Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 25

Q. 65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, whence doth this faith proceed?
 
From the Holy Ghost, who works faith in our hearts[1] by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it by the use of the sacraments.[2]
[1] Ephesians 2:8 and 6:23; Philippians 1:29;  [2] Matthew 28:19; Romans 4:11.
 
 
Q. 66. What are the sacraments?
 
The sacraments are holy visible signs and seals, appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof, He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel, viz., that He grants us freely the remission of sin, and life eternal, for the sake of that one sacrifice of Christ, accomplished on the cross.[1]
[1] Genesis 17:11; Romans 4:11; Exodus 12; Leviticus 6:25; Acts 22:16 and 2:38; Matthew 26:28.
 
 
Q. 67. Are both Word and sacraments, then, ordained and appointed for this end, that they may direct our faith to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, as the only ground of our salvation?
 
Yes, indeed: for the Holy Ghost teaches us in the gospel, and assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ which He offered for us on the cross.[1]
[1] Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27.
 
 
Q. 68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the new covenant, or testament?
 
Two: namely, holy baptism, and the holy supper.[1]
[1] 1 Corinthians 10:2–4.

Commentary

We have seen that our salvation is by grace through faith alone. But the question is: Where does faith come from? If we were dead in sin, and are by nature children of wrath, how can we have faith? The Scripture teaches us that faith comes in two ways. It comes firstly by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God” (Eph 2:8; cf. Jn 3:3; 1 Cor 2:14). Secondly, it comes by the preaching of the Gospel: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10:14a). An unbeliever under the ministry of the Gospel may be likened to a blind man sitting in darkness with a Bible in his hand. In order for him to benefit from the Gospel, he needs both to have his sight restored through regeneration, and light through the preaching of the Word. Or, to put it in another way, he needs the outward call through preaching and the inward call through the new birth. Sadly, many professing believers today are ready to dispense with preaching and would rather have entertainment during worship.
 
What about the sacraments? If there are those who question the necessity of preaching, there are even more who question the necessity of the sacraments. In fact, even those, who faithfully attend to the sacraments, would wonder what the sacraments are for. When they listen to a good sermon their hearts are often warmed and they feel challenged, but when it comes to the sacraments, they feel nothing. So it appears to such that the sacraments are superfluous. But are they? The Catechism teaches us that the sacraments are signs and seals of the Covenant of Grace, by which God “the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the gospel.” A fuller discussion on the Sacrament may be found in our Confession of Faith. But here, we are taught that God “assures us by the sacraments, that the whole of our salvation depends upon that one sacrifice of Christ.” We are, in other words, by the tangible means of the sacraments, given assurance that we are indeed recipients of the benefits of redemption purchased by Christ. When a father embraces his son, he assures him of his love, and conveys his love. His love for the son is not dependent on the embrace, but it is both a tangible expression as well as a symbol of the bond between them.