Back to Basics
As I thought about this series, I was reminded that, some years ago I had the privilege of writing the foreword for the Festschrift of Dick Gaffin, fellow OPC minister, colleague at Westminster and someone with whom I have the joy of serving on the session of our local church, Cornerstone OPC. Dick as much as anyone has shown me how a sharp mind and a profound grasp of theology can and must be wedded to a humble faith, a zeal for God's word, a love for the church's confessions and catechisms, and a spirit of service to others. It thus seemed appropriate to include in the foreword the following quotation from Luther's preamble to his Large Catechism. It serves as a great reminder to every minister, elder and, indeed, every Christian, that we should never think that we have advanced beyond the most basic elements of the apostolic faith. If you think you have, let Doctor Martin assure you that you have not:
As for myself, let me say that I, too, am a doctor and a preacher -- yes, and as learned and experienced as any of those who act so high and mighty. Yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism. Every morning, and whenever else I have time, I read and recite word for word the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the Catechism daily, yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and I do it gladly. These dainty, fastidious fellows would like quickly, with one reading, to become doctors above all doctors, to know all there is to be known. Well, this, too, is a sure sign that they despise both their office and the people's souls, yes, even God and his Word. They need not fear a fall, for they have already fallen all too horribly. What they need is to become children and begin learning their ABC's, which they think they have outgrown long ago. Therefore, I beg these lazy-bellies and presumptuous saints, for God's sake, to get it into their heads that they are not really and truly such learned and great doctors as they think. I implore them not to imagine that they have learned these parts of the Catechism perfectly, or at least sufficiently, even though they think they know them ever so well. Even if their knowledge of Catechism were perfect (though that is impossible in this life), yet it is highly profitable and fruitful daily to read it and make it the subject of meditation and conversation. In such reading, conversation, and meditation the Holy Spirit is present and bestows ever new and greater light and fervor, so that day by day we relish and appreciate the Catechism more greatly. This is according to Christ's promise in Matt. 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
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