Q3: What do the Scriptures principally teach?

A: The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man (2 Tim. 1:13).

I. This catechism question introduces a basic outline of the rest of the catechism.

A. Questions 4–38 pertain to belief concerning God.
B. Questions 39–107 pertain to the duty that God requires of man.

II. Scripture: its purpose and nature.

A. Purpose: the Bible was given to teach men what is necessary to know regarding faith and practice (2 Tim. 3:15-17).

1. The Bible was not written to give comprehensive knowledge.

a. Many things one cannot learn from the Bible, e.g., a complete history of humanity, technical information, etc.; not even all that one desires to know concerning Christ.

Relevant quote from Charles Hodge:
Plenary is opposed to partial. The Church doctrine denies that inspiration is confined to parts of the Bible; and affirms that it applies to all the books of the sacred canon. It denies that the sacred writers were merely partially inspired; it asserts that they were fully inspired as to all that they teach, whether of doctrine or fact. This of course does not imply that the sacred writers were infallible except for the special purpose for which they were employed. They were not imbued with plenary knowledge. As to all matters of science, philosophy, and history, they stood on the same level with their contemporaries. They were infallible only as teachers, and when acting as the spokesmen of God. Their inspiration no more made them astronomers than it made them agriculturists. Isaiah was infallible in his predictions, although he shared with his countrymen the views then prevalent as to the mechanism of the universe. Paul could not err in anything he taught, although he could not recollect how many persons he had baptized in Corinth.

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 165.

2. The Bible does have something vitally important to say about everything.

a. The universe was created by God and therefore all is related to God; without this recognition all walk in darkness (Ps. 107:10-11; cf. Matt. 6:23).

B. Nature: the character of Scripture doctrine is sound words; both sound in itself and in its effects (Ezek. 47:9).

1. The sum of Scripture doctrine is faith, showing what we are to believe and love, what we are to do (Jn. 14:15; 1 Jn. 5:3).


III. The illumination of Scripture for faith and practice.

A. The Bible is “able” to make one wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).

1. Through the “word of truth” one is born again (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).

a. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).

B. When one is born again the mind is illuminated and the Word gives light (Ps. 119:130).

1. In this light we see light (Ps. 36:9).

a. Knowledge of the Bible enables man to believe in the true and living God.

b. Man is now able to understand his place in his Father’s world, seeking in all to glorify his Father.

(1). The scientist will study to see more of God’s wonderful creation and the historian will study to understand the unfolding of God’s purpose.

(a). And so, in every sphere it is only by faith (what man is to believe concerning God) that we can walk uprightly (what duty God requires of man).


IV. The catechism presents the true picture of the Christian life: faith and practice.

A. The emphasis is on doctrine, since what one believes impacts how he lives.

1. “For as he thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

2. Paul teaches the doctrines of grace, then applies them (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:1; Col. 3:1).

a. This emphasis is needed, as it is commonly held that belief is really not important (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

b. No man should be forced to believe anything, but what one believes is crucial (2 Jn. 9: cf. also Jn. 4:22, 24).

(1). No right life with a wrong faith (Matt. 7:18).


V. True faith is exemplified by obedience (right practice).

A. Faith is shown to be genuine by the works that flow from it (James 2:14, 17, 26).

1. We are not saved by these works of righteousness (Tit. 3:5).

B. The doctrines of grace Paul taught in Romans 1–11 are manifested in the person described in the beginning of his application (12:1-2, 9-21).
C. The one chosen (Eph. 1:4), and called by grace from death (Eph. 2:1-4), is to “walk worthy” (Eph. 4:1-6) manifesting the new nature (Eph. 4:17-32).
D. The one who has “obtained [Gk., “to receive by lot”] a like precious faith” adds to his faith various virtues (2 Pet. 1:1, 5-10).
E. On Mt. Sinai the Lord said “I am the Lord thy God” and then followed the Decalogue (Ex. 20:2-18).

1. Disobedience reveals one’s profession to be false (Tit. 1:16).

2. Duty God requires of man extends to worship (Regulative Principle).  More on the regulative principle


VI. Class interaction: determine if a doctrine is essential or non-essential.

A. Essential means something that is necessary for faith (in order to be saved).
B. Non-essential means something that is not necessary for faith, though all of God’s truths are very
C. What doctrine is seen in the following passages, are they essential or non-essential, and why?

1. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 44:6-8: monotheism (God’s nature).

2. Matt. 28:19: Tri-unity (God’s nature).

3. Rom. 9:5: deity of Christ (God’s nature) [cf. 2 Jn. 9; “another Jesus,” 2 Cor. 11:4].

4. Acts. 5:3-4: deity of the Holy Spirit (God’s nature).

5. Eph. 2:8-9; Ga. 2:16, 21: grace by faith (salvation).

6. Matt. 1:20, 23: Holy Spirit conception, virgin birth (original sin, atonement).

7. 1 Cor. 15:17: resurrection (justification/active obedience).

a. Justification includes eternal inheritance along with pardon, which is perfected in His resurrection.

b. If no resurrection, faith is in vain (vv. 1-8, 13-14) because we would still be under the judgment of God, incapable of living eternally in resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 15:12-20); under the Devil’s power of death (Heb. 2:14), which Christ conquered.

c. The active obedience of Christ granted eternity in heaven.

8. Eph. 1:4, 11: election.

9. Jn. 10:28: eternal security.

10. 1 Cor. 14:1-4; cf. v.28: tongues.

11. Acts 2:38: baptism.

12. 1 Tim. 3:1: form of church government.


VII. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Faith is believing what God has revealed, because He has said or revealed it. The faith which the Scriptures principally teach is what man is to believe concerning God and how he is to live that out.  There can be no right knowledge of God without the Scripture (Matt. 22:29).

B. Use, of testing.

1. Is God speaking in the Scriptures the supreme judge in all matters of religion (cf. Pss. 19:11; 119:105; Isa. 8:20)? Do we test the spirits (1 Jn. 4:1)?

2. Religion, if it be true it will be practical.

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. There can be no salvation without the Word of God (Rom. 10:14-17). Read the Scriptures and ponder your state as God lays it out in His holy Word.

2. Saints. Our duty is to hold fast the form of sound words, which necessitates that we have and maintain a pattern of doctrine in our minds, and cleave to it regardless what difficulties may attach.  Let us then show our faith by our works and honor God’s commands with obedience.

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