You may have noticed that we are using the Westminster Shorter Catechism as our regular confession of faith in our worship service. I have divided up the 107 questions into 52 Lord’s Days, so we will typically recite two questions every Sunday. We all know the first question and answer (“What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”), but we are most likely not as familiar with the other 106! The Shorter Catechism has been the standard teaching tool of Presbyterians since it was written, but in recent years that instruction has not been emphasized in families or churches. I believe it will be both instructive and valuable for us to systematically use the Westminster Shorter Catechism as our corporate confession of faith. But each of us will benefit even more if we take those couple of questions and talk about them over the dinner table after church and meditate on them throughout the week.
But why is it important to confess our faith, or to know the catechism? Thomas Watson, preaching through the Shorter Catechism, gives us a couple of solid, biblical reasons for the importance of being well instructed in our faith. From Colossians 1:23 – “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast . . .” (NKJV) – Watson draws two principles for Christians: (1) It is the duty of Christians to be settled [steadfast] in the doctrine of faith; (2) The best way for Christians to be settled [steadfast] is to be well grounded. This is also the apostle Peter’s prayer: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” (NKJV). Why is it so necessary to be firm in what we believe? Watson rightly observes that “there is a great need to be settled, because there are so many things to unsettle us.” This is an acute problem today when we see the Christian faith attacked and dismissed so publically; we must be able to understand what we believe and defend that belief from the Bible. But how can our faith remain firm unless we are well grounded? Watson goes on to say in his sermon that “A tree, that it may be well settled, must be well rooted; so, if you would be well settled in religion, you must be rooted in its principles.” And he goes on with this illustration: “That the ship may be kept from overturning, it must have its anchor fastened. Knowledge of principles is to the soul as the anchor to the ship, that holds it steady in the midst of the rolling waves of error, or the violent winds of persecution.”
Surely we have a great need of this in our day! We see so many leaving the faith of our fathers and running after what’s popular. Are we ourselves able to “give an answer for the hope that is within us”? We too may need a refresher of the foundational principles of our faith. May we use this tool and be willingly instructed in the faith and strengthened in our love of it. That is my hope and prayer as we use the Westminster Shorter Catechism to confess our faith together.