“Evangelicals who would catechize today need to properly identify the appropriate “vis-à-vis” for their own catechetical ministries. In other words, when we say, in effect, “You have heard that it was said … but the Scriptures say to you” we need to be clear about the influences that have been speaking into the lives of our congregants. Catechesis must always be attentive to the counter-catechesis at work in our lives. Earlier we dealt with the causes and consequences of the uncatechized church. In reality, however, all our members actually have been catechized—thoroughly so—in competing worldviews.
. . .
As we suggested in the previous chapter, catechesis typically has a built-in contrast: “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you.” That is, in order to more clearly illustrate the truth of the Gospel we need to highlight p 192 the counterclaims of the competing cultures. In every age and culture there are false -isms—beliefs and worldviews that fly in the face of God’s revelation in Christ. Examples in our own age might include such -isms as materialism, godless humanism, religious pluralism, and so on. In faithful and fruitful ministries of preaching, teaching, counseling, and liturgy as well as through the hymns and songs we sing, we must identify and challenge these with the potent, liberating, universal, and unchanged truth of God’s Word.”
J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 162, 191–192.
Jesus offers up some “hard sayings” in the Gospels. Indeed, the Bible is full of things that are either 1) difficult to understand or 2) hard to accept. Jesus taught His disciples that He was “the bread of life” and “whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (John 6:58). Upon hearing this, many of his disciples said,
“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” (John 6:60).
When Jesus explained that some of them did not believe in Him, and that they were not called,
“many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” John 6:66
They seemed to think that the “hard saying” was a deal-breaker. If Jesus stayed on this path, they weren’t going to follow. He asked the remaining disciples,
“Do you want to go away as well?”
The disciples’ answer did not indicate that they understood, nor even accepted everything Jesus said. In fact, further Gospel accounts indicate that they neither understood nor accepted all of Jesus’ teachings. But their answer did indicate a trusting faith, a commitment, a willingness to follow in order to gain understanding later (which, they did):
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.'” (John 6:68-69)
They would come to understand Jesus and His Gospel. At this time, however, they trusted Jesus, and that was enough for them.
In the next few weeks at Mountain View, we are going to look into some “hard sayings” of Jesus. Some are matters that need clarification, others require a commitment to accept and obey, while others may be teachings that have been hidden behind tradition and custom.
If there are “hard sayings” that trouble you, please feel free to contact me here. I might even include them in my next sermon (don’t worry, though, I won’t mention your name)!
We meet for worship and preaching every Sunday at 11 AM, at 118 Limeridge Road East, Hamilton, Ontario.
The Reformation’s emphasis on faith alone was the result of Luther’s tortured struggles to resolve the issue of how a fallen sinner may be saved. “My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and had no confidence that my character would satisfy Him. Night and day I pondered,” Luther said. The breakthrough came when Luther was given insight into Romans 1:17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Luther later wrote: “Then I grasped that the justice of God is the righteousness by which, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us through faith. Immediately I felt myself to have gone through open doors into paradise.”
Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2008), 138.