Are we able to back up preaching catechism sermons biblically? And why do we do them instead of just preaching using the Bible?
“Catechism preaching” (which is preaching a sermon based on the Heidelberg Catechism) has been practiced by Reformed churches (especially those which have their roots in the Netherlands) for centuries. In fact, in 1589, the synod of Reformed Church in the Netherlands decided that ministers should preach from the catechism every Lord’s Day. Why did the synod make this decision? And why have Reformed churches followed this practice up to the present day? There are several reasons:
- Preaching the Catechism ensures that no major doctrine of the Christian faith is neglected in the preaching. Think about it: how many sermons would you hear on baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the ascension of Christ, the trinity, true faith, and church discipline if there was no Catechism preaching? Not many! But all these topics – and many more – are covered in the Catechism.
- Preaching the Catechism prevents ministers from preaching on their favourite themes and subjects. It requires them to preach the whole counsel of God.
- Preaching the Catechism is a powerful tool to provide doctrinal instruction to the congregation. In the theologically confusing days in which we live, we need more not less doctrine.
Can we back this up biblically? It depends on what you mean. Obviously, the Bible nowhere says that we must have a Catechism and that it must be preached on every Sunday just as the Bible nowhere tells us how often we should celebrate the Lord’s Supper, how old a baby should be when it is baptized, or at what times we should hold worship services. The Lord has left all of these matters up to us to decide for ourselves using principles derived from Scripture and our own sanctified common sense.
What the Bible does say is that doctrine is important. Consider the following verses: 2 Tim 3: 14 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of”; 2 Tim 3: 13 “Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus”; 2 Tim 1: 14 “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us”; and 1 Tim 4: 16 “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” The Bible is clear: doctrine is important. The most effective way to teach doctrine to the whole congregation is to preach the Catechism.
May I make one more comment? The question seems to imply that preaching the Catechism is not preaching the Bible. That is not true. To be sure, the Catechism is not on the same level as the Bible. The Bible is our only authority for faith and conduct. It alone is inspired. But so far as it is a faithful summary of Scripture, preaching the Catechism is preaching the Bible.