Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?

Q. 3. 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.

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“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30-31)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8)

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“Orthodoxy” (right belief) conjures up in some people’s minds the image of stuffy old men trying to hold on to their power by controlling what people believe. So we had better move away from this outdated practice, some people say, of telling people what to believe. Belief, they say, is a private matter. No one’s belief is more or less valid. Everyone’s point of view is legitimate, they say, and only arrogance makes them think truth exists outside of the individual’s perception and experience. So on and so on.

So these days it’s trendy to dismiss orthodoxy (right belief) and say only orthopraxis (right practice) matters. One trendy way to say this is saying something is “authentic.” “Authenticity” exists, they say, where there is right life. But for these people orthodoxy (right belief) really has no bearing on “authenticity.”

The Bible never pits orthodoxy against orthopraxis. God commands both right belief and right life. We owe God to believe certain things and live in certain way, just as surely we owe him to not believe in certain things and not live in certain ways.

But which comes first? Right belief or right life? While right belief and right life are inseparable in a true believer, right belief has primacy in the Bible. That, of course, simply means that God has a deep interest, first and foremost, in our inner being (what we know, believe, feel) before our external appearance (how we behave). We all know we can go through the motions and do the things that appear right without the right motives. We often neglect our heart.

The Shorter Catechism, echoing the Bible’s emphases on our heart (“heart” in the Bible includes all of our inner being – our knowledge, intentions, beliefs, motives, and feelings) – focuses on what God wants us to believe about him first (questions 4-38), and then what duty God requires of us (questions 39-107). If our heart is right before God (and only then), it will lead us to right life. The apostle Paul would say grace (i.e. knowing who God is, knowing who we are, and knowing what God has done for us) bears the fruit of obedience. But there is no right life, lived with God-pleasing motives, if the right things about God are not believed.

Are you as zealous to know and believe the right things about God as you are to live rightly? If you have zeal for neither, you are probably not a Christian. If your zeal is stronger in one area than the other, let no man separate what God has joined. Do you care more about right life but not so much about right beliefs? Remember that God’s word teaches us to believe some things and reject other things. That is why what we believe is a matter of obedience. We honor God by believing what he has revealed of himself, and by cherishing the thoughts that are worthy of him. On the other hand, we dishonor him by ignoring, or worse, rejecting, what he has taught us about himself. Right belief is never a matter of head knowledge. Nor is it a matter of mere words. Because some beliefs are commanded by God and please him, and others don’t, right beliefs are matters of righteousness and sin. If you need help discerning what is right to believe and what is wrong to believe, well, that is what the Shorter Catechism is for!

Some people, seemingly, are more zealous about right beliefs than right life. We’ve all seen those who seem to love their books more than they love their brothers and sisters. But remember what Scripture says. “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) Pleasing God is more than mouthing the right words. But let the word of truth sink deep into your soul, cleanse and transform you from within, that you may live a life worthy of the one who has called you out of death into life.

Are there any teachings of the Bible that you are ignoring or rationalizing away? Be honest now. Then repent. Study the Bible to learn what you must believe, and how you must live, in order to glorify God and enjoy him forever.