people in the struggle for liberation . . . and to work for justice, healing, and wholeness of life." [Quote from the UCC Statement of Mission]

We envision a world wherein "justice will flow down like mighty waters." Therefore, we will stand alongside those who hurt so that the hungry may be fed, the excluded embraced, and the creation renewed.

We envision a world wherein mercy reigns. Therefore, we will heal the sick, encourage the weary, and support the dying.

We envision a world of peace for all people, everywhere. Therefore, we will be peacemakers so that hostilities and hatreds may cease and love, mercy, and justice prevail.

A Church supportive of one another

By God's grace, we will be a supportive church. We commit ourselves to strengthen Christ's body through renewed resolve and mutual support in our common ministries.

In the immediate days ahead, our servant church will face days of challenge. We will need dedicated pastors and teachers. We will need vibrant congregations. Only a people who share a common vision, who support each other whatever the cost, and who are committed, together, to strengthen Christ's Church for ministry will be equal to the task. We want to be that church.

We believe that a vital church is a covenantal church. Therefore, we will be supportive of each other and accountable to each other.

We believe that a vital church is a sacrificial church. Therefore, we will give sacrificially of our resources so that Christ's Church may be strengthened and God's people served.

We believe that a vital church is a "united and uniting church." Therefore, we will seek to embody the oneness of Christ's church through ecumenical commitment, witness, and ministries in Christ's name.

About this testimony

In 1993, the General Synod of the United Church of Christ adopted this "Statement of Commitment" as the starting point for four "seasons" of churchwide theological reflection on the future of our community of faith as we enter the 21st century. The statement underscores that the UCC seeks to be a church where all people—including those historically excluded by the Christian community—can find a home.

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Study Catechism 1998 of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/study-catechism-1998-of-the.html

I. The Apostles Creed
II. The Ten Commandments
III. The Lord's Prayer

Question 1. What is God's purpose for your life?

God wills that I should live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the love of God, and in the communion of the Holy Spirit.

2 Cor. 13:13 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."

Question 2. How do you live by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ?

I am not my own. I have been bought with a price. The Lord Jesus Christ loved me and gave himself for me. I entrust myself completely to his care, giving thanks each day for his wonderful goodness.

1 Cor. 6:19-20 "You are not your own for you were bought with a price."
Gal.
2:20 "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Ps. 136:1 "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever."

Question 3. How do you live for the love of God?

I love because God first loved me. God loves me in Christ with a love that never ends. Amazed by grace, I no longer live for myself. I live for the Lord who died and rose again, triumphant over death, for my sake. Therefore, I take those around me to heart, especially those in particular need, knowing that Christ died for them no less than for me.

1 John 4:19 "We love because he first loved us."
2 Cor. 5:15 "And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."
Rom.
12:15-16 "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are."

Question 4. How do you live in the communion of the Holy Spirit?

By the Holy Spirit, I am made one with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am baptized into Christ's body, the church, along with all others who confess him by faith. As a member of this community, I trust in God's Word, share in the Lord's Supper, and turn to God constantly in prayer. As I grow in grace and knowledge, I am led to do the good works that God intends for my life.

1 Cor. 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
Gal.
3:27 "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
1 Cor.
6:17, 19 "But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?"
2 Pet.
3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."
Eph.
2:10 "For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

I. The Apostles' Creed

Question 5. What does a Christian believe?

All that is promised in the gospel. A summary is found in the Apostles' Creed, which affirms the main content of the Christian faith.

John 20:31 "But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name."

Question 6. What is the first article of the Apostles' Creed?

"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth."

Question 7. What do you believe when you confess your faith in "God the Father Almighty"?

That God is a God of love, and that God's love is powerful beyond measure.

Lam. 3:22 "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end."
Song 8:7 "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one's house, it would be utterly scorned."
1 John 4:8 "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Question 8. How do you understand the love and power of God?

Through Jesus Christ. In his life of compassion, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, I see how vast is God's love for the world—a love that is ready to suffer for our sakes, yet so strong that nothing will prevail against it.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
Heb. 1:3 "He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being."
1 John 4:9 "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him."
Matt.
9:36 "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
Ps. 106:8 "Yet he saved them for his name's sake, so that he might make known his mighty power."

Question 9. What comfort do you receive from this truth?

This powerful and loving God is the one whose promises I may trust in all the circumstances of my life, and to whom I belong in life and in death.

Ps. 12:6 "The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times."
Rom. 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Question 10. Do you make this confession only as an individual?

No. With the apostles, prophets and martyrs, with all those through the ages who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ, and with all who strive to serve him on earth here and now, I confess my faith in the God of loving power and powerful love.

Heb. 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us."
Rom.
1:12 "So that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine."

Question 11. When the creed speaks of "God the Father," does it mean that God is male?

No. Only creatures having bodies can be either male or female. But God has no body, since by nature God is Spirit. Holy Scripture reveals God as a living God beyond all sexual distinctions. Scripture uses diverse images for God, female as well as male. We read, for example, that God will no more forget us than a woman can forget her nursing child (Is. 49:15). "'As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you,' says the Lord" (Is. 66:13).

Is. 49:15 "Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you."
Is. 66:13 "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in
Jerusalem."
Matt.
23:37 "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

Question 12. Why then does the creed speak of God the Father?

First, because God is identified in the New Testament as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Second, because Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of this Father. Third, because when we are joined to Christ through faith, we are adopted as sons and daughters into the relationship he enjoys with his Father.

Rom. 1:7 "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."
John 14:9-10 "Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works."
John
17:24 "Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."
John
1:12 "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God."
Gal. 4:6 "Because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'"

Question 13. When you confess the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, are you elevating men over women and endorsing male domination?

No. Human power and authority are trustworthy only as they reflect God's mercy and kindness, not abusive patterns of domination. As Jesus taught his disciples, "The greatest among you will be your servant" (Matt. 23:11). God the Father sets the standard by which all misuses of power are exposed and condemned. "Call no one your father on earth," said Jesus, "for you have one Father—the one in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). In fact God calls women and men to all ministries of the church.

Gal. 3:28 "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
Eph.
5:21 "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

Question 14. If God's love is powerful beyond measure, why is there so much evil in the world?

No one can say why, for evil is a terrible abyss beyond all rational explanation. Its ultimate origin is obscure. Its enormity perplexes us. Nevertheless, we boldly affirm that God's triumph over evil is certain. In Jesus Christ God suffers with us, knowing all our sorrows. In raising him from the dead, God gives new hope to the world. Our Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is himself God's promise that suffering will come to an end, that death shall be no more, and that all things will be made new.

Ps. 23:4 "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me."
1 Pet. 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
2 Pet.
3:13 "But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.
Rom.
8:21 "The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
Job
19:25 "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth."

Question 15. What do you believe when you say that God is "Maker of heaven and earth"?

First, that God called heaven and earth, with all that is in them, into being out of nothing simply by the power of God's Word. Second, that by that same power all things are upheld and governed in perfect wisdom, according to God's eternal purpose.

Rev. 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
Gen. 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Heb. 11:3 "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible."

Question 16. What does it mean to say that we human beings are created in the image of God?

That God created us to live together in love and freedom—with God, with one another, and with the world. Our distinctive capacities—reason, imagination, volition and so on—are given primarily for this purpose. We are created to be loving companions of others so that something of God's goodness may be reflected in our lives.

Gen. 1:26 "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'"
Gen. 1:27 "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."

Question 17. What does our creation in God's image reflect about God's reality?

Our being created in and for relationship is a reflection of the Holy Trinity. In the mystery of the one God, the three divine persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—live in, with and for one another eternally in perfect love and freedom.

Luke 3:21-22 "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'"
John
1:18 "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."
John 5:19 "Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise."
John 17:21-22 "As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one."

Question 18. What does our creation in God's image reflect about God's love for us?

We are created to live wholeheartedly for God. When we honor our Creator as the source of all good things, we are like mirrors reflecting back the great beam of love that God shines on us. We are also created to honor God by showing love toward other human beings.

Ps. 9:1 "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."
1 John 4:7 "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God."
1 John 4:11 "Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another."
Matt. 5:14-16 "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven."

Question 19. As creatures made in God's image, what responsibility do we have for the earth?

God commands us to care for the earth in ways that reflect God's loving care for us. We are responsible for ensuring that earth's gifts be used fairly and wisely, that no creature suffers from the abuse of what we are given, and that future generations may continue to enjoy the abundance and goodness of the earth in praise to God.

Ps. 24:1 "The earth is the Lord's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it."
Ps. 89:11 "The heavens are yours, the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it ­ you have founded them."
Gen. 2:15 "The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it."
Gen. 1:26 "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'"
Is. 24:5 "The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant."
Rom. 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God ­ what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Question 20. Was the image of God lost when we turned from God by falling into sin?

Yes and no. Sin means that all our relations with others have become distorted and confused. Although we did not cease to be with God, our fellow human beings, and other creatures, we did cease to be for them; and although we did not lose our distinctive human capacities completely, we did lose the ability to use them rightly, especially in relation to God. Having ruined our connection with God by disobeying God's will, we are persons with hearts curved in upon ourselves. We have become slaves to the sin of which we are guilty, helpless to save ourselves, and are free, so far as freedom remains, only within the bounds of sin.

John 8:34 "Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."
Rom.
3:23 "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Rom.
3:10 "There is no one who is righteous, not even one."
Rom.
1:21 "Though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened."
Is. 59:1-3 "See, the Lord's hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness."

Question 21. What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is the image of God?

Despite our turning from God, God did not turn from us, but instead sent Jesus Christ in the fullness of time to restore our broken humanity. Jesus lived completely for God, by giving himself completely for us, even to the point of dying for us. By living so completely for others, he manifested what he was—the perfect image of God. When by grace we are conformed to him through faith, our humanity is renewed according to the divine image that we lost.

Is. 65:2 "I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices."
Phil. 2:8 "He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross."
Col. 1:15 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."
Rom.
8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family."

Question 22. What do you understand by God's providence?

That God not only preserves the world, but also continually attends to it, ruling and sustaining it with wise and benevolent care. God is concerned for every creature: "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, you satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Ps. 145:15). In particular, God provides for the world by bringing good out of evil, so that nothing evil is permitted to occur that God does not bend finally to the good. Scripture tells us, for example, how Joseph said to his brothers: "As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Gen. 50:20).

Rom. 8:28 "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
Ps. 103:19 "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all."
Ps. 145:17 "The Lord is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings."

Question 23. What comfort do you receive by trusting in God's providence?

The eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ watches over me each day of my life, blessing and guiding me wherever I may be. God strengthens me when I am faithful, comforts me when discouraged or sorrowful, raises me up if I fall, and brings me at last to eternal life. Entrusting myself wholly to God's care, I receive the grace to be patient in adversity, thankful in the midst of blessing, courageous against injustice, and confident that no evil afflicts me that God will not turn to my good.

Ps. 146:9 "The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin."
Is. 58:11 "The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail."
Is. 41:10 "Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand."
2 Cor. 1:3-5 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ."
Ps. 30:5 "For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning."

Question 24. What difference does your faith in God's providence make when you struggle against bitterness and despair?

When I suffer harm or adversity, my faith in God's providence upholds me against bitterness and despair. It reminds me when hope disappears that my heartache and pain are contained by a larger purpose and a higher power than I can presently discern. Even in grief, shame and loss, I can still cry out to God in lament, waiting on God to supply my needs, and to bring me healing and comfort.

Ps. 42:11 "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God."
2 Cor. 4:8-10 "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies."
Ps. 13:1-2 "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?"
Job
7:11 "Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."

Question 25. Did God need the world in order to be God?

No. God would still be God, eternally perfect and inexhaustibly rich, even if no creatures had ever been made. Yet without God, all created beings would simply fail to exist. Creatures can neither come into existence, nor continue, nor find fulfillment apart from God. God, however, is self-existent and self-sufficient.

Acts 17:24-25 "The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things."
John
1:16 "From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
John
5:26 "For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself."
Eph.
1:22 "And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church."

Question 26. Why then did God create the world?

God's decision to create the world was an act of grace. In this decision God chose to grant existence to the world simply in order to bless it. God created the world to reveal God's glory, to share the love and freedom at the heart of God's triune being, and to give us eternal life in fellowship with God.

Ps. 19:1 "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork."
2 Cor.
3:17 "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom."
Ps. 67:6-7 "The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him."
Eph. 1:3-4 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love."
John
3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life."

Question 27. Does your confession of God as Creator contradict the findings of modern science?

No. My confession of God as Creator answers three questions: Who?, How? and Why? It affirms that (a) the triune God, who is self-sufficient, (b) called the world into being out of nothing by the creative power of God's Word (c) for the sake of sharing love and freedom. Natural science has much to teach us about the particular mechanisms and processes of nature, but it is not in a position to answer these questions about ultimate reality, which point to mysteries that science as such is not equipped to explore. Nothing basic to the Christian faith contradicts the findings of modern science, nor does anything essential to modern science contradict the Christian faith.

John 1:1-3 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being."

Question 28. What is the second article of the Apostles' Creed?

"And I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell. On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead."

Question 29. What do you believe when you confess your faith in Jesus Christ as "God's only Son"?

That Jesus Christ is a unique person who was sent to do a unique work.

Luke 3:21-22 "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'"
Luke 12:49-50 "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!"
John
1:14 "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

Question 30. How do you understand the uniqueness of Jesus Christ?

No one else will ever be God incarnate. No one else will ever die for the sins of the world. Only Jesus Christ is such a person, only he could do such a work, and he in fact has done it.

Is. 53:5 "But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed."
John
1:29 "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Col. 1:15-20 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."

Question 31. What do you affirm when you confess your faith in Jesus Christ as "our Lord"?

That having been raised from the dead he reigns with compassion and justice over all things in heaven and on earth, especially over those who confess him by faith; and that by loving and serving him above all else, I give glory and honor to God.

1 Cor. 15:3-4 "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures."
Rev. 11:15 "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever."
Eph. 1:20-23 "God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."
Phil. 2:9-11 "Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Question 32. What do you affirm when you say he was "conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary"?

First, that being born of a woman, Jesus was truly a human being. Second, that our Lord's incarnation was a holy and mysterious event, brought about solely by free divine grace surpassing any human possibilities. Third, that from the very beginning of his life on earth, he was set apart by his unique origin for the sake of accomplishing our salvation.

Luke 1:31 "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus."
Luke 1:35 "The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.'"
Heb. 2:14 "Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil."
Phil. 2:5-7 "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness."

Question 33. What is the significance of affirming that Jesus is truly God?

Only God can properly deserve worship. Only God can reveal to us who God is. And only God can save us from our sins. Being truly God, Jesus meets these conditions. He is the proper object of our worship, the self-revelation of God, and the Savior of the world.

John 20:28 "Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!'"
Matt. 11:27 "All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."
1 John 4:14 "And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world."

Question 34. What is the significance of affirming that Jesus is also truly a human being?

Being truly human, Jesus entered fully into our fallen situation and overcame it from within. By his pure obedience, he lived a life of unbroken unity with God, even to the point of accepting a violent death. As sinners at war with grace, this is precisely the kind of life we fail to live. When we accept him by faith, he removes our disobedience and clothes us with his perfect righteousness.

Heb. 2:17-18 "Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested."
Heb. 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin."
Heb. 5:8-9 "Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him."
Rom.
5:19 "For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous."

Question 35. How can Jesus be truly God and yet also truly human at the same time?

The mystery of Jesus Christ's divine-human unity passes our understanding; only faith given by the Holy Spirit enables us to affirm it. When Holy Scripture depicts Jesus as someone with divine power, status and authority, it presupposes his humanity. And when it depicts him as someone with human weakness, neediness and mortality, it presupposes his deity. We cannot understand how this should be, but we can trust that the God who made heaven and earth is free to become God incarnate and thus to be God with us in this wonderful and awe-inspiring way.

Mark 1:27 "They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, 'What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
Mark
4:41 "And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'"
Matt. 28:18 "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.'"
Luke
22:44 "In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground."
Job 5:9 "He does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number."

Question 36. How did God use the people of Israel to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus?

God made a covenant with Israel, promising that God would be their light and their salvation, that they would be God's people, and that through them all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. Therefore, no matter how often Israel turned away from God, God still cared for them and acted on their behalf. In particular, God sent them prophets, priests and kings. Each of these was "anointed" by God's Spirit—prophets, to declare God's word; priests, to make sacrifice for the people's sins; and kings, to rule justly in the fear of God, upholding the poor and needy, and defending the people from their enemies.

Gen. 17:3-4 "Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 'As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations."
Gen. 12:1-4 "Now the Lord said to Abram, 'Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'"
Ex. 6:4-5 "I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant."
Gal.
3:14 "In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Jer. 30:22 "And you shall be my people, and I will be your God." 1 Pet. 2:9-10 "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
Zech. 1:6 "But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your ancestors?"
Lev. 5:6 "And the priest shall make atonement on your behalf for your sin." Ps. 72:1, 4 "Give your king justice, O God,. . . May he defend the cause of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor."

Question 37. Was the covenant with Israel an everlasting covenant?

Yes. With the coming of Jesus the covenant with Israel was expanded and confirmed. By faith in him Gentiles were welcomed into the covenant. This throwing open of the gates confirmed the promise that through Israel God's blessing would come to all peoples. Although for the most part Israel has not accepted Jesus as the Messiah, God has not rejected Israel. God still loves Israel, and God is their hope, "for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom. 11:29). The God who has reached out to unbelieving Gentiles will not fail to show mercy to Israel as the people of the everlasting covenant.

Is. 61:8 "I will make an everlasting covenant with them." Jer. 31:3 "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."
2 Sam. 23:5 "For he has made with me [David] an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure."
Rom.
11:29 "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable."

Question 38. Why was the title "Christ," which means "anointed one," applied to Jesus?

Jesus Christ was the definitive prophet, priest and king. All of the Lord's anointed in Israel anticipated and led finally to him. In assuming these offices Jesus not only transformed them, but also realized the purpose of Israel's election for the sake of the world.

2 Cor. 1:20 "For in him every one of God's promises is a 'Yes.' For this reason it is through him that we say the 'Amen,' to the glory of God."
Acts 10:37-38 "That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him."
Luke 4:17-19 "[Jesus] stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'"

Question 39. How did Jesus Christ fulfill the office of prophet?

He was God's Word to a dying and sinful world; he embodied the love he proclaimed. His life, death and resurrection became the great Yes that continues to be spoken despite how often we have said No. When we receive this Word by faith, Christ himself enters our hearts, that he may dwell in us forever, and we in him.

Acts 3:20, 22 "That he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, JesusMoses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.'"
John
1:18 "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."
Eph.
3:17 "And that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love."

Question 40. How did Jesus Christ fulfill the office of priest?

He was the Lamb of God that took away the sin of the world; he became our priest and sacrifice in one. Confronted by our hopelessness in sin and death, Christ interceded by offering himself—his entire person and work—in order to reconcile us to God.

Heb. 4:14 "Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession."
John
1:29 "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
Heb. 2:17 "Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people."
Eph. 1:7 "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace."

Question 41. How did Jesus Christ fulfill the office of king?

He was the Lord who took the form of a servant; he perfected royal power in weakness. With no sword but the sword of righteousness, and no power but the power of love, Christ defeated sin, evil and death by reigning from the cross.

John 19:19 "Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.'"
Phil. 2:5-8 "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross."
1 Cor. 1:25 "For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."
John
12:32 "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

Question 42. What do you affirm when you say that he "suffered under Pontius Pilate"?

First, that our Lord was humiliated, rejected and abused by the temporal authorities of his day, both religious and political. Christ thus aligned himself with all human beings who are oppressed, tortured, or otherwise shamefully treated by those with worldly power. Second, and even more importantly, that our Lord, though innocent, submitted himself to condemnation by an earthly judge so that through him we ourselves, though guilty, might be acquitted before our heavenly Judge.

Luke 18:32 "For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon."
Is. 53:3 "He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account."
Ps. 9:9 "The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."
Luke 1:52 "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly."
2 Cor. 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."
2 Tim. 4:8 "From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing."

Question 43. What do you affirm when you say that he was "crucified, dead and buried"?

That when our Lord passed through the door of real human death, he showed us that there is no sorrow he has not known, no grief he has not borne, and no price he was unwilling to pay in order to reconcile us to God.

Matt. 26:38-39 "Then he said to them, 'I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.' And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.'"
Is. 53:5 "But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed."
Gal.
3:13 "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'"
Heb. 2:9 "But we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone."
2 Cor. 5:19 "That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us."

Question 44. What do you affirm when you say that he "descended into hell"?

That our Lord took upon himself the full consequences of our sinfulness, even the agony of abandonment by God, in order that we might be spared.

Mark 15:34 "At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"
Heb.
9:26 "He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself."
Rom. 4:24-25 "It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification."

Question 45. Why did Jesus have to suffer as he did?

Because grace is more abundant—and sin more serious—than we suppose. However cruelly we may treat one another, all sin is primarily against God. God condemns sin, yet never judges apart from grace. In giving Jesus Christ to die for us, God took the burden of our sin into God's own self to remove it once and for all. The cross in all its severity reveals an abyss of sin swallowed up by the suffering of divine love.

Rom. 8:1, 3-4 "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us."
1 Cor. 1:18 "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
Rom. 5:8 "But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us."
Col. 1:20 "Through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross."
James
2:13 "For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment."

Question 46. What do you affirm when you say that "on the third day he rose again from the dead"?

That our Lord could not be held by the power of death. Having died on the cross, he appeared to his followers, triumphant from the grave, in a new, exalted kind of life. In showing them his hands and his feet, the one who was crucified revealed himself to them as the Lord and Savior of the world.

Acts 2:24 "But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power."
1 Cor. 15:3-4 "For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures."
Luke 24:36-40 "While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, 'Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.' And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet."
John 20:15-18 "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?' Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, 'Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.' Jesus said to her, 'Mary!' She turned and said to him in Hebrew, 'Rabbouni!' (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, 'Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord'; and she told them that he had said these things to her."
1 Cor. 15:5-8 "He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me."
John
20:27 "Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.'"

Question 47. What do you affirm when you say that "he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father"?

First, that Christ has gone to be with the Father, hidden except to the eyes of faith. Second, however, that Christ is not cut off from us in the remote past, or in some place from which he cannot reach us, but is present to us here and now by grace. He reigns with divine authority, protecting us, guiding us, and interceding for us until he returns in glory.

Acts 1:6-11 "So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'"
Col. 3:1 "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God."

Question 48. How do you understand the words that "he will come again to judge the living and the dead"?

Like everyone else, I too must stand in fear and trembling before the judgment seat of Christ. But the Judge is the one who submitted to judgment for my sake. Nothing will be able to separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus my Lord. All the sinful failures that cause me shame will perish as through fire, while any good I may have done will be received with gladness by God.

2 Cor. 5:10 "For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil."
Eccl.
12:14 "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil."
Acts
17:31 "He has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
Rom. 8:38-39 "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1 John 4:17 "Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world."
1 Cor. 3:12-15 "Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire."
Acts
10:42 "He is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead."

Question 49. Will all human beings be saved?

No one will be lost who can be saved. The limits to salvation, whatever they may be, are known only to God. Three truths above all are certain. God is a holy God who is not to be trifled with. No one will be saved except by grace alone. And no judge could possibly be more gracious than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Heb 10:31 "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Rom. 11:32 "For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all."
Matt. 18:12-14 "What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost."
Eph. 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
1 Tim. 2:3-4 "This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
John 3:17-18 "Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God."
Ezek.
18:32 "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God. Turn, then, and live."
2 Cor.
5:14-15 "Because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them."

Question 50. Is Christianity the only true religion?

Religion is a complex matter. When used as a means to promote self-justification, war-mongering or prejudice, it is a form of sin. Too often all religions—and not least Christianity—have been twisted in this way. Nevertheless, by grace, despite all disobedience, Christianity offers the truth of the gospel. Although other religions may enshrine various truths, no other can or does affirm the name of Jesus Christ as the hope of the world.

Matt 7:3 "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?"
James
1:26 "If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless."
James
1:27 "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Acts
4:12 "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." John 14:6 "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
Rom. 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
2 Cor. 4:7 "But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."

Question 51. How will God deal with the followers of other religions?

God has made salvation available to all human beings through Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. How God will deal with those who do not know or follow Christ, but who follow another tradition, we cannot finally say. We can say, however, that God is gracious and merciful, and that God will not deal with people in any other way than we see in Jesus Christ, who came as the Savior of the world.

Rev. 7:9 "And there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands."
Ps. 103:8 "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
John
3:19 "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil."
Titus
2:11 "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all."

Question 52. How should I treat non-Christians and people of other religions?

As much as I can, I should meet friendship with friendship, hostility with kindness, generosity with gratitude, persecution with forbearance, truth with agreement, and error with truth. I should express my faith with humility and devotion as the occasion requires, whether silently or openly, boldly or meekly, by word or by deed. I should avoid compromising the truth on the one hand and being narrow-minded on the other. In short, I should always welcome and accept these others in a way that honors and reflects the Lord's welcome and acceptance of me.

Rom. 15:7 "Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."
Luke
6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."
Matt.
5:44 "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Eph.
4:25 "So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another."
Acts.
13:47 "For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"
Rom.
12:21 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Rom.
13:10 "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law."

Question 53. What is the third article of the Apostles' Creed?

"I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen."

Question 54. What do you believe when you confess your faith in the Holy Spirit?

Apart from the Holy Spirit, our Lord can neither be loved, nor known, nor served. The Holy Spirit is the personal bond by which Jesus Christ unites us to himself, the teacher who opens our hearts to Christ, and the comforter who leads us to repentance, empowering us to live in Christ's service. As the work of the one Holy Spirit, our love, knowledge and service of Christ are all inseparably related.

John 14:26 "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
1 Cor. 12:3 "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit."
Rom. 5:5 "Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."
1 Cor.
6:17,19 "But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?"
1 Cor. 3:16 "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"
John
4:24 "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."

Question 55. How do we receive the Holy Spirit?

By receiving the Word of God. As the midwife of the new creation, the Spirit arrives with the Word, brings us to rebirth, and assures us of eternal life. The Spirit nurtures, corrects and strengthens us with the pure spiritual milk of the Word (1 Pet. 2:2).

Eph. 6:17 "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
John 14:16-17 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you."
John 3:5-6 "Jesus answered, 'Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.'"
Luke 11:13 "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
1 Thess. 1:5 "Because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake."
John 16:8 "When he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment."
Rom. 8:15-16 "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God."
1 Pet. 2:2 "Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation."

Question 56. What do you mean when you speak of "the Word of God"?

"Jesus Christ as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death" (Barmen Declaration, Article I).

John 1:1-5 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it."
John
1:14 "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."

Question 57. Isn't Holy Scripture also the Word of God?

Yes. Holy Scripture is also God's Word because of its content, its function and its origin. Its central content is Jesus Christ, the living Word. Its basic function is to deepen our love, knowledge and service of him as our Savior and Lord. And its ultimate origin is in the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets and apostles, and who inspires us with eager desire for the truths that Scripture contains.

2 Tim. 3:16 "All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."
John
5:39 "You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf."

Question 58. Isn't preaching also the Word of God?

Yes. Preaching and other forms of Christian witness are also God's Word when they are faithful to the witness of Holy Scripture. By the power of the Spirit, preaching actually gives to us what it proclaims—the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing God's Word in the form of faithful proclamation.

Mark 16:15 "And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation."
2 Cor. 4:5 "For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus' sake."
Rom. 1:15-16 "Hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."
Rom.
10:17 "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ."

Question 59. Does the Holy Spirit ever speak apart from God's Word in its written and proclaimed forms?

Since the Spirit is not given to the church without the Word, true proclamation depends on Scripture. Since the Word cannot be grasped without the Spirit, true interpretation depends on prayer. However, as the wind blows where it will, so may the Spirit speak or work in people's lives in unexpected or indirect ways, yet always according to the Word, never contradicting or diluting it.

John 3:8 "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Acts
8:29-31 "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go over to this chariot and join it.' So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' He replied, 'How can I, unless someone guides me?' And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him."
Eph.
6:18 "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints."
2 Pet. 1:20-21 "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
Is. 45:4 "I call you [Cyrus] by your name...though you do not know me."
Num. 22:28 "Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?'"

Question 60. Aren't people without faith sometimes wiser than those who have faith?

Yes. The important question for the church is not so much where an insight may come from as the norm by which to test it. Truth is where one finds it, whether inside or outside the church, and whether supporting or contradicting one's own most cherished opinions. Our faithful discernment of what is true, however, depends finally on God's Word as conveyed in Holy Scripture. The church is therefore reformed and always being reformed according to the Word of God.

Titus 1:9 "He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it."

Question 61. Doesn't modern critical scholarship undermine your belief that Holy Scripture is a form of God's Word?

No. The methods of modern scholarship are a good servant but a bad master. They are neither to be accepted nor rejected uncritically. Properly used they help us rightly and richly interpret Scripture; improperly used they can usurp the place of faith (or establish an alternative faith). Wise interpreters use these methods in the service of faithful witness and understanding. The methods of modern scholarship remain a useful tool, while Holy Scripture remains reliable in all essential matters of faith and practice.

Prov. 1:5-6 "Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles."
Prov.
10:14 "The wise lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near."
1 Cor.
1:20, 25 "Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength."

Question 62. What do you affirm when you speak of "the holy catholic church"?

The church is the company of all faithful people who have given their lives to Jesus Christ, as he has given and gives himself to them. Since Christ cannot be separated from his people, the church is holy because he is holy, and universal (or "catholic") in significance because he is universal in significance. Despite all its remaining imperfections here and now, the church is called to become ever more holy and catholic, for that is what it already is in Christ.

Gal. 2:20 "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
1 Cor. 1:2 "To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours"
Lev. 11:44 "For I am the Lord your God; sanctify yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy."
1 Pet. 1:15-16 "Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'"
Rev. 5:9 "They sing a new song: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation.'"

Question 63. What is the mission of the church?

The mission of the church is to bear witness to God's love for the world in Jesus Christ.

Acts 1:8 "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
John 15:26-27 "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning."
Eph. 3:8-10 "Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."

Question 64. What forms does this mission take?

The forms are as various as the forms of God's love, yet the center is always Jesus Christ. The church is faithful to its mission when it extends mercy and forgiveness to the needy in ways that point finally to him. For in the end it is always by Christ's mercy that the needs of the needy are met.

Luke 10:37 "He said, 'The one who showed him mercy.' Jesus said to him, 'Go and do likewise.'"
Eph.
4:32 "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you."
Deut.
15:11 "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.'"
Acts
4:34 "There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold."

Question 65. Who are the needy?

The hungry need bread, the homeless need a roof, the oppressed need justice, and the lonely need fellowship. At the same time—on another and deeper level—the hopeless need hope, sinners need forgiveness, and the world needs the gospel. On this level no one is excluded, and all the needy are one. Our mission as the church is to bring hope to a desperate world by declaring God's undying love—as one beggar tells another where to find bread.

Ps. 10:12 "Rise up, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; do not forget the oppressed."
Matt. 25:37-40 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"
Jer. 9:23 "Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth."
1 Cor. 9:16 "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!"
Eph.
6:19 "Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel."

Question 66. What do you affirm when you speak of "the communion of saints"?

All those who live in union with Christ, whether on earth or with God in heaven, are "saints." Our communion with Christ makes us members one of another. As by his death he removed our separation from God, so by his Spirit he removes all that divides us from each other. Breaking down every wall of hostility, he makes us, who are many, one body in himself. The ties that bind us in Christ are deeper than any other human relationship.

Eph. 2:19-20 "You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone."
Rom. 12:5 "So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another."
Eph. 2:14 "For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us."
1 Cor. 12:27 "Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
Gal. 3:28 "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
Eph. 4:4 "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling."
1 Cor. 12:4-7, 12-13 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

Question 67. How do you enter into communion with Christ and so with one another?

By the power of the Holy Spirit as it works through Word and sacrament. Because the Spirit uses them for our salvation, Word and sacrament are called "means of grace." The Scriptures acknowledge two sacraments as instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ—baptism and the Lord's Supper.

1 Cor. 10:17 "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread."
1 Cor. 12:13 "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."
Col. 3:16 "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."

Question 68. What is a sacrament?

A sacrament is a special act of Christian worship, instituted by Christ, which uses a visible sign to proclaim the promise of the gospel for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The sacramental sign seals this promise to believers by grace and brings to them what is promised. In baptism the sign is that of water; in the Lord's Supper, that of bread and wine.

Mark 1:9-11 "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'"
Mark
14:22-25 "While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, 'Take; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'"

Question 69. How do you understand the relationship between the word of promise and the sacramental sign?

Take away the word of promise, and the water is merely water, or the bread and wine, merely bread and wine. But add water, or bread and wine, to the word of promise, and it becomes a visible word. In this form it does what by grace the word always does: it brings the salvation it promises, and conveys to faith the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. The sacraments are visible words which uniquely assure and confirm that no matter how greatly I may have sinned, Christ died also for me, and comes to live in me and with me.

Luke 24:30-31 "When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight."
1 Cor.
10:16 "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?"
Matt. 28:20 "Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Col. 1:27 "To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Question 70. What is the main difference between baptism and the Lord's Supper?

While I receive baptism only once, I receive the Lord's Supper again and again. Being unrepeatable, baptism indicates not only that Christ died for our sins once and for all, but that by grace we are also united with him once and for all through faith. Being repeatable, the Lord's Supper indicates that as we turn unfilled to him again and again, our Lord continually meets us in the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and deepen our faith.

Acts 2:41 "So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added."
John
6:33 "For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
John
6:51 "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."
John
6:56 "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them."
1 Cor.
11:26 "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Question 71. What is baptism?

Baptism is the sign and seal through which we are joined to Christ.

Rom. 6:3-4 "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."
Gal.
3:27 "As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."
Rom.
4:11 "[Abraham] received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith."

Question 72. What does it mean to be baptized?

My baptism means that I am joined to Jesus Christ forever. I am baptized into his death and resurrection, along with all who have received him by faith. As I am baptized with water, he baptizes me with his Spirit, washing away all my sins and freeing me from their control. My baptism is a sign that one day I will rise with him in glory, and may walk with him even now in newness of life.

Col. 2:12 "When you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead."
Mark 1:8 "I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
1 Cor.
6:11 "You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God."
Eph. 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all."

Question 73. Are infants also to be baptized?

Yes. Along with their believing parents, they are included in the great hope of the gospel and belong to the people of God. Forgiveness and faith are both promised to them as gifts through Christ's covenant with his people. These children are therefore to be received into the community by baptism, nurtured in the Word of God, and confirmed at an appropriate time by their own profession of faith.

Gen. 17:7 "I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you."
Acts
2:38-39 "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.'"
Acts
16:15 "When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.' And she prevailed upon us."
Acts
16:33 "At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay."
Acts 18:8 "Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized."

Question 74. Should infants be baptized if their parents or guardians have no relation to the church?

No. It would be irresponsible to baptize an infant without at least one Christian parent or guardian who promises to nurture the infant in the life of the community and to instruct it in the Christian faith.

Eph. 6:4 "Bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."
2 Tim. 1:5 "I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you."
1 Cor. 7:14 "For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy."

Question 75. In what name are you baptized?

In the name of the Trinity. After he was raised from the dead, our Lord appeared to his disciples and said to them, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19).

Matt. 28:16-20 "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"
Matt. 3:16-17 "And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'"
1 Pet. 1:2 "who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance."
1 Cor. 12:4-6 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone."

Question 76. What is the meaning of this name?

It is the name of the Holy Trinity. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three gods, but one God in three persons. We worship God in this mystery.

2 Cor. 13:13 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."
John 1:1-4 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people."
Rom. 8:11 "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you."
John 16:13-15 "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."

Question 77. What is the Lord's Supper?

The Lord's Supper is the sign and seal by which our communion with Christ is renewed.

1 Cor. 10:16 "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?"

Question 78. What does it mean to share in the Lord's Supper?

When we celebrate the Lord's Supper, the Lord Jesus Christ is truly present, pouring out his Spirit upon us. By his Spirit, the bread that we break and the cup that we bless share in our Lord's own body and blood. Through them he once offered our life to God; through them he now offers his life to us. As I receive the bread and the cup, remembering that Christ died even for me, I feed on him in my heart by faith with thanksgiving, and enter his risen life, so that his life becomes mine, and my life becomes his, to all eternity.

1 Cor. 11:23-26 "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."
Mark
14:22-25 "While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, 'Take; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'"

Question 79. Who may receive the Lord's Supper?

All baptized Christians who rejoice in so great a gift, who confess their sins, and who draw near with faith intending to lead a new life, may receive the Lord's Supper. This includes baptized children who have expressed a desire to participate, and who have been instructed in the meaning of the sacrament in a way they can understand.

Luke 13:29 "Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God."
1 Cor.
11:28 "Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup."
Phil. 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, Rejoice."

Question 80. What do you mean when you speak of "the forgiveness of sins"?

That because of Jesus Christ, God no longer holds my sins against me. Christ alone is my righteousness and my life; Christ is my only hope. Grace alone, not my merits, is the basis on which God has forgiven me in him. Faith alone, not my works, is the means by which I receive Christ into my heart, and with him the forgiveness that makes me whole. Christ alone, grace alone, and faith alone bring the forgiveness I receive through the gospel.

1 Cor. 1:30 "Christ Jesusbecame for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption."
1 Tim. 1:1 "Paul, an apostleby the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope."
Rom. 11:6 "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace."
Eph. 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
Rom.
5:15 "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many."
Rom. 4:16 "For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham."
Rom.
3:28 "For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law."

Question 81. Does forgiveness mean that God condones sin?

No. God does not cease to be God. Although God is merciful, God does not condone what God forgives. In the death and resurrection of Christ, God judges what God abhors—everything hostile to love—by abolishing it at the very roots. In this judgment the unexpected occurs: good is brought out of evil, hope out of hopelessness, and life out of death. God spares sinners, and turns them from enemies into friends. The uncompromising judgment of God is revealed in the suffering love of the cross.

Hab. 1:13 "Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing; why do you look on the treacherous, and are silent when the wicked swallow those more righteous than they?"
Is. 59:15 "The Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice."
Heb.
9:22 "Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins."
Rom. 5:8-10 "But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life."
1 Chron. 16:33 "Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth."

Question 82. Does your forgiveness of those who have harmed you depend on their repentance?

No. I am to forgive as I have been forgiven. The gospel is the astonishing good news that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Just as God's forgiveness of me is unconditional, and so precedes my confession of sin and repentance, so my forgiveness of those who have harmed me does not depend on their confessing and repenting of their sin. However, when I forgive the person who has done me harm, giving up any resentment or desire to retaliate, I do not condone the harm that was done or excuse the evil of the sin.

Col. 3:13 "Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Mark
11:25 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."
Col. 2:13 "When you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses."
Matt. 18:21-22 "Then Peter came and said to him, 'Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.'"
Heb.
12:14 "Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

Question 83. How can you forgive those who have really hurt you?

I cannot love my enemies, I cannot pray for those who persecute me, I cannot even be ready to forgive those who have really hurt me, without the grace that comes from above. I cannot be conformed to the image of God's Son, apart from the power of God's Word and Spirit. Yet I am promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Luke 6:27-28 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."
James 1:17 "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
Rom.
8:29 "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family."
Phil.
4:13 "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."

Question 84. What do you mean when you speak of "the resurrection of the body"?

Because Christ lives, we will live also. The resurrection of the body celebrates our eternal value to God as living persons, each one with a unique and distinctive identity. Indeed, the living Savior who goes before us was once heard, seen and touched in person, after the discovery of his empty tomb. The resurrection of the body means hope for the whole person, because it is in the unity of body and soul, not in soul alone, that I belong in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.

John 14:19 "In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live."
John
11:25 "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.'"
Rom. 6:5 "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."
1 Cor. 15:21 "For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being."
1 Cor. 15:42 "So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable."
Col. 1:18 "He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead."

Question 85. What is the nature of resurrection hope?

Resurrection hope is a hope for the transformation of this world, not a hope for escape from it. It is the hope that evil in all its forms will be utterly eradicated, that past history will be redeemed, and that all the things that ever were will be made new. It is the hope of a new creation, a new heaven and a new earth, in which God is really honored as God, human beings are truly loving, and peace and justice reign on earth.

Is. 11:6 "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them."
Rev. 21:1 "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more."
Is. 65:17 "For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind."
2 Pet. 3:13 "But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home."
2 Cor. 5:17 "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"

Question 86. Does resurrection hope mean that we don't have to take action to relieve the suffering of this world?

No. When the great hope is truly alive, small hopes arise even now for alleviating the sufferings of the present time. Reconciliation—with God, with one another, and with oneself—is the great hope God has given to the world. While we commit to God the needs of the whole world in our prayers, we also know that we are commissioned to be instruments of God's peace. When hostility, injustice and suffering are overcome here and now, we anticipate the end of all things—the life that God brings out of death, which is the meaning of resurrection hope.

Ps. 27:13 "I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."
Ps. 33:20-22 "Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you."
Rom.
14:19 "Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding."
Deut. 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live."
Luke 1:78-79 "By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us."

Question 87. What do you affirm when you speak of "the life everlasting"?

That God does not will to be God without us, but instead grants to us creatures—fallen and mortal as we are—eternal life. Communion with Jesus Christ is eternal life itself. In him we were chosen before the foundation of the world. By him the eternal covenant with Israel was taken up, embodied, and fulfilled. To him we are joined by the Holy Spirit through faith, and adopted as children, the sons and daughters of God. Through him we are raised from death to new life. For him we shall live to all eternity.

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."
John
6:54 "Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day."
John 17:3 "And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
Rom.
6:22 "But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life."
Rom.
6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
1 John
2:25 "And this is what he has promised us, eternal life."
Matt. 25:34 "Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

Question 88. Won't heaven be a boring place?

No. Heaven is our true home, a world of love. There the Spirit shall be poured out into every heart in perfect love. There the Father and the Son are united in the loving bond of the Spirit. There we shall be united with them and one another. There we shall at last see face to face what we now only glimpse as through a distant mirror. Our deepest, truest delights in this life are only a dim foreshadowing of the delights that await us in heaven. "You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11).

John 14:2-3 "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also."
Matt.
6:20 "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal."
Matt.
8:11 "I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
Col. 1:5 "because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel."
1 Cor.
13:12 "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."

II. The Ten Commandments

Question 89. What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments give a summary of God's law for our lives. They teach us how to live rightly with God and one another.

Deut. 10:4 "Then he wrote on the tablets the same words as before, the ten commandments that the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me."
Matt.
19:17 "And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.'"

Question 90. Why did God give this law?

After rescuing the people of Israel from their slavery in Egypt, God led them to Mount Sinai, where they received the law through Moses. It was the great charter of liberty for Israel, a people chosen to live in covenant with God and to serve as a light to the nations. It remains the charter of liberty for all who would love, know and serve the Lord today.

Ex. 20:2 "I am the Lord your God, who brou
ght you out of the
land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Deut. 11:1 "You shall love the Lord your God, therefore, and keep his charge, his decrees, his ordinances, and his commandments always."
Luke 1:74-75 "We, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."

Question 91. Why should you obey this law?

Not to win God's love, for God already loves me. Not to earn my salvation, for Christ has earned it for me. Not to avoid being punished, for then I would obey out of fear. With gladness in my heart I should obey God's law out of gratitude, for God has blessed me by it and given it for my well-being.

Ps. 118:1 "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!"
Col. 3:17 "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Question 92. What are the uses of God's law?

God's law has three uses. First, it shows me how grievously I fail to live according to God's will, driving me to pray for God's mercy. Second, it functions to restrain even the worst of sinners through the fear of punishment. Finally, it teaches me how to live a life which bears witness to the gospel, and spurs me on to do so.

Rom. 3:20 "For 'no human being will be justified in his sight' by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin."
Rom. 7:7 "What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet.'"
Prov.
6:23 "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life."

Question 93. What is the first commandment?

"You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 5:7).

Deut. 26:17 "Today you have obtained the Lord's agreement: to be your God; and for you to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, his commandments, and his ordinances, and to obey him."
Matt.
4:10 "Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"

Question 94. What do you learn from this commandment?

No loyalty comes before my loyalty to God. I should worship and serve only God, expect all good from God alone, and love, fear and honor God with all my heart.

Matt. 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
Deut. 6:5 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might."
Prov.
9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight."
Matt.
10:37 "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

Question 95. What is the second commandment?

"You shall not make for yourself an idol" (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 5:8).

Question 96. What do you learn from this commandment?

First, when I treat anything other than God as though it were God, I practice idolatry. Second, when I assume that my own interests are more important than anything else, I make them into idols, and in effect make an idol of myself.

Deut. 6:14 "Do not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who are all around you."
1 John
5:21 "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."
Ex. 34:14 "For you shall worship no other god, because the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."
1 Chron.
16:26 "For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens."
Rom. 1:22-23 "Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles."
Phil. 2:4 "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others."

Question 97. What is the third commandment?

"You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God" (Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11).

Question 98. What do you learn from this commandment?

I should use God's name with reverence and awe. God's name is taken in vain when used to support wrong. It is insulted when used carelessly, as in a curse or a pious cliché.

Ps. 29:2 "Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name; worship the Lord in holy splendor."
Rev. 15:3-4 "Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?"
Ps. 138:2 "I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything."
Eph. 4:29 "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear."
Ps. 103:1-2 "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits."

Question 99. What is the fourth commandment?

"Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy" (Ex. 20:8; Deut. 5:12).

Question 100. What do you learn from this commandment?

God requires a special day to be set apart so that worship can be at the center of my life. It is right to honor God with thanks and praise, and to hear and receive God's Word, so that I may have it in my heart, and on my lips, and put it into practice in my life.

Rom. 10:8 "But what does it say? "The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart."
Deut.
5:12 "Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you."
Gen. 2:3 "So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation."
Lev. 23:3 "Six days shall work be done; but the seventh day is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation; you shall do no work: it is a sabbath to the Lord throughout your settlements."
Acts
2:42,46 "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts."

Question 101. Why set aside one day a week as a day of rest?

First, working people should not be taken advantage of by their employers (Deut. 5:14). My job should not be my tyrant, for my life is more than my work. Second, God requires me to put time aside for the regular study of Holy Scripture and for prayer, not only by myself but also with others, not least those in my own household.

Deut. 5:14 "But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you."
Ex. 31:17 "It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."

Question 102. Why do we Christians usually gather on the first day of the week?

In worshipping together on the first day of the week, we celebrate our Lord's resurrection, so that the new life Christ brought us might begin to fill our whole lives.

Mark 16:2 "And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb."
Acts 20:7 "On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight."
Acts
4:33 "With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all."

Question 103. What is the best summary of the first four commandments?

These teach me how to live rightly with God. Jesus summed them up with the commandment he called the first and greatest: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matt. 22:37; Deut. 6:5).

Question 104. What is the fifth commandment?

"Honor your father and your mother" (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16).

Question 105. What do you learn from this commandment?

Though I owe reverence to God alone, I owe genuine respect to my parents, both my mother and father. God wills me to listen to them, be thankful for the benefits I receive from them, and be considerate of their needs, especially in old age.

Eph. 5:21 "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." Rom. 12:10 "Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor."
Eph. 6:2 "Honor your father and mother—this is the first commandment with a promise."
Prov. 1:8 "Hear, my child, your father's instruction, and do not reject your mother's teaching."
Lev.
19:32 "You shall rise before the aged, and defer to the old; and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord."
Luke
2:51 "Then [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart."

Question 106. Are there limits to your obligation to obey them?

Yes. No mere human being is God. Blind obedience is not required, for everything should be tested by loyalty and obedience to God. When it seems as though I should not obey, I should always be alert to possible self-deception on my part, and should pray that we may all walk in the truth of God's will.

1 Pet. 2:17 "Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor."
Acts
5:29 "Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than any human authority.'"

Question 107. What is the sixth commandment?

"You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17).

Question 108. What do you learn from this commandment?

God forbids anything that harms my neighbor unfairly. Murder or injury can be done not only by direct violence but also by an angry word or a clever plan, and not only by an individual but also by unjust social institutions. I should honor every human being, including my enemy, as a person made in God's image.

1 John 3:15 "All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them."
Prov. 24:17 "Do not rejoice when your enemies fall, and do not let your heart be glad when they stumble."
Rom.
12:19-20 "Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.' No, 'if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.'"
Col. 3:12-13 "As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
Matt. 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire."
Matt. 26:52 "Then Jesus said to him, 'Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.'"

Question 109. What is the seventh commandment?

"You shall not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14; Deut. 5:18).

Question 110. What do you learn from this commandment?

God requires fidelity and purity in sexual relations. Since love is God's great gift, God expects me not to corrupt it, or confuse it with momentary desire or the selfish fulfillment of my own pleasures. God forbids all sexual immorality, whether in married or in single life.

Eph. 5:3 "But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints."
Matt. 5:27-29 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell."
Heb. 13:4 "Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers."
1 Thess. 4:3-4 "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you know how to control your own body in holiness and honor."

Question 111. What is the eighth commandment?

"You shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15; Deut. 5:19).

Question 112. What do you learn from this commandment?

God forbids all theft and robbery, including schemes, tricks or systems that unjustly take what belongs to someone else. God requires me not to be driven by greed, not to misuse or waste the gifts I have been given, and not to distrust the promise that God will supply my needs.

Job 20:19-20 "For they have crushed and abandoned the poor, they have seized a house that they did not build. They knew no quiet in their bellies; in their greed they let nothing escape."
Jer. 22:13 "Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice; who makes his neighbors work for nothing, and does not give them their wages."
Prov. 18.9 "One who is slack in work is close kin to a vandal."
1 Tim. 6:9-10 "But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction."
1 John 3:17 "How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?"
Luke
12:15 "And he said to them, 'Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.'"
Phil.
4:19 "And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Question 113. What is the ninth commandment?

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Ex. 20:16; Deut. 5:20).

Question 114. What do you learn from this commandment?

God forbids me to damage the honor or reputation of my neighbor. I should not say false things against anyone for the sake of money, favor or friendship, for the sake of revenge, or for any other reason. God requires me to speak the truth, to speak well of my neighbor when I can, and to view the faults of my neighbor with tolerance when I cannot.

Zech. 8:16-17 "These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord."
1 Pet. 3:16 "Yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame."
Prov. 14:5 "A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies."
James
4:11 "Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge."
1 Pet. 4:8 "Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins."

Question 115. Does this commandment forbid racism and other forms of negative stereotyping?

Yes. In forbidding false witness against my neighbor, God forbids me to be prejudiced against people who belong to any vulnerable, different or disfavored social group. Jews, women, homosexuals, racial and ethnic minorities, and national enemies are among those who have suffered terribly from being subjected to the slurs of social prejudice. Negative stereotyping is a form of falsehood that invites actions of humiliation, abuse, and violence as forbidden by the commandment against murder.

Rom. 3:13, 15 "Their throats are opened graves; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of vipers is under their lips. . . . Their feet are swift to shed blood."
Prov. 31:8-9 "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."
Matt. 7:1-2 "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."

Question 116. What is the tenth commandment?

"You shall not covet what is your neighbor's" (Ex. 20:17; Deut. 5:21).

Question 117. What do you learn from this commandment?

My whole heart should belong to God alone, not to money or the things of this world. "Coveting" means desiring something wrongfully. I should not resent the good fortune or success of my neighbor or allow envy to corrupt my heart.

Heb. 13:5 "Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'"
Gal.
5:26 "Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another."

Question 118. What is the best summary of the last six commandments?

These teach me how to live rightly with my neighbor. Jesus summed them up with the commandment which is like the greatest one about loving God: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39; Lev. 19:18).

Question 119. Can you obey these commandments perfectly?

No. I am at once a forgiven sinner and a forgiven sinner. As a sinner without excuse, I fail to obey these commandments as God requires. "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10). I should not adjust the law to my failures, nor reduce my failures before God. Yet there is more grace in God than sin in me. While I should not cease to pray to God for mercy, I can be confident that God is forgiving and that I will be set free from all my sins. By grace I can confess my sins, repent of them, and grow in love and knowledge day by day.

Ps. 14:3 "They have all gone astray, they are all alike perverse; there is no one who does good, no, not one."
Eph. 2:8 "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God."
Ps. 130:3-4 "If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered."
Col. 1:13-14 "He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

III. The Lord's Prayer

Question 120. What is prayer?

Prayer means calling upon God whose Spirit is always present with us. In prayer we approach God with reverence, confidence and humility. Prayer involves both addressing God in praise, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication, and listening for God's word within our hearts. When we adore God, we are filled with wonder, love and praise before God's heavenly glory, not least when we find it hidden in the cross of Golgotha. When confessing our guilt to God, we ask for forgiveness with humble and sorry hearts, remembering that God is gracious as well as holy. When giving thanks to God, we acknowledge God's great goodness, rejoicing in God for all that is so wonderfully provided for us. Finally, when calling upon God to hear our requests, we affirm that God draws near in every need and sorrow of life, and ask God to do so again.

Ps. 48.1 "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised."
Ps. 96:8-9 "Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts. Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth."
James
5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective."
1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Ps. 107:8 "Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind."
Ps. 75:1 "We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks; your name is near. People tell of your wondrous deeds."
Ps. 50:15 "Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."
Ps. 145:18 "The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."
Eph.
6:18 "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints."

Question 121. What is the purpose of prayer?

Prayer brings us into communion with God. The more our lives are rooted in prayer, the more we sense how wonderful God is in grace, purity, majesty and love. Prayer means offering our lives completely to God, submitting ourselves to God's will, and waiting faithfully for God's grace. Through prayer God frees us from anxiety, equips us for service, and deepens our faith.

Ps. 62:8 "Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us."
Ps. 139:1 "O Lord, you have searched me and known me."
Phil. 4:6 "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Matt. 7:7-8 "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened."

Question 122. How does God respond to our prayers?

God takes all our prayers into account, weighing them with divine wisdom, and responding to them by a perfect will. Although for the time being God's answers may seem beyond our understanding, or sometimes even bitter, we know nonetheless that they are always determined by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God answers our prayers, particularly for temporal blessings, only in ways that are compatible with the larger purposes of God's glory and our salvation. Communion with God is finally the answer within the answers to all our prayers.

1 John 5:14 "This is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us."
James 1:17 "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."
Matt.
6:33 "Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Question 123. What encourages us to pray each day?

The God who has adopted us as children is the God who encourages and commands us to pray. When we pray, we respond with love to that greater love which meets us from above. Before we enter into prayer, God is ready to grant all that we need. We may turn to God with confidence each day, not because we are worthy, but simply because of God's grace. By praying we acknowledge that we depend on grace for all that is good, beautiful, life-giving and true.

Is. 65:24 "Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear."
Luke 11:12-13 "If the child asks for an egg, will he give a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" v Phil. 4:8 "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Eph. 3:20-21 "Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Question 124. What prayer serves as our rule or pattern?

Our rule or pattern is found in the Lord's Prayer, which Jesus taught to his disciples:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

These words express everything that we may desire and expect from God.

Question 125. What is the design of the Lord's Prayer?

The Lord's Prayer falls into two parts, preceded by an opening address, and concluded by a "doxology" or word of praise. Each part consists of three petitions. The first part concerns God's glory; the second part, our salvation. The first part involves our love for God; the second part, God's love for us. The petitions in part one will not be fulfilled perfectly until the life to come; those in part two relate more directly to our present needs here and now.

Question 126. What is meant by addressing God as "Our Father in heaven"?

By addressing God as "our Father," we draw near with childlike reverence, and place ourselves securely in God's hands. Although God is certainly everywhere, God is said to exist and dwell "in heaven." For while God is free to enter into the closest relationship with the creature, God does not belong to the order of created beings. "Heaven" is the seat of divine authority, the place from which God reigns in glory and brings salvation to earth. Our opening address expresses our confidence that we rest securely in God's intimate care, and that nothing on earth lies beyond the reach of God's grace.

Rom. 8:15 "For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!'"
Jer. 23:23-24 "Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord."
Acts 17:24-25 "The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands."

Question 127. What is meant by the first petition, "Hallowed be your name"?

This petition is placed first, because it comprehends the goal and purpose of the whole prayer. The glory of God's name is the highest concern in all that we pray and do. God's "name" stands for God's being as well as for God's attributes and works. When we pray for this name to be "hallowed," we ask that we and all others will know and glorify God as God really is, and that all things will be so ordered that they serve God truly for God's sake.

Jer. 9:23-24 "Thus says the Lord: Do not let the wise boast in their wisdom, do not let the mighty boast in their might, do not let the wealthy boast in their wealth; but let those who boast boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord; I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight, says the Lord."
Rom. 11:36 "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen."
Ps. 115:1 "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness."

Question 128. What is meant by the second petition, "Your kingdom come"?

We are asking God to come and rule among us through faith, love and justice—and not through any one of them without the others. We pray for both the church and the world, that God will rule in our hearts through faith, in our personal relationships through love, and in our institutional affairs through justice. We ask especially that the gospel will not be withheld from us, but rightly preached and received. We pray that the church will be upheld and increase, particularly when in distress; and that all the world will more and more submit to God's reign, until that day when crying and pain are no more, and we live forever with God in perfect peace.

Ps. 68:1 "Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him."
2 Thess. 3:1 "Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you."
Rev. 22:20 "The one who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
Rom. 8:22-24 "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?"
1 Cor. 15:20,28 "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all."

Question 129. What is meant by the third petition, "Your will be done, on earth as in heaven"?

Of course, God's will is always done, and will surely come to pass, whether we desire it or not. But the phrase "on earth as in heaven" means that we ask for the grace to do God's will on earth in the way that it is done in heaven—gladly and from the heart. We thus ask that all opposition to God's will might be removed from the earth, and especially from our own hearts. We ask for the freedom to conform our desires and deeds more fully to God's, so that we might be completely delivered from our sin. We yield ourselves, in life and in death, to God's will.

Ps. 119:34-36 "Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain."
Ps. 103:20,22 "Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul."
Luke 22:42 "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done."
Rom. 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Question 130. What is meant by the fourth petition, "Give us today our daily bread"?

We ask God to provide for all our needs, for we know that God, who cares for us in every area of our life, has promised us temporal as well as spiritual blessings. God commands us to pray each day for all that we need and no more, so that we will learn to rely completely on God. We pray that we will use what we are given wisely, remembering especially the poor and the needy. Along with every living creature we look to God, the source of all generosity, to bless us and nourish us, according to the divine good pleasure.

Prov. 30:8 "Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need."
Ps. 90:17 "Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands!"
Ps. 55:22 "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved."
Ps. 72:4 "May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor."
Ps. 104:27-28 "These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things."

Question 131. What is meant by the fifth petition, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us"?

We pray that a new and right spirit will be put within us. We ask for the grace to treat others, especially those who harm us, with the same mercy that we have received from God. We remember that not one day goes by when we do not need to turn humbly to God for our own forgiveness. We know that our reception of this forgiveness can be blocked by our unwillingness to forgive others. We ask that we will not delight in doing evil, nor in avenging any wrong, but that we will survive all cruelty without bitterness, and overcome evil with good, so that our hearts will be knit together with the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Matt. 18:33 "Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?"
Matt. 6:14-15 "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Ps. 51:10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."
1 John 2:1-2 "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."

Question 132. What is meant by the final petition, "Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil"?

We ask God to protect us from our own worst impulses and from all external powers of destruction in the world. We ask that we might not yield to despair in the face of seemingly hopeless circumstances. We pray for the grace to remember and believe, despite our unbelief, that no matter how bleak the world may sometimes seem, there is nonetheless a depth of love which is deeper than our despair, and that this love—which delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt and raised our Lord Jesus from the dead—will finally swallow up forever all that would now seem to defeat it.

2 Cor. 4:8 "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair."
Eph. 3:19 "To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
Matt. 26:41 "Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Question 133. What is meant by the closing doxology, "For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever"?

We give God thanks and praise for the kingdom more powerful than all enemies, for the power perfected in the weakness of love, and for the glory that includes our well-being and that of the whole creation, both now and to all eternity. We give thanks and praise to God as made known through Christ our Lord.

Rev. 5:12 "Singing with full voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!'"
Rev. 4:11 "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."
1 Chron. 29:11,13 "Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name."

Question 134. What is meant by the word, "Amen"?

"Amen" means "so be it" or "let it be so." It expresses our complete confidence in the triune God, the God of the covenant with Israel as fulfilled through our Lord Jesus Christ, who makes no promise that will not be kept, and whose steadfast love and mercy endures forever.

Rev. 22:20 "The one who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!"
2 Cor. 1:20 "For in him every one of God's promises is a 'Yes.' For this reason it is through him that we say the 'Amen,' to the glory of God."
2 Tim.
2:13 "If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself."

Copyright ©1998 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). All rights Reserved. 

About this testimony

This Study Catechism was authorized in 1998 by the 210th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It has been read and studied widely in the United Church of Christ as a contemporary faith testimony by a partner church that shares with us the tradition of Reformed Christianity. To read other authorized versions (a "First Catechism" for children and a Study Catechism for Confirmation), please visit the PCUSA website.

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The Theology Page: What theological issues stir your interest?

 

From: http://www.ucc.org/beliefs/theology/

 

Theology is the work of the whole Body of Christ—not only of ordained ministers or academic theologians. Everyone who loves Jesus Christ and tries to be faithful to the Gospel is a Christian theologian. We want the Theology Page to be useful to you in your growth in the faith. What issues would you like to see explored here, or on our Theology Forums? Please write to the Webmaster with your suggestions.

 

SOME EXAMPLES

 

Are wars ever just? A debate between two famous brothers

As our church and the world continue to struggle with issues of war and peace in the aftermath of Sept. 11, we present as a resource a debate between two of the theological parents of the United Church of Christ: the brothers Reinhold Niebuhr and H. Richard Niebuhr. Both theologians—who taught two generations of UCC pastors—reacted to the Japanese invasion of China with thoughtful but opposed interpretations of what the Christian faith requires in time of international conflict. The debate was aired in the pages of the Christian Century. Also included as a resource: a paper by UCC theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite applying the Just War tradition to the war against Iraq, and General Synod's 1985 pronouncement on "Just Peace"—an alternative to "Just War."

Taking Bible Seriously
Three papers by on the authority of scripture in the church.

Same-Sex Unions
Should the church affirm vowed relationships by gay and lesbian couples?

Cambridge Platform
The meaning today of the Cambridge Platform—a watershed event in the evolution of the congregational idea of church relationships.

Just War or Just Peace?
The classic debate by the Niebuhr brothers on just war, plus General Synod on "Just Peace."

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Link to the UCC Theology Forums

 

From: http://community.ucc.org/forums/Forum1919-1.aspx

 

 

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