Some people belong to the invisible Church, but are not members of a local visible church. Many people belong to a visible church but are not true believers at all and are thus not in the invisible Church. We must be members of both, by faith in Christ and by confessing Christ. (Norman L. Jones, Study Helps on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 121)
Now that my third and fourth children are studying through the Heidelberg Catechism in preparation for public confession, my annoyance with the above quoted claim has—well, tripled and quadrupled. I had simply marked “FALSE” on the Venn diagram attending these statements in my first two children’s study guides, but now I am fortunate enough to also contribute to a blog. (Thank you Paul!) And it seems, after asking around, that these statements represent a more common sentiment than I had originally thought. I hope to quickly show below that this is not at all what the Catechism teaches, and more importantly that it is not the teaching of the Scriptures.
Q. 37 What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A. That all the time He lived on earth, but especially at the end of His life, He bore, in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race; in order that by His passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice, He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.
In an attempt at brevity, I would like to quickly outline here the meaning of “the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race,” as intended in the Heidelberg Catechism answer above. It seems pretty plain to me that “the sin of the whole human race” means unequivocally the sin of the whole human race. If one were trying to come up with a way to say all the sins of all people, I cannot think of a clearer way to say it. But many continue to suggest otherwise. Even in the Study Guide that all four of my children have either worked through, or are currently working through, we read the following:
“The whole human race” means all kinds of people in every age. (Norman Jones, Study Helps on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 83)