Open your favorite dictionary to the word “inherit”. It will define the word something like: “to receive by legal succession or will.” The word “inheritance” is defined somewhere along the lines of “something regarded as a heritage.” What then is a heritage? Shuffle a few pages back to the word “heritage”. What you find is something like this: “something passed down from preceding generations; tradition.” It seems the words “inheritance” and “heritage” have much in common. A heritage is inherited. That one receives an inheritance implies that that person is part of a family, or at least has close ties to that family.
As members of the church of all ages, we are part of a family. We are inheritors. We inherit what God has given to us by means of the church. The idea of believers as heirs is brought out beautifully in Psalm 16. “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps. 16:5, 6). The idea of lines that the text speaks of is rich with meaning. The lines spoken of here bring out the idea of measuring. Lines measure out our portion, and our portion is something remarkable, to say the least. Our portion is the Lord. God has given himself to us as our portion, our inheritance. The lines have fallen unto us in the pleasurable fellowship of God. In this blessed fellowship with God we have knowledge of him and knowledge of the truth. We develop in this truth as a part of the church universal and more specifically in our own lifetimes as members of the church institute. Our inheritance then is the church and the history of the church through the ages. We confess that in the church is found truth. This truth has a value that far surpasses anything else we can receive in this world. This truth has a history that we can trace to the creation of time. We are called to develop in this truth as a part of the church universal. These ideas and more we will examine in the next few editorials.
What is the church? Article 27 of the Belgic Confession states, “We believe and profess one catholic or universal church, which is a holy congregation of true Christian believers, all expecting their salvation in Jesus Christ, being washed by his blood, sanctified and sealed by the Holy Ghost.” Article 28 takes it a step further: “We believe, since this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are saved, and out of it there is no salvation, that no person, of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to withdraw himself to live in a separate state from it; but that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves with it, maintaining the unity of the church; submitting themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof.”
The true church has characteristics that distinguish it from the false church. These are given in Article 29 of the Belgic Confession. “The pure doctrine of the gospel is preached therein”, “she maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as instituted by Christ”, and “church discipline is exercised in punishing of sin”. As a member of a true church, these marks are a part of your inheritance. God has preserved through the generations churches that have faithfully kept these marks and have passed them on to the following generation.
Let’s narrow down more specifically to our background as believers who profess to be Reformed. The precious doctrines we hold to, which have come out of the history of the church, give us a Reformed worldview. Our Reformed worldview is the foundation on which we stand. Ultimately we stand on Christ, the rock of our salvation. The teaching of Christ was given to the apostles to be given to the New Testament church. This teaching was passed down to us in scripture as we have it today. The church formulated these teachings into doctrines contained in the creeds we still have today. Holding to these creeds is part of what makes us Reformed. Standing on the truth of the Reformed worldview is standing on the teachings of Christ. If this foundation is despised or destroyed, we will lose all. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Ps. 11:3).
How do we receive these doctrines except through the preaching of the gospel? Herein lies the importance of consistent church attendance. Removing ourselves from the preaching, the chief means of grace, is one of the most catastrophic things we can do. The preaching keeps us sharp. The preaching keeps us on our guard. The preaching gives us discernment. The preaching feeds us. The preaching gives us knowledge of absolute truth, something that is despised today. Purity of doctrine is despised because “it doesn’t matter what you believe.” Many in the Christian church today think that doctrine is bad. Doctrine is evil. Doctrine is the evil. Doctrine is what is sinking the ship. To “stabilize” the ship they jettison their purity of doctrine. This does not save the ship, but their plight ends up worse than before. She ends up being dashed on the jagged rocks of false doctrine and opened up to the world. Her children are helpless, floating in the tempestuous sea of everything this wicked world has to offer, drowning because they have nothing solid to hold on to. Wave after wave of temptation and false doctrine plunge more souls into the depths. Doctrinal preaching is seen not only as evil and divisive, but also just plain old-fashioned. Politically incorrect. Culturally insensitive. God created the heavens and the earth in six 24-hour days? God established marriage as a covenant bond between one man and one woman? For life? Sunday is not a day for yard work and recreation? You really still believe those kinds of things?
These are all things we believe and hold as a precious part of our faith in God. These are all things that may strike a discordant note with some of our coworkers or college classmates. Will we give into their staunch denial of these aspects of our faith? Or will we guard our inheritance as Naboth did? When God divided the land of Canaan between the tribes of Israel, each tribe was given a portion of the land. The families of each tribe had a part of that portion that was passed down through the generations as an inheritance. They valued their portion and would not give it up. Why would they? Remember Naboth’s stand against Ahab. He would not sell his family’s portion. So important to him was his portion that he stood up to the king. Would we, when subjected to great pressure as Naboth was, hold on to our inheritance of truth? Naboth by the grace of God stood up to a king. Will we stand up to our coworkers or peers at school?
We have received a spiritual inheritance far greater in value than any earthly goods we might be given. Will we give that inheritance up? If we give it up or despise it, we don’t value our inheritance, and we dishonor the giver.
Next month we look at beauty and great value of church history in order to gain a better appreciation of our inheritance.