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The Heidelberg Catechism

Lord's Day 31


83   Q.    What are the keys of the kingdom?


       A.    The preaching of the holy gospel

and Christian discipline toward repentance.

Both preaching and discipline

open the kingdom of heaven to believers

and close it to unbelievers.1


1 Matt. 16:19; John 20:22-23


84   Q.    How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?


       A.    According to the command of Christ:


The kingdom of heaven is opened

by proclaiming and publicly declaring

to each and every believer that,

as often as he accepts the gospel promise in true faith,

God, because of what Christ has done,

truly forgives all his sins.


The kingdom of heaven is closed, however,

by proclaiming and publicly declaring

to unbelievers and hypocrites that,

as long as they do not repent,

the anger of God and eternal condemnation

rest on them.


God's judgment, both in this life and in the life to come,

is based on this gospel testimony.1


1 Matt. 16:19; John 3:31-36; 20:21-23


85   Q.    How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?


       A.    According to the command of Christ:


If anyone, though called a Christian,

     professes unchristian teachings or lives an unchristian life,

if after repeated brotherly counsel,

     he refuses to abandon his errors and wickedness, and,

if after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers,

     he fails to respond also to their admonition--

such a one the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship

     by withholding the sacraments from him,

and God himself excludes him from the kingdom of Christ.1


Such a person,

     when he promises and demonstrates genuine reform,

is received again

as a member of Christ

and of his church.2


1 Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3-5, 11-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15

2 Luke 15:20-24; 2 Cor. 2:6-11  



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