Happy 2018 Everyone!
Every year at this time, I typically challenge my readers to consider reading through the entire Bible during the coming year. As I’ve said before, the Bible is not a book that is meant to be read once, then checked off a reading list and set back on the shelf. I have made it my habit to read through the whole annually for probably about 20 years or so. There are many One Year Bibles and Bible reading plans to choose from. I’ve read One Year and Chronological Bibles in different versions, and a couple years ago I started using the free YouVersion app on my phone, but there are others out there as well. If you have a long commute to work, maybe the Bible on audio would be a good way to go. The key is to find a method and format that works for your lifestyle and will help you to be regular in your reading and stay on track.
This year I’d like to present another challenge, not to replace your daily Bible reading, but to enhance and build on the foundation of God’s Word. One of the best tools you can use to ground you in the doctrinal truths taught in Scripture is to use a Catechism. The Roman Catholic church is best known for its use of catechisms to teach their children. But a Catechism is simply a summary of the essential doctrines of the faith, presented in a question and answer format, use for oral instruction. The idea is to recite each question and answer until it is memorized, then moving on to the next question. A good catechism will include scripture verses to support the truths being explained. I personally recommend either the Baptist Catechism (also known as Keach’s Catechism, after its author, Benjamin Keach) or the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Another wonderful tool is the Catechism for Young Children. Children as young as three years old can begin to learn the answers to simple questions, starting with “Who made you? (God)”, “What else did God make? (All things)”, and “Why did God make you and all things? (For His glory)”. Of course the regular catechisms are not quite as simple, but the questions begin with basic truths about God and the Scriptures, and build from there. If someone was to ask you, “What is God?” do you have a Biblically-sound answer ready to give them? Can you explain to someone concisely and clearly how sin entered the world and the effects it has on man now and in the life to come? Do you have a good understanding of the difference between justification and sanctification? Learning these catechism questions and answers will give you a solid understanding of the key doctrines of the Christian faith and will equip you to “give an answer for the hope that is within you” on the spot.
These catechisms are based on their respective Confessions of Faith – The Baptist Confession (1689) and The Westminster Confession (1946). Reading through a Confession of Faith such as these is also helpful in solidifying what one believes and where in Scripture the key doctrines are taught. Additionally, they are in place to protect the soundness of Biblical interpretation. The church at which I am a member holds to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith. Anyone who teaches or preaches from the pulpit at our church will be expected to teach within the confines of that Confession. Some people say, “We have the Bible, so why is a Confession of Faith necessary, especially when it is centuries old. Isn’t it outdated?” Confessions of Faith are not meant to replace or supersede the Bible. Many churches have a brief Statement of Faith that summarizes generally what they teach. The historical Confessions of Faith are very specific and detailed, and serve the purpose of preventing compromise on essential doctrines, which in turn leads to heresy and false gospels, as we have now. I have found this diagram to be helpful:
So I challenge you to: 1) Read through the entire Bible in 2018, 2) Read through an historical Confession of Faith, and 3) Choose one of the Catechisms mentioned above and start working through the questions and learning the answers. Why not do it as a family? I promise, you will find it a valuable exercise!
- Bible Gateway Reading Plans (www.biblegateway.com)
- 6 Great Reasons to Read Through the Bible (rickwhitter.com)
- Free Bible Phone App (www.youversion.com)
- Comparison of Westminster and Baptist Catechisms (confessingbaptist.com)
- Historic Church Documents (www.reformed.org)