Q. 6: What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scripture?
A. 6: The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God required of man.
(2 Timothy 1:13, 3:15-16)
The Baptist Catechism continues building on the construction project, brick by brick. We have answered several questions (please see links below if you have not read them). The Catechism addresses what the Scriptures contain in this question, which we will see the importance of momentarily.
First, I wanted to discuss the way this question is asked. The framers of the Confession and Catechism carefully choose their words. The Catechism asks what things are “chiefly” contained in the Scriptures. Why chiefly? Because, as anyone familiar with the Holy Scriptures will declare, there is a lot more than doctrine and practice. One example is the genealogies (e.g., see Genesis 10). Now, they are important for a variety of reasons (all of which are outside the scope of this post), but they do not directly teach any doctrine or provide examples of piety (practice). They do teach, however, chiefly the things we should believe about God and our duties toward Him. Let’s look at those.
The first of the two-part answer is “what man ought to believe concerning God.” That is, doctrine. Doctrine, defined in a Christian way, is simply teaching. Specifically, it is the teachings contained in the Scriptures and taught by the pastors and elders of the church. It involves items such as God, humanity, sin, and many other topics. This teaching is found in the Holy Scriptures. Though creeds and confessions are helpful (only as they are based in Scripture), they do not take authority over Scripture. What do we believe? We believe what the Scriptures teach.
The second of the two-part answer is “what duty God required of man.” The Holy Scriptures do not only teach what we should believe (which, as we will discuss below, has enormous implications for what we do), they also teach us what to do. This is our practice or our lifestyle (cf. Phil. 1:27). The Scriptures teach us how we are to live. How do we live as husbands? The Scriptures tell us. How do we function with the government? The Scriptures tell us. How do we handle our finances? Surprise, surprise, the Scriptures tell us!
The applications of this question and answer are as broad and wide as the Holy Scriptures themselves. On an individual level, we apply the doctrines of Scripture to our understanding and beliefs. It is not “what I think is…” or “I believe that…” but “The Scriptures teach…” These are important distinctions that must be made and kept. We have all sorts of influences on our beliefs. Educational institutions, culture, friends and family, backgrounds and ethnicities, all of these and more affect our beliefs. While there is nothing we can do about most of these, we should always check their validity to the Scriptures. Paul teaches us this in 2 Tim. 1:13, “Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (CSB) Paul understood his words to be inspired from God (see 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Additionally, we should apply the practical aspects from Scripture to our lives. For example, if you are a husband, you should utilize Paul’s teaching in Eph. 5:25-31 to live as a husband. The Scriptures give practical teaching such as this on almost every page. We do not live, in other words, the way we want to but the way Scripture tells us to live.
Corporately, as in involving the Church (and I mean individual, local churches) this question and answer gives us the truths we are to believe and the way we are to conduct our services. This truth provides freedom and boundaries on what churches can or cannot do. That is, there are some aspects of worship that are not allowed in the house of God (i.e., the church) that are okay in homes. Does our church hold to these truths? Does our church hold to these practices? These are important questions that we must know and answer in accordance with the Scriptures.