Hello, and welcome back to our guided tour through the modified Baptist catechism. This week we’re focussing on questions 6, 7, and 8. By now, we have hopefully memorised questions 1-5. If this is your first week with us, please click here to get started.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Question 6: May all men make use of the Scriptures?
Answer 6: All men are not only permitted, but commanded and exhorted, to read, hear, and understand the Scriptures.
Scripture: John 5:39; Luke 16:29; Acts 8:28-30; 17:11
First, I’m going to make the quick observation that “hear the Scriptures”, in the context of Luke 16:29, doesn’t mean ‘hear the Scriptures read’ or ‘preached’, but rather to listen to what the Bible says. We translate the Greek word into English as “let them hear”, but in the original Biblical Greek it is one word; ‘hearken’. I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t hear the Scriptures read or preached, but I want to point out that it is possible to hear without listening. We are commanded not only to read, listen to what God is saying in the Bible as we read. Heed the warnings, accept the teachings. Don’t be hearers only, but doers.
Second, we need to understand the Scriptures. There’s no point in reading what we do not understand. The Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 needed to understand the prophecy he read in Isaiah, and it led to his coming to Christ. We need to understand the teaching in the Epistles, or we won’t be able to apply it to our lives. And we need to understand the Gospel so that we can shelter in Christ.
Finally, all men are permitted to read the Scriptures. This would have meant more back when the Confessions were being written, as the Roman Catholic Church used to forbid most people from reading and interpreting the Scriptures. For us today, this simply means that we have access to the word of God – far more than people 500 years ago did – and that we would be crazy to take this for granted.
Question 7: What do the Scriptures mainly teach?
Answer 7: The Scriptures mainly teach what man is to believe about God and what duty God requires of man.
Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16, 17; John 20:31; Acts 24:14; 1 Corinthians 10:11; Ecclesiastes 12:13.
This question is very straightforward. The Scriptures teach a number of things, but they mainly teach:
1: What man is to believe about God, and
2: What duty God requires of man.
This is why it is so important that the Scriptures are infallible, as we saw in question four. We know that we can trust what the Bible says, so the fact that we must believe what it says isn’t that big a deal. Of course, there are primary and secondary doctrines within Scripture – some people believe that the earth is young, some people believe it is old; some people believe in infant baptism, others believe in believers’ baptism. We are all bound to be wrong about something or other, and our salvation doesn’t depend on being 100% right about doctrine. But we must believe primary doctrines such as God’s existence, Salvation by Grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, etc.
Finally, there are certain things that God requires of us such as faith in Jesus, practicing holiness, repentance, etc. God tells us in the Bible what He requires of us; He makes His requirements and expectations known to us.
Question 8: What is God?
Answer 8: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Scripture: John 4:24; Psalm 89:14; 90:2; 147:5; James 1:17; Revelation 4:8; Exodus 34:6, 7; 1 Timothy 1:17; Numbers 23:19.
This one is quite beautiful. Let’s see why.
What is God? There are two tiers to this answer: God is (tier one):
What do these words apply to? What is God infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in? He is these things in His (Tier two):
Let’s examine these things one-by-one.
God has always existed, and He has always existed as He currently is. He was never a child, will never be old as we know old age, and He is everywhere. He is with us in the darkest valleys, as faithful there as He is in out Churches, atop the highest mountains, and in our beds. He is the solid ground, the bedrock, and if we build upon Him as our foundation we will never be moved.
God is infinitely wisdom. He is the fountain from which wisdom flows, so much so that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,” (Proverbs 1:7) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,” (Psalm 111:10). God gives wisdom generously to those who ask for it (James 1:5).
He Himself has wisdom without measure, so we can trust in His governing hand. He has always been infinitely wise, so He has no need, nor ever has had need, to learn or to weigh options. We can trust Him.
God is able to decide, by His infinite wisdom, what He wants to do. He also has the power to do it. He spoke all of Creation into existence, He holds satan on a chain, nothing can happen without His say-so, and nothing can resist His word. This is good for us; our King has infinite power.
God is completely devoid of evil. He is morally perfect and above us. He is other from us.
God is perfectly just. In saving us, He had to give His Son as a ransom because our debt had to be paid by someone. He is just in saving, because Jesus has paid our price. He is just in punishing, because those who reject Christ bear their guilt. He will repay sin, but He also provides shelter for those who would come to Him. God’s justice ought to encourage us to test ourselves to see if we are saved, but also to take seriously our sin. Finally, it should encourage us not to take revenge; we get mad at people who murder, people who steal, people kidnap, but justice will be done – God’s justice will either be met at the final judgement, or on the cross. Either way, we don’t need to concern ourselves with it. Evil will not persist forever.
A being of infinite, eternal, and unchangeable being, wisdom, and power would be pretty scary if it weren’t for His infinite, eternal, and unchangeable goodness. He is good in a way that no human can ever be. A lot of people think that God achieves goodness; that God adheres to a standard of goodness outside of Himself. This is wrong; our standard if goodness is based on God’s character. He is effortlessly good, and because of this He is beautiful.
Finally, God is infinite, unchangeable, and eternal in His truth. He is the foundation of all Creation, the most beautiful, most true being of all. His words are perfect in their truth, and He is worthy of our trust.
That does it for another week in the Baptist catechism. Thank you for joining us once more, and remember to check back next Tuesday for questions nine, 10, and 11.
If you need inspiration for prayer this week:
1: Thank God that we have the Scriptures in our native language
2: Thank God that He helps us to understand the Scriptures
3: Ask God to help you to fulfil your duty to Him
4: Thank God for being each of seven things in question eight, and pray through each one.