Lord’s Day 21: A Community Chosen for Eternal Life

Catechism and PsalterTowards its conclusion, the Apostles’ Creed rapidly progresses through several key tenets of the Christian religion: “I believe a holy catholic Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.”  Despite the brevity of this creedal summary, the Heidelberg Catechism mines rich teaching and encouragement from each phrase.  Today’s subject of our consideration in this series, Lord’s Day 21, treats the “holy catholic Church, the communion of saints” and “the forgiveness of sins.”

54 Q.  What do you believe concerning the ‘holy catholic Church’?

A.  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.

55 Q.  What do you understand by ‘the communion of saints’?

A.  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 his duty
to use his gifts
readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment
of the other members.

56 Q.  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.

Suggested Songs

If you’ve been following URC Psalmody for any length of time, you probably already know that the life of the church is one of my favorite areas of study.  And since the psalms speak so plentifully about the King’s bride, God’s people, and Mount Zion, I hardly know where to begin my selections.  Nevertheless, here are five psalms whose descriptions of the Church are surpassingly appropriate.

37, “Amid the Thronging Worshippers” (Psalm 22)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, by Grace URC in Dunnville, ON, and at the 2012 Reformed Youth Services convention)

“A community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith.”  The depth of Psalm 22 is trebled when we remember that it is primarily a messianic psalm.  Its opening words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” were uttered by Jesus as he hung on the cross.  Its stinging descriptions of mocking (v. 7), desolation (v. 11), and physical anguish (v. 14) both generally and specifically match the horrors of the crucifixion.  But Psalm 22 might surprise us with the abrupt cheerfulness of its second section (22ff); how can the psalmist suddenly exclaim, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you”?  He answers his own question in v. 24: “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”  Hebrews 2:12 tells us that this is nothing less than the exultant cry of the risen and ascended Savior himself—“ For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.”  Thus, Psalm 22 is a song that we can sing with joy, knowing that Christ, its ultimate Singer, has chosen us for eternal life and united us in faith.

Amid the thronging worshippers
Jehovah will I bless;
Before my brethren, gathered there,
His Name will I confess.
Come, praise Him, ye that fear the Lord,
Ye children of His grace;
With reverence sound His glories forth
And bow before His face.

264, “My Heart Was Glad to Hear the Welcome Sound” (Psalm 122)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and at Synod 2012)

“And of this community I am and always will be a living member.”  The Catechism does not stop at explaining the nature of the Church; it immediately goes on to make a personal application.  It is the duty of every believer to recognize and honor his membership in the church universal, primarily through involvement in the local congregation.  David must have been keenly aware of this as he composed Psalm 122:

My heart was glad to hear the welcome sound,
The call to seek Jehovah’s house of prayer;
Our feet are standing here on holy ground,
Within thy gates, thou city grand and fair.

For all my brethren and companions’ sakes
My prayer shall be, Let peace in thee abide;
Since God the Lord in thee His dwelling makes,
To thee my love shall never be denied.

116, “Forth from Thy Courts, Thy Sacred Dwelling” (Psalm 65)

(Sung by the Hope Heralds Choir)

“Believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts.”  The communion of the saints is articulated beautifully in Psalm 65, which extols the redemption God has wrought for his Church.

A mighty stream of foul transgression
Prevails from day to day;
But Thou, O God, in great compassion,
Wilt purge my guilt away.
Blest is the man whom Thou hast chosen,
And bringest nigh to Thee,
That in Thy courts, in Thee reposing,
His dwelling-place may be.

There, in Thy holy habitation,
Thou wilt Thy saints provide
With every blessing of salvation,
Till all are satisfied.
By awful deeds, so just and mighty,
God saves us from our foe;
To all who walk with Him uprightly
He will salvation show.

161, “O Lord of Hosts, to Thee I Cry” (Psalm 84)

“Each member should consider it his duty to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.”  Having volunteered in many areas in my home church, I know firsthand how easy it is to lose the proper perspective and become filled with resentment.  This is exactly the opposite of the attitude inculcated by Q&A 55 and echoed in Psalm 84.  There, the worshipful psalmist says:

A single day within Thy courts,
Where I Thy beauty see,
Is better than a thousand days,
My God, apart from Thee.
A lowly station in Thy house
Were dearer to my heart
Than in the tents of wickedness
To claim the chiefest part.

A sun and shield is God, the Lord,
To lighten and defend;
The Lord to such as look to Him
Will grace and glory send.
To those that walk in righteousness
No good will He deny.
O Lord of hosts, how blest are they
Who on Thy grace rely!

273, “From out the Depths I Cry, O Lord, to Thee” (Psalm 130)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

“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.”  One of the most powerful psalms on the forgiveness of sins is Psalm 130, which begins as an individual lament but ends on a note of praise for the entire church.  O let God be praised for his wonderful work of salvation!

From out the depths I cry, O Lord, to Thee;
Lord, hear my call.
I love Thee, Lord, for Thou dost hear my plea,
Forgiving all.
If Thou shouldst mark our sins, who then could stand?
But grace and mercy dwell at Thy right hand.

I wait for God, the Lord, and on His word
My hope relies;
My soul still waits and looks unto the Lord
Till light arise.
I look for Him to drive away my night,
Yea, more than watchmen look for morning light.

Hope in the Lord, ye waiting saints, and He
Will well provide;
For mercy and redemption full and free
With Him abide.
From sin and evil, mighty though they seem,
His arm almighty will His saints redeem.

–MRK

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1 Response to “Lord’s Day 21: A Community Chosen for Eternal Life”



  1. 1 Lord’s Day 22: Raised by the Power of Christ | URC Psalmody Trackback on May 29, 2013 at 7:04 am

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