Let Us Catechize
Catechism. For some, this word conjures up dead orthodoxy and high church ritualism. For others, it is seen as an essential tool to be used in their family and church life. Whatever the idea of catechism brings to mind, why should you consider using catechism? Here are seven reasons:
1. To Obey God’s Word
Luke wrote his gospel account “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (1:4). In Acts, he also writes of Apollos: “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord” (18:25). As the Apostle Paul was writing to the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts, he said, “yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19). He also wrote to the churches in Galatia: “Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches” (Gal. 6:6).
In each of these verses the Greek word for “teach” or “instruct” comes from katexeo. This is where we get the English word “catechize.” To catechize is to teach or instruct God’s revealed truth in an orderly way. Throughout church history, this has developed as a series of questions and answers.
2. To Grow in Our Knowledge of Scripture
In Romans 12:2, Paul encourages us: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” It is through Scripture that our lives are transformed by the renewing of our minds. Written by many different human authors with various literary genres including epistles, narrative, poetry, prophecy, and apocalyptic, the Bible remains unified through the Holy Spirit as Christ is revealed to us. This is why pastors and teachers must rightly divide the Word. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
With this in mind, learning the system of doctrine revealed in Scripture with catechism helps us to know how all of the parts of God’s Word fit together and how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Consider a mechanical system. It is made up of gears which all work together in harmony to produce a result. In a similar way, a catechism brings together the parts of truth revealed in Scripture and orders them to produce understanding in our minds and transformation in our lives.
3. To Prevent Us from Following False Teaching
Throughout God’s Word, we are warned of being led astray with the error of the wicked. To give just one example, the Apostle Peter says, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). So there are those who will twist Scripture which leads us to destruction.
Don’t miss that these men will teach from Scripture. They will maintain that what they are saying is biblical. And there are some things in God’s Word that are hard to understand! How can you prevent falling prey to their deception? By learning faithful summaries of biblical truth that have stood the test of time. Knowing catechism questions and answers can keep you from false teaching.
4. To Unite as a Church in a Common Faith
Christ has called His church to unite around doctrinal truth. This is why God has given us pastors and teachers. The Apostle Paul explains the goal of pastoral ministry in this way: “till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:13-16).
As a church learns the same questions and answers together through catechism, we are uniting together in what we believe. This is a wonderful way to build unity among us! Our church has begun studying a catechism in our adult Sunday School class to grow in our unity together. I know of many churches that will also include catechism in their children’s Sunday School classes as a way to help the next generation unite together with our church’s common faith.
5. To Train Our Children in the Truths of God’s Word
Parents have a responsibility to fill their home with the truths of God’s Word. As Israel was reminded before they entered the Promised Land: “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9).
How will our children learn the truths of God’s Word from their parents? Yes, we should bring them to church so that they hear Scripture preached. Yes, we should lead them in family worship at home with Scripture. Yes, we should encourage our children to memorize Scripture! But how do we put together these Scripture verses into a system of belief to pass on to them? A catechism will give them this understanding. Personally, I have found using catechism to be one of the greatest tools my family has in filling our house with the truths of Scripture.
6. To Reach Our Neighbors with the Gospel
Christ’s church has also been given a responsibility, to reach the nations with the gospel! Between Christ’s resurrection from the dead and His ascension into heaven, He left His church with the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
A catechism gives you mental hooks to hold on to basic biblical truths in your memory. Let me give you a couple of examples. If you are speaking to someone about their need for Christ, and they ask you: “What is sin?”, how would you answer? If you have learned a catechism, then the answer will be easy: “Sin is any lack of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” It is failing to keep or disobeying God’s Law. Or in a world of different religions and spiritual beliefs, we may need to explain the difference between our only true God with other false views of God or gods. Again, knowing a catechism will help us, with answers to questions such as: “What is God?”, “Are there More Gods than One?”, and “How Many Persons are There in the Godhead?” Do you see how helpful to evangelism learning a catechism can be?
7. To Worship God in Light of His Glorious Truth
When Jesus is speaking to the woman at the well, he says to her: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). We don’t learn from a catechism merely to gain new information. Knowing more about God and His Word leads us to worship our wonderful Savior!
When used rightly, a catechism will fuel our worship of Christ as we grow in our knowledge of His truth. Combined with the Holy Spirit in our hearts, God’s glorious truth will enflame our souls with praise for our salvation in Christ. May this be the result of catechizing our families and churches!