Catechizing with the Truth

Heather Cossar

As the next generation grows and matures, they will no doubt bump up against the “catechisms” of the world. Q. Who should you live for? A. I should be true to myself. Q. What is the meaning of life? A. To be happy.

How can we help our young people develop a biblical worldview—the worldview of Jesus? The Shorter Catechism provides a road map into the kingdom vision of the Bible.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Q. What rule has God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?
A. The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

By studying these truths—especially in community—we can engage with God’s Word together, applying these concepts to our everyday lives. We think about Jesus, who asked his listeners questions to reveal the innermost depths of their hearts and to see their need for him. By using the framework set out by godly saints who are now in the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1), we can disciple teens and adults into a deeper relationship with our triune God.

A Map of the Bible

Luke begins his gospel,

It seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:3–4)

The phrase “the things you have been taught” is a translation of a single Greek word from which we get our English word for catechize. Luke’s reader, a new Christian, did not begin with his own study of the Bible. He was first taught by others about God and his Word. He was catechized, in other words. He then tested and confirmed his catechism by studying the inspired Scripture that Luke sent to him.

Why is catechizing so effective? Perhaps an illustration will help. The catechism is to the Bible what a map is to the surface of the earth. Why do we bother with maps? Why do we not just go out and study the surface of the earth for ourselves? The answer, of course, is that life is brief and the world is big. Maps are so valuable because many people, over many years, have made a study of the earth’s surface. While maps are not perfect, they are much more complete and accurate than what we would produce on our own.

It is like that with our understanding of the Scriptures. The Bible contains a vast wealth of information. It is no easy thing to master it all; in fact, no one besides Jesus ever has mastered it completely. The catechism, like other great creeds of the church, is a spiritual map of the Bible—worked out and proved by others who have gone before us.

Is this not what the promise of Jesus implied? When he was about to finish his work on the earth, he said to his disciples, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Jesus kept this promise. When the day of Pentecost came, he sent his Spirit to dwell in his church, as his own body. The Spirit was poured out—not on individuals by themselves, but on the whole body of believers together (Acts 2). And from that time on he has been leading his church into an ever-deepening understanding of the Scriptures.

Digging Deeper: Exploring the Shorter Catechism

Digging Deeper is the newest curriculum from Great Commission Publications. A revision of the beloved Bible Doctrine curriculum, this two-year study is designed for youth and also helpful for adults new to the Christian faith and to Reformed doctrine in particular.

Volume 1 is available now and covers the first major division of the Shorter Catechism: what we should believe about God (Q/A 1–38). The twenty-five sessions deep-dive into foundational truths about God (Q/A 1–11), man (Q/A 12–19), Christ (Q/A 20–28), and the Holy Spirit (Q/A 29–38).

Volume 2, covering the second major division—what duty God requires of us (Q/A 39–107)—will be available in fall 2023. This study of the Ten Commandments, the means of grace, and the Lord’s Prayer will give both covenant teenagers and anyone going deeper in the Reformed faith a refreshing exploration into the wonderful ways God has provided for us to grow and become more like Christ.

The Leader Guide equips teachers with key concepts that focus the aims of each session. Scriptures to explore, along with engaging discussion questions, guide the lesson. Student Bible studies, available both in print and digitally, help students to process the concepts in a creative way. Each session also includes a devotional journal, also available in print or digitally, to encourage time in the Word during the week. A free sample lesson is available at www.gcp.org.

G.  I. Williamson once wrote,

It has been my privilege to instruct the Lord’s covenant children in the riches of this catechism for many years. Not so long ago one of those who received this instruction graduated from Westminster Seminary. He reported that what he had long before learned in catechetical studies had often given him a distinct advantage over seminary students who had never had this privilege. In a word, there is lifelong benefit gained from a solid catechetical foundation.

Digging Deeper is designed to:

  • Provide a systematic teaching of Christian doctrine
  • Demonstrate the biblical basis for church faith and practice
  • Show that doctrine affects both faith and life, both knowledge and action, and both mind and will
  • Help develop a biblical world and life view
  • Deepen Bible study skills
  • Encourage appreciation and memorization of the Shorter Catechism

The author is managing editor at Great Commission Publications.