Why Do We Go To Catechism Class?

By Rev. P. Mulder

When you are young, you have to learn a lot. In school you study many different subjects, and, of course, you have to know how to work with a computer/ When you finally receive your high school diploma, you may go on to college or take other courses related to your job. And in the meantime, you may get your driver’s license. You certainly have to learn a lot/

Now I would also like to speak about the most important lesson: the knowledge about eternity. Every Sunday you can hear about that in church. When we want to speak about teaching about things, we first need to mention the catechism class. There are not that many hours that you will spend in catechism class! We can see that in a simple calculation:

When you have 25 hours in catechism class each year, and you go for eight years, you have followed 200 lessons. Compare that with a subject in school! Let us take English for an example. I take this subject on purpose, because we use English in our daily life, but besides that, we have our lessons. If you would have English for two years in high school for three hours a week, you would have already more time for that subject than you would spend in catechism class in your whole life!

Maybe you say, "Yes, but we also have our Bible lessons in elementary school, religion in high school; we go to the youth group and every Sunday we have a catechism sermon."

That is true, but the catechism class is different. The teaching in the school is focused on the knowledge of the Bible History, especially in the elementary school. Later on you will have your lessons with Church History, about other religions and lessons about Ethical issues.

Official instruction.

So it is necessary to give specific teaching on behalf of the church, and that is an official teaching. That means that it has a proclaiming character. The lessons in catechism class are given in the realization of, "thus saith the Lord." It is a work that is done by or on behalf of the consistory with an official mandate. The minister or the elder is doing this work as an assignment of the King of the Church, "Go ye therefore, teaching all nations." And our children and young people are included in that for sure (Deut. 6 and Psalm 78)! Therefore, catechism class is not a discussion hour! Of course, you may come with questions, that is good. The emphasis, however, is that the young people are there, because "Thus saith the Lord." Is a catechism lesson then the same as a sermon? No. In catechism class you will hear an explanation of the doctrine, in order that you understand more of the sermons. Catechism lessons are given to lead you in the doctrine which is after godliness, to be instructed in the Word of God and in the Confessions of Faith. These are the two main sources for all Sunday sermons!

Maybe you ask, "is not the catechism sermon meant to teach in the doctrine of the church?" Sure it is, but the catechism sermon is for the whole congregation, and the catechism class is especially for the young people. For this reason the instruction in catechism class has to be simple. In this way the main contents of the sermons can be made to you more clear and understandable. That’s why there also should be some time for questions, but those questions should be related to the subject. It is very useful and also necessary for young people to ask and discuss current and ethical questions. However, save those questions for the youth group, although also there God’s Word and the knowledge of that Word should be central. From that unchangeable Word of God we can try to find answers about the questions that come to us, also in this time.

Prayer

Young people, children, I would like to add a few important remarks. I hope you will think about the things I wrote already. Now I wish to bring a few additional points to your attention. Before you go to catechism class, bow your knees in a quiet place and ask the Lord to bless this instruction to your heart. Maybe you say, "But I am unconverted." That should be a greater reason to use the means of grace the Lord still gives (also in catechism class) and to beg for His blessing. Go to the catechism class to learn something and don’t go in a critical or discouraging attitude.

It is remarkable, that, when I talk to young people who have left our churches, they admit that they never really had an interest to know the doctrine of the Netherlands Reformed Congregations. You cannot love what you do not know! Study your assignments very well. I know it is not the most important thing to learn some answers, but you have to know them! Even more important is to understand the contents of what is taught. Also this is the proclamation of the gospel. Listen then with reverence and attention.

To comprehend There are several different methods to teach in catechism class. Sometimes you only have to study, but with other methods you also have to write. But whether you have assignments from the Heidelberg Catechism or from our well known book of Hellenbroek, you have to learn and study. There are question and answer books that require answering many questions by the students, but the elder or minister can also add some assignments from the question book of Hellenbroek.

Just to learn questions is necessary, but to comprehend them is even more essential. Children, and especially the younger ones, learn more easily by doing something, than just by listening.

Therefore, boys and girls, learn and make your questions. And particularly, listen, because the proclaiming part in the catechism class is very important. Whatever book is used, the doctrine after godliness will be in the center of all the teaching in catechism class, and you have to become familiar with that doctrine.

 

One Thing is Needful

No, current events should not be in the center, not that they are unimportant, but in Catechism class the main question should be, "How do I come to know a gracious God for my soul?" The church is called to instruct you in connection with this question. Therefore the proclaiming part in catechism class is also very important, because faith comes by hearing of the preached Word of God. So to study and to write answers is very useful, but the most important thing is that it becornes a matter of the heart. Therefore we need the wonder of Gods grace and the work of the Holy Spirit. By nature we are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, even when we are attentive catechism students.

However, the Lord will work such a wonder of regeneration through the means of grace. Young people, be not indifferent, but use the means of grace prayerfully. It concerns the eternal welfare of your soul!

No, as I said already, catechism class is not in the first place to talk about other religions or about genetic manipulation, for instance. You can do that in the Youth group or in the Bible class in school. In catechism class we have to answer questions as, "When the minister says that we have to become a sinner before God, what does he mean?" "What are the attributes of God?" "For whom did the Lord Jesus die?" "Can I help it that Adam fell?" "What is the Covenant of Grace?" "Who belong to that Covenant of Grace?" "How can a sinner go into that Covenant of Grace?" "Is it really so that we are incapable of doing any good?" "What do you understand by the providence of God?" "What is the relation between the sovereignty of God and our responsibility?" "What is the connection between God’s leading and our decisions?"

Are these questions also current? I think so! Or...are these questions not important for you? These are questions of life and death. We have to be converted, you know. In that regard these questions are very essential.

Rev. McCheyne wrote in one of his hymns "I once was a stranger to grace and to God, I knew not the danger, and felt not my load. "

When this becomes your question, then you begin to listen to what is said in church and in catechism class. Then you start searching the Word of God and you pray. You read good books that seemed too hard for you before, as "Pilgrims Progress" from Bunyan, or "A Sure Guide to Heaven" from Joseph Alleine, or books from Huntington, McCheyne or Rev. Kersten.

But, when you don’t have these questions at all, that is a reason the more to use all the means faithfully. For those questions need to become our questions! The Holy Spirit can work that. Do you ask for it? Or are all the things of this world more alluring to you? By nature this is the sad reality for all of us. We are poor creatures! How will it be when we have to stand before God? An eternal night is awaiting us! Think about your Creator in the days of your youth!

Conclusion

In conclusion I wish to quote two questions and answers from Matthew Henry: 1, How do you have to surrender yourself to Him in order to belong to His people? "I have to turn away from all wickedness and from my desires to the things of this world. I have to live in this world without pride and haughtiness, righteous and in godliness and to look forward and hope for salvation."

2. What is it to have sorrow about your sins? "That is that you feel an inward mourning that you grieved God by doing wrong things. But at the same time you don’t want to do these things any- more."

Maybe you say, "that sounds a little bit simple." In- deed, it is so simple that it remains for us unattainable, even with our orthodoxy. Therefore it should be in all our hearts, "Lord, convert Thou me!"

(Translated from "Daniel")