Textual Catechism Preaching

This article first appeared in the October 1987 issue of The Outlook.

This suggested approach to catechism preaching was prepared for some seminary students and may interest our readers. The Christian Reformed Church Order states (Art. 54b) “At one of the services each Lord’s Day, the minister shall ordinarily preach the Word as summarized in the Heidelberg Catechism, following its sequence.” This article both reflects and maintains a practice in Reformed churches that dates back to Reformation times. Often such preaching has been done by simply explaining and applying the catechism questions and answers, sometimes with little or only passing reference to the Bible passages that are suggested as basis for the doctrines. Some would even argue that this is the “proper” method of preaching the catechism. Today there are many indications that the historic practice is being neglected in spite of the church order requirement, and the doctrines expressed in the catechism and even the idea of a “system” of doctrine are being criticized and belittled.

In this situation the rightness and necessity of preaching the gospel’s doctrines must be maintained and defended. God’s Word, the Bible, is not merely a loose collection of books and particular revelations. It conveys what the apostle called “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), including everything profitable for Christian faith and life (v. 20) or, as Peter expressed it, “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). This revelation is characterized by structure and order so that Paul must instruct Timothy to “hold the pattern of sound words which thou hast heard from me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee guard through the Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us” (2 Tim. 1:13–14), and this trust he in turn must “commit . . . to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2:2). It is this trust of “sound” or, literally, “healthful” doctrine that the Christian church through the centuries, under the promised and given guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17; 15:26, 27; 16:13, 14) sought to preserve, teach, and defend in its creeds. Those creeds are not, like the Bible, inspired, and they are subject to critical study, correction, and improvement, but as we seek to be faithful to the Word of God, we must hold to and learn from these official creeds, not ignore or disparage them. Although we, under the guidance of Word and Spirit, may see something somewhat more clearly than our fathers did, we must hold, confess, and defend the same unchanging truth of God stated in the creeds.

Seeing the relationship of Bible and creed in this way makes it appropriate that we in our method of catechism preaching try to make clear that these are the Bible’s doctrines. That may be done in various ways. Forty years ago as a young minister recently graduated from the seminary I faced the problem of beginning this catechism preaching. The situation was peculiar, a little struggling “orphan” congregation, seven hundred miles from the nearest other representative of the denomination, vacant for two years, and rather critical of such Christian Reformed ideas as the Heidelberg Catechism. Having plenty of questions of my own, I set out to study each doctrine, seeking to determine what biblical ground could be found for it. (I worked through and outlined most of Kuyper’s four volumes of E Voto, his collection of writings on the catechism). Then in preaching I sought Bible passages that most directly and clearly presented and applied each point of doctrine, bringing in the church creed as simply confessing that. Not only did this approach meet the criticism, “You are not preaching the Bible,” it also had the positive advantages of showing that what was being presented was not merely a church tradition but God’s Word, and showing from Scripture the practical implications and application of the Bible’s doctrine. The exercise taught me (and I hope the people of the congregation) to appreciate those doctrines of the Bible. That approach to the doctrines I have continued to take in the succeeding four decades. Does it have disadvantages? Perhaps it does. Stressing the Bible text or texts may tend to slight the system and unity of the system of doctrine. That “system” may, however, be pointed out in the development of sermons and even more in the teaching of the catechism classes. Especially in our day of criticisms of old traditions, we need, like the Reformers, to go back to and ground our and the churches’ faith in the Bible, God’s Word. Textual preaching of doctrines is one of the most forthright and effective ways of doing that.

Scripture Texts Used in Catechism Preaching (1939–1980)

INTRODUCTION:

2 Tim. 1:13, 14; Tit. 1:9; 2 John 8–11; 2 Peter 1:12–16, 19–21; 2 Chron. 17:7–9.

LORD’S DAY

I, 1: Phil. 1:21; Rom. 14:8, 9; 1 Cor. 6:19, 20; Ps. 16:5,6; Ps. 2:8; Acts 27:23, 24; 2 Cor. 1:5; Hos. 2:23.
I, 2:1 John 1:1–2:6; Ps. 106:4–6, 47; Eph. 5:8.
II: Gal. 3:24; Rom. 3:20; 7:7; 2 Kings 22:8–14 (cf. 2 Chron. 34).
II, 4: Mt. 22:37–40. II, 5;
III, 7, 8; Eph. 2:3, 4; Rom. 7:21–25; Ps. 51:5
III: Rom. 5:19. III, 6; Gen. 1:27, 31. III;
Eccles. 7:29.
IV: Rom. 1:18; Lk. 13:6–9; Rom. 2:2; Ps. 5:4, 5, 6; Gal. 3:10; 6:7, 8; Nahum 1:2, 3; Lam. 118
V: Ps. 49:7–9, 15; Heb. 10:5–7, 9, 10; Hos. 13:4; Jer. 23:6; Gen. 22:7, 8; Job 33:24.
VI: 1 Tim. 2:5, 6. Mt. 16:13–18; 22:41–45; Rm. 1:1–5; 8:2–5; Phil. 2:5–7; Heb. 1:1–8; 2:14–18; 4:14–16; Mk. 12:35–37.
VII: 2 Tim. 3:14–17; Rm. 10:9; Eph. 2:8–10; Acts 16:30, 31; Lk. 19:41–44; Heb. 11:7; Heb. 3:19–4:3; 1 Thess. 2:13.
VIII: Mt. 28:19–20; John 17:3; Eph. 2:18; Jude 20, 21; Tit. 3:4–7; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Cor. 6:11; Lk. 4:18, 19; 1 Pet. 1:2.
IX: John 14:6; Eccles. 12:1; Mt. 11:25–27; Ps. 24:1, 2; Rev. 4:11; Acts 17:24–31; Gal. 3:26; 4:4–7; Eph. 1:3, 5; 2:18; Lk. 10:21, 22; Gen. 1:1; Rev. 4:11; John 1:12; 20:17; Mt. 6:26.
X: Mt. 6:28–32; Job 1:21; Gen. 45:4, 5, 7, 8; Ps. 103:13; Gen. 50:20; Ps. 121:36; Deut. 8:3; Jonah 4:6–11; Isa. 10:5–27; 11:1–10.
XI: Mt. 1:21; Acts 4:12; 8:35; 10:43; Gal. 4:5; 1 Cor. 3:11.
XII: John 1:41; Acts 10:36–44; Ps. 110:1–4; Isa. 61:1–3; Lk. 4:18, 19; Acts 4:26–28; Acts 17:3; Rev. 17:14; Acts 3:22, 23; 1 Cor. 1:30. XII, 32: Acts 11:26; 26:28, 29; 1 Pet. 4:12–16; 1 Jn. 2:20.
XIII: 1 Jn. 2:23; 4:9, 15; Ps. 2:7, 8; Heb. 4:14; Rm. 1:4–6; Mt. 22:41–45; 1 In. 5:20, 21; Gal. 4:4, 5; Acts 2:36; Rm. 14:8, 9; Phil. 2:11; Acts 22:8, 10; Lk. 6:46.
XIV: L, 1:35; Mt. 1:20–24; Gal. 4:4, 5; Phil. 2:5–7.
XV: 1 Pet. 3:18; Isa. 53:4–6; Gal. 3:13, 14; 1 Pet. 2:24; Lk. 2:35.
XVI: 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; 1 Thess. 5:9, 10; Mt. 12:38–41; Heb. 9:27, 28; Col. 1:20; Heb. 2:14, 15; Mt. 20:28; Ps. 49:15.
XVI, 44: Mt. 25:41; Gal. 3:13, 14; Ps. 16:19
XVII: Eph. 2:4–7; 1 Cor. 15:54–57; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:17, 20; Phil. 3:10, 11; Eph. 1:18–20; Jn. 20:19, 20; Jn. 11:25; 1 Cor. 15:58.
XVIII: Heb. 9:24; Ps. 68:18, 19, Eph. 4:8; Dan. 7:13, 14; Mk. 16:19, 20; Jn. 14:1–3; Heb. 6:19–20; Rev. 12:5; Lk. 24:51; Mt. 28:19; Jn. 16:5–7.
XIX: Mt. 26:64; Eph. 1:20–23; Rm. 8:34, 35; Acts 2:33, 35; XIX, 52: Mt. 16:27; Rev. 20:11–21:8; 22:12–15; 2 Thess. 1:6–9; Tit. 2:13; Mt. 25:31–34; 2 Pet. 3:8–13.
XX: Jn. 14:16–18; 15:26; 16:13–15; Lk. 24:48, 49; 1 Cor. 2:9–13; 3:16; Rm. 8:9.
XXI: 54, 55: Mt. 16:18; Eph. 1:4, 11–13; 1 Pet. 1:2, 5; Jn. 10:16; Eph. 5:18, 27–29; Heb. 12:22–25; Rev. 21:9–27; 2 Thess. 2:13–17; Eph.4:1–16; Jn. 17:20–23; Mt. 12:30; Mk. 9:40; Rm. 1:6, 7; Philemon 4–7; Acts 2:44, 45.
XXI, 56: Eph. 1:7; 1 Jn. 4:10, 11; Heb. 10:17; Col. 1:14.
XXII: Phil. 1:21; 3:20, 21; Jn. 11:25, 26; Rm. 8:23; Eph. 2:4–7; 1 Tim. 6:12, 19; Rev. 22:1–5; Jn. 6:54.
XXIII: Rm. 5:1, 2; 3:21–26; Acts 13:38, 39; Gal. 2:16; 5:4; 3:10–14.
XXIV: Tit. 3:5, 7; 2:14; Lk. 19:17; 24–26; Eph. 2:8–10; 1 Cor. 3:11–15.
XXV: Rm. 10:13–15; Jas. 1:8, 21, 22; Jn. 6:44, 45; Acts 16:14, 15; 1 Cor. 1:21; 12:3; 1 Pet. 1:23; 2:1, 2; 1 Cor. 1:17; 2:2; Acts 14:27; Rm. 10:17; Acts 2:37–42; 1 Cor. 12:3; Acts 16:14, 15; Jn. 3:5
XXVI, XXVII: Mt. 28:19; Jn. 13:8; Acts 22:16; Tit. 3:4–7.
XXVII, 74: Gen. 17:7, 10; Acts 2:38, 39; Gal. 3:29; Col. 2:11, 12; Mk. 10:13, 14; Isa. 44:1–3; Rm. 3:1, 2.
XXVIII-XXX: 1 Cor. 11:23–26; 17–34; 1 Cor. 10:14–21; Mt. 26:26–29; Jn. 6:35; 2 Kings 18:4, 5; Heb. 10:10, 14.
XXXI: Mt. 16:19; 1 Cor. 5:4–7; 2 Thess. 3:14, 15; 1 Tim. 3:4, 5, 12; Tit. 1:13; Acts 26:16–18.
XXXII: Rm. 12:1, 2; Jn. 3:3, 5; Jn. 15:1–11; Mt. 5:13–16; Lk. 1:74–75; Tit. 2:14; 1, 5; 3:8; Eph. 2:10; 1 Pet. 2:24, 25.
XXXIII: Col. 3:5–17; Acts 22:10; Rm. 6:1–11; Jn. 3:3; Lk. 15:11–25; Eph. 4:22–24; Isa. 55:7; Lk. 19:10.
XXXIII, 91-XXXIV, 93: Mt. 5:17–20; Ps. 1:2; Rm. 8:3, 4; Heb. 10:16; Ps. 119:18.
XXXIV: Ex. 20:3; Mt. 22:37, 38; 1 Sam. 15:22, 23; 1 Jn. 5:20, 21.
XXXV: Ex. 20:4–6.
XXXVI, XXXVII: Ex. 20:7; Mt. 5:33–37.
XXXVIII:    Ex. 20:8–11; Mk. 2:28; Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 4:9; Isa. 58:13, 14.
XXXIX: Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1–4; Eccles. 8:11; Pv. 6:23.
XL: Ex. 20:13; Gen. 9:6; Ps. 51:5–15; 1 Jn. 3:11–16.
XLI: Ex. 20:14; Eph. 5:1–10; Mt. 19:4–6; Gen. 1:27, 28; 2:18–25; Gen. 39:9; Mt. 5:27, 28.
XLII: Ex. 20:15; Eph. 4:17–24, 28.
XLIII: Ex. 20:16; Eph. 4:15, 25; Col. 3:9, 10.
XLIV: Ex. 20:17; Rm. 7:7; Eph. 5:5.
XLIV, 114, 115: Jn. 3:3; Mt. 5:48; Heb. 12:14; 13:20, 21; Ps. 25:8–14; 119:33–38; 1 Jn. 1:8, 3:9.
XLV, 116: Ps. 50:14, 15; 116:12, 13; 1 Thess. 5:16–18.
XLV, 117–119: Jn. 14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 1 Kings 18:36, 37; Dan. 9:18, 19; 1 Jn. 5:14; Jn. 4:22–24; Lk. 18:11–14; Jas. 1:5–7; Mt. 6:5–15; Jn. 16:23, 24.
XLVI: Mt. 6:9.
XLVII: Mt. 6:9; Lk. 11:2.
XLVIII: Mt. 6:10; 16:18, 19; Mk. 10:13–16; Eph. 5:25–27; Lk. 11:2.
XLIX: Mt. 6:10.
L: Mt. 6:11.
LI: Mt. 6:12, 14, 15.
LII: Mt. 6:13; 2 Cor. 1:20.
CANONS OF DORDT
I: Eph. 1:3–6; 11–13; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13–15; Rom. 8:28–34.
II: Jn. 10:11, 14, 15, 26–30.
III and IV: Eph. 2:4–5; Mt. 19:24–26; Ezek. 36:1–14.
V: 2 Tim. 2:19; Jn. 10:27–30; 1 Peter 1:5; Jn. 6:36–40; 2 Peter 1:10, 11.


Rev. Peter DeJong (1915–1999) was the editor of The Outlook for many years. He was a pastor in the CRC.


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