Lord's Day 31
Scripture Readings: Matthew 16:17-20; 18:15-20; Hebrews 13:17; Titus 1:5-9
Question 83. What are the keys of the kingdom?
Answer. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline. Both preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close it to unbelievers.
Question 84. How does preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
Answer. According to the command of Christ: The kingdom of heaven is opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith, God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their 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 wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God's judgement, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this gospel testimony.
Question 85. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
Answer. According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and after repeated and loving counsel refuse to abandon their errors and wickedness, and after being reported to the church, that is, to its officers, fail to respond also to their admonition such persons the officers exclude from the Christian fellowship by withholding the sacraments from them, and God excludes them from the kingdom of Christ. Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are received again as members of Christ and of his church.
For reflection and discussion:
The "keys of the kingdom," how do we know what they are?
Name some areas where church discipline fails today and why?