The Westminster Shorter Catechism
Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man
The Westminster Shorter Catechism in Modern English:
Q.3. What does the Bible primarily teach?
A. The Bible primarily teaches what man must believe about God and what God requires of man.
1. Why does our Catechism place such importance on the Scriptures?
There could be no Catechism without the Scripture, for the foundation of the Catechism itself is in the acceptance of the full truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God. It is within the Word of God we find our way to eternal life. "And how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 3:15)
2. What is meant by the word "principally" in this question?
It means that though all things revealed in the Scriptures are equally true, yet everything in it is not equally necessary to salvation.
3. What are the two important teachings of the Word of God?
The two important teachings are what we believe and what we should do.
4. What is belief according to the Scriptures?
It includes three parts: (1) To be persuaded of the truth. (2) To credit the truth of a person. (3) To trust, to have confidence in a person. We must have faith (belief) in the words of God and in the God who speaks them. This is a personal trust in the living God through the living Christ.
5. Why is belief placed before duty?
This is the order of Scripture. The Christian is saved by grace through faith and is created unto good works. The foundation of the faith, "I am the Lord your God" is presented in the Law before God presents His people with the Commandments. What we believe is important in order that we might do what is well-pleasing in the sight of God. Alexander Whyte says, "An orthodox faith and an obedient life is the whole duty of man."
6. Could there be any significance in the fact that both the Larger and Shorter Catechisms have this same question?
Yes. True happiness for man comes only when he recognizes three important teachings of the Bible: First, that he is a lost sinner. Second, that Jesus Christ is his Redeemer from sin. Third, that he is to live a holy life based upon the revealed will of God, the Scriptures.