One of the most practical questions raised by the Heidelberg Catechism—and for that matter one of the most practical questions anyone in the church of God can raise today—is that question presented in Lord’s Day Twelve, “But why art thou called a Christian?”
We may take that question as it is presented by the Catechism and ask ourselves what it means and should mean to us that we are Christians. And we will then be reminded of a host of things that are our duty and calling. If we are then earnest and sincere in our presentation of this question to ourselves, the answer will have practical value for us. It will show us how Christianity is and must be practiced. It will assure us that the word “Christian” is not simply a name that is appended to certain individuals, but that the name “Christian” is to be applied only to those upon whom the Spirit of Christ has performed a most important and wonderful operation. The Christian is a man who has had something performed in the innermost recesses of his being.
Of practical value is the question also if we ask it from a slightly different viewpoint than that used by the Catechism. We may ask it thus, “And why art thou called a Christian?” Then proceeding in the light of the answer to our first question and knowing just what a Christian truly is, we ask why this or that individual, why you and I are called Christians. Then the question becomes, “and what is there in me that I can dare to allow myself to be called by that name?”
Christians—Are we? Men call us that, but are we? What is God’s judgment of us? Does Christ after whose name we are named by men say also of us that we are christians?
It is to this matter that we would devote a few pages in this department. We do so under the general theme: “Called To His Praise”. For that is indeed the calling of the Christian. Through Isaiah the Lord Himself declared, “This people have I formed for Myself; They shall show forth My praise.” The apostle Peter declares, to the Christians in his first epistle, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” That is also the gist of the answer to that question in the
Heidelberg Catechism, “But why art thou called a Christian?” For the answer as given by the authors of the Catechism is as follows, “Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and thus am partaker of His anointing; so that I may confess His name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him: and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life: and afterwards reign with Him eternally, over all creatures.”
Christians—Are we? The Christian is called to His praise. The Christian does praise Him! God forms us for Himself, but also calls us to His praise. And only those have the right to be called Christians whom God has called to His praise. It is not simply enough to be called by the name Christian. THE question is whether God has called us to BE Christians. When John says in John 1:12 that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God” it is evident that this is far more than that they are simply called sons of God by men. John speaks of their becoming sons of God. Thus, here, the important thing is not really whether we are called Christians but whether we have become Christians.
The Christian praises God. Christians—Are we? Let us consider this matter and honestly place ourselves before what the Scriptures teach us of our calling as Christians to praise God.
This week we would like to pen down a few preliminary yet tremendously important facts concerning this matter of being Christians. If we ignore them, our consideration of this practical subject will fail miserably. And our forefathers in the Catechism show that they grasped the truth and therefore were able to give us such a rich answer to the question, “Why art thou called a Christian?” Notice that the Catechism says “. . . .that so I may confess his name. . . .present myself a living sacrifice. . . .fight against Satan. . . . and. . . .reign with him eternally over all creatures.” Confess! Present a sacrifice! Fight! Reign eternally! Those are powerful words!
And powerfully these words condemn all that superficial thinking whereby any man who is not a barbarian or a heathen is called a Christian. Confess Christ! Present ourselves a living sacrifice to Christ! Fight for Christ’s cause! Reign eternally with Christ! Many whom men call Christians do none of these and are not interested in them.
A civilized man is not necessarily a Christian, nor is a nation that is civilized and highly cultured a Christian nation. When Israel was in Egypt, Israel was the people called to God’s praise, but Egypt was far ahead of Israel and many other nations of that time in culture and civilization—whatever that last word means when the inhabitants of civilized countries run as naked and as painted as the heathen and use and invent weapons of brutality and destruction more terrible than the wildest tribes in the jungles, and live more immorally than the most depraved pagans. And was not highly cultured Greece the seat of immorality as well as the seat of culture at the same period of its history? We need clear thinking today, and we will need it even more in the future. Antichristianity must not be confused with Christianity. As long as we hold to this answer in the Heidelberg Catechism we are safe because it is based on God’s Word. And let us remember that the Antichrist is a false, deceptive christ. And he likes to have you call him a Christian. He will feel insulted if you do not. It is also necessary for his program of deception that his followers be called Christians even while they perform very unchristian deeds.
Let us therefore notice those words again: confess, present and reign. The Christian is called to praise God in his confession. He is called to live to His praise by presenting his body a living sacrifice. All his soul and body and possessions is employed to God’s praise when he as a faithful king rules over them and fights the good fight of faith.
You see, the Catechism has rightly observed that man was created in the image of God to be His prophet, His priest and His king. Created as a rational, moral being he was created with a mind and a heart as well as strength. By virtue of this he can be and is prophet, priest and king. For it is with the mind chiefly that the prophet served God among Israel. His mind God filled with knowledge which he in turn transmitted to God’s people. With the heart it was chiefly that the priest served in the temple, for he lifted up his heart in prayer to God for the people and offered up their sacrifices when their hearts smote them because of sin. Besides, of course, the whole life of the priest was dedicated up to God in service. His life was a consecrated one. And consecration is a matter of the heart. This does not mean that every priest actually consecrated his life to God, but the very office was such that the man lived a separate life, and the whole tribe of Levi was set aside by God for the purpose of serving Him in His Temple. The king as is plain, served with his strength as he went out to battle and at home wielded the scepter.
We cannot, however, narrowly define the work of prophet, priest and king so that exclusively the one serves with this faculty and the other with another faculty. We can only say that of the one this faculty is on the foreground, while in the other it is a different power which God has created in man which occupies the chief place. We may say, for example that the prophet is the teacher. Good and well, but so is the priest and the king. The prophet teaches by the spoken and written word. The priest teaches by example, by his actions, and the king teaches by the rod. The prophet surely serves God with his heart as well as the priest. For if he does not love God with that heart, how will he teach men with his words? The priest is not dumb but speaks to the people and declares the mercy and forgiveness of God. The king must know God with his mind, and love Him with his heart or else he will not be God’s king.
And the point we wish to make here is that every man is born with these faculties so that in every human being you find that which makes him a prophet, a priest and a king. In the Old Testament there were several men who functioned in two offices. Moses was king (leader) as well as prophet (teacher). Samuel functioned as priest as well as prophet. Melchizedek was king and priest. Abraham was all three to his family, exclusive of any other prophet, priest or king above him. But so it is also today. We all have a mind, a heart and strength. And so we are born as prophets, priests and kings.
But the question remains, are we prophets, priests and kings of God or of the devil? Are we called out of darkness to His praise, or are we still in the darkness of sin using our mind, heart and strength in the service of the devil and of sin? Are we called to be Christians, or are we simply called Christians? It is to these matters that we would devote a few pages of this department. Let us consider what the human mind, and our mind does. Let us listen to the throbbing of the human heart to determine for what it beats. Then we will also be able to evaluate the strength spent on projects whether it reveals the man as a Christian or an antichristian. It is either. . . .or. Christ said, “He that is not with me is against Me.”