In the church world today, doctrinal distinctions are overlooked so that churches might join together to fight the social injustice in this world. They proclaim a god whose essence and commandments may be defined by each individual. The knowledge of God, as revealed to us through Scripture, is necessary for us to serve Him. How can we love a God that we do not know? How can we do His will if we do not know what pleases Him? The catechism class is the only educational institution of the church in which youth are instructed in the fundamental truths of the gospel. Without the knowledge of these doctrines, one does not know the gospel of salvation. Through His prophet Hosea, God declared concerning apostate Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge I also will reject thee” (Hosea 4:6).
The Scriptures are clear in its teaching that spiritual instruction must begin at an early age. “Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from the milk and drawn from the breasts” (Isaiah 28:9). It is during youth when a person undergoes great changes both physically and psychologically. Spiritual growth generally results simultaneously with these other changes. A baby is given immunization shots before he ever leaves the safety and cleanliness of the hospital to prevent disease. So it must be with spiritual instruction. As soon as a child is able to assimilate facts, that child must be taught the Word of God to immunize him from the filth of this world.
Sunday School classes and Young People Societies are different than the catechism class. The Synod of the Protestant Reformed Churches is responsible for the content and distribution of Catechism books. The PRC Synod of 1995 created the Catechism Book Committee to improve and add to the existing catechism material. Catechism needs to be a complete course in the essential truths of the Old and New Testaments as set forth by the creeds of the Protestant Reformed Churches. This makes catechism attendance mandatory to all youth of the church. Most of us are blessed with excellent Sunday School classes, Young People Societies and Bible classes in our Christian School which assist parent in the teaching of their children, but none of these can replace the catechism class.
The purpose of catechetical instruction is to teach you the fundamental truths of the Bible. A knowledge of God’s work in creation, of His covenant faithfulness to Israel, of Christ’s death upon the cross, will enable you to understand the preaching, to study the Bible, and to pray. Without spiritual food you will die. A knowledge of our sins turns us to look for a Savior, Jesus Christ, to whom we are ever thankful. Is not that how our Heidelberg Catechism is divided? Of the Misery of Man. Of Man’s Deliverance. Of Thankfulness. Catechism prepares you for a public profession of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You will be able to stand up and “acknowledge the doctrine contained in the Old and New Testaments and in the Articles of the Christian faith and taught here in this Christian Church to be the true and complete doctrine of salvation.” You will be full members of the Church, able to partake of the Lord’s Supper and to take your place, whether that be as a married person or single; whether that be as a leader in the church or a nurturer at home.
But the instruction received in catechism class is not only for your future role in the church, it is essential now while you are young people. It is now that the ground work is being laid for your future life. Good habits should be developed for Bible study, private devotions and prayer. What you do and how you live now will affect your future life. Will you be able to erase from your mind the violent and sex filled scenes that you have seen on the movie screen? Will you be able to give up your rock music without a struggle? Will you be able to promise your future spouse sexual faithfulness when you have not lived according to the seventh commandment? When the many temptations of your teenage years arise you need the strength of the Scriptures. When a friend suddenly passes away you will have the assurance that God is omnipotent and works all for the good of His church. When you are persecuted for your faith you have comfort in knowing that God will avenge your adversaries. When you fall into sin you need the assurance of the preservation of the saints.
Proper catechetical instruction will provide children and young people the ability and motivation to apply God’s Word to all aspects of their lives. Many churches today are limiting the time spent in catechism classes and encouraging young people to become more active in their communities by door-to-door witnessing, organizing prayer groups, and helping the poor and underprivileged. This will teach our children to be active in their faith, they argue. Are not these activities more worthwhile than sitting passively in a catechism class? Catechism instructs us in the fear of God’s Name. It teaches us of our great salvation through Christ. After hearing of the great doctrines of our salvation won’t we be eager to show our thankfulness in all that we do? Must we create opportunities to be active in our faith? Our love of God must not be limited to certain times and places. Young people, respect your parents and your friends will take note. Take time off from work to attend mid-week worship services and your fellow workers will notice. Befriend those that do not have a high social status. Seek ye first the kingdom of God. In catechism you have learned why you want to do this.
The catechism class is the foremost educational tool of our churches to teach children and young people the fear of the Lord. We must cherish it, love it, and cling to it with passion and determination. Parents, teachers, and coaches, impress it upon your children that no party, ball game, work or school activity must interfere with catechism attendance. Pastors, stress the catechism class in your preaching, and pray for it in congregational prayers. Children and young people, learn to fear the Lord your God.
Dave is a member of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.