For over 450 years (since 1563 A.D.) the venerable, pious, profoundly deep pastoral Heidelberg Catechism with its spiritually vigorous, incisive, factually grounded. comforting, convicting, well-formulated truths as faithfully derived from Scripture has served the church with remarkable power, clarity, effectiveness, and integrity when studied prayerfully and well and then taught to children, new believers, and adults in a winsome, gracious, Spirit-pleasing, believing, disciplined, enthusiastic, insightful, and affirming manner.
These profound, incisive teachings were written primarily by Dr. Zacharias Ursinus (also Caspar Olevianus and faculty) of Heidelberg University (in the town of that name in southwestern Germany) and were intended to cover, in an edifying, reliable, and comprehensive manner, every major aspect of spiritual truth as faithfully derived from sacred Scripture (a.k.a., the Protestant canon). Originally written in German at the request of Elector Frederick III, its purpose was to instruct youth and to guide pastors and teachers in their preaching and teaching duties.
The Heidelberg is one of the ‘Three Forms of Unity” (the others being the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Canons of Dort (1618)) all of which continue to give theological and philosophical soundness and consistency to the Continental (primarily Dutch) stream of the Reformed Christian faith. This superlative catechism, growing out of excellent, classical scholarship / scholars of the Reformation era, has been translated into many languages and remains one of the most loved and used of biblically faithful, truth-filled, spiritual teachings. Philip Schaff writes, “The Catechism is a work of religious enthusiasm, based on solid theological learning, and directed by excellent judgment … It is the product of the heart as well as the head, full of faith and unction from above. It is fresh, lively, glowing, yet clear, sober, self-sustained. The ideas are Biblical and orthodox, and well fortified by apt Scripture proofs… It is the language of devotion as well as instruction. Altogether the Heidelberg Catechism is more than a book, it is an institution …”
In 52 “Lord’s Days” covering 129 questions with answers and scripture references, the catechism clearly explains the three main areas of Christian life and thought, following the order of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: guilt (or sin), the shortest section in LD 2-4 (Q&A 3-11, Rom 1:18-3:20), grace (or salvation, Q&A 12-85, Rom 3:21-11:36), and gratitude (or service, the Christian life – Q&A 86-129, Rom 12-16). The largest, second section explains the articles of the Apostles’ Creed under the three heads of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost and includes the doctrine of the sacraments (vs. separately in the Roman and Lutheran Catechisms). The third part is an exposition of the Decalogue (as a rule of obedience viewed in the light of and flowing from redemptive regeneration) and of the Lord’s Prayer. This document is a truly evangelical expression of the Christian life consisting of undying gratitude for the mercy and redeeming grace of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in freeing us from the tyranny of the devil, condemnation, sin, death, and self found only at the foot of the cross of Jesus of Nazareth, the ascended Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, Lord, and Savior by means of the divine gift of penitent faith in Him alone.
Dr. Ursinus’ profound, pious, faithful teaching reaches through the centuries to help us color accurately, skillfully, and well, in our thinking and living, within the solid theological lines of the historic Christian faith (i.e., the whole of Scripture from Adam on as it points in varying ways to Christ and His gospel), as we learn to do so with increasingly well-grounded, insightful creativity.
It is to the profound hurt of the Christian church of our era that this (and the other outstanding ecumenical and Reformation aids for sound spiritual growth) have been forgotten, ignored, neglected, or superciliously looked down on in the weekly teaching of children, new converts, and all other members, in gospel preaching, and in daily home worship.
Introduction (Q&A 1–2, LD 1):
Lord’s Day 1: The necessary comfort of solid assurance – faith based on reality
- 1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,1 am not my own,2 but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,3 who with His precious blood4 has fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;8 indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.9 Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.11
1 Rom 14:7-9; 2 1 Cor 6:19-20; 3 1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14; 4 1 Pt 1:18-19; 5 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2; 6 Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8; 7 Jn 6:39-40, 10:27-30; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Pt 1:5; 8 Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18; 9 Rom 8:28; 10 Rom 8:15-16; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; 11 Rom 8:14
- Comment: It is of vital importance that every Christian has a truly humble, confident assurance of having been wholly, permanently claimed, redeemed, justified, and adopted by God into Christ’s divine family and of being specially, providentially protected, nurtured, and cared for by God in this ubiquitously, but temporarily, sin-infected, dysfunctional world, this present, passing evil age. That is the existential reality of every true Christian, whether well understood or not. Those included are all for whom Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, lived and died (in the divine love of the Father as Jesus in loving obedience and once-for-all, fully and sacrificially satisfied the perfect, eternal righteousness, justice, and wrath of God in Himself in His human life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to power) being the only capable and eternal Mediator for definitely, eternally known and loved sinful people. These are those for whom He now specifically intercedes in glory and of whom the Holy Spirit, in full harmony with the divine, eternal plan of all three persons of the Trinity, has specifically, freely, graciously, mercifully, and sovereignly by His divine power raised to everlasting life from the spiritual death in Adam, a death that is common to every person having ever lived, in profound and everlasting gratitude being now made unendingly alive to God (regenerated). Those so made alive have been divinely justified (meaning that Christ’s righteousness is permanently imputed to definite, divinely chosen, wholly unworthy, dead and unresponsive, naturally hostile, unbelieving sinners), as the Spirit gifts such with initial and ongoing faith (like a newborn child, upon the divine act of regeneration we take our first truly spiritual breath of penitent faith in the living God), repentance (in which we begin to sense how profoundly and extensively we have offended God’s moral being as reflected in His law), and sanctification (being the gradual process of becoming like Christ in thought, word, and deed) in assuredly bringing each member of the family into eternal glory, to the glory of His grace. This divine redemption instills in us genuine, everlasting, grateful allegiance to Him as those committed to God for our naturally undesired and humanly unattainable salvation.
2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?
Three things:1 First, the greatness of my sin and misery.2 Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.3 Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.4
1 Lk 24:46-47; Rom 7:24-25; 1 Cor 6:11; Tit 3:3-7; 2 Jn 9:41, 15:22; Rom 3:9-10; 1 Jn 1:10; 3 Jn 17:3; Acts 4:12, 10:43; Gal 3:13; 4 Mt 5:16; Rom 6:13; Eph 5:8-11; Col 3:17; 1 Pt 2:9-12
Comment: These three things are essential elements of sound, healthy Christian faith and life – a realization of our profound neediness and utter inability to remedy that, the redemptive provision in Christ alone that God has made for our neediness and inability, and the proper response of our lives when rescued from a fate far worse than physical death.
First Part, Guilt (Q&A 3–11, LD 2-4):
Lord’s Day 2
- 3. From where do you know your misery?
- From the Law of God.1
1 Rom 3:20, 7:7
- 4. What does the Law of God require of us?
Christ teaches us in sum, Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.1 This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.2 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”3
1 Deut 6:5; 2 Lev 19:18; Gal 5:14; 3 Lk 10:27
- 5. Can you keep all this perfectly?
No,1 for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.2
1 Rom 3:10-12, 23; 1 Jn 1:8, 10; 2 Gen 6:5, 8:21; Jer 17:9; Rom 7:23, 8:7; Eph 2:3; Tit 2:3
Lord’s Day 3
- 6. Did God create man thus, wicked and perverse?
No, but God created man good1 and after His own image,2 that is, in righteousness and true holiness,3 that he might rightly know God his Creator,4 heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.5
1 Gen 1:31; 2 Gen 1:26-27 3 Eph 4:24; 2 Cor 3:18; 4 Col 3:10; 5 Ps 8
Comment: The first humans, created in perfection and absolute harmony with their Creator and all creation, initially lived in a wholly delightful, joyous state of being. We may sometimes get a distant sense of that with profound longing.
- 7. From where, then, does this depraved nature of man come?
From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise,1 whereby our nature became so corrupt2 that we are all conceived and born in sin.3
1 Gen 3; 2 Rom 5:12, 18-19; 3 Ps 14:2-3, 51:5
- 8. But are we so depraved that we are completely incapable of any good and prone to all evil?
Yes,1 unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.2
1 Gen 6:5, 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa 53:6; Jer 17:9; Jn 3:6; Rom 7:18; 2 Jn 3:3-5
Lord’s Day 4
- 9. Does not God, then, do injustice to man by requiring of him in His Law that which he cannot perform?
No, for God so made man that he could perform it;1 but man, through the instigation of the devil,2 by willful disobedience3 deprived himself and all his descendants of this power.4
1 Gen 1:31; Eph 4:24; 2 Gen 3:13; Jn 8:44; 1 Tim 2:13-14; 3 Gen 3:6; 4 Rom 5:12, 18-19
- 10. Will God allow such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?
Certainly not,1 but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity,2 as He has declared: “Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”3
1 Heb 9:27; 2 Ex 34:7; Ps 5:4-6, 7:10; Nah 1:2; Mt 25:41; Rom 1:18, 5:12; Eph 5:6; 3 Deut 27:26; Gal 3:10
- 11. But is not God also merciful?
God is indeed merciful,1 but He is likewise just;2 His justice therefore requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment both of body and soul.3
1 Ex 20:6, 34:6-7; Ps 103:8-9; 2 Ex 20:5, 34:7; Deut 7:9-11; Ps 5:4-6; 2 Cor 6:14-16; Heb 10:30-31; Rev 14:11; 3 Mt 25:45-46
Second Part: Grace (Q&A 12–85, LD 5-31)
Lord’s Day 5
- 12. Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment and be again received into favor?
God wills that His justice be satisfied;1 therefore, we must make full satisfaction to that justice, either by ourselves or by another.2
1 Ex 20:5, 23:7; Rom 2:1-11; 2 Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4
- 13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction?
Certainly not; on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.1
1 Job 9:2-3, 15:15-16; Ps 130:3; Mt 6:12, 16:26; Rom 2:4-5
- 14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us?
None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed;1 and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.2
1 Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18; 2 Ps 130:3; Nah 1:6
- 15. What kind of mediator and redeemer, then, must we seek?
One who is a true1 and righteous man,2 and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.3
1 1 Cor 15:21-22, 25-26; Heb 2:17; 2 Isa 53:11; Jer 13:16; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 3 Isa 7:14, 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1; Rom 8:3-4; Heb 7:15-16
Lord’s Day 6
- 16. Why must He be a true and righteous man?
Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin;1 but one who is himself a sinner cannot satisfy for others.2
1 Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16; 2 Isa 53:3-5; Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18
Comment: God cannot but be true to every aspect of His indivisible nature, ‘existing’ as He does in unchanging, eternal, undiluted (absolute) perfection of being. One aspect of the God that is, is His perfectly just and righteous character, another thing for which we should be profoundly grateful. If there is to be any mercy shown by God to any, His being requires full satisfaction, by some means, of His absolute requirement / demand of pure & perfect justice. Since sin (anything that violates or is contrary to God’s being as reflected in His absolute requirement of perfection from His creation) was committed by and in a fully human nature / being, justice requires a true human being must truly and fully satisfy its demands. The need is for a true human being who is neither sinful nor a sinner, similar to Adam and Eve in their initial created state. But one that is unlike them and every one us following the devastating impact of that self-willed disobedience that pulled us all down with them into the humanly inescapable chasm of sin, pain, despair, and death.
- 17. Why must He also be true God?
That by the power of His Godhead1 He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath,2 and so obtain for3 and restore to us righteousness and life.4
1 Isa 9:5; 2 Dt 4:24; Isa 53:8; Ps 130:3; Nah 1:6; Acts 2:24; 3 Jn 3:16; Acts 20:28; 4 Isa 53:5, 11; 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Jn 1:2
Comment: Is there one who has the capability to fulfill the perfect demands of God’s nature as reflected in His law that, above all, righteously demands perfect love toward Himself and secondarily perfect love toward every one of our fellow humans? And who could possibly be capable of bearing the full weight of divine wrath / punishment that rest upon our sinful condition and behaviors requiring ultimate, endless penalty? There is one, but that truly human person must also be truly God.
- 18. But who now is that Mediator, who in one person is true God and also a true and righteous man?
Our Lord Jesus Christ,1 who is freely given unto us for complete redemption and righteousness. 2
1 Mt 1:21-23; Lk 2:11; 1 Tim 2:5, 3:16; 2 Acts 4:12; 1 Cor 1:30
Comment: The One Who is both truly and fully both God and man in one, natures at once both unmixed and unseparated, the only One capable of acting as the go-between and reconciler between a perfect God and sinful man.
19. From where do you know this?
From the Holy Gospel, which God Himself first revealed in Paradise,1 afterwards proclaimed by the holy patriarchs2 and prophets,3 and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law,4 and finally fulfilled by His well-beloved Son.5
1 Gen 3:15; 2 Gen 12:3, 22:18, 49:10-11; 3 Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 3:22-24, 10:43; Rom 1:2; Heb 1:1; 4 Lev 1:7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10; 5 Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17; Heb 10:1
Comment: Essential for sound, healthy Christian faith is a perfect confidence in Scripture as the only reliable, God-given revelation of Himself and His redemptive acts in history, including a growing knowledge & understanding of the truths conveyed by those texts.
Lord’s Day 7
- 20. Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?
No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.1
1 Ps 2:12; Mt 7:14; Jn 1:12-13, 3:16, 18, 36; Rom. 11:16-21; 1 Cor 15:22; Heb 4:2-3, 10:39
Comment: Since Scripture clearly indicates that some will be justified and therefore saved from eternal condemnation and others not, all Christians, except universalists (if any truly are Christian), accept that there is some limitation inherent in the effect of Christ’s atonement for sinners. Among Christians some, of Pelagian / Arminian leanings, believe that Christ atoned for all men but that his atonement is limited in its application by individual merit or choice of spiritually dead (unresponsive) individuals. In other words, God’s power to save is neither absolute, unlimited, or complete, being limited by and dependent upon individual ability, will, actions, decisions, or virtue, implying that something more than Christ’s perfect merit is required for our salvation. Other Christians believe that God is fully free and sovereign in salvation as He is in all other things (creation, provision, and consummation of all things), and that Christ’s atonement was perfectly, precisely, effectually, and fully meritoriously accomplished for specific persons in his life and death on their behalf, once for all, with no human action or merit accepted or required. Those of this persuasion believe that his atonement has been, is being, and shall be effectually applied by the Holy Spirit to all whom God has eternally chosen in love, as the Spirit acts in full harmony with the will, choices, and actions of the Father and Son. This latter is the historic, Apostolic, Reformed understanding of salvation / redemption / atonement.
- 21. What is true faith?
True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word,1 but also a hearty trust,2 which the Holy Spirit3 works in me by the Gospel,4 that not only to others, but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God,6 merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.7
1 Jn 17:3, 17; Heb 11:1-3; Jas 1:6, 2:19; 2 Rom 4:16-21, 5:1, 10:10; Heb 4:16; 3 2 Cor 4:13; Php 1:19, 29; 4 Acts 16:4; Rom 1:16, 10:17; 1 Cor 1:21; 5 Gal 2:20; 6 Rom. 1:17; Heb 10:10, 11:1-2; 7 Acts 10:43; Rom 3:20-26; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:7-10
Comment: Genuine faith, flowing from and gifted by God alone, is classically understood to include not only an increasingly accurate knowledge of God, his being, character, and actions in history as disclosed in Scripture, but also a grateful, warm, welcoming assent to those realities. True saving faith finally, divinely issues in a firm reliance upon and trust in the triune God revealed in His written word and in his character, promises, and other truths found in the Gospel as illumined and applied by the Holy Spirit.
- 22. What, then, is necessary for a Christian to believe?
All that is promised us in the Gospel,1 which the articles of our catholic, undoubted Christian faith teach us in summary.
1 Mt 28:19-20; Jn 20:30-31; 2 Tim 3:15; 2 Pt 1:21
Comment: This Q&A introduces the Apostle’s Creed which the Heidelberg unpacks in 15 weeks (Lord’s Day 8-22, Q&A 23-58). This historic, ecumenical, reliable, and helpful creedal summary of sound Christian faith has been warmly accepted and confessed by Christians throughout church history.
The Apostles’ Creed
- 23. What are these articles?
- I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, a holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
- Comment: The truths taught in this excellent summary of Christian faith should be memorized, studied, meditated upon, increasingly believed and understood, and openly, frequently confessed with all the assembly of God’s people in our weekly Lord’s Day gatherings.
The Holy Trinity
Lord’s Day 8
- 24. How are these articles divided?
Into three parts: the first is of God the Father and our creation; the second, of God the Son and our redemption; the third, of God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.1
1 1 Pt 1:2
Comment: The three divine persons in the Godhead are revealed as distinguishable in their person, roles, and activities; however they all act in perfect harmony and love with one another.
- 25. Since there is but one Divine Being,1 why do you speak of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Because God has so revealed Himself in His Word,,2 that these three distinct persons are the one, true, eternal God.
1 Deut 6:4; Isa 44:6, 45:5; 1 Cor 8:4-6; 2 Gen 1:2-3; Ps 110:1; Isa 61:1, 63:8-10; Mt 3:16-17, 28:18-19; Lk 4:18; Jn 14:26, 15:26; 2 Cor 13:14; Gal 4:6; Tit 3:5-6
Comment: The three persons of the eternal Godhead are all distinctly revealed in Scripture as of the same divine, transcendent, holy, perfect essence and being – three persons but one God.
Of God the Father and Our Creation
Lord’s Day 9
- 26. What do you believe when you say: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?”
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that in them is,1 who likewise upholds, and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence,2 is for the sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father,3 in whom I so trust as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul;4 and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this troubled life, He will turn to my good;5 for He is able to do it, being Almighty God,6 and willing also, being a faithful Father.7
1 Gen 1-2; Ex 20:11; Job 38-39; Ps 33:6; Isa 44:24; Acts 4:24, 14:15; Col 1:16; Heb 11:3; 2 Ps 104:2-5, 27-30, 115:3; Mt 6:30, 10:29-30; Acts 17:24-25; Eph 1:11; Heb 1:3; 3 Mt 6:8; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:15-16; Gal 4:4-7; Eph 1:5, 3:14-16; 4 Ps 55:22, 90:1-2; Mt 6:25-26; Lk 12:22-31; 5 Acts 17:27-28; Rom 8:28; 6 Gen 18:14; Rom 8:31-39, 10:12; 7 Num 23:19; Mt 6:32-33, 7:9-11
Comment: God, the eternal Father of his eternal Son and of all those chosen in divine wisdom to be adopted into his family, also chose, in His majestic, perfectly independent freedom to glorify himself in a loving display of awesome power by various acts of creation, creating from nothing all matter / mass-energy / space in its various, structured, purposeful, goal-directed forms. All this was done in harmony with the two other persons of the divine Trinity, all three acting in their unique roles. As the eternal Father of all whom he sovereignly, infallibly adopts into his family and as governor and director of every aspect of his creation, in loving wisdom he providentially sends into our lives all things, joyous, prosaic, or difficult in order to shape and sustain us and finally bring us, sinlessly and with everlasting joy, into his divinely planned, ordained goal, the display of the marvelous glory of his grace as fully manifested in the lives of all the redeemed, to the wonderment of all creation. This He is both infallibly able and most willing to do.
Lord’s Day 10: God the Father, wise, loving, all-powerful Governor of all creation
27. What do you understand by the providence of God?
The almighty, everywhere-present power of God,1 whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures,2 and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought,3 fruitful and barren years, meat and drink,4 health and sickness,5 riches and poverty,6 indeed, all things come not by chance,7 but by His fatherly hand.8
1 Jer 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-28; 2 Heb 1:3; 3 Jer 5:24; 4 Acts 14:15-17; 5 Jn 9:3; 6 Job 1:21; Ps 103:19; Prov 22:2; Rom 5:3-5; 7 Prov 16:33; 8 Mt 10:29; Eph 1:1
Comment: God the Father, Who in divine, wise, loving superintendence of His creation revealed in His perfect governance, direction, sustenance, and shaping all things and events, is progressively, infallibly, and with irresistible wisdom and power leading all things to their final, glorious, transforming culmination of the final, unveiling of His glorious self to all creation. This applies in particular to the numberless redeemed from all peoples throughout history who have been called according to His purpose and for whom He, as loving Father, works all things for their eternal good. “The Bible is concerned not with the mechanics of divine sustaining and the causal ordering of nature but with the knowledge, power, will, and manifest activity of God. God’s being and action is the basic reality which undergirds cosmos and history (in both ‘miracles’ and in the ‘prosaic’)… Theology’s quarrel with sceptical philosophy and naturalistic science has to do ultimately with the nature and power of God… (which is directed) supremely for the glory of God himself”. Quotation from ‘Providence: The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology’.
28. What does it profit us to know that God created, and by His providence upholds, all things?
That we may be patient in adversity,1 thankful in prosperity,2 and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love,3 since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.4
1 Job 1:21-22; Ps 39:10; Rom 5:3; Jas 1:3; 2 Deut 8:10; 1 Thes 5:18; 3 Ps 55:22; Rom 5:3-5, 8:35, 38-39; 4 Job 1:12, 2:6; Ps 71:7; Prov 21:1; Acts 17:24-28; 2 Cor 1:10
Comment: Increasingly knowing and believing the witness of Scripture and by that means and only because of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, we the redeemed increasingly come to know, believe, trust, and understand the reality of the God Who provides in His perfect fatherly care for us in all the varied joyous, pleasant, prosaic, and painful exigencies of life (and even death).
Of God the Son and Our Redemption
Lord’s Day 11 – The name, power, and uniqueness of the Son of God
- 29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” that is, Savior?
Because He saves us from all our sins,1 and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.2
1 Mt 1:21; Heb 7:25; 2 Isa 43:11; Lk 2:10-11; Jn 15:4-5; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Tim 2:5
Comment: The human name, divinely given to the eternal Son of God prior to his conception, is Jesus (English) derived from the Greek Iesous which itself derives from the Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua) meaning Yahweh saves.
The main Joshua of the OT, Moses’ successor, is an imperfect type of Jesus Christ, leading as he does the people of God into a measure of safety, security, peace, and prosperity in the land promised to them by God. He does that by destroying God’s enemies (actual peoples, but also representing Satan, sin, and death) and by teaching Israel God’s perfect will for their lives.
Every one of the many forms of false religion that men, often with Satanic help, have invented over the centuries, attempts to downplay, ignore, add to, or take away from the truth of the being and works of the heaven sent Son of God. All people know and experience pervasive dysfunction in themselves in various forms and observe that also in the world around them, leading to attempts at various forms of personal or social relief (many of which, in God’s providence, are good and beneficial). But in light of that discontent, false religions, whether theistic, atheistic, pantheistic / pagan, rationalistic, mystic, or whatever, attempt to teach us to seek salvation or relief in some form of personal achievement, attainment, group effort, etc., which, in relation to ultimate things, is like putting a band-aid on a cancer. These religious systems may have varying degrees of supernatural (demonic) power and distorted elements of truth but display a total lack of truly divine power needed to accomplish that of which we are completely unable and initially don’t even truly want. But true religion teaches that salvation is found in Jesus of Nazareth alone, in what He accomplished for us to the glory of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that no one or nothing else will be accepted or is required for our eternal salvation from the increasingly deleterious, degenerating impacts of Satan, sin, and death.
- 30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare from “saints,” themselves, or anywhere else?
No; although they make their boast of Him, yet in their deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus;1 for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation.2
1 1 Cor 1:12-13, 30-31; Gal 5:4; 2 Isa 9:7; Mt. 23:28; Jn 1:16; Col 1:19-20, 2:10; 1 Jn 1:7
Comment: In addressing various central, serious theological errors and corruptions of the Roman church of that time (which largely continue to this day, those things inevitably leading to corruptions in every intellectual, ethical, & ecclesiastical sphere), and as that organization in a pervasive, illegitimate grab for power increasingly departed from the sole authority of Scripture making it up as they go, the Heidelberg sought to reassert the apostolic teaching of the full sufficiency of Christ in salvation. Salvation is found in Christ alone. Nothing else needed from anyone, thank you very much! This also applies to every other false religious / philosophical system, whether extant or defunct.
Lord’s Day 12 – His Title
31. Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?
Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit1 to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,2 who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption;3 and our only High Priest,4 who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us,5 and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;6 and our eternal King,7 who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.8
1 Ps 45:7 [Heb 1:9]; Isa 61:1 [Lk 3:21-22, 4:18]; 2 Deut 18:15 [Acts 3:22]; 3 Jn 1:18, 15:15; 4 Ps 110:4 [Heb 7:17, 21]; 5 Heb 9:12, 10:11-14; 6 Rom 5:9-10, 8:34; Heb 9:24; 1 Jn 2:1; 7 Zech 9:9 [Mt 21:5]; Lk 1:33; 8 Ps 2:6; Isa.61:1-2; Mt 28:18-20; Jn 10:28; 1 Pt 2:24; Rev 12:10-11, 19:16
Comment: The Greek Christos (Christ, 531x in the NT) is equivalent to the Hebrew Masiah (Messiah), both words indicating a divinely ordered setting apart and gifting of a person via anointing with oil. Anointing was the sign of having been divinely, specifically tasked and empowered for a particular, major leadership role of God’s people in the OT, either as a prophet, a priest, or a king, all to be accountable, responsible, gifted representatives of and for the people. The threefold functional, leadership titles of Christ represent those major roles as imperfectly typified by the various OT figures. As Prophet, Christ teaches, instructs, warns, and commands us concerning God’s will and of things certain to come. As Priest, he offered Himself as the only perfectly acceptable, efficacious, final sacrifice for the sins of His elect and He continues to act as our divine Mediator and Intercessor in heaven. As King, he governs, provides for, and directs creation and ensures that full and final redemption will be completed in His elect.
- 32. But why are you called a Christian?
Because by faith I am a member of Christ1 and thus a partaker of His anointing,2 in order that I also may confess His Name,3 may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,4 and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life,5 and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.6
1 Acts 11:26; 1 Cor 12:12-27; 1 Jn 2:20, 27; 2 Joel 2:28 [Acts 2:17]; 1 Jn 2:27; 3 Mk 8:38, 10:32; Rom 10:9-10; Heb 13:15; 4 Rom 12:1; 1 Pt 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6, 5:8, 10; 5 Gal 5:16-17; Eph 6:11; 1 Tim 1:18-19; 6 Mt 25:34; Eph 6:12; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev 3:21
Comment: By means of the divine, Spirit applied gift of repentant faith in the heaven-sent Son of God as depicted in Scripture and illuminated by the Spirit, we are declared justified (permanently acquitted of all past, present, and future sin) once for all in God’s divine court room. Every one of those so justified are in the often uneven process of being sanctified as we cooperate with the Spirit in the disciplined, absolutely essential use of the weekly means of grace (Word & Sacrament ministry) and the daily disciplines of prayer, Scripture study, and good works, increasingly living a life of gratitude, dependence on God, and struggle against our sin and the evil one. All of those so sanctified will someday be glorified, eternally ruling and reigning with Christ in sinless perfection over all creation.
Lord’s Day 13 – His Deity
- 33. Why is He called God’s “only begotten Son,” since we also are the children of God?
Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God,1 but we are children of God by adoption, through grace, for His sake.2
1 Jn 1:1-3, 14, 18, 3:16; Rom 8:32; Heb 1; 1 Jn 4:9; 2 Jn 1:12; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:5-6; 1 Jn 3:1
Comment: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph 1:6). God’s ‘only begotten Son’ is perhaps more correctly translated ‘the only Son of His kind’ indicating a unique, specially favored, precious individual, in this case One who is by nature and essence truly God. Jesus of Nazareth is the only one of His kind, uniquely, fully both eternal God and created human male, the only capable and fit Savior of His church. As God, He is the only natural Son of the Father, partaking fully of the divine, transcendent essence and being. According to His full, true humanity, He was created by a direct act of the Holy Spirit uniquely as a Son of Grace, the only One so created. In stark contrast, His church consists of a multitude of individuals rescued out of many centuries, places, and peoples, all of whom were physically conceived as those spiritually unresponsive (i.e. dead): sinful, cursed, rebellious, idolatrous, unbelieving pagans, every one of us wholly undeserving in ourselves of any mercy or favor and none of us natural born children of God or of grace. His church consists solely of those individuals, of whom we have been made a part, as those divinely, specifically, eternally chosen in love and graciously, permanently, supernaturally made alive, having been justified by faith through grace and adopted into His family solely on the basis of Christ’s sacrificial life, death, and resurrection. In that process we have been permanently adopted by God as sons and daughters, joint-heirs of ALL things with Christ. Like matter and existence itself, all of this is great and mysterious, someday to be much more clearly understood to our great benefit and joy and solely to the eternal glory of the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – amen, amen, amen, and amen.
- 34. Why do you call Him “our Lord?”
Because not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood,1 He has redeemed and purchased us, body and soul,2 from sin and from all the power of the devil, to be His own.3
1 1 Pt 1:18-19; 2 Acts 2:36; 1 Cor 6:20, 7:23; 1 Tim 2:5-6; Tit 2:14; 1 Pt 2:9; 3 Col 1:13-14; Heb 2:14-15
Comment: “… knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but at with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Pet 18-19). The word Lord coveys the idea of one who is entitled to absolute ownership of certain material things, having full authority over and being owed perfect allegiance from duty-bound human or other subjects. As Christians, we rightly, truly, gladly confess Him as “our Lord” since on the basis of His sacrificial, gracious, merciful, loving actions toward and for us specifically and individually, He alone as the God-man, has redeemed us from the endless agony and horror of eternal condemnation. As such, He is the only one to whom we rightly, inescapably, and with unending gratitude owe an eternal debt of supreme, absolute, obedient allegiance. All this flows solely from the basis of His being the true God-man, Lord in both of His natures separately and united, who has paid the only acceptable price in Himself for our redemption, thereby making the way for us to be adopted as sons and daughters of divine mercy and grace. He is ‘our Lord’ by His right of creation of all things, by His redemption and preservation of His church including me, and by His eternal ordination to the task of redemption for His church in which I also am included.
Lord’s Day 14 – God the Son Became Man, Forever to be the God-Man (His Incarnation)
- 35. What is the meaning of “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary?”
- That the eternal Son of God, who is and continues true and eternal God,1 took upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,2 by the operation of the Holy Spirit;3 so that He might also be the true seed of David,4 like unto His brethren in all things,5 except for sin.6
1 Jn 1:1-4, 10:30-36; Rom 1:3-4, 9:5; Col 1:15-17; 1 Jn 5:20; 2 Mt 1:18-23; Jn 1:14; Gal 4:4; Heb 2:14; 3 Mt 1:18-20; Lk 1:35; 4 2 Sam 7:12-16; Ps 132:11; Mt 1:1; Lk 1:32; Rom 1:3; 5 Php 2:7; Heb 2:17; 6 Heb 4:15, 7:26-27
Comment: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Gal 4:4-5 In the fullness of time (something about which none of us would have any clue in ourselves), after the proper arrangements had been divinely made in individuals, societies, nations, even to the minutest aspects of creation (advances in knowledge, intellectual, ethical and physical infrastructure, revelations, etc.) all things were ready for the momentous, central event in and of human history (only to be perhaps superseded by the parousia (return) of Christ, but both events being central, integral parts of the divine plan of redemption), God came to earth as true man, the second (but perfectly sinless / obedient) Adam, the promised Messiah and the true son of David. He came on the eternally planned, infallibly certain mission of initiating the full redemption of His chosen ones, the first stage of which He perfectly accomplished in His death and resurrection, and the complete reassertion of God’s Kingship of all creation. At the time of these events, His divine (not immaculate) conception, in His humanity unlike us only in not partaking in any way of Adam’s sin as the federal head of the entire human race, was known only to a few; His birth only to a slightly larger audience – a lightly heralded but mostly unnoticed event of profound implications.
- 36. What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?
- That He is our Mediator,1 and with His innocence and perfect holiness2 covers, in the sight of God, my sin,3 wherein I was conceived.4
1 1 Tim 2:5-6; Heb 2:16-17, 9:13-15; 2 Rom 8:3-4; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 4:4-5; 1 Pt 1:18-19; 3 Ps 32:1; 1 Jn 1:9; 4 Ps 51:5
Comment: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Tim 2:5-6. This, like all truth I suppose, is both cosmic and personal. Cosmic because it affects every aspect of creation. Personal, because as His elect (all of whom God alone definitively knows), each of us personally and individually benefits from the One Who alone can act as a divine mediator (go-between, peace-maker, reconciler) between ourselves and the Father, giving us personal, certain assurance of peace and safety in the presence of God. He is indeed a great, powerful, dangerous God. We owe an eternal, infinite debt of gratitude to Him for the provision of such a Mediator for each and every one of us so redeemed.
Lord’s Day 15: The Meaning of His Suffering and Death
- 37. What do you understand by the word “suffered?”
- 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;1 in order that by His suffering, as the only atoning sacrifice,2 He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation,3 and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness, and eternal life.4
1 Isa 53; 1 Tim 2:6; 1 Pt 2:2-4, 24, 3:18; 2 Ps 22:14-16; Mt 26:38; Rom 3:25-26, 5:6; 1 Cor 5:7; Eph 5:2; Heb 10:14; 1 Jn 2:2, 4:10; 3 Rm 8:1-4; Gal 3:13; Col 1:13; Heb 9:12; 1Pt 1:18-19; 4 Jn 3:16; Rom 3:24-26; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 9:11
Comment: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” Is 53:5 Every human consists of two unified parts designed and formed in perfection and never designed to be separated (as in death): 1) the physical body, designed and formed by God using elements of earth and 2) the soul (personality, intellect, will, desire) which is the ‘immaterial’ aspect of all humans, brought into existence in God’s image when His divine ‘breath’ animated (brought to life) the man and he became a living being. Adam and Eve, the only two humans directly created by God (Jesus’ conception was also unique among humans but not like either of those two), were made in absolute perfection and definitively pronounced by God, along with the rest of creation, as ‘very good’. Christ’s atonement, in its culmination, will ultimately involve a thoroughgoing restoration on every aspect of every redeemed person in both the ‘material’ and ‘immaterial’ aspects of their beings. The impact of His atonement is the opposite of the divine curse stemming from the flagrant disobedience of the first couple, ubiquitously and pervasively infecting all their offspring (every human who has ever lived, excluding the God-man Jesus) with negative impacts in every aspect of our beings, perverting our personalities and desires, crippling our wills, dulling our intellects, and weakening our bodies in sickness, injury, degeneration, and death. His suffering included the extreme humiliation of being human living in a cursed world, experiencing the worst of that life and all the contemptible things that ignorant, evil men and devils could inflict on Him. The climax of Christ’s humiliation, His final suffering and death as a public man, eternally planned but begun in time with His conception, temporally reaches back to the fall and forward to and through the consummation of all things. In taking upon Himself God’s wrath and curse due us alone as only He was both fully willing and able to do, as a public man He suffered the full, unmitigated wrath of God’s retributive justice and endured the eternal horror and agony of hell in Himself for the sinfulness and sins of His redeemed, so that we would never be required to endure the eternal, divine penalty in ourselves. Instead we, the redeemed, are to be fully and permanently restored to the original sinless perfection of the first couple and granted eternal life. None of this can in any way be ascribed to us, being purely of divine mercy and grace, requiring nothing from us but the exercise of His divine gift of faith and repentance as the proper, inevitable response to our spiritual rebirth. Those not so redeemed, dead in sin, remaining condemned, and under the Edenic and Mosaic curses, will inescapably and endlessly be required to pay the penalty of their own sinfulness and sin in and by themselves, in both body and soul, a debt humanly impossible to satisfy. All this is of course is quite mysterious and to be received with profound gratitude, only to be more fully understood in eternity.
- 38. Why did He suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?
- That He, being innocent, might be condemned by the temporal judge,1 and thereby deliver us from the severe judgment of God, to which we were exposed.2
1 Lk 23:13-24; Jn 19:4, 12-16; Acts 4:27-28; 2 Ps 69:4; Isa 53:4-5; Mt 27:24; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 3:13
Comment: “Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him” Jn 19:4 On our behalf, in accord with the divine plan, and for God’s glory / our sakes alone, Jesus of Nazareth submitted Himself to the authority of a temporal, duly constituted but imperfect human judge. Jesus acted as a public man in full, perfect subjection to the law and as the only truly innocent human to have ever lived, that fact openly and truly acknowledged by this human judge who spoke more profoundly than he realized. In this judicial process He was wrongfully and unjustly, but necessarily for our salvation, convicted and condemned, thereby suffering in His human nature extreme agony in body but even more so in soul, all this in perfect accord with the eternal, divine covenant of redemption among the persons of the divine Trinity. The pure wrath of God, flowing from His perfect justice, is indeed powerful, fearful, and humanly inescapable, a just wrath to which the redeemed, solely because of Christ’s atonement on our behalf, are no longer exposed.
- 39. Is there anything more in His having been “crucified” than if He had suffered some other death?
- Yes, for thereby I am assured that He took upon Himself the curse which lay upon me,1 because the death of the cross was accursed of God.2
1 Gal 3:13-14; 2 Deut 21:22-23; Php 2:8
Comment: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” Gal 3:13 Looking at the groundwork laid in the Old Testament, we see that every significant aspect and event of Christ’s human life was carefully laid out, typified, or otherwise foretold. He who knew no sin endured the eternal curse due solely to us by becoming cursed for us in His humanity and on our behalf, that we in turn might become the righteousness of God.
Lord’s Day 16: His Death, Burial, and Descent into Hell
- 40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death?”
- Because the justice and truth 1 of God required that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than by the death of the Son of God.2
1 Gen 2:17; 2 Rom 6:23, 8:3; Php 2:8; Heb 2:9, 14-15
Comment: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” Rom 8:3. The suffering and death of Christ was in His human nature, since it is obvious that God can neither suffer nor die. Death and burial were the final major indignities He suffered on this earth (there obviously was unbelief afterward even among the disciples and even, amazingly enough, at His ascension). His death separated His human body from His soul briefly, suffered in our place as the redeemed of the Lord, thereby paying and extinguishing the eternal penalty for our sinfulness and sins, being cursed solely for us and for our salvation to the eternal glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- 41. Why was He “buried?”
- To show thereby that He was really dead.1
1 Isa 53:9; Mt 27:59-60; Jn 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor 15:3-4
Comment: “After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body.” Jn 19:38 Various false religions, sensationalistic writers, cultic groups, etc. will deny that it was Jesus of Nazareth who died on the cross (e.g., Islam) and / or that he merely fainted and appeared dead usually with elements of conspiracy (some Islamists, ‘The Passover Plot’, various other writers, some ‘theologians’, etc.). These denials, clever and inspired by hell, started almost immediately after His crucifixion, have continued in various forms to the present, and likely will continue to the end of this age. This is one reason why the prophets, gospels, and epistles make it very clear that He was, as a human being, truly & fully dead, sometimes including certain details or facts surrounding His burial and the extent of His stay in the tomb. His humiliation also continued in that His body was buried.
- 42. Since, then, Christ died for us, why must we also die?
- Our death is not a satisfaction for our sin, but only a dying to sin and an entering into eternal life.1
1 Jn 5:24; Rom 7:24-25; Php 1:21-23; 1 Thes 5:9-10
Comment: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” Jn 5:24-25. Jesus’ double ‘truly’ here emphasizes the great significance and eternal importance of what He is saying. Our physical deaths cannot and do not satisfy God’s absolute standard of justice, and while not to be deliberately sought or prematurely desired (or even improperly avoided) will be a great, momentous event of our lives to be increasingly recognized and anticipated as such. At that time we will forever leave behind sin and all its deleterious, degenerating, corrupting effects, the conflict of our new with our sinful natures, the ignorance, callousness, and contemptuous spite of men, the poisonous enmity of the Devil and His minions, and every other aspect of existence in a fallen, cursed world as we enter into eternal glory, finally coming face to face with our Savior, the God-man Jesus of Nazareth, to a blessed, incorruptible life forever in the great, good, and loving presence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the magnificent company of all the countless redeemed who have preceded us, and to all the holy ones in heaven. Paul could hardly wait for that, understandably. He knew and had great confidence in what was waiting for him as among the greatly blessed of God’s faithful servants in heaven. So for the redeemed, the guilt of sin is removed but the consequences of sin remain to and through physical death.
- 43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?
- That by His power our old man is with Him crucified, slain, and buried;1 so that the evil lusts of the flesh may no more reign in us,2 but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving.3
1 Rom 6:5-11; Col 2:11-12; 2 Rom 6:12-14; 3 Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 5:15; Eph 5:1-2
Comment: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Rom 6:12-13. As Christians, sin no longer has the power to drag us around and down as its captive. Some of the main fruits His death for us are justification, regeneration, and eternal life, all these being earned by His death and applied to us by His resurrection
- 44. Why is it added: “He descended into hell?”
- That in my greatest temptations I may be assured that Christ my Lord, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors, which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before, has redeemed me from the anguish and torment of hell.1
1 Ps 18:5; 116:3; Isa 53; Mt 26:36-46, 27:46; Heb 5:7-10
Comment: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” Rom 6:12-13. As Christians, sin no longer has the power to drag us around and down as its captive. Some of the main fruits His death for us are justification, regeneration, and eternal life, all these being earned by His death and applied to us by His resurrection.
Lord’s Day 17: His Resurrection
- 45. What benefit do we receive from the “resurrection” of Christ?
- First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which He has obtained for us by His death.1 Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life.2 Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.3
1 Rom 4:25; 1 Cor 15:15-20, 54-55; 1 Pt 1:3-5, 21; 2 Rom 6:5-11; Eph 2:4-6; Col 3:1-4; 3 Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:12-23; Php 3:20-21
Comment: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:5-6 In Christ’s resurrection, the end of His humiliation and beginning of His eternal glorification, He openly displayed His absolute victory over sin and death for the benefit of all who in mercy are granted repentant faith in Him. His resurrection was also a public vindication of the truth (reality) of Who He is and of everything He taught and did as faithfully recorded in Scripture. Jesus’ resurrection is the first permanent resurrection in the history of the world (vs. for instance Lazarus or the valley of dry bones). At the mass resurrection of the physically dead that will occur at the transition from this age into the new, eternal one(s?), many will be raised to everlasting life, but others sadly to the horror of eternal condemnation, the 2nd death. His ‘descent into hell’, as we have previously seen, took place in both His human body and soul on the cross. There we see the eternal agony of divine abandonment and forsakedness on our behalf when He says “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. Then after He said “It is finished”, the likely point at which the full price had been paid for our sin, He suffered the relatively brief separation of His human body from His soul, His body being truly dead & buried while His soul went to paradise to be with the Father and with all the righteous dead who had gone before, etc. Sometime shortly after the following Sunday’s sunrise, His human soul returned from paradise and was reunited with His earthly body, thereby demonstrating His complete victory over death and sin, a victory that also fully applies to all who believe. All this was done on our behalf and for our benefit, to His glory alone. His resurrection is one of the key, central, essential elements of our salvation and the preaching of the true gospel of Christ.
Lord’s Day 18 – His Ascension
- 46. What do you understand by the words “He ascended into heaven?”
- That Christ, in the sight of His disciples, was taken up from the earth into heaven,1 and continues there in our behalf 2 until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.3
1 Mt 26:64; Lk 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; 2 Rom 8:34; Eph 4:10; Heb 4:14, 7:23-25, 9:11, 24; 3 Mt 24:30; Acts 1:11, 3:20-21
Comment: “He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1: 9-11.
After His resurrection, Christ in His human nature (his divine nature, however not being confined to His humanity and neither mixed with nor separated from His humanity) and after final teachings and instructions to His followers, physically rose, body and soul, into heaven by His divine power to the supreme glory of Himself and the Father, an event that happened at a definite time and place witnessed by a small crowd of followers and accompanied by the presence of angels. He is not to be physically present on earth again until His glorious, triumphant, sudden return. After his resurrection, His human body continued to display the clear, permanent evidences of His life, beatings, tortures, and crucifixion, precious, eternal signs pointing to the indignities, humiliations, sufferings, and hell He endured on behalf of all the redeemed.
During various tangible, actual, physical appearances with various followers at various times and places, He validated and elucidated the canon of (OT) Scriptures / resurrection related truths as pointing in various manners to Himself in what must have been among the most profound theological teachings ever spoken. Biblical evidence implies that those teachings, having been reliably, precisely passed on in oral and / or written form, infallibly helped to shape and inform the eminently reliable NT gospels and epistles, writings to which we, in this country and in many others, are blessed to have access to today in our own languages. God has not left Himself without wholly sufficient and trustworthy written witness among us to the truths concerning Himself, the gospel of His Christ, and ourselves.
Since His ascension, Christ remains at the ‘right hand of God’ as our perfect Advocate, Mediator, and Intercessor and in His roles as infallible Prophet, compassionate Priest, and reigning King. The exact same Christ Who ascended will similarly return, witnessed this time by the entire earth, at or after which all those physically dead will be bodily raised to join those still living, as every person experiences either a full welcome into God’s eternal family or eternal condemnation and separation from His presence.
- 47. But is not Christ with us even unto the end of the world,1 as He has promised?
- Christ is true man and true God. According to His human nature He is now not on earth,2 but according to His Godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit, He is at no time absent from us.3
1 Mt 28:20; 2 Mt 26:11; Jn 16:28, 17:11; Acts 3:19-21; Heb 8:4; 3 Mt 28:18-20; Jn 14:16-19, 16:13; Eph 4:8; Heb 8:4
Comment: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14: 16–18.
Christ, the loving, wholly capable Pastor / Shepherd of His church, remains bodily in heaven at this time, although as God He is not, and cannot be confined to His physical body alone. The promised Spirit is indeed the spirit of our great, loving Pastor, Teacher, Savior, and Friend, sent to accomplish the divine convicting, saving, edifying, and other works as the Father wills and as only the Spirit can mysteriously effect.
- 48. But are not, in this way, the two natures in Christ separated from one another, if the manhood is not wherever the Godhead is?
- Not at all, for since the Godhead is incomprehensible and everywhere present,1 it must follow that it is indeed beyond the bounds of the manhood which it has assumed, but is yet nonetheless in the same also, and remains personally united to it.2
1 Jer 23:23-24; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Mt 28:6; Jn 1:14, 48, 3:13, 11:15; Col 2:9
Comment: “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23: 23–24.
These questions get tougher. The two natures of Christ are both fully present at all times, never mixed nor separated, but both are substantially different in nature, the one divine, eternal, uncreated, unlimited and the other none of those things.
- 49. What benefit do we receive from Christ’s ascension into heaven?
- First, that He is our Advocate in the presence of His Father in heaven.1 Second, that we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge, that He as the Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself.2 Third, that He sends us His Spirit as an earnest,3 by whose power we seek those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God, and not things on the earth.4
1 Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 2 Jn 14:2, 17:24, 20:17; Eph 2:4-6; 3 Jn 14:16; Acts 2:33; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5; 4 Jn 14:3; Col 3:1-4; Heb 9:24
Comment: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Hebrews 9:24.
The benefits flowing to us from Christ’s bodily ascension into heaven are multiple, profound, and permanent. See some of those above in the answer.
Lord’s Day 19 – His Reign
- 50. Why is it added: “And sits at the right hand of God?”
- Because Christ ascended into heaven for this end, that He might there appear as the Head of His Church,1 by whom the Father governs all things.2
1 Eph 1:20-23; Col 1:18; 2 Ps 110:1; Mt 28:18; Jn 5:22-23; 1 Pt 3:22
Comment: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Eph. 1:15–23.
Paul (now in glory, that great, pious, loving follower of Christ) reveals how he, as an apostle and also missionary, pastor, and teacher, on hearing of the genuine, justifying faith that God had given those believers in Ephesus, prays fervently for them to be fully enlightened regarding their inheritance as those redeemed by Christ. I suppose that realization generally grows slowly over decades in the lives of pious, well-shepherded believers. The genuineness of their faith is seen in their divinely impelled works of love toward other believers. Paul’s example also teaches how a pastor is to pray for his flock, parents for believing family members, and all of us for other genuine believers. The fact that Christ, inseparably, unmixedly, and fully both man and God, now reigns in heaven is indeed a powerful, life-altering, glorious truth, one of the great ultimate realities of human existence, someday to be directly experienced by those of us now living. Like Paul, as we are slowly grasped by this truth in our lifetimes, we increasingly look forward with great anticipation to the direct, full experience of that glorious reality upon our divinely appointed departures from this life. Christ not only ascended into heaven, but also assumed, as no other will or can, the special divine seat of dignity, honor, majesty, and authority next to the Father. He is indeed is the divine head (at God’s right hand) of both His lovingly militant but sinful, buffeted, and struggling church on earth and of all His redeemed now in heaven (consisting of all the departed in Christ from Adam on, those now experiencing triumphant, joyous rest). In reality, Christ gloriously rules over all creation, something to be fully, unmistakably manifest to the entire universe at the proper time. Someday all those He has loved from eternity will be wholly united in endless, glorious, joyful, grateful, thundering praise, apparently varying in content and intensity according to the situation, to the one, true, majestic, holy, eternal God: Creator / Provider Father, Triumphant Redeemer Son, and Comforting Executor Spirit as the Father infallibly and with divine precision and loving care, guides all things toward the glorious climax of all human history, transforming all its pain, joys, perplexities, sufferings, evil, etc. into an everlasting, glorious existence.
- 51. What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us?
- First, that by His Holy Spirit He pours out heavenly gifts upon us, His members;1 then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.2
1 Acts 2:33; Eph 4:7-12; 2 Ps 2:9, 110:1-2; Jn 10:27-30; Acts 2:33; 1 Cor 15:25-26; Rev 19:11-16
Comment: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,” Acts 2:32–34.
As Scripture teaches propositionally and by example, we the redeemed, are every one divinely gifted by the Holy Spirit but in various ways as those gifts interact with each unique, redeemed personality. These divine gifts range from the obvious and ‘important’ to those much subtler, quieter, perhaps less humanly valued, and / or less noticed or noticeable. God’s gifts are not given for prideful self-glorying but rather to be used exclusively, carefully, diligently, humbly, lovingly, and unselfishly for the abundant flourishing of His church, to His glory alone. When battling the daunting, disconcerting, seemingly overwhelmingly powerful spiritual forces behind the prevalent, perverse, corrupt, and evil theologies, moralities, ethics, and philosophies that we humans help produce out of our sinful natures and then adopt, we can be assured that the war will someday culminate in a perfectly victorious, transformational conclusion, where the world, the flesh, the devil, sin, sinfulness, death, or corruption will never again have any power, influence, or impact on us or any other aspect of creation. That is called glory.
- 52. What comfort is it to you that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead?”
- That in all my sorrows and persecutions, I, with uplifted head, look for the very One, who offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me,1 to come as Judge from heaven,2 who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation,3 but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.4
1 Lk 21:28; Rom 8:22-25; Php 3:20-21; Tit 2:13-14; 2 Lk 21:28; Rom 8:23-24; Php 3:20-21; Tit 2:13; 3 Mt 25:41; 1 Thes 4:16-18; 2 Thes 1:6, 10; 4 Mt 25:31-46; Acts 1:10-11; 1 Thes 4:16-17; 2 Thes 1:6-10; Heb 9:28
Comment: “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5–10
Evil, hardship, suffering, persecution, and pain at times may seem to have the upper hand but only and always within divine limits and with divine purpose. When the Judge of all the earth, the exalted God-man, returns from heaven in great power and glory, accompanied by a vast army of angels at His command, He will, once for all, vindicate the reality of Who He is, and in an open display of what He has done for His people will graciously, gladly, joyously, and triumphantly welcome His beloved into His everlasting family, all the fully righteous (in Him) redeemed. All things perverse, offensive, contrary to, or not in full accord with His transcendent, immutable being – spirit, human, or otherwise will somehow be forever banished from His presence and His good, perfect creation. The actual experience of these things will be, of course, far different from just the words used to describe them, those words simply being precise signs, vehicles used and illumined by the Spirit that point to and make alive in our souls such realities.
Lord’s Day 20 – Of God the Holy Spirit and Our Sanctification
- 53. What do you believe concerning the “Holy Spirit?”
- First, that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son.1 Second, that He is also given unto me:2 by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits,3 comforts me,4 and shall abide with me forever.5
1 Gen 1:1-2; Isa 48:16; Mt 28:19; Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16, 6:19; 2 1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 1:21-22; Gal 4:6; Eph 1:13; 3 1 Cor 6:17; Gal 3:14; 1 Pt 1:2; 4 Jn 15:26; Acts 9:31; 5 Jn 14:16-17; Rom 15:13; 1 Pt 4:14; 1 Jn 4:13
Comment: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
God the Holy Spirit, the eternal third person of the divine Trinity, is, among other things, the Executor of the covenant of grace, a covenant promised by God to man on the condition of genuine faith in Christ that He himself gives. That covenant flows from and is based upon a divine, eternal covenant of redemption between the members of the Trinity (see the gospel of John, etc.). The covenant of grace, in highly compact form, was announced sometime after the Fall (Genesis 3:15) with the promise of a coming victorious savior Who would destroy the serpent’s seed and (implicitly) the effects of Adam’s unspeakably evil, blameworthy offense, a seemingly unpardonable affront to God’s transcendent, holy being. That covenant apparently became effective when announced, administered by the Spirit differently in the NT vs. the Old. In this covenant Christ fully and with divine finality, both retrospectively and prospectively, accomplished our redemption, coming from heaven on a freely chosen, gracious, highly focused, exclusively redemptive mission, suffering, dying, and experiencing hell in our place and for our salvation. He accomplished that mission by bearing, with full and perfect effect, the just wrath, curse, and penalty due the sinfulness and all the sins of the Father’s eternally chosen ones, experiencing in full the suffering, indignities, humiliation, and cursedness that attended His incarnation, ministry, and especially the events surrounding His human torment and physical death on the cross. After He endured all that for our sakes to His eternal glory, He received and now enjoys the vindication, exaltation, and glorification of His resurrected, ascended, and current reign / pre-return life in heaven at the right hand of God, reigning there also on behalf of us His people (the church) to His eternal glory. Throughout human history since the Fall, this covenant of grace has been mysteriously applied by Holy Spirit to specific individuals as freely, divinely, mercifully willed, a gift not based on or conditioned by any actual or foreseen individual (or group) merit, action, or virtue, but purely out of His longsuffering, infallible goodness toward us. In the Old Testament the primary means the Spirit used were laws, ceremonies, and the prophetic word. In the NT, the twin means of grace honored by the Spirit are more simple and direct and include: 1) the faithful preaching and teaching of the divine Word / word (in Law and Gospel) and 2) the right administration of the two NT sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper). Those things are to occur each Lord’s day for every one of God’s people (as they are able; each sacrament as applicable) in each and every properly constituted Christian assembly following the NT directions for the true and acceptable worship of the living God.
Our sanctification (being set apart to God as those now being made holy as we learn to cooperate with the Spirit in definitively rejecting every impure impulse of our sinful natures) flows directly and inseparably from the divine, legal declaration of our initiatory, full, permanent, one-time, irrevocable justification in Christ before God. Those so justified cannot and will not ever experience the double jeopardy of divine condemnation. But all true Christians are, as Luther famously said “simul justus et peccator” meaning that although we are in this life still sinful beings (peccator) we are, at the exact same time and in Christ alone, fully and permanently declared just, not guilty, acquitted (justus) of all sin and its just condemnation. Our sanctification, as effected by the Holy Spirit in making us like Christ, occurs via: 1) the twin, weekly means grace as noted above, 2) the daily living of repentant, obedient, trusting faith that also looks forward with increasing gratitude to the promised hope of our full inheritance in Christ, and 3) the daily, Spirit-empowered disciplines of the Christian life – immersion in Scripture, fervent believing prayer, and good works of many sorts as stewards of the grace(s) of God. All these means help us more clearly and vitally know the God that is, the things He has done for us, and our everlasting hope in Him. It is through both the primary means of grace and the essential disciplines of grace that the Spirit imparts all the benefits of this great redemption to us. One final, major element of our redemption is yet to be realized; that is the full and final consummation of our redemption following the return of Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully man, the Christ, Lord of all, coming in great power and glory to judge with perfect, divine justice all who have ever lived. At this judgment, He will lovingly welcome all His beloved, graciously and with unerring equity rewarding each of us according to our works as only He can do, but sending others, the unjustified (condemned, spiritually dead) from His presence into everlasting darkness, a painful thing to contemplate.
Lord’s Day 21: The Church: Holy, One, catholic, Everlasting
- 54. What do you believe concerning the “holy catholic Church?”
- That out of the whole human race,1 from the beginning to the end of the world,2 the Son of God,3 by His Spirit and Word,4 gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself5 unto everlasting life a chosen communion6 in the unity of the true faith;7 and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of this communion.8
1 Gen 26:4; Rev 5:9; 2 Isa 59:21; Jn 10:10; 1 Cor 11:26; 3 Jn 10:11; Acts 20:28; Eph 1:10-13, 4:11-13; Col 1:18; 4 Isa 59:21; Rom 1:16, 10:14-17; Eph 5:26; 5 Ps 129:1-5; Mt 16:18; Jn 10:28-30; 6 Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:3-14, 4:3-6; 7 Ps 71:18; Jn 10:28-30; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor 1:8-9, 11:26; 8 Ps 23:6; Jn 10:27-28; 1 Cor 1:4-9; Gal 3:28; 1 Pt 1:3-5; 1 Jn 2:19, 3:14, 19-21
That out of the whole human race,1 from the beginning to the end of the world,2 the Son of God,3 by His Spirit and Word,4 gathers, defends, and preserves for Himself5 unto everlasting life a chosen communion6 in the unity of the true faith;7 and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of this communion.8
Scripture: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1–6)
Comment: Beginning with Adam, continuing through the end of this age, and then on into eternity (that’s probably how long you think my comments are J), God’s people consist of all whom He, graciously and in perfect wisdom, sovereign freedom, mercy, goodness, and love, has eternally chosen and divinely called out of the kingdom of darkness and into His kingdom of light, the redemption found in Christ alone as we then live in ongoing fellowship with Him and our fellow saints. Our redemption centers around Christ’s death and resurrection, to culminate with His return in power and glory as sovereign Lord (Savior and Judge). At that time He will usher in His everlasting reign over all creation, divinely reuniting our souls with our revivified bodies (as applicable) making us suitable in every way for an endless, incorruptible, glorious, truly human life of worship and service in undiluted righteousness, holiness, peace, and joy. This redemption has been, is being, and shall be effectually, mysteriously applied by the Spirit, normally via the ordinary, ordained means of the preached and taught Word, to those who have received (or shall) God’s required, justifying gift of repentant faith in Christ (which is conversion to God in new life / regeneration). As such, each and every one of us so gifted by God has been permanently adopted into His family as those forever joined to Christ. We are profoundly united in the essentials, realities, and obedience of the one, true, God-given faith that we share with all genuine saints of all places, cultures, times, etc. We are also those whom no power or action can ever pluck from the Father’s hand, being perfectly, permanently secure in Him and in His keeping power.
The term ‘catholic’ means universal; in relation to the church it applies to all of God’s people as noted above (and whom only God definitively knows) and not just to the high profile Roman organization which, falsely and at best misguidedly, attempts (via various means) to claim that title, role, and place of honor solely for itself, following its well-established habit of making things up as it goes. We know, believe, and confess that there is indeed a ‘holy catholic church’ but we are careful to place our faith in Christ alone and never in His church or any other lesser thing. Christ alone, through His authoritative word (the Protestant canon) and Spirit alone, forms and establishes the church; the fallible church is a result of those infallible, divine persons and word and can only be a humble student of them, never their source, shaper, authorizer, or judge standing over them. As His redeemed, God is our Father exclusively and the church, as yet imperfect and sinful, is like our mother. The church is the primary, divinely ordained instrument and means in and by which Christ, by His Spirit, graciously saves, protects, and nurtures his people to everlasting life. He does this mainly via the Spirit-empowered means of Word and sacrament ministry, administered each Lord’s Day to His corporately assembled people via called and gifted, yet sinful and imperfect, leaders (pastors, elders, teachers, etc.) and also by the daily, personal disciplines of grace (as noted in the previous Lord’s Day). Christ’s divinely called, gifted, trained, and ordained leaders are held by Him (normally via elders) to a very high standard of accountability as those strictly required to be faithful stewards of the mysteries and oracles of the faith and as true servants and under shepherds of the local church. As such Christ’s leaders, given solely for the benefit and abundant flourishing of His church, are to be honored, respected, heeded, and obeyed in the Lord as those placed by Him in such highly responsible, accountable positions of authority and service.
The classic, biblical marks of a true church are three: 1) the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word resulting in genuine Christian belief, worship, confession of sin and truth, and obedience, 2) the proper administration of the sacraments as signs and symbols of the gospel of grace, and 3) the loving, firm, restorative discipline of willfully disobedient (or other) members as needed. This holy catholic church is both visible, consisting of a mixed multitude associated with the visible church whether regenerate or not, and invisible, consisting of the totality of all genuine believers of all times and places whether now on earth or in heaven. It is an end-time community looking forward with increasing anticipation and assurance to the glories of the resurrection of the dead, the final Judgment, and the life eternal. It is a new humanity brought into being by the second Adam, vitally connected to Christ the vine, and solely destined to inherit all things. It is a God-called and empowered community, triumphant in heaven and lovingly militant on earth as those in constant defensive and offensive spiritual / ideological conflict with various idolatrous world views and systems, our own sinful natures, and the devil’s perversely active kingdom. We, the church, are the temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells, “… God’s alternative (society) to the brokenness and fragmentation of human society. Therefore, to be involved in (undermining, weakening, or) destroying that temple—by disunity (schism), lack of concern and love, (heresy,) etc.—is to … bring upon oneself the judgment of God (1 Cor 3:17).” ‘Church’, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible
55. What do you understand by the “communion of saints?”
First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts;1 second, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.2
Scripture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)
Comment: The essential nature of the church is the communion and community of the saints, the new humanity spiritually born of the second Adam as effectually, mysteriously called and justified by the Holy Spirit. Primarily, this is our communion with the Members of the Trinity flowing from a profound union with Christ, and then, because of that union, a communion with each other in which we all share in the fundamental realities, truths, gifts, blessings, and discipline / disciplines of Christ. As gifted members of this communion, we look for ways to be faithful in the use of our gifts for the benefit of His church to His glory alone.
56. What do you believe concerning the “forgiveness of sins?”
That God, for the sake of Christ’s satisfaction,1 will no more remember my sins, nor the sinful nature with which I have to struggle all my life long;2 but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ, that I may nevermore come into condemnation.3
Scripture: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Comment: The essential action of the church is found in the granting of the remission of sins solely by means of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, at His command and direction and under His authority. A believer’s justification is a divine, one-time forensic act based solely on His atonement and mediation for us, freeing us permanently from everlasting condemnation. Humble, contrite confession and forgiveness of sin is to be sought and received daily. Then each Lord’s Day, at Christ’s direction via our ordained ministers, with full assurance we are to receive the blessed announcement of our complete absolution (cleansing) of all confessed sin and of God’s gift of to us of the perfect righteousness of Christ.
Lord’s Day 22: Our Resurrection & the Life Everlasting
57. What comfort do you receive from the “resurrection of the body”?
That not only my soul after this life shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head,1 but also that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall be reunited with my soul, and made like the glorious body of Christ.2
For the subset of believers who are physically alive at His coming, perhaps including some of us, there will apparently be no experience of the separation of body and soul. Rather those believers will experience an immediate, permanent transformation of the whole person, the body being changed similarly to Christ’s upon His resurrection (and to all those believers bodies raised from the dead), and the soul made truly human, holy, whole, and sinless, perfect in every respect. This true hope, resting firmly and solely in Christ alone and assured by God’s powerful, immutable being / promise, is something to be greatly anticipated by every believer as we grow in the grace(s) and truth(s) of the obedience of faith, and as we, by the power of the Spirit, increasingly learn to detest and reject every unholy manifestation of: 1) our old, sinful natures with its confusions, doubt, disbelief, undue pride, ignorance, impure desires, self-centeredness, resistance to God, and stubborn willfulness, 2) lies and perversions of all sorts promoted by those (spiritual or human) of the Satanic realm, and 3) all God-insulting / dishonoring idolatries and ideologies of the current world system (being a hellish combination of ubiquitous human sinfulness and demonic evil). In the meantime, by the power of God alone we persevere in this life, afflicted with the effects of inward and outward sin until our physical deaths, in a toughening, refining, maturing process meant to prepare us for a great, joyous entrance into the joyous peace of His eternal kingdom, being welcomed by our great, loving Shepherd Himself.
58. What comfort do you receive from the article “life everlasting?
”That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy,1 I shall after this life possess complete blessedness, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man,2 therein to praise God forever.31Jn 17:3; Rom 14:17; 2 Cor 5:2-3; 2 1 Cor 2:9; 3 Jn 17:24; Rom 8:23; 1 Pt 1:8
Scripture: “But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10)
Comment: It is good to meditate on Scripture, asking God to reveal Himself to us in the power of the Spirit as we, with unhurried reflection, ruminate on and pray about a given text, giving thanks to God for His revelation of Himself and His unchanging plans for us, plans for good and not for evil. In doing that, we become intent on drawing out every last, tiny bit of nourishment that God has carefully placed there, believing and welcoming every exposed or buried gem of truth the Spirit reveals as He chooses to those who diligently seek Him.
In contrast to the genuine bliss and enlightenment (being bathed in the glory of the immediate presence of the incomprehensible, living God) awaiting all who truly believe, some New Age gurus, false religionists, and other pretentious guides to the ‘divine’, talk of a ‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’ that they would have you believe their teachings / methods induce. Those counterfeit experiences, if and when they do occur, are simply pale, twisted, soul-destroying imitations of the real thing, deceptive, delusional experiences induced by various practices, chemicals, and / or manifestations of demonic beings. The bliss awaiting Christian believers is of a wholly different sort; it is real and permanent, not manufactured, conjured up, deceptive, or unwholesome in any manner, but to be experienced solely in the blessed presence of the living God. In this life, we generally receive only faint, irregular intimations of the things wait for all whose names are written, from the foundation of the world, in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Among notable exceptions in Scripture to this general rule are Isaiah, John, and Paul each of whom had direct, life-changing experiences of God, heaven, and glory. Their words reliably point to those eternal realities and, as illumined by the Spirit and thankfully received, will have to be sufficient for us for now. As those whose everlasting life (as opposed to everlasting death) began upon our Spirit induced and applied conversion to God (i.e., our regeneration via the divine gift of repentant faith, resulting in our permanent justification), with great confidence we are assured that someday we shall be welcomed into His kingdom, directly experiencing God in His full glory and His awe-inspiring, infinite, incomprehensible, transcendent majesty consisting, in part, of His holiness, justice, righteousness, and love. Those experiences of God will grow endlessly in depth, power, and beauty. Amen, thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift.
“Eternal life is not given on account of our works, whether present, or foreseen; but only out of the free mercy, and love of God toward the human race, and from his desire to manifest his mercy in the salvation of the righteous, through the satisfaction and merits of Christ the mediator, imputed unto us through faith, for this end, that God may be eternally praised by us. ‘The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ ‘By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.’… We are indeed led to eternal life by many means; but the means through which we are led to God constitute one thing, and the cause for which we are led, is another thing… The beginning of everlasting life is given already in this world; but the consummation of it, is reserved for the life to come, which none receive, but those in whom it is here begun” ‘Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism’, Z. Ursinus
Lord’s Day 23 – Our Justification: Divine, Gracious, Imputed, One-Time, Permanent, Comprehensive
59. What does it help you now, that you believe all this?
That I am righteous in Christ before God, and an heir of eternal life.1
Scripture: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1–2
Comment: Of His entire creation and particularly of man morally, God demands perfect, absolute, impeccable conformity to His laws (concerning the moral law see Matthew 22:35-39 for Jesus’ highly condensed summation of Exodus 20, which itself is a highly compact summary of that law). This moral law is simply a reflection of God’s perfectly righteous, just, and holy being. Jesus did not ease up on this all-encompassing demand, but made it even more clearly inescapable when he said “Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”. That standard, with which only He could and continues to fully comply, puts every one of us in a serious bind by placing a divine demand on us with which none of us can possibly obey.
But Augustine seemed to understand the gospel issue involved when he said in effect ‘Let God demand what He will and then give what He demands’. If any are to be saved, God Himself will have to give us what He justly demands of us, a perfect, impeccable righteousness resulting in a permanent state of right standing before Him. That implies a righteousness coming from somewhere wholly outside of ourselves or any part of the created order, in other words from God Himself. He has done that for us (believers) by giving us repentant faith in Christ which is His sole means of granting (imputing) to us the perfect righteousness of Christ Who was voluntarily humiliated, cursed, and punished for us and in our place. If we look any other place for God’s required righteousness and salvation, either inwardly in our reason, virtue, or other intrinsic qualities or powers or outwardly in other people, organizations, practices, or any other aspect of the created order, we are doomed to confusion, despair, hopelessness, and finally abysmal, irrecoverable failure. On that last day, we must be found clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness alone; nothing else will suffice.
It has been said that God does not grade on a curve. That means He does not take the ‘best’ of us as an acceptable standard of perfection and then grade all others according to some nebulous pass / fail rule. Rather, as Paul clearly states, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. So looking to any other sinful person, comparing our character and actions to theirs as a sure standard of righteousness, whether ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than us, is a fruitless, dead end, unhelpful activity.
Having truly welcomed and received that divine gift of repentant faith through which we receive Christ’s perfectly obedient righteousness as our own, we can be fully assured of being permanently, divinely declared righteous in Christ alone. When God looks at the justified believer, He now sees Christ in His perfect, blameless innocence. Along with the legal, one-time, all-encompassing declaration of our righteousness in Him (our justification), in Christ we are to share in the rich and glorious inheritance of all things that are His, especially the life that Scripture calls eternal or everlasting.
60. How are you righteous before God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ:1 that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them,2 and am still prone always to all evil;3 yet God, without any merit of mine,4 of mere grace,5 grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction,6 righteousness, and holiness of Christ,7 as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me;8 if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.9
1Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Php 3:8-11; 2 Rom 3:9-10; 3 Rom 7:23; 4 Dt 9:6; Ezek 36:22; Tit 3:4-5; 5 Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8; 6 1 Jn 2:2; 7 Rom 4:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1; 8 Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21; 9 Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31; Rom 3:22, 28, 10:10
Scripture: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Romans 3:21–28
Comment: This is why Luther said all believers are “Simul justus et peccator”, in this life simultaneously sinful persons yet declared by God to be wholly righteous and therefore justified.
61. Why do you say that you are righteous by faith only?
Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, but because only the satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God;1 and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.2
Scripture: “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,” Romans 4:16
Comment: Faith, as bestowed by the Spirit, is the divine instrument whereby we apprehend, accept, receive, and welcome the merits of Christ earned for our justification. We are justified by the means of the gift of faith, not on account of faith.
“The righteousness with which we are here justified before God, is not our conformity with the law, nor our good works, nor our faith; but it is the satisfaction which Christ rendered to the law in our stead; or the punishment which he endured in our behalf; and therefore the entire (perfectly obedient) humiliation of Christ, from the moment of his conception to his glorification, including his assumption of humanity, his subjection to the law, his poverty, reproach, weakness, sufferings, death, &c., all of which he did willingly; yea, whatever he did and suffered to which he was not bound, as being righteous, and the Son of God, is all included in the satisfaction which he made for us, and in the righteousness which God graciously imputes to us, and all believers. This satisfaction is equivalent to the fulfilling of the law, or to the endurance of eternal punishment for sin, to one or the other of which the law binds all … Christ fulfilled the law by the holiness of his human nature, and by his obedience, even unto the death of the cross. The holiness of his human nature was necessary to his obedience; for it became our mediator to be holy and righteous in himself, that he might be able to perform obedience, and make satisfaction for us.” ‘Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism’, Z. Ursinus.
Lord’s Day 24: Our ‘Good’ Works vs. Divine Grace
62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?
Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God, must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law,1 but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.2
Scripture: “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ ” Galatians 3:10
Comment: Most religions teach some form of works righteousness (that some type of human effort or virtue is required to earn salvation, ultimate enlightenment, bliss, etc.). That includes some that call themselves Christian, Rome perhaps being the most well-known example. That organization, having become theologically free-floating due to rejecting the sole, final authority of Scripture for faith and practice (freeing it to manufacture and adopt various superstitions and the entangling errors of legalism and / or mysticism), teaches that Christ’s sacrifice is not sufficient in, of, or by itself for salvation since additional human merit / expiation of sin of some sort is required to maintain the justifying grace of baptism as automatically infused by that ‘priestly’ ritual. These additional, essential merits and individual expiatory acts are both personally accumulated through various authorized or required practices and may also be stored in a ‘treasury of merit’ which includes the primary merits of Christ and additional, excess merits (for some reason) of Mary and ‘saints’. Rome believes it has the authority to dispense those merits at will. (I believe this to be a fairly correct explanation of merit / expiation in that rather arcane system. It’s pretty complex.)
But of course, Scripture does not teach any such self-aggrandizing, institution-enhancing nonsense. This doctrine of indulgences, modified a bit recently but still officially taught and practiced by Rome, was likely the key tipping point that led to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. In response to the legitimate, Scripturally and historically grounded challenges presented by various Reformers, Rome decided it was not in their best interests as a well-established, highly influential, lucrative operation to make such fundamental, substantive changes. Instead, probably mostly in the interests of institutional preservation and enhancement, they officially took a mostly hard-nosed stance toward those clearly presented truths, rejecting Scripture as the sole, final authority and Scriptural teaching on salvation by grace vs. grace + works, ‘excommunicating’ and persecuting (often violently) those who called Rome to repentance and faith in Christ & His merits alone based on the sole authority of Scripture alone. Those actions make it clear that the faith that Rome promotes is not that of the prophets, apostles, and Christ as presented in Scripture and faithfully taught in the gospels and by the apostles. Because of that ongoing stance, religious participation with Rome should be renounced and abandoned by every true Christian until it repents and embraces true, basic, Scriptural reform. Similar action by believers should be taken toward any organization that clearly opposes or seriously weakens or undermines the gospel of Christ and of His church.
But Rome is not alone in promoting such fundamental perversions of truth; self-works righteousness seems to be the default position of us all. And most systems of ‘salvation’, invented and developed by man vs. being actually revealed in human history by God Himself, teach a ‘salvation’ through some form of works, obedience to certain strictures, various practices, etc., none of which have any genuine, divine power to deliver. As Ursinus says, “even our ‘best’ works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin” and so cannot possibly measure up to God’s required, commanded, demanded standard of absolute moral perfection or help us in any degree or manner in achieving acceptance by Him on the basis of our own deeds (or delightful personalities J, etc.).
63. Do our good works merit nothing, even though it is God’s will to reward them in this life and in that which is to come?
The reward comes not of merit, but of grace.1
Scripture: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7–8
Comment: Ursinus’ answer here is nice, compact, profound. This is the lesson Martin Luther learned from years of intense efforts and distress of soul (and body) and the reason he was so adamant about the required righteousness that can never come from ourselves or any other created thing. In a valiant effort to obtain the necessary degree of righteousness that would merit satisfaction from an angry God, Luther spent years doing everything and more that Rome taught to be necessary for that: confessions, penances, asceticism, mysticism, pilgrimages, etc. all to no avail. No matter how hard he tried, he could not attain a genuine sense of peace with God. He knew that God was neither pleased with nor appeased by those extensive, strenuous efforts. The problem was he was looking, as taught by Rome, to his works and virtues and those of Rome, not Christ’s, to obtain right standing with God. That did not and cannot work.
The highly developed, complex system of works that Rome had developed over centuries, making up rules and consolidating power at the spiritual and material expense of its adherents, is highly reminiscent of the system of works righteousness developed over centuries by the Pharisees during the Old Testament era, a system of works righteousness well entrenched by Jesus’ time. Like Rome, the Pharisees also had a highly developed, extensive, arcane, complex, minutely tuned set of rules for achieving holiness and right standing with God, practices (and those who promoted them) clearly denounced and condemned by Jesus, earning Him their determined, murderous opposition.
Regarding rewards: Since all creation, including man, is wholly dependent on God for existence and functioning including all talents, energies, etc. it is not possible to place Him in our debt by anything we do or are, no matter how ‘good’, virtuous, or self-sacrificing. Yet He has sovereignly, graciously chosen to reward us in perfect equity for what He does in us and through us, to His glory alone. This, like many other things, is hard to understand, but reflects the gracious, loving nature of our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer.
64. But does not this doctrine make men careless and profane?
No, for it is impossible that those who are implanted into Christ by true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.1
Scripture: “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.” Matthew 7:18
Comment: The motives, attitudes, and desires of one in whom God has worked repentant faith (conversion) have been radically reordered and reoriented. From this new, divine reorientation flows love for God and our fellow man and profound gratitude toward Him for His mercy, grace, goodness, and love in our salvation. A genuinely careless, profane, unconcerned person is not a so-called carnal Christian but almost certainly not a Christian at all. Truly regenerate persons wallowing in sin (backsliders) are deeply uncomfortable and miserable with their condition, knowing that this is not who they are or what they were made for. At some point they will turn from their sin and once again toward God.
Lord’s Day 25: The Sacraments – The Gospel Visibly Displayed & Confirmed
65. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from?
The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts1 by the preaching of the Holy Gospel,2 and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.3
Scripture: “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” 1 Peter 1:23–25
Comment: We know that our repentant faith is a purely gracious, supernatural gift, flowing from and given out of God’s free, sovereign mercy toward lost and helpless beings – you and me and all so redeemed. His saving attitude and actions toward us are not based on anything foreseen in us (other than our sin, misery, and hopeless condition) or what we do or are, but instead solely because of Who He is. As those eternally chosen in love to be part of His family, we are now part of a new, redeemed humanity headed up by Christ (no longer by Adam; either we remain joined to Adam in that original rebellion as those certainly headed for everlasting darkness and destruction or we are now in Christ and infallibly bound for everlasting life, love, light, and glory), this gift comes to us from wholly outside of ourselves or any other part of the created order, i.e., from the infinite, transcendent (holy) being, the triune God, as the sole planner and executor of our salvation. The normal means He uses to grant saving faith is the clear and faithful preaching of the law (“be ye perfect..”, etc.) followed by the gracious, glorious, liberating gospel of Christ (“by grace you have been saved through faith …”, etc.). We, the redeemed, know Christ as the only one Who perfectly embodied and lived the Law of God and Who, in divine justice and love, received in Himself and in our place our just sentence and its resulting punishment. And so we can count on this as a firm, divine, settled, glorious reality: No one for whom He died (all those who truly believe, i.e. in whom the Spirit works repentant faith and regeneration) shall ever perish but rather have everlasting life.
66. What are the sacraments?
The sacraments are visible holy signs and seals appointed by God for this end, that by their use He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel,1 namely, that of free grace He grants us the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life for the sake of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.2
Scripture: “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deuteronomy 30:6
Comment: Each Lord’s Day, as appropriate and available, we witness and experience one or two of the distinct, visible signs instituted by Christ as those things depict to and confirm in us what God has graciously done for us and many others in Christ. The two sacraments are normally considered to be one of two means of grace, essential supplements to the faithful preaching and teaching of the word (the other means of grace). In the important sacramental signs of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as properly and publicly administered by an ordained minister and local elders, we see the power of God in our salvation acted out and confirmed: Christ’s propitiation, expiation, and rescue on our behalf and the resulting, assured gifting of our pardon, forgiveness of sin (justification), and everlasting life.
In the institution of the Lord’s Supper each week we are blessed to hear, in part: “But all who repent and believe are invited to this sacred meal not because your are worthy in yourself, but because you are clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness… (This meal) is given to us because of our weakness and because of our failures, in order to increase our faith by feeding us with the body and blood of Jesus Christ. As the Word has promised us God’s favor, so also our Heavenly Father has added this confirmation of his unchangeable promise. So come believing sinners for the table is ready.” In the baptism of covenant infants / children of believing parent(s) or of professing adults, we witness the public display of those receiving the sign of the covenant signifying deliverance from death and hell and newness of life in and because of Christ, a sign confirming God’s faithful, unchanging promise to us because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
67. Are both the Word and the sacraments designed to direct our faith to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
Yes, truly, for the Holy Spirit teaches in the Gospel and assures us by the holy sacraments, that our whole salvation stands in the one sacrifice of Christ made for us on the cross.1
Scripture: “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:41–42
Comment: Everything in both word and sign is meant to point us to the one-time, sacrificial atonement that Christ in love has made for us via His humiliation and suffering in His physical life on this earth.
68. How many sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Testament?
Two: Holy Baptism1 and the Holy Supper.2
Scripture: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19–20
Comment: At one point Rome may have unofficially had ~ 35 sacraments; they now have 7. In historic Protestantism, looking solely to Scripture’s teaching concerning those things directly commanded by Christ for His church, we find only two – Baptism and the Supper.
Lord’s Day 26: Holy Baptism – The New (NT) Sign of Forgiveness and Full Inclusion in the Covenant Promises
69. How is it signified and sealed to you in Holy Baptism that you have part in the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross?
Thus: that Christ instituted this outward washing with water 1 and joined to it this promise, that I am washed with His blood and Spirit from the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as certainly as I am washed outwardly with water, whereby commonly the filthiness of the body is taken away.2
Scripture: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3–4
Comment: The God-given / commanded sign of covenant inclusion in OT times was circumcision, primarily of infant males, as a sign and seal pointing forward to Christ’s sacrifice on behalf of His church. The main sign of inclusion in God’s new covenant promise is baptism which depicts our cleansing, forgiveness, and acquittal of all sin via washing, our entrance into a new and holy life, and our inclusion in the covenant and community of the visible church by means of repentant faith in Christ’s one-time, finished humiliation (incarnation) and sacrifice of Himself. When accompanied by true, God-given faith whether that faith is prior to, concurrent with, or after receiving this one-time sacramental sign and seal, baptism depicts our genuine welcome into Jesus’ church invisible, God’s great and loving family on earth and in heaven. Broader, richer, simpler, less painful, and more directly inclusive than circumcision (baptism applies directly to females and to peoples of all nations, etc.) Christian baptism is effectual for all those so believing including their households, and only those. Baptism, administered by an ordained minister in conjunction with the faithful preaching of the Word, is one of two sacraments and as such a primary means of divine grace.
“Christ—the full, rich, total Christ, both according to his divine and his human natures, with his person and work, in the state of his humiliation and in that of his exaltation—is the … ‘heavenly substance,’ the thing signified in the sacrament. For this Christ, with all his benefits and blessings, is the Mediator of the covenant of grace; the head of the church; the Yes and Amen of all God’s promises; the content of his word and witness; the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption of believers; the prophet, priest, and king in whom alone God communicates all his grace; and the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus Christ is the truth of the sacraments, “without whom they would be nothing.” ‘Sacraments’, Reformed Dogmatics – Herman Bavinck.
70. What is it to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
It is to have the forgiveness of sins from God through grace, for the sake of Christ’s blood, which He shed for us in His sacrifice on the cross;1 and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and sanctified to be members of Christ, so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblamable lives.2
Scripture: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” Ezekiel 36:25–27
Comment: As those who have been divinely gifted with repentant faith, new life in Christ, and eventual perfection in sanctification and glorification, we have been cleansed from all sin by Christ’s death on the cross and gifted with everlasting life. This reality is reflected in and signified and sealed by our baptism. As administered to God’s true children, baptism signifies our repentance (vs. impenitence), faith (vs. unbelief), the beginning of mortification of sin (vs. unconcern with sin), increasing sanctification and holiness of life (vs. wallowing in sin), new life joined to Christ (vs. remaining joined to Adam in rebellion and death), and eventual glorification (vs. a permanent, inescapable state of sinfulness and divine condemnation).
71. Where has Christ promised that we are as certainly washed with His blood and Spirit as with the water of Baptism?
In the institution of Baptism, which says: “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.1 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.”2 This promise is also repeated where Scripture calls Baptism the washing of regeneration3 and the washing away of sins.4
Scripture: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Acts 22:16
Comment: This is the sign of cleansing from sin by Christ’s blood, effected by the Spirit, divinely given to us.
Lord’s Day 27 – Baptism Continued
72. Is, then, the outward washing with water itself the washing away of sins?
No,1 for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.2
Scripture: “… eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this (the Flood), now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 1 Peter 3:19–22
Comment: Rome teaches that baptism done by an RCC ordained man automatically (i.e., just by doing it) infuses grace into & counters the effects of original sin for the recipient (infant or otherwise), grace that can subsequently be lost. This supposed loss of grace requires the additional, ongoing sacraments of penance, last rites, other works and merits, etc. for restoration. Some Protestant groups also teach that baptism is essential for salvation (called baptismal regeneration), notably the Church of Christ. Historic Protestantism, however, acknowledges baptism as a central, important, divinely commanded step of obedience, not as the actual act of regeneration / justification itself but a sign and seal of saving faith when accompanied by divinely granted faith at some point, a sign indicating inclusion in the covenant of grace via Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.
73. Why then does the Holy Spirit call Baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?
God speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby that just as the filthiness of the body is taken away by water, so our sins are taken away by the blood and Spirit of Christ;1 but much more, that by this divine pledge and token He may assure us that we are as really washed from our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water.2
Scripture: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3–4
Comment: Baptism is an analogy, a sign pointing to, confirming, and signifying something of crucial importance: as our bodies are really cleansed by water, so our souls are really cleansed by the power of the Holy Spirit in our justification and forgiveness of sinfulness / sins.
74. Are infants also to be baptized?
Yes, for since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God,1 and through the blood of Christ2 both redemption from sin and the Holy Spirit, who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents,3 they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers,4 as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision,5 in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.6
Scripture: “For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” 1 Corinthians 7:14
Comment: Starting with the Reformation, this item first became truly controversial within Christianity when instigated by somewhat anarchistic, mystical, and / or pacifistic radical reformers known as Anabaptists (rebaptizers). Strangely, there was very little known controversy over this practice for 1,500 years of church history, the church apparently including children of believing parents (covenant children / covenant households) among its members via the sign of baptism, continuing the inclusion of children / household members from the Old Testament church’s divinely commanded practice of circumcision as the sign of the old covenant.
“The Anabaptists, therefore, in denying baptism to the children of the church, do not only deprive them of their rights, but they also prevent the grace of God from being seen in its richness, since God wills that the offspring of the faithful should be included amongst the members of the church, even from the womb: yea they manifestly detract from the grace of the New Covenant, and narrow down that of the old, inasmuch as they refuse to extend baptism to infants, to whom circumcision was formerly extended; they weaken the comfort of the church, and of faithful parents; they set aside the solemn obligation by which God will have the offspring of his people consecrated to him from their very infancy, distinguished, and separated from the world; they weaken in parents and children the sense of gratitude, and the desire which they should have to perform their obligations to God … “ Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, Z. Ursinus
Lord’s Day 28: The Holy Supper
75. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper that you partake of the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross and all His benefits?
Thus: that Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of this broken bread and to drink of this cup in remembrance of Him, and has joined therewith these promises:1 first, that His body was offered and broken on the cross for me and His blood shed for me, as certainly as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup communicated to me; and further, that with His crucified body and shed blood He Himself feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life, as certainly as I receive from the hand of the minister and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, which are given me as certain tokens of the body and blood of Christ.
Scripture: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’ ” Matthew 26:26–28
Comment: With profound, humble gratitude, reverence, and awe for the goodness of God in our salvation in Christ, by faith we eat and drink of the broken body and blood of Christ (symbolically) as undeserving and unworthy sinners, remembering the blessed reality of His life and (especially) His death on our behalf. This eating and drinking by faith nourishes us unto eternal life. The Supper is one of the primary means of grace (divine means by which we individually and corporately are established, strengthened, and grow in the faith) as instituted by Christ for our benefit / His glory. It is to be a simple meal, preferably gathered around a table (much like the Passover meal) and dispensed reverently, Scripturally, and pastorally by a teaching elder (pastor), given solely to reverent, believing, self-examined (but not navel-gazing) sinners.
76. What does it mean to eat the crucified body and drink the shed blood of Christ?
It means not only to embrace with a believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ, and thereby to obtain the forgiveness of sins and life eternal;1 but moreover, also, to be so united more and more to His sacred body by the Holy Spirit,2 who dwells both in Christ and in us, that, although He is in heaven3 and we on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone,4 and live and are governed forever by one Spirit, as members of the same body are governed by one soul.5
1 Jn 6:35, 40, 47-48, 50-54; 2 Jn 6:55-56; 1 Cor 12:13; 3 Acts 1:9-11, 3:21; 1 Cor 11:26; Col 3:1; 4 1 Cor 6:15, 17, 19; Eph 3:16-19, 5:29-30, 32; 1 Jn 4:13; 5 Jn 6:56-58, 63, 14:23, 15:1-6; Eph 4:15-16; 1 Jn 3:24
Scripture: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” John 6:55–56
Comment: As Christians, we have a profound unity and connection with the heaven sent Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, with the other persons of the Trinity, and with all members of the invisible, militant church on earth and the triumphant church in heaven, the saints of all times. With our fellow believers, all our brothers and sisters, children to the elderly, we partake of the body and blood of Christ every moment of our lives as symbolized for confessing Christians each week in the sacrament of this Supper.
77. Where has Christ promised that He will thus feed and nourish believers with His body and blood as certainly as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?
In the institution of the Supper, which says: “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread: and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had eaten, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood: this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as you eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.”1 And this promise is also repeated by the Apostle Paul, where he says: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, so we being many are one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”2
Scripture: See the Scripture quotes in the answer above
Comment: The Supper is not only a means of grace (spiritual nourishment) for us individually and as His people (the church) but also as a proclamation to ourselves and all others of the truth of our faith and of the return of our divine Redeemer as the King and Judge of all creation.
Lord’s Day 29: The Holy Supper, part deux
78. Do, then, the bread and the wine become the real body and blood of Christ?
No, but as the water in Baptism is not changed into the blood of Christ, nor becomes the washing away of sins itself, being only the divine token and assurance thereof,1 so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread2 does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.3
1 Mt 26:29; Eph 5:26; Tit 3:5; 2 Mt 26:26-29; 1 Cor 11:26-28; 3 Gen 17:10-11; Ex 12:11, 13, 26-27, 43, 48; 1 Cor 10:1-4, 16-17, 26-28
Scripture: “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’ ” Matthew 26:26–29
Comment: Since Rome’s worship centers around the mass which involves a purported mystical transmutation of the elements of bread and wine by an ordained ‘priest’ into the actual body and blood of Christ and the worship of those elements as divine and as an ongoing re-sacrifice for sins of a perpetual victim Christ, the Reformers saw the need to clarify what the Lord’s supper truly consisted of and signified (in essence rhetorically asking, “What part of ‘It is finished’ do you not understand?”). The three main Protestant views are Lutheran ubiquitarian (Christ is somehow physically present in, with, and under the elements), Memorialist (the Supper is simply a remembrance, the view of most modern ‘evangelicals’), and Reformed (Christ currently is physically present in His human nature only in heaven but is present spiritually in the Supper via His divine nature). The latter is the view of Ursinus and all orthodox Presbyterian / Reformed (i.e., historic Protestantism). The supper is to be a simple meal around a table, a sign and seal of our faith as we feed by faith on Christ spiritually present with us while we reverently, gratefully remember His sacrificial life on our behalf. While these various views may seem nit-picky to some, the Christological implications of each are actually quite central and significant and so worthy of careful biblical thought and analysis.
79. Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the new covenant in His blood; and the apostle Paul, the communion of the body and the blood of Christ?
Christ speaks thus with great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby, that like as the bread and wine sustain this temporal life, so also His crucified body and shed blood are the true meat and drink of our souls unto life eternal;1 but much more, by this visible sign and pledge to assure us that we are as really partakers of His true body and blood by the working of the Holy Spirit, as we receive by the mouth of the body these holy tokens in remembrance of Him;2 and that all His sufferings and obedience are as certainly our own, as if we ourselves had suffered and done all in our own person.3
1 Jn 6:51-55; 2 1 Cor 5:16-17, 10:16-17, 11:26; 3 Rom 6:5-11
Scripture: “ ‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” John 6:51–55
Comment: Having been redeemed solely because of His free, sovereign, good, and gracious election in eternity, an election that resulted in His incarnation / death (humiliation) for us while we were yet His enemies, unwilling rebels, stubborn, wholly dead (incapable of responding to divine realities) in sin as among those ubiquitously condemned, we now graciously and with profound gratitude have ongoing fellowship with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and our fellow Christians in partaking of the Holy Supper as a primary means of grace, given directly to and commanded of us by our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of God.
Lord’s Day 30: The Holy Supper, part trois.
80. What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Pope’s Mass?
The Lord’s Supper testifies to us that we have full forgiveness of all our sins by the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which He Himself once accomplished on the cross;1 and that by the Holy Spirit we are ingrafted into Christ,2 who, with His true body, is now in heaven at the right hand of the Father,3 and is there to be worshipped.4 But the Mass teaches that the living and the dead do not have forgiveness of sins through the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is still daily offered for them by the priests, and that Christ is bodily under the form of bread and wine, and is therefore to be worshipped in them. And thus the Mass at bottom is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and suffering of Jesus Christ,5 and an accursed idolatry.
1 Mt 26:28; Jn 19:30; Heb 7:27, 9:12, 25-28, 10:10-12, 14; 2 1 Cor 6:17, 10:16-17; 3 Jn 20:17; Acts 7:55-56; Heb 1:3, 8:1; 4 Lk 24:52; Jn 4:21-24, 20:17; Acts 7:55; Php 3:20-21; Col 3:1; 1 Thes 1:9-10; 5 Mt 4:10; Heb 9, 10
Scripture: “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.” Hebrews 7:27
Comment: This is about as polemical as Ursinus gets in the Heidelberg; and the last sentences (especially) are strongly contested by Rome today. This question was somehow added soon after the first version to reflect the practices and teaching of Rome in the 16th century. Recently there has been significant debate whether certain words in this answer accurately reflect the theology and practice of the mass of Rome today as taught and (supposed) to be practiced since Vatican II. Granted that Rome’s mass still has hugely significant problems in both theology and practice, we believers (and God alone knows who those are), having been permanently justified by God in the irrevocable imputation of Christ’s righteousness to ourselves as found in His unrepeatable sacrifice in bearing the full penalty of our sin, can now come to the supper as believing, self-examined (not introspective), repentant, confessing sinners as we, with reverence and gratitude worship Christ really present with us in His Godhood but bodily in His manhood in heaven alone.
81. Who are to come to the table of the Lord?
Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, yet trust that these are forgiven them, and that their remaining infirmity is covered by the suffering and death of Christ; who also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and to amend their life. But the impenitent and hypocrites eat and drink judgment to themselves.1
1 Ps 51:3, 103:1-4; Mt 5:6; Jn 7:37-38; 1 Cor 10:19-22, 11:26-32
Scripture: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,” Psalm 103:1–4
Comment: We come to this divine supper, not as those who have attained perfection in our own righteousness and holiness, since there is only One Who perfectly met (and meets) the divine standard, done for us and assured to us in Christ alone, but rather as sinful believers who by the Spirit alone are to make steady progress toward the goal of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, being justified by grace alone and prepared by grace alone for eternity as we participate by faith in the weekly means of grace and its daily disciplines, ever more fully renouncing and rejecting all sin, sinful tendencies, the world’s subtle or blatant allurements, and the devil’s subtlety, violence, intimidation, and lies.
82. Are they, then, also to be admitted to this Supper who show themselves by their confession and life to be unbelieving and ungodly?
No, for thereby the covenant of God is profaned and His wrath provoked against the whole congregation;1 therefore, the Christian Church is bound, according to the order of Christ and His Apostles, to exclude such persons by the Office of the Keys until they amend their lives.
1 Ps 50:16-17; Isa 1:11-17, 66:3; Jer 7:21-23; Mt 7:6; 1 Cor 11:17-34; 2 Thes 3:6; Tit 3:10-11
Scripture: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.” 1 Corinthians 11:26–32
Comment: Those spiritually dead (unregenerate) and those living carelessly must be warned of the profound danger of partaking unworthily of this meal. The elders are charged to safeguard them and the church from divine discipline and / or judgment. The supper is to be withheld from those believers known to be rebelliously or childishly wallowing in sin and so incurring additional divine disciplines on both body and soul. This is why the church must find a proper, well-regulated means for protecting the sanctity of the Supper, that individually or corporately God may be pleased with its administration and effects on His church.
Lord’s Day 31: Keys of the Kingdom, Preaching and Discipline
83. What is the Office of the Keys?
The preaching of the Holy Gospel and Christian discipline; by these two the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and shut against unbelievers.1
1 Mt 16:18-19, 18:18; Lk 24:46-47; Jn 20:21-23; 1 Cor 1:23-24
Scripture: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
Comment: The clear, faithful preaching of the gospel may not be as common as we think, although God is gracious in effecting salvation as He chooses even when the gospel may be poorly preached (solid growth in grace in such churches is likely a very different matter however). Even less used is the proper administration of discipline which is one of the three marks of a true church (along with the right preaching of the law / gospel and the right administration of the sacraments). The presence of these marks reveal a true church (one that is apostolic, historic, confessional, faithful) from a false one (many liberal or otherwise ‘Protestant’, Roman, or Eastern Orthodox organizations). While there surely are truly regenerate persons within such organizations, the organization itself, absent those marks, is not a true church, is not recognized by God as such, and should be forsaken by all believers for the glory of God and for their spiritual welfare. Of course, such dead and death dealing religions as Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, secularism, paganism, atheism, etc. are obviously not included as true churches either. Officers (the original apostles and all following ordinary New Testament ministers / elders) exercise the essential keys of the kingdom by which the Holy Spirit normally welcomes into God’s great and loving family all to whom He grants repentant faith. Simultaneously these properly administered keys are also means by which the Spirit closes the door to others as He freely, sovereignly, and in divine wisdom has determined to do.
84. How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the Holy Gospel?
In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, it is proclaimed and openly witnessed to believers, one and all, that as often as they accept with true faith the promise of the Gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted.1 According to this testimony of the Gospel, God will judge men both in this life and in that which is to come.
1 Isa 58:1; Mt 16:19; Jn 3:31-36, 8:24, 20:21-23; Acts 10:43; 2 Cor 2:15-16
Scripture: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” John 8:24
Comment: Each week, the reading and preaching of the law exposes us as weak and sinful beings, bringing death to us (our old, Adamic nature). The faithful preaching of the gospel of grace then brings us to life again (in Christ and our new spiritual nature) . Faithful worship / preaching includes both of those and in that order – death (our condemnation, ongoing failure, and complete inability to achieve by ourselves a right standing before God), confession and the announced absolution of our known sins, and new life through the gospel, the full forgiveness of all sin as we trust solely in Christ’s life, works, and merits on our behalf.
85. How is the kingdom of heaven shut and opened by Christian discipline?
In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, if any under the Christian name show themselves unsound either in doctrine or in life, and after several brotherly admonitions do not turn from their errors or evil ways, they are complained of to the Church or to its proper officers; and, if they neglect to hear them also, are by them denied the holy sacraments and thereby excluded from the Christian communion, and by God Himself from the kingdom of Christ; and if they promise and show real amendment, they are again received as members of Christ and His Church.1
1 Mt 18:15-20; Lk 15:20-24; 1 Cor 5:3-5, 11-13; 2 Cor 2:6-11; 2 Thes 3:14-15; 2 Jn 10-11
Scripture: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:15–18, ESV)
Comment: Genuine faith always results in a life of increasing, even if often erratically progressing, love for God, moral rectitude, love for neighbor, and secret piety. Where obvious, ongoing immorality, heresy, or impiety is evident, Jesus’ directions for addressing those situations must be followed so that a brother or sister might be regained and the impenitent might be removed from church membership until there is true repentance evident.
Third Part: Gratitude (Q&A. 86–129, LD 31-52)
Lord’s Day 32: Works & Sanctification
86. Since, then, we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we do good works?
Because Christ, having redeemed us by His blood, also renews us by His Holy Spirit after His own image, that with our whole life we show ourselves thankful to God for His blessing,1 and that He be glorified through us;2 then also, that we ourselves may be assured by our faith by the fruits thereof;3 and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.4
Scripture: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14–16
Comment: Can there be genuine Christian faith without a corresponding life of good works (those works only that are impelled and accepted by God because of Christ)? And if not, what is the driving motive for a life of acceptably good works if not to earn God’s acceptance of us? In his answer, Ursinus lists four primary reasons or motivations: gratitude for God’s great and undeserved goodness toward us, His ultimate glory, our assurance of genuine saving faith, and our lives as witness to the truth(s) of the gospel. The primary motive for the Christian is our growing gratitude for His great and wholly undeserved goodness toward us in saving us and infallibly bringing us to glory. God is both great and good; as yet we have but little grasp of the profound depths and power of those twin realities of existence.
87. Can they, then, not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, impenitent life?
By no means, for, as Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the kingdom of God.1
Scripture: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19–21
Comment: Unlike universalists or others trapped in profound delusion, ignorance, and / or unbelief in denying and / or rejecting the seriousness of our inborn and acted out sin with its devastating consequences in this life and that to come, we know for a certainty that there will come a divine, unalterable, permanent division of all humans, a division based not on works alone but rather on the basis of what those works unerringly reveal about the true inner, spiritual condition of each person. That determination is one which God alone is unerringly, perfectly capable.
Lord’s Day 33, Conversion (Death and Resurrection) and Good Works
88. In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist?
In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.1
1 Rom 6:4-6; 1 Cor 5:7; 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:5-10
Scripture: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” Colossians 3:5–7
Comment: In relief and gratitude like all whom God, in wisdom and love, has eternally foreknown, chosen, called, justified, accepted, and adopted into His great family, we have been divinely, mysteriously acted upon by the Holy Spirit, being turned from self and death to life in God. Conversion seems to include two things: God-given faith followed by God-given repentance, both initially directed to the One Who died for our sins, broadening to include the Father and Spirt as we more fully understand their individual but fully harmonious roles in our salvation. Ursinus believes that repentance involves two things, a spiritual death or cutting off of our ties to fallen Adam and sin and a resurrection to everlasting life as those who have been accepted of God into His family and set on the path to holiness and glory. Because of this, our basic allegiances have undergone a radical reversal. We are no longer inclined to be on friendly terms with our sinful nature or the God-denying course of this world and its ultimate, malevolent “god” but rather inclined toward Christ, His church, and kingdom alone.
89. What is the dying of the old man?
Heartfelt sorrow for sin, causing us to hate and turn from it always more and more.1
1 Ps 51:3-4, 17; Joel 2:12-13; Rom 8:12-13; 2 Cor 7:10
Scripture: “ ’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12–13
Comment: As the Holy Spirit wills and by the divinely appointed means of the preaching, teaching, reading, and / or hearing of the Word, He causes us initially and increasingly to despise all manifestations of our old, dead, death-dealing condition and more and more be purged of our sinfulness, combining promptings of the Spirit and Word with the mortifying disciplines of increasingly pious thinking and living.
90. What is the making alive of the new man?
Heartfelt joy in God through Christ,1 causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.2
1 Ps 51:8, 12; Isa 57:15; Rom 5:1, 14:17; 2 Rom 6:10-11, 7:22, 8:10-11; Gal 2:20
Scripture: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Comment: There is profound, joyous relief in being made a Christian, knowing that all our sins are permanently forgiven in Christ alone and that the Father completely accepts us in Him. Healthy Christian growth leads to increased recognition of these truths, leading to a life of endless gratitude to God, the Father, Son, and Spirit for that reality.
91. What are good works?
Those only which proceed from true faith,1 and are done according to the Law of God,2 unto His glory,3 and not such as rest on our own opinion4 or the commandments of men.5
1 Jn 15:5; Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6; 2 Lev 18:4; 1 Sam 15:22; Eph 2:10; 3 1 Cor 10:31; 4 Deut 12:32; Isa 29:13; Ezek 20:18, 20; 5 Num 15:39; Mt 15:7-9
Scripture: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
Comment: God’s evaluation of truly good works likely differs from ours significantly. Truly good works are those that proceed solely from genuine faith when acting in full obedience to His Law / nature and for the sole motive of God’s glory (see Jesus). Obviously, we never meet that perfect standard in any of our works as there is always a tinge of sinfulness clinging to us / them. Nevertheless, God accepts such works solely because of Christ and as transformed by Him, much as He presents our often weak and distracted prayers to the Father.
Lord’s Day 34: A Compact Summary of God’s Law
92. What is the Law of God?
“God spoke all these words, saying… ”:
First Commandment: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing covenant faithfulness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”
Fifth Commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”
Sixth Commandment: “You shall not murder.”
Seventh Commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
Eighth Commandment: “You shall not steal.”
Ninth Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Tenth Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbors.”1
Scripture: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17–19
Comment: In 10 basic, compact commands, intended to be carefully unpacked in the light of the rest of God’s Word and speaking with full authority concerning the divine standards of thought and behavior that apply to all people of all times, the free, sovereign Creator of all things intelligibly delivered, to and via Moses, these absolute, eternal, unchanging standards to Israel / us. In the form above, His law consists of eight prohibitions and two positive duties, each one having both further legitimate positive and negative implications and all reflecting God’s perfectly righteous character and His perfectly righteous demand for the absolute moral / ethical perfection of all humans. This perfect conformity to His character was originally found in the first couple before their disastrous forfeiture of that (the fall), since then being found only in and completely fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth, doing and being that not for His sake but for ours. His reward for perfect obedience in keeping the law is, by grace through the gift of faith, now also ours in part as those adopted by God into His great and loving family.
Historic, apostolic, confessional, catholic Protestantism recognizes three distinct, potent functions of these commands which act: 1) As a guide for human laws to externally restrain the ubiquitous sinfulness of all individuals and societies, in common grace toward all but primarily for the benefit of His chosen ones (the OT & NT church), 2) As a convicting affirmation and divine echo of the law implanted in every person’s being, graciously leading those divinely chosen to repentant, obedient faith in Christ and also acting as divine testimony against those rejected by God as vessels of His wrath, and 3) As a binding, authoritative standard for the conduct of those whom God has freely adopted into His family through the mediating, substitutionary atonement of His Son on our behalf, to His glory alone. Those who would add to these laws by improperly asserting additional divine demands (legalism) or who would take away from the law by denying their appropriate applicability (libertinism, antinomianism) attempt to usurp God’s role as sole lawgiver and will be accountable for such improper teachings / actions.
We can be profoundly grateful for these divine laws and for all human laws that accord well with them, those that properly regulate external human conduct in this life and which provide appropriate, deterrent punishments for the protection: 1) of the physical, social, and spiritual integrity of each person (prohibiting murder, assault, slander, undue governmental interference; or denying freedom of thought, expression, worship, etc.), and 2) of property (prohibiting the wrongful taking of or harm to non-human material possessions by force, deception, negligence, etc.)
“This doctrine of the law is needed by believers in order that they may not make up a holiness and devotion of their own.” Lutheran Formula of Concord, 1577. The tendency to add to or subtract from God’s explicit commands is seen in all false religion, including that of Rome, and stems from our sinful tendencies to follow man-made (our own or others) rules of behavior (either legalistic or antinomian) which God has not explicitly or implicitly commanded or by downplaying or ignoring those which He has. Such false standards lack divine sanction or any genuine, binding authority in our lives. We should also remember the standard legal principle that “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”, meaning that everyone has an absolute responsibility to read, know, and / or observe the law and its implications and to dutifully comply or face appropriate punishment. How much more so concerning God’s unchanging standards of motive, thought, and behavior (those activities which produce established character).
Prayer & Piety: We can learn to express genuine gratitude to the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) for divine (and human as applicable) law and its salutary, protective, corrective, judgmental, beneficial, gracious, saving effects on our behalf and that of His people (the church).
93. How are these commandments divided?
Answer: Into two tables; the first of which teaches us how we must behave towards God1; the second, what duties we owe to our neighbour2.
Scripture: “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37–39
Comment: The God Who created humans in His image, having logical and other intellectual capabilities that reflect in a very limited way His infinite ‘intellectual’ nature, gave the moral law with two major logical sections that state the basics of every person’s duties toward God and also toward our ‘neighbor’. Jesus’ distillation above of the 10 commandments into two summarizes those. Love for God above all and for our neighbor has far reaching, profound implications for believing, obedient thinking and living, things which Scripture unpacks and the Spirit reveals and implements in our lives as He will in our growing piety.
Lord’s Day 34 (cont.), The First Commandment
94. What does God require in the first Commandment?
That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry,1 sorcery, enchantments,2 invocation of saints or of other creatures;3 and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God,4 trust in Him alone,5 with all humility6 and patience7 expect all good from Him only,8 and love,9 fear,10 and honor 11 Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.12
1 1 Cor 6:9-10, 10:5-14; 1 Jn 5:21; 2 Lev 19:31; Deut 18:9-12; 3 Mt 4:10; Rev 19:10, 22:8-9; 4 Jn 17:3; 5 Jer 17:5, 7; 6 1 Pt 5:5-6; 7 Rom 5:3-4; 1 Cor 10:10; Php 2:14; Col 1:10-11; Heb 10:36; 8 Ps 104:27-30; Isa 45:6-7; Jas 1:17; 9 Deut 6:5 [Mt 22:37]; 10 Deut 6:2; Ps 111:10; Prov 1:7, 9:10; Mt 10:28; 1Pt 1:7; 11 Deut 6:13 [Mt 4:10], 10:20; 12 Mt 5:29-30, 10:37-39; Acts 5:29
Scripture: “that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:6–7
Comment: Ursinus’ “peril of salvation” is strong wording (perhaps due to translation?), but reflects the crucial importance of the correct placement of our trust in this life, something only perfectly seen in the example and teachings of the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
95. What is idolatry?
Idolatry is to conceive or have something else in which to place our trust instead of, or besides, the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.1
1 1 Chron 16:26; Ps 62:5-7, 73:25-26, 81:8-9; Mt 6:24; Jn 2:23, 5:23; Gal 4:8-9; Eph 2:12, 5:5; Php 3:19; 2 Jn 9
Scripture: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Comment: We easily put our ultimate trust in bank accounts or possessions, skills and abilities to get through life, status, influence, organizations such as political parties or churches, charismatic / influential / or other individuals, friends, family, philosophies, etc. All those can be good things and great blessings to us but can never be things in which we place our ultimate reliance, confidence, and hope. Misplaced trust is something we are all guilty of stemming from a weak, confused, dull, or shallow knowledge of, confidence in, and relationship with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We do see through a glass darkly; trusting God in all things is much easier said than done, but that is what we are called to do.
Prayer & Piety: We can ask God to remove all idolatries from our lives and that of His church and then keep us mostly free of those things through a genuine, growing knowledge of / confidence in Him.
Lord’s Day 35: The Second Commandment – Worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Awe-filled Reverence
96. What does God require in the second Commandment?
That we in no way make any image of God,1 nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word.2
1 Deut 4:15-19; Isa 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:22-24; 2 Lev 10:1-7; Deut 4:23-24, 12:30-32; 1 Sam 15:22-23; Mt 15:9; Jn 4:23-24
Scripture: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4–6
Comment: The Christian worship of God today ranges from awful to awe-full.
Some of the main forms of the Christian worship of God today are: 1) Rome: Strengths: Reverential, respectful, use of creeds and confessions, somewhat historically grounded. Weaknesses: Ostentatious, officious Old Testament forms and ceremonies that center on the ongoing ‘sacrifice’ of Christ in their ‘Mass’ (dismissal – unto mission) since the one-time sacrifice of Christ is deemed insufficient then and now for salvation, requiring additional merit / helps via personal effort, saints, and / or the church to get into heaven. 2) Evangelicalism: Generally accepts Scripture and basic orthodox theology as authoritative. Weaknesses: Often historically unaware and / or dismissive. As seen in many ‘mega-churches’ and copy-cats, has widely devolved over the last ~ 150 years from the simplicity found in apostolic and Reformation teaching and practices (seen also in the plainness and simplicity of historic, catholic Protestantism). This type often involves ‘seeker sensitive’, ‘good’ advice vs gospel preaching, culturally pandering or submissive, demographically fragmented, market-driven (numbers, dollar, influence) forms of ‘worship’, often man-centered, production-oriented, showy, culturally (youth) ‘relevant’, and ‘exciting’. Often a gross failure to catechize children, youth, and adults solidly and well in the fundamentals of the faith. 3) Pentecostalism: Strengths: See evangelicalism above. Weaknesses: Emphasizes emotion and the ‘moving and (some) gifts of the spirit’, sometimes to cultic excess, often legalistic, hyper emotional, and / or authoritarian. Generally biblically, theologically, and historically shallow. 4) Liberalism or dead orthodoxy: Strengths: Use of creeds and confessions, sometimes historically aware. Weaknesses: Traditionalism, the ‘dead faith of the living’. Both of these take an intellectual, rationalistic, often anti-super-naturalistic approach to Scripture / God / worship and often lack an authentic, living and growing belief and piety that flows from divine regeneration of its leaders and members. 5) Eastern Orthodoxy: Strengths: See Rome above, but less hierarchical and authoritarian. Weaknesses: Largely mystical with use of icons; some similarities to Rome in forms, ceremonies, theology, etc. 6) Fundamentalism – Strengths: See evangelicalism above. Weaknesses: Rules / law based approach to salvation and / or holiness, often dispensationalist and Arminian in theology. 7) Historic Protestantism (Presbyterian, Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican): Strengths: Historically & biblically grounded, catholic, confessional, theologically aware, orthodox. Weaknesses: Can easily devolve into dead orthodoxy, formalism, or pietism of the ‘frozen chosen’; can be tempted to forget, abandon its areas of genuine strength. All these preceding types, of course, do not include the practices of purely man-made (false) religions such as Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, etc.
Much contemporary worship is influenced by some type of Pelagian (Pelagian, semi-Pelagian, or Arminian) theology; i.e., human initiated and / or human completed ‘salvation’. The name of the game in much contemporary worship has become cultural ‘relevancy’, numbers (headcount & financial), ‘charismatic’ leadership, and cultural ‘influence’ vs. faithfulness to God, Scripture, theology, history, solid discipleship, respect for and knowledge of those faithful brothers and sisters who have gone before (i.e., tradition – the living faith of the dead), and the solid, historic catholic and Protestant confessions of the church. Such watered-down, insubstantial, marginally edifying worship has driven spiritually malnourished believers to seek worship in Rome, Orthodoxy, various offbeat groups or cults, or to just give up and stay home, etc.
97. May we not make any image at all?
God may not and cannot be imaged in any way; as for creatures, though they may indeed be imaged, yet God forbids the making or keeping of any likeness of them, either to worship them or to serve God by them.1
1 Ex 23:24-25, 34:13-14, 17; Num 33:52; Deut 7:5, 12:3, 16:22; 2 Kgs 18:4-5; Isa 40:25; Jn 1:18
Scripture: “you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.” Exodus 23:24–25
Comment: It is generally the case that the less the Spirit and Word are honored and present in our worship, the more we try to replace those divine, essential things with various forms of external showiness or fruitless practices of subjectivity (the navel gazing search for ‘god’ or truth within). Statuary and other images in Roman churches are one very obvious type of the outward, prohibited ‘aids’ to worship. These actually are not aids but rather distractions, dishonoring to God and contrary to His command. Nor are images to be used for prayer to or worship of ‘saints’, nature, etc. Neither the Father, the God-man Son, nor the Holy Spirit may be represented in any sensory form as aids to worship.
98. But may not pictures be tolerated in churches as books for the people?
No, for we should not be wiser than God, who will not have His people taught by dumb idols,1 but by the lively preaching of His Word.2
1 Ps 135:15-18; Jer 10:8; Hab 2:18-20; 2 Rom 10:14-17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pt 1:19
Scripture: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:14–17
Comment: This was a major issue in Ursinus’ day, continuing today in Rome and similar churches. The three essential marks of a true church continue to be the faithful: preaching of the gospel, administration of the sacraments, and church discipline, all done with biblical integrity and simplicity.
Prayer & Piety: Daily ask God for personal, national, and world-wide recovery of awe-ful worship, that the church may learn / relearn how to worship in simplicity, Spirit, and truth in light of history, theology, reverence for God, and Scriptural faithfulness.
Lord’s Day 36: The Third Commandment – God Requires He Be Held in Ultimate Reverence and Awe
99. What is required in the third Commandment?
That we must not by cursing,1 or by false swearing,2 nor yet by unnecessary oaths,3 profane or abuse the name of God; nor even by our silence4 and connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others; and in summary, that we use the holy name of God in no other way than with fear and reverence,5 so that He may be rightly confessed6 and worshiped7 by us, and be glorified in all our words and works.8
1 Lev 24:10-17; 2 Lev 19:12; 3 Mt 5:37; Jas 5:12; 4 Lev 5:1; Prov 29:24; 5 Ps 99:1-5; Isa 45:23; Jer 4:2; 6 Mt 10:32-33; Rom 10:9-10; 7 Ps 50:14-15; 1 Tim 2:8; 8 Rom 2:24; Col 3:16-17; 1 Tim 6:1; 1 Pt 3:15
Scripture: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37
Comment: God is infinite, eternal, perfect (unchanging) Love while fully at the same time infinitely, eternally, perfectly (unchangingly) Holy, Righteous, and Just. As such, He cannot help but be unaccepting of all imperfection and wrathful toward our moral failings, all of which are unwelcome impingements that He has temporarily allowed into His perfectly good creation. As this command states, He cannot and will not be disrespected in a light, flippant, coarse, thoughtless, or any other inappropriate manner. As with all other sin, there are fitting consequences, things which none of us could ever bear in ourselves. We are required, under the most severe punishment, never to invoke his name or being in a manner other than lovingly, respectfully, fearfully, thoughtfully, with awe and profound, endless gratitude. Nor should we participate in, affirm, or overlook the disrespectful behavior of others. Side note: Since none of God’s characteristics trump any of the others (God is a simple, not simplistic, perfectly whole, harmonious, undivided being), all his Scripturally revealed attributes exist in perfect, eternal harmony with all others.
100. Is the profaning of God’s name, by swearing and cursing, so grievous a sin that His wrath is kindled against those also who do not help as much as they can to hinder and forbid it?
Yes, truly,1 for no sin is greater and more provoking to God than the profaning of His name; wherefore He even commanded it to be punished with death.2
Scripture: “And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” Leviticus 24:15–16
Comment: God does not demand temporal, capital punishment for all sins (although all sin in itself does require and bring death with it absent saving faith), but some (such as this one) require more substantial punishment than others. Our legal systems also recognize the reality of punishment fitting the crime, although legislation and / or enforcement of laws are sometimes too lenient or too strict in different places, times, and circumstances.
Prayer & Piety: Father, may your name more and more be hallowed in our lives, our families, our churches, your worldwide church militant, its teachers and leaders, and in all the nations and peoples of the earth.
Lord’s Day 37: The Third Commandment (cont.)
101. But may we swear reverently by the name of God?
Yes, when the magistrate requires it, or when it may be needful otherwise, to maintain and promote fidelity and truth to the glory of God and our neighbor’s good; for such an oath is grounded in God’s Word,1 and therefore was rightly used by the saints in the Old and New Testaments.2
1 Deut 6:13, 10:20; Isa 48:1; Jer 4:1-2; Heb 6:16; 2 Gen 21:24, 31:53-54; Josh 9:15, 19; 1 Sam 24:22; 1 Kgs 1:29-30; Rom 1:9; 2 Cor 1:23
Scripture: “It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.” Deuteronomy 6:13
Comment: There is an appropriate time, place, and setting to say the equivalent of “So help me God…”, “God as my witness”, etc., those rare occasions being proper, solemn, essential uses of His name, as is the use of the various names of the Triune God in reverent, theologically sound hymns, Scripture readings, prayers, etc. None of those normally are prohibited uses of His Name / Being. Some conservative Jews err on the side of legalistic strictness, writing ‘G_d’ in place of His Name. That may be well-intentioned but likely goes well beyond what He requires of us in this commandment. As we know, the opposite extreme (irreverence, thoughtlessness, casualness) in the use of His Name is much more common.
102. May we swear by “the saints” or by any other creatures?
No, for a lawful oath is a calling upon God, that He, as the only searcher of hearts, may bear witness to the truth, and punish me if I swear falsely;1 which honor is due to no creature.2
1 Rom 9:1; 2 Cor 1:23; 2 Jer 5:7; Isa 65:16; Mt 5:34-37, 23:16-22; Jas 5:12
Scripture: “But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth.” 2 Corinthians 1:23
Comment: Some people swear using such phrases as “On my mother’s grave…” or other foolish, meaningless words sometimes used in oath taking. Such things are not appropriate for Christians; shame on any leaders who teach such nonsense or the refusal to properly take an oath. God alone is the One to Whom a solemn oath, rarely and with great care, might be taken as He alone is able (generally through means) to ratify and vindicate a true oath or punish an oath unwisely made in a false, dishonest, or even careless manner.
Prayer & Piety: Father, may your name more and more be hallowed in our lives, our families, our churches and your worldwide church militant, its teachers and leaders, and in all the nations and peoples of the earth. Only as truly appropriate and needful, may we and all people swear in perfect honesty by Your name and not that of any other.
Lord’s Day 38: The Fourth Commandment
103. What does God require in the fourth Commandment?
In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained,1 and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church2 to learn the Word of God,3 to use the Holy Sacraments,4 to call publicly upon the Lord,5 and to give Christian alms.6 In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.7
1 Dt 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor 9:13-14; 1 Tim 2:2, 3:13-17, 4:13-14, 5:17; Tit 1:5; 2 Dt 12:5-12; Ps 40:9-11, 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; 2 Tim 2:2, 15; Heb 10:23-25; 3 Rom 10:14-17; 1 Cor 14:19-33; 1 Tim 4:13; 4 1 Cor 11:23-24, 33; 5 1 Cor 14:16; Col 3:16; 1 Tim 2:1-2, 8-10; 6 Ps 50:14; 1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 8-9; 7 Isa 66:23; Acts 20:7; Gal 6:6; Heb 4:9-11
Scripture: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:23–25
Comment: Assuming genuine opportunity to do so, there really is nothing available to a believer that can replace the weekly worship of God as we truly but imperfectly honor Father, Son, and Spirit. This is pleasing to God and is a genuine benefit to believers in every way for strength, encouragement, and solid growth in the graces of truth and holiness. True worship is alertly focused on God alone, not any person (pastors, performances, friends, etc.) or our straying thoughts, by means of song and speech: petitioning Him, thanking and praising Him for Who He is and for His promised actions toward us, having our sinful nature killed by the commands of the law followed by the humble confession of our sin and sinfulness, receiving the promised absolution of truly confessed sin, confessing our faith before and with the great historical cloud of witnesses, gratefully returning a portion of His entrusted blessings, receiving the life-giving gospel of Christ via the Holy Spirit through an ordained minister as Christ teaches and nurtures us in His twin primary means of grace (gospel and sacrament), participating in the sacraments, and receiving the opening and closing blessings. That is full-bodied worship, a sampling of things to come as we rest from our evil works and taste of things to come.
Prayer & Piety: Father, teach us, help us and your church militant in the world to worship you well and pleasingly. Amen
Lord’s Day 39: The Fifth Commandment
104. What does God require in the fifth Commandment?
That I show all honor, love, and faithfulness to my father and mother,1 and to all in authority over me,2 submit myself with due obedience to all their good instruction and correction, and also bear patiently with their infirmities, since it is God’s will to govern us by their hand.3
1 Gen 9:24-25; Ex 21:17; Prov 1:8-9, 4:1, 15:20, 20:20; Eph 6:1-6, 22; Col 3:18, 20-24; 2 Mt 22:21; Rom 13:1, 2-7; 1 Pt 2:18; 3 Deut 27:16, 32:24; Prov 13:24, 30:17; Eph 6:4, 9; Col 3:19, 21; 1 Tim 2:1-2, 5:17; Heb 13:17-18
Scripture: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Romans 13:1
Comment: This commandment starts the second section of the densely packed, condensed, divine imperatives concerning what God requires of us (the ten commandments). The six commandments in this second section relate to our character (both outward actions and especially inward motivations, thoughts, desires) and relationships to both people and things, how we must be to be pleasing to God. It’s important that children learn these basic concepts well in relation to their parents, as their relationship to these primary, initial authorities providentially provided by God carries over to all other providential authorities in a person’s life as they mature – teachers, bosses, police, civic / political, ecclesiastical, etc., and ultimately to God Who is the final authority and from Whom all authority flows. This is such a basic lesson to get deep within our character, one much more difficult if not instilled early and well (and even then does not come easily or naturally due to our old, dying sinful, rebellious, independent, anti-authoritarian nature). Likewise, those in any type of authority should be persons fully (as much as possible) deserving of such honor and respect.
“To honor our parents (and all other authorities, and even all persons as appropriate) means to give them decent respect and to esteem them by our conduct toward them on all occasions. (Concerning parents) Leviticus 19:3 says we are to fear them, and Hebrews 12:9 says we are to give them reverence. Contrary to mocking them, despising them, or belittling them, we are to lift them up. Children who are still under parental authority are to give their parents obedience. Ephesians 6:1–3 says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” The goal of parents’ instruction should be that children obey their parents, not because their parents are older, wiser, bigger and stronger, but because God commands it (Col. 3:20). This obedience, like any other, should be given cheerfully and should flow from love and respect. To honor our parents means to go to them for consent, advice and direction. This will, of course, vary for those children no longer under their parents’ authority. But the principle is that we should honor their opinion and value their judgment. Those children who are still under their parents’ authority should do nothing of consequence without their parents’ consent. One way that our materialistic society has failed miserably in honoring its parents is by neglecting them in their old age. In obedience to the fifth commandment, we are to support, care for, and give comfort to our parents when they are no longer able to support themselves. Tabletalk Magazine, May 1998, p. 18
Prayer and Piety: Father, your law continually convicts us of how we fall so abysmally short of your required perfection and purity of character in our relationships to persons and things. Forgive us, have mercy on us for Christ’s sake, and help us to properly honor and respect parents, all authorities, and even all persons in wisdom and love.
Application and Resource(s): How are we honoring our parents? Other authorities? Other persons? How are we dishonoring them? Make a thoughtful list of ways that you can show your parents and others greater honor and respect. Take active steps to demonstrate your love to them. Remember that we give our parents and others honor, not because they deserve it, but because it is right. (adapted from Tabletalk, see above)
 (1998). Tabletalk Magazine, May 1998: “You Say Rightly, I Am a King”, 18.
 (1998). Tabletalk Magazine, May 1998: “You Say Rightly, I Am a King”, 18.
Lord’s Day 40: The Sixth Commandment – Prohibition of Murder, Demand for its Opposite
105. What does God require in the sixth Commandment?
That I do not revile, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor either in thought, word, or gesture, much less in deed, whether by myself or by another,1 but lay aside all desire of revenge;2 moreover, that I do not harm myself, nor willfully run into any danger.3 Wherefore also to restrain murder the magistrate is armed with the sword.4
Scripture: “You shall not murder.” Ex 20:13
Comment: The divine prohibition against murder applies also to the perverse root of murder within every one of us, that fact being another witness to the reality of the pervasiveness and ubiquity of original sin (‘In Adam’s fall, sinned and died we all’. We sin because we are sinners while remaining wholly culpable). The implicit, divine demand is for the exact opposite from us from the very depths and every aspect of our beings. As divinely regenerate people, being such solely and wholly by his gracious action toward us and on our behalf, murderous impulses and attitudes die a slow death in us, but only as the Spirit and Word act in us through the primary, weekly means of grace (Word and Sacrament) and our secondary, daily disciplines of grace (petition, study / meditation, good works, etc.). The presence of hatred or its milder, more subtle attributes is not to be found in the believer at all but will only be completely absent in glory. Undeserved antipathy toward any person including one’s self, whether directly or by participation, is expressly prohibited by God. Neither am I to foolishly put myself or others in harm’s way, i.e. lacking good, wise, and compelling cause for doing so. Through petition to God, we must rely on Him for any vengeance or vindication for ourselves or others as may be genuinely due in human affairs. God alone is the one to requite evil, done for His glory alone which includes our protection and eternal well-being. To that end, He has established and uses such providential, though immediately imperfect means as police, military, legislative and judicial actions, appropriate citizen action, ‘natural’ phenomena, etc. The wheels of justice may (seem to) turn exceedingly, painstakingly slowly, but the end result is its divine perfection in all things.
106. Does this Commandment speak only of killing?
No, but in forbidding murder God teaches us that He abhors its very root, namely, envy,1 hatred,2 anger,3 and desire of revenge; and that in His sight all these are hidden murder.4
Scripture: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21–22
Comment: As Jesus indicated above, the law penetrates to and exposes the very depths of our thoughts, desires, and motives and not just the resulting outward actions which may expose themselves at inopportune times.
107. But is this all that is required: that we do not kill our neighbor?
No, for in condemning envy, hatred, and anger, God requires us to love our neighbor as ourselves,1 to show patience, peace, meekness,2 mercy,3 and kindness4 toward him, and to prevent his hurt as much as possible;5 also, to do good even unto our enemies.6
Scripture: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20–21
Comment: And so the absence of inward evil must be positively, divinely replaced by the graces of godliness, not leaving a void for even greater evil to occupy.
Prayer and Piety: Father as you have promised replace our old, dying, sinful, murderous self with the gracious, perfect, loving character of your Son. May our undiluted goal in life become to be holy as You are holy. This we ask for, as those in Christ.
Application and Resource(s):
Lord’s Day 41: The Seventh Commandment
108. What does the seventh Commandment teach us?
That all unchastity is accursed of God,1 and that we should therefore loathe it with our whole heart,2 and live chastely and modestly,3 whether in holy wedlock or single life.4
Scripture: “You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14
Comment: Implicit in this compact, concise demand (unpacked more fully elsewhere in Scripture) for chaste (pure, modest) behavior regarding all sexually related activity, not only in outward, objective behavior(s) but as importantly inwardly (as Jesus made clear in various teachings – see Mt 5:27-28, etc.), is a divine command that touches on the most central, profoundly intimate of all human relationships, holy matrimony, that being the only divinely sanctioned context for chaste sexual activity of any sort, especially in its related emotional / inward and physical / outward components. The curse(s) that impact(s) individuals and societies (crime, abortion, disease, relational turmoil, etc.) involved in the disregard, improper indulgence, or abuse of this great, good, productive, and most pleasurable gift is profound, sweeping, devastating, and inescapable. That divine curse attends, in varying degrees, all forms of sexual impurity, unchastity, and immodesty – things such as fornication, adultery, sexual fantasizing, self-stimulation, bestiality, sodomy, sexual sadism / masochism, use of pornography, lewd words or behaviors, etc., i.e. every form of sexual behavior outside the bounds of chaste, holy matrimony (including, of course, the current, trendy approval and /or flaunting of same or other sex fornication and / or the perverse, childish, rebellious pretense involved in same-sex “marriage”).
Of course, none of these things are to be practiced, accepted, or allowed in the church; the perennial, pervasive, historical plagues of pornography, fornication, adultery, and other unwelcome abuses and perversions of human sexuality are not to have any part in Christian lives, individually or corporately. Regarding those who accept, approve, promote, profit from, or celebrate such corruptions of human sexuality; such are as culpable as those who directly participate in those behaviors and may be subject to the same or greater divine judgment and condemnation as the participants. The divinely instituted boundaries of holy matrimony must be kept inviolate, remaining wholly intact, vibrant, and vigorous, as both marital partners vigilantly guard against all outside intruders or intrusion(s), aided in that by the church (in its teaching, ethical apologetics, prayers, practices, and discipline), the magistrate (laws), and society in general (social pressures, etc.). Those outside of a given marital covenant (which is the solemn, sincerely rendered vows of exclusive, life-long commitment between two persons of complementary gender, vows made to one another before God and man) are to be fearfully cognizant, wisely cautious, and deeply respectful of the divine boundaries of such a covenant so as not to improperly intrude into that in any manner but rather pray for, support, and strengthen that exclusive, sacred covenant in appropriate ways. All single people are to remain sexually celibate and chaste, inwardly and outwardly, until such time as a divinely sanctioned marital covenant may be fully and sincerely entered into, at that time leaving sexual celibacy behind but not the divine demand for chastity
109. Does God forbid nothing more in this Commandment than adultery and such gross sins?
Since both our body and soul are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is His will that we keep both pure and holy; therefore, He forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words,1 thoughts, desires,2 and whatever may entice thereto.3
Scripture: “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:3–4
Comment: It looks like Ursinus pretty much nailed this in his short answer above – not a lot of wiggle room left after that.
Prayer and Piety: Father as you have promised, will you continue to help us kill our old, dying, adulterous, sin-filled self, our rotten old man now in its death throes as those redeemed and being sanctified by your grace. Replace all manifestations of that corrupt old man with the gracious, courageous, perfect, loving, pure character of your Son. May our undiluted goal in life become to be holy as You are holy. Rebuke, strip of all influence, put to shame, and convert as You will every spiritual or human entity that leads people into temptation and sin. This we ask for, as those in Christ.
Application and Resource(s): See the following book link on how American electronic media has increasingly perverted the depiction of many Americans’ lives, impacting us and other nations’ perceptions of us and altering their practices. Through a Screen Darkly, Martha Bayles, 2014
Lord’s Day 42:
The Eighth Commandment – Thievery vs. Godly Contentment
110. What does God forbid in the eighth Commandment?
God forbids not only such theft1 and robbery2 as are punished by the government, but God views as theft also all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we seek to get our neighbor’s goods, whether by force or by deceit,3 such as unjust weights,4 lengths, measures,5 goods, coins, usury,6 or by any means forbidden of God; also all covetousness7 and the misuse and waste of His gifts.8
1 1 Cor 6:10; 2 Ex 22:1; 1 Cor 5:9-10, 6:9-10; 3 Mic 6:9-11; Mk 3:14; Lk 3:14; Jas 1:5-6; 1 Thes 4:6; 4 Prov 11:1, 16:11; 5 Deut 25:13-15; Ezek 45:9-10; 6 Ps 15:5; Lk 6:35; 7 Lk 12:15; 1 Cor 6:10; Eph 5:5; 8 Prov 5:10, 21:20, 23:20-21; Lk 16:10-13; Jn 6:12; 1 Tim 6:10
Scripture: “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” Luke 16:10–12
Comment: Theft takes place any time one intentionally or otherwise wrongfully takes, appropriates, or deprives another person or persons, wholly or partially, of something that, under God’s law and blessing (often ratified via properly constituted human law), is rightfully and by divine authority and providence theirs, whether that is tangible, intellectual, spiritual, relational, or purely ethical (such as honor or respect) and includes even the desire to do so. This is in contrast to a rightful, lawful obtaining, holding, or transfer of discrete property or other lawfully granted, inherent, or unalienable rights. We can and do steal from God, our fellow man individually or socially, and possibly even the rest of the created order. Theft normally takes place through deceit, manipulation, surreptitiousness, force, violence, intimidation, carelessness, laziness, or unconcern and is often intentional but rationalized to ease our guilty consciences, if those indeed are functioning well. In the case of God, theft takes place when we fail, as we daily do, to perfectly glorify, honor, thank, believe, obey, and confess Him as sovereign, redeeming God in every aspect of our lives. Various forms of theft in human affairs have always plagued societies and remain rampant and open sins in our day. Those forms include stealing, burglary, robbery, cheating, plagiarism, taking of intellectual property, cons, other fraud of various sorts, embezzlement, extortion, shoplifting, illegitimate governmental actions, mob or gang action, deceitful contracts or transactions, laziness, depriving of various God-given rights or responsibilities, improper intrusion into relationships, adultery, fornication, etc. It could also be considered a form of theft to wrongfully deprive oneself or others of those things necessary to optimal life, health, relationships, or other development needs of body and soul, but only as those things are within our means and purview and particularly in relation to our covenant brothers and sisters in Christ. With this commandment, as with all others, we stand guilty before God each day, needing His gracious forgiveness in Christ toward us as promised as we honestly, humbly, and penitently confess our sins to Him. The cure for our tendencies toward theft is in committing, by the grace of God and power of the Spirit, to becoming persons of productive energy, wisdom, moderation, and rigorous personal integrity, gratefully requesting and allowing God unrestricted opportunity to bless and provide for us as He will and so in the process learning to be fully content with every aspect of our situations in life – “… contentment with godliness is great gain” as Paul says. We are to learn to be wise, good, and faithful stewards of whatever energy, skills, time, knowledge, and material blessings that have providentially been given to us or placed in our care, using or dispensing those generously in love to the brethren firstly and then to outsiders, in all things as prompted by the Spirit and taught by the Word.
111. But what does God require of you in this Commandment?
That I further my neighbor’s good where I can and may, deal with him as I would have others deal with me,1 and labor faithfully, so that I may be able to help the poor in their need.2
Scripture: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12
Comment: Rather than being thieves of any sort, positively we are to be people of moderation and wise, generous, loving disposition regarding our time, energies, abilities, and possessions.
Prayer and Piety: Father, we would not be thieves in any aspect of our beings or relationships, particularly with You, but rather content, wise, generous, loving, knowledgeable, productive, and good. Forgive us and help us put to death our old, dying, thieving man, establishing in its place the perfect mind and character of Christ. Would you openly rebuke, put to shame, discipline, judge, strip of all thieving capabilities, granting divine repentance and faith as you will those who knowingly practice of theft of any sort, whether within the church or outside. This we ask for, as those in Christ.
Application and Resource(s):
Lord’s Day 43: The Ninth Commandment – Integrity in thought and speech
112. What does the ninth Commandment require?
That I bear false witness against no one,1 twist no one’s words,2 be no backbiter or slanderer,3 join in condemning no one unheard or rashly;4 but that on pain of God’s heavy wrath, I avoid all lying and deceit5 as the very works of the devil;6 and that in matters of judgment and justice and in all other affairs, I love, speak honestly, and confess the truth;7 also, insofar as I can, defend and promote my neighbor’s good name.8
Scripture: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Exodus 20:16
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:1–6
Comment: The first recorded, devastatingly effective temptation, by what appears to be a Satanic possession of a non-human creature, had a powerful, profoundly destructive impact on the first couple and through them, as public people / divine representatives of every one of us, on us also and the rest of the created order. Our actual, existential condition and legal culpability in Adam is called original sin and factually explains why we do sin; we sin because we are sinners, born with a nature that has powerful tendencies toward all forms of evil, being determinately conceived as such and wholly culpable (guilty) before a holy God both for our sinful condition and for our sinful actions. An honest review inwardly (the existential situation / mess within each of us) or objectively in human history, current affairs, and the natural world (crime, ignorance, poverty, disease, animosity, pain, violence, deceit, theft, war, degeneration, death, doubt, unbelief, floods, rust, fornication, false belief and worship, etc.) resoundingly validates that reality. Just as the guilt and reality of Adam’s sin is legally imputed to all his offspring as those united with him in that sin, so also by faith are all who believe in Christ, by the grace of God alone, imputed with His righteousness, being united to Christ and rescued from the curse, punishment, and condemnation of our original and actual sins and given an astounding, wholly undeserved inheritance. Imputation has a glorious second act for all genuine believers.
In highly skilled, profoundly insightful, powerfully effective appeals to what appears to be a morally / theologically indeterminate, not yet finalized condition of the first couple (at that time existing in a provisional, probationary state while being tested as fully accountable moral beings truly free in will and breathing the pure spiritual and material air of an unsullied creation), Satan knowingly, maliciously, and skillfully conned Eve while Adam apparently stood passively by rather than actively and protectively intervening. And then, in the final act of gross negligence in this crucial situation, he went along with her in her devastating actions. The Satanic strategy was first to attempt to induce confusion and cast doubt upon God’s sovereign, fully authoritative instruction (“Hath God said…”) and so softening her up for the final act of deception which was to grossly, deliberately pervert (bear false witness, lie about, contradict) the actual reality of God’s sovereign, good, loving, benevolent motives and commands (saying in effect, ‘God’s selfishly keeping something really good, important, and vital from you’), of His unique, holy, infinite nature, and of the actual consequences of such naïve, perverse, negligent, disobedient actions (which Satan made to sound so very appealing to the woman). In this, Satan was allowed to succeed, which to us currently is an inscrutable mystery. But we fully believe that God knows and is able to accomplish, with exacting precision, what He is doing in allowing evil (moral imperfection with all its related, deleterious impacts) temporarily into His good creation and of the final, glorious result of those things as He carefully guides and brings all things to their awesome, glorious, permanent conclusions. In effect, He’s going to wrap up all the loose ends and tie it with a glorious bow.
When speaking of deception, there is no greater evil than promoting theological lies via any type of communication, attempting knowingly or unknowingly to induce others to sin and / or remain under condemnation in gross ignorance, rebellion, disobedience, and unbelief such as those lies found in the false religions / philosophies of secularism, atheism, Islam, Buddhism, religious liberalism, various heresies, man-made legalisms or hedonisms, etc. All these skeptically, unbelievingly and with Satan ask “Hath God truly said…?” regarding God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture and then proceed to distort or deny His being, nature, and providential / redeeming / judging actions toward man, denying also the reality and / or nature of sin, Satan, guilt, and ultimate, inescapable accountability. Rather than that, we are to be people who know, live, promote, and openly confess truth about God, His Christ, His Word and Spirit, ourselves, and the nature of reality.
When we lie or attempt to deceive by any means, whether in mundane, daily things or in ultimate matters, we wrongly participate in the evil nature of Satan, the Father of lies. The lie that is explicitly addressed in this ninth commandment is perjury or similar actions in non-legal settings. But there are many other forms of deceit: lies that we tell ourselves (self-deceitful rationalizations by which we seek to justify our evil behavior and attempt to absolve ourselves of all or most guilt via blame or other means) or lies we tell to or about others to avoid consequences, cause some type of harm, slander via gossip or other means, distort others’ words, or manipulate them in some manner for our own ends. On the contrary, we are to be people that clearly know, live, and tell the truth in ultimate matters, making open confession of truth in our worship and in our daily lives. We are also to be people of purity and integrity of thought and speech in all areas of life. Someday we will be such in perfect honesty of thought and communication as was Christ in His earthly life, in His eternal pre-existence, and in His ascended life in glory. In the meantime we must set as one of our goals of holiness to be such people. Amen.
Prayer and Piety: Father, lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one and from all other inward and outward evil. As those in Christ, Amen.
Application and Resource(s):
Lord’s Day 44: The Tenth Commandment and Summary
113. What does the tenth Commandment require?
That not even the least inclination or thought against any commandment of God ever enter our heart, but that with our whole heart we continually hate all sin and take pleasure in all righteousness.1
Scripture: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17
Comment: Ursinus does not directly address this commandment in his short answer above (but he does in his extended commentary). The tenth commandment essentially tells us to (metaphorically) keep our mental, emotional, desirous, volitional hands off anything and everything that does not rightfully belong to us, i.e., all things not lawfully given to us, directly or indirectly, via His assent, decree, and / or blessing. We are also to reject every lustful, greedy, grasping, or similar desire or yearning that improperly inclines us in such an unlawful, unhelpful, destructive direction. In the outward law as correspondingly written within each of us (our consciences), God teaches us not to fall into the idolatry of materialism, focused on or grasping for temporal, material things or persons, but instead increasingly learning to reject the pleasurable addiction involved in every attempt to acquire possession and control of people and things unlawfully, rather than depending wholly on God and His blessings and being faithful stewards of our time, energy, and skills. Similar to drug addiction, such things at best bring only fleeting satisfaction followed by an insatiable craving for ever more, all the while forming in us the character of Satan vs. a godly character and mindset. On the positive side, we are to protect, preserve, enhance, value, enjoy, defend, and care for all that God has truly blessed us, any other person, or any social group with, in genuine, profound gratitude and thanksgiving to the God Who is and to His glory alone.
“We must here observe, that not only are corrupt and disordered inclinations sins, but the thinking of evil, in as far as it is connected with an inclination and propensity to pursue it, or with a desire to practice it, is sin. Concupiscence, although it is without doubt born in us, is both an evil and sin; for we are not to judge according to nature, but according to the law whether a thing be sin or not. Whatever is opposed to the law is sin, whether it be born in us, or not. The Pelagians denied that concupiscence is sin. The law, on the contrary, declares, Thou shalt not covet. And Paul says, “I had not known sin, but by the law; for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7.)” Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 606
114. Can those who are converted to God keep these Commandments perfectly?
No, but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of such obedience,1 yet so that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.2
Scripture: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:8–10
Comment: In wrapping up the moral law, reflecting as it does God’s flawless nature and as divinely, indelibly written into our being (our consciences), Ursinus summarizes a realistic (i.e., biblical) assessment of our actual condition and of our innate capabilities to be perfectly, faithfully obedient and holy. That perfection is beyond our capabilities in this life, being wholly unobtainable in our own power and only to be divinely realized / finalized in glory. Nevertheless the tenor and direction of our lives is to be determinedly set in the direction of perfect obedience and flawless moral perfection. But our holiness will be, at best and when we are perfected in glory (much to our profound relief), just a flawless purity of our whole being (moral and otherwise). Even then our holiness will only be a dim reflection of God’s true and unique holiness, the transcendent otherlyness of the One who, in unchanging perfection of being, is in His very existence wholly unlike, different, and set apart from all that He has, via His infinitely sovereign, powerful, benevolent command, called into existence, the only One of infinite greatness and goodness.
115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the Ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?
First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature,1 and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ;2 second, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.3
Scripture: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:” Romans 3:19–22
Comment: This is a really good question and an equally good answer I think, one that focuses on the knowledge of our actual condition and absolute inability to save ourselves as the law increasingly shows us the need for a fully capable, atoning, mediating, divine Savior of like nature to ourselves but without sin. It also teaches us of the need for determined, disciplined, persevering direction in life as those learning to be wholly dependent upon God for all things, including most importantly salvation of body and soul, our whole humanity. We may not, and naturally (since the Fall) do not, like these divine requirements and being told what to do, how to think, how to live. Too bad – we simply need to tell ourselves to grow up and squarely face reality. God’s genuine authority, from which all other authority flows, goes against our now ‘natural’, anti-authoritarian grain. So one central, essential purpose of the divine law, as condescending and benevolently given to us in outward law and in conscience, is to make ever more clear to each one of us the profundity and vileness of our sinfulness, our thoroughgoing inability to save ourselves, and the need for a genuine Savior.
Prayer and Piety: Our Father in heaven, have mercy on us because of Christ and for His sake alone. We ask for your Holy Spirit as those whom, through no goodness of our own, You are redeeming from the mass of fallen humanity to be members of new human race headed by our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. We confess that all this is being done undeservedly by Your grace alone, through the divine gifting of genuine faith alone, in Christ our Mediator alone, as taught by Holy Scripture alone, to the endless glory of the triune God alone. Amen and Amen.
Application and Resource(s): On some contrasts in Roman vs. Protestant theology regarding concupiscence, original sin, and the human condition before and after the fall, see this Wikipedia article.
Lord’s Day 45: The Lord’s Prayer – God in Christ Teaches us How to Pray
116. Why is prayer necessary for Christians?
Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us,1 and because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who earnestly and without ceasing ask them of Him, and render thanks unto Him for them.2
Scripture: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:14–15
Comment: In this closing section, we learn of the great, powerful, gentle, loving, just, unchanging, holy, sovereign God to Whom we pray, the One Who plants and impels a profound desire in us for the true worship of Himself among all nations and peoples. And He promises to answer graciously, wisely, and lovingly in His sovereign power, how and when He knows best. God has divinely ordained and taught prayer as a remarkable privilege that, somehow in His eternal, providential governance of all things, powerfully affects human affairs, being also divinely commanded and a basic necessity of our spiritual vitality. Prayer is the primary, divinely ordained and commanded means by which God, in His majestic sovereignty and gracious condescension, works in us and allows us to cooperate with Him in His work in our lives, our families, friends, neighborhoods, cities, and the lives of peoples and nations as His divinely directed, progressively unfolding flow of history unerringly heads toward its glorious culmination.
117. What belongs to such prayer which is acceptable to God and which He will hear?
First, that with our whole heart1 we call only upon the one true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word,2 for all that He has commanded us to ask of Him;3 second, that we thoroughly know our need and misery,4 so as to humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty;5 third, that we be firmly assured6 that notwithstanding our unworthiness He will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer,7 as He has promised us in His Word.8
Scripture: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
Comment: True prayer is a genuine address to or calling in humble faith upon the living God as He actually is (not as we want Him to be or falsely depict Him in our minds) and in a manner pleasing to Him. We call upon God the Father Maker of heaven and earth, in the name of God the Son because of Who He is and what He has done for us, and by the power of God the Holy Spirit Who impels us to pray and divinely empowers our prayers to rise effectually to the eternal throne. We properly approach that eternal throne of grace and the One Who sits upon it as sinful, believing, reverent, loving, sincere, humble, focused, fully dependent, grateful, submissive, and penitent people. The ultimate motive for true prayer is that God will be fully known and truly worshipped among all peoples and throughout all creation, to His glory alone.
118. What has God commanded us to ask of Him?
All things necessary for soul and body,1 which Christ our Lord comprised in the prayer which He Himself taught us.
Scripture: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
Comment: The one thing to ask for above all is that God’s Name / Being be hallowed (in ultimate honor, respect, gratitude, and knowledge) in all nations and peoples of the earth and that God would strip of all influence and power those things contrary / repugnant to His being. Secondly, for His kingdom to come in the return of His Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, and for His will to be perfectly done in our lives, the lives of all peoples, and throughout all creation. In the second section of this prayer, we ask for all genuine needs of both body and soul: the daily provision for our bodily needs of food, shelter, security, peace, work, finances, vocation, physical / mental / emotional / relational health, good government, etc. And perhaps more importantly, for the needs our souls – forgiveness of all sin, strength / integrity / stability of character, courage, resistance to all forms of temptation, growth in wisdom, grace, holiness, and the knowledge of God, for justice, truth, and protection from and the destruction of all lies, coercion, manipulation, violence, and every other form of evil and of ignorantly or determinately evil beings and actors.
119. What is the Lord’s Prayer?
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.1
Scripture: See above
Comment: We are to pray this divinely given disciples’ prayer in our assemblies, teach it to our children, meditate upon these words, and be grasped by the essential nature of its realities, using it as both a believing prayer and as a framework or structure for our prayers.
Prayer and Piety: Our Father in heaven, have mercy on us because of Christ and for His sake alone. We ask for your Holy Spirit as those whom, through no goodness of our own, You have and are redeeming from the mass of fallen humanity to be holy members of new human race because of and headed by our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. We confess that all this is undeservedly being done by Your grace alone, through the divine gifting of genuine faith alone, in Christ our Mediator alone, as taught by Holy Scripture alone, to the endless glory of the triune God alone. Amen
Application and / or Resource(s): Let us continually pray to become people of genuine, effectual prayer.
Lord’s Day 46: In reality, calling on God, our Father in heaven, Maker (& Governor) of heaven and earth
120. Why did Christ command us to address God thus: “Our Father?”
To awaken in us at the very beginning of our prayer that childlike reverence for and trust in God, which are to be the ground of our prayer, namely, that God has become our Father through Christ, and will much less deny us what we ask of Him in faith than our parents refuse us earthly things.1
1 Isa 63:16; Mt 7:9-11; Lk 11:11-13; 1 Pt 1:17
Scripture: “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9–11
Comment: Contrary to what theological liberalism (which usually involves some mixture of gross skepticism / poisonous unbelief, profound ignorance, reactionary rebellion, and / or outright rejection of divine revelation in Scripture) or what any other false, death-dealing religion or philosophy may teach, God is not the Father of all nor are all men brothers (spiritually). Nor do all paths lead to God, but all and only those that lead to the cross of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, via the divine gift of penitent faith. All other paths serve to keep people in their ‘natural’ spiritually insensate state (dead, unresponsive to God) leading inevitably to delusion and death if such a ‘path to God’ attempts to detour around, fundamentally misrepresent, or outright reject the sacrificial, saving, atoning, mediatorial work of Christ. Satan, not God, is the father of all such; to die physically while in such death-dealing unbelief is to die wholly bereft of any hope whatsoever. But God truly is the Father of all those, from among all peoples and nations, whom He has, in graciousness, mercy, wisdom, and love, drawn to Himself, reconciled, justified, accepted, and sheltered from endless divine wrath solely in and because of His Son, Jesus. All such are truly brothers and sisters in the Lord, part of God’s great, eternal, loved and loving (although still in this life dysfunctional to varying degrees) family. If you are such a person, you can live a life of profound gratitude toward your Father in heaven, Maker of heaven and earth (i.e., all things), knowing that you (and all such) have been privileged to call in truth upon the God Who is, the One Who hears and responds to our reverent, trusting petitions of faith as a Father, as we do so with boundless thankfulness and exaltation of His great, good, and glorious Name.
Christianity can be simply stated in the twin truths of a child’s mealtime prayer “God is great and God is good, and we thank Him for ….”. Growing daily in the knowledge of God and our wholly undeserved inheritance in Him, the Spirit via the Word continues to unpack in our souls (minds, emotions, will, etc.) with ever greater depth, clarity, and power the infinite reality of those two great truths of the God Who is, the great, good, and glorious One Who alone cares for us more deeply and powerfully than we can think or imagine in freeing us forever from the curses and penalties of sin and death, praise His glorious name.
121. Why is it added: “Who art in heaven?”
That we might have no earthly thought of the heavenly majesty of God,1 and from His almighty power expect all things necessary for body and soul.2
1 Jer 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-27; 2 1 Kgs 8:28; Ps 115:3; Mt 6:25-34; Rom 8:10:12, 31-32
Scripture: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” Acts 17:24–25
Comment: As commanded, we are not to make any image, material or mental, of the One Who is beyond imaging or imagination, being wholly different and separate from all created matter (His good though temporarily corrupted creation), the all-powerful One Who provides all things truly good and necessary for our well-being.
Prayer and Piety: Our great, good, and glorious loving Father in heaven, thank you for Your salvation from otherwise inescapable sin and death. We ask for your Holy Spirit to guide us and enlighten us as those whom, through no goodness of our own, You have and are redeeming from the mass of fallen humanity to be holy members of new human race headed by our Lord, Jesus of Nazareth. We confess that all this is being done undeservedly by Your grace alone, through the divine gifting of genuine faith alone, in Christ our Mediator alone, as taught by Holy Scripture alone, to the endless glory of the triune God alone. Amen
Lord’s Day 47: Loving reverence toward God; our inescapable duty and remarkable privilege
122. What is the first petition?
“Hallowed be Thy name;” that is, grant us, first, rightly to know You, 1 and to hallow, magnify, and praise You in all Your works, in which Your power, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth shine forth;2 and further, that we so order our whole life, our thoughts, words, and deeds, that Your name may not be blasphemed, but honored and praised on our account.3
1 Ps 119:105; Jer 9:23-24, 31:33-34; Mt 16:17; Jn 17:3; Jas 1:5; 2 Ex 34:5-8; Ps 119:137, Ps 145; Jer 32:16-20; Lk 1:46-55, 68-75; Rom 11:33-36; 3 Ps 71:8, 16, 92:1-2, 100:3-4, 115:1; Mt 5:16; Eph 1:16-17
Scripture: “But even if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear:” 1 Peter 3:14–15
Comment: Increasingly knowing God via the ministry of the word made effectual in us by His free, sovereign Spirit as He uses faithful, ordinary human means (ordained pastors and others) in transforming weekly worship and teaching and in the personal daily disciplines of grace, we come to know, love, trust, and reverence God as He is. In a healthy Christian life, true reverence for God is increasingly manifest in every aspect of our lives (our thoughts, desires, actions, attitudes, words). This genuine, growing reverence is basic to the Christian life, the central way in which our lives shine forth the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, attacking and conquering the spiritual darkness (unbelief, rebellion, confusion, ignorance, and / or evil words or actions) within us and without, spiritual darkness that is a major part of the milieu in which we currently live, struggle, and yearn to leave behind forever. Loving reverence toward God is an inescapable duty of all people, even though sadly many do not now or never will comply. It is also the remarkable privilege of the redeemed in coming to know, love, trust, and obey the God that is, a basic, central quality in our lives to be highly desired, sought, and prayed for. There is no more important thing for us than that God’s Name (His being, character, works) be fully, perfectly hallowed (held as holy, reverenced, undefiled, set apart) in our lives. In a coming, glorious day the hallowing of His Name in our lives will be a perfect, perfected reality. That is something to look forward to!
Prayer and Piety: Our great, good, and glorious loving Father in heaven, may Your Name be increasingly hallowed in our lives until at last perfected in us in Your holy Presence. We know, believe, and confess that this is being done in us out of Your great goodness and love, undeservedly by Your mercy and grace alone, through the divine gifting of genuine faith alone, in Christ our atoning Mediator alone, as taught us by the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture alone, all of which is to the endless glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alone. Amen
Application and / or Resource(s): Let us reverently exercise our souls as we pray in child-like, trusting faith to God our Father for godly reverence.
Lord’s Day 48: His Kingdom begun in and among us, the ultimate fulfillment of our hope
123. What is the second petition?
“Thy kingdom come;” that is, so govern us by Your Word and Spirit, that we submit ourselves to You always more and more;1 preserve and increase Your Church;2 destroy the works of the devil, every power that exalts itself against You, and all wicked devices formed against Your Holy Word,3 until the fullness of Your kingdom come,4 wherein You shall be all in all.5
1 Ps 119:5, 105, 143:10; Mt 6:33; 2 Ps 51:18, 122:6-7; Mt 16:18; Acts 2:42-47; 3 Rom 16:20; 1 Jn 3:8; 4 Rom 8:22-23; Rev 22:17, 20; 5 Ps 102:12-13; 1 Cor 15:24, 28; Heb 12:28; Rev 11:15
Scripture: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Romans 8:22–23
Comment: The spiritual kingdom (rule) of God is now present in and among us (corporately and individually as believing sinners) as the Spirit freely, sovereignly, graciously, and in mercy applies convicting, regenerating truth, saving faith, sanctification, and everlasting life through Word and Sacrament in the ordinary, weekly means of grace and the daily disciplines of grace, just as He has in various forms throughout redemptive history. His kingdom continues to flourish and grow from ‘tiny’ beginnings starting all the way back with the first, directly created couple, on through Abel, Seth, Noah, the call of and covenantal promises to Abraham and his Seed, through Moses and the later prophets, kings, priests, and judges as redemptive history funneled down into and became intensely, wholly concentrated in the life and ministry of Jesus, the faithful Prophet, Priest, and King. Out of His incarnation, death, resurrection, and triumphant ascension as He has been given all power and authority at God’s right hand, the kingdom has been broadening out and spreading to all the peoples and nations of the world as the Spirit sovereignly, actively, mysteriously applies the saving power of the Gospel to all whom God has foreknown in love and irresistibly draws to Himself. The kingdom of God is present imperfectly in and among us in this present, evil age, to be fully revealed on Christ’s jaw dropping return in irresistible power and stunning glory.
“A kingdom in general is a form of civil government in which some one person possesses the chief power and authority, who, being possessed of greater and more excellent gifts and virtues than others, rules over all according to just, wholesome and certain laws by defending the good and punishing the wicked. The kingdom of God is that in which God alone rules and exercises dominion over all creatures; but especially does he govern and preserve the church. This kingdom is universal. The special kingdom of God—that which he exercises in his church consists in sending the Son from the Father, from the very beginning of the world, that he might institute and preserve the ministry of the church, and accomplish his purposes by it—that he might gather a church from the whole human race by his word and Spirit—rule, preserve and defend it against all enemies—raise it from death, and at length, having cast all enemies into everlasting condemnation, adorn it with heavenly glory, that God may be all in all, and be praised eternally by the church.” Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 632-33
Prayer and Piety: Our glorious, loving Father in heaven, may Your kingdom advance in our lives and in Your church, in our nation and among the nations of the world. We know, believe, and confess that this is being done out of Your great wisdom, goodness, and love, undeservedly by Your mercy and grace alone, through the divine gifting of genuine faith alone, in Christ our atoning Mediator alone, as taught us by the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture alone, all of which is to the endless glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit alone. Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Application and / or Resource(s): Let us reverently exercise our souls as we pray in child-like, trusting faith to God our Father for the kingly rule of His Christ to be ever more established in us and among all nations of the world and in the permanent defeat and destruction of all things opposed to His being and rule.
Lord’s Day 49: The Will of God in Heaven and on Earth
124. What is the third petition?
“Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven;” that is, grant that we and all men renounce our own will,1 and without gainsaying obey Your will, which alone is good;2 so that every one may fulfill his office and calling as willingly and faithfully 3 as the angels do in heaven.4
1 Mt 16:24; 2 Mt 7:21, 16:24-26; Lk 22:42; Rom 12:1-2; Tit 2:11-12; 3 1 Cor 7:17-24; Eph 6:5-9; 4 Ps 103:20-21; Rom 12:2; Heb 13:21
Scripture: “saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42
Comment: What is the one part of creation where God’s will is now being fully, perfectly fulfilled? We know that is in heaven alone (for now) where God in His glory (as He actually is) reveals Himself ever more fully, powerfully to His holy creatures in His infinite, unchanging, holy, majestic being. In heaven He, in both a direct and mediated fashion, is increasingly is known, loved, adored, and worshiped in profound reverence and awe by the Church Triumphant (all redeemed humans of all times and places who now are in heaven), all the elect (vs. fallen) angels, and all other reflectively majestic, holy, created beings in glorious, ever growing, gratitude, reverence, awe, and rapturous, loving adoration. For human souls now in heaven there is no longer any need for penitence (but faith and hope remain as an essential part of our existence?) since Christ Himself heals each one of us of the whole range and impact of the effects of sin within and sin without that we inescapably experience in this life. As those (uniquely?) in heaven bearing the scars of sin from within (original and actual) and from without (demonic attacks, persecutions, martyrdom, etc.), the Church Triumphant has a unique perspective on the greatness and goodness of God that profoundly impacts their appreciation, adoration, and joyous relief in heaven. But God has promised to banish every tear that flows out of the deepest parts of our beings from all the pain, regret, and ravages of lives lived in this present, evil, dysfunctional age. The diversity and variety of worship in heaven by holy, created beings focuses solely, purely on the triune God, arising, at least in part, from the vast variety of providentially directed experiences of suffering, joy, boredom, vocations, weariness, rest, sacrifice, discipline(s), etc., of redeemed people from all situations, eras, etc. These are those whose right standing and acceptance before the Father is eternally mediated by the Son by virtue of His perfect, complete, one-time sacrifice of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension on our behalf, to His eternal glory. Joining in and mixing with that is the ongoing worship of elect angels and other majestic, created beings, adding wholly different flavors, feelings, and power to the true worship / service of God alone.
Heaven on earth will only come when Christ returns, setting up His kingdom on a perfected earth as all the redeemed live in newly glorified bodies and holy souls and in wholly obedient, joyful, loving submission to God’s perfect Being and will, the whole of creation also divinely renewed and all offensive things forever banished. For now, for us, the redeemed, invisible Church Militant on earth, we live and struggle in the sub-optimal reality of this existence, daily descending into the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death. But this is also where God spreads a weekly feast for us in Word and Sacrament in full view of our spiritual enemies. Here we sin, are sinned against, and suffer the general effects of sin in and on creation. In this probationary, testing, refining period we increasingly learn to worship God and serve our neighbor in fulfilling our divine callings and offices as faithfully, joyfully, and well “as do the (elect) angels in heaven” knowing however that only One has ever perfectly done the will of God on earth as it is in heaven, doing that for us and in our place for our salvation and to His eternal glory.
So God’s will encompasses every aspect of our beings and all of creation, demanding perfect conformity to His being and grateful submission to His will. He / His will cannot be manipulated, diverted, slowed, or stopped by any being or power. Those who foolishly or willfully try to do so, whether human, spirit, or otherwise are like an ant defiantly trying to slow, stop, or divert a 150 ton steam-roller by standing in front of it, receiving a similar result if that stance is not soon abandoned in divine mercy and grace.
Prayer and Piety: Our Father in heaven, will you teach us, your people, to be ever more perfect in knowing, desiring, and doing your will on earth as we someday will do perfectly in heaven? We ask this in Christ and because of Him alone, Amen.
Application and / or Resource(s): May the will of God be ever more fully known and done in our lives individually, in our marriages, parenting, relationships to each other, the catholic church, and those in various other roles of authority.
Lord’s Day 50: Out of His Greatness and Goodness, God’s Disguised, ‘Ordinary’ Daily Care
125. What is the fourth petition?
“Give us this day our daily bread;” that is, be pleased to provide for all our bodily need,1 so that we may thereby acknowledge that You are the only fountain of all good,2 and that without Your blessing neither our care and labor, nor Your gifts, can profit us;3 that we may therefore withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it alone in You.4
1 Ps 104:27-30, 145:15-16; Mt 6:25-34; 2 Acts 14:17, 17:25-28; Jas 1:17; 3 Deut 8:3; Ps 37:3-7, 16-17, 127:1-2; 1 Cor 15:58; 4 Ps 55:22, Ps 62, Ps 146; Jer 17:1-8; Heb 13:5-6
Scripture: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 145:15–16
Comment: In all things, God is great and God is good. He is those things in Himself and in all things that flow from His Being – His great and good (although currently dysfunctional) creation and His merciful, gracious, wholly undeserved, infallible provision of salvation for every one of those He has freely chosen in love. And that also includes all truly good, healthful things for both body and soul, freshly needful for each distinct day. He alone is the ultimate source of goodness toward and for us as He, in divine providence, provides and works for our good, normally through ‘ordinary’ means as mediated, delivered, or manifest through the natural world and the lives, actions, skills, and vocations of ourselves and others. God provides specially for believers (His adopted children being heirs of all things with Christ and as full-fledged members of a new, redeemed humanity headed for and into glory) in this life and the one to come and in common grace for all. God is both fully able and most delighted to provide these things abundantly for us because of Christ and in His wisdom and love. As His children, we increasingly learn to be trusting and believing in Him concerning our petitions to Him for all things truly needful, helpful, appropriate, and good – for ourselves and others, to His glory alone.
“Christ commands us to pray for our bread and not for … any other man’s, 1. That we may desire those things which are given to us of God; for the bread which God gives us as necessary for the support of life is, and is made ours when it is given unto us. This petition, therefore, Give us our bread, signifies, Give us, O God, the bread allotted to us, and which thou dost design shall be ours. God, as a householder, distributes to every one his own portion, or that which we … (require from) his hands. 2. That we may desire things necessary, acquired by lawful labor in some honest and proper calling, pleasing to God and profitable to society at large, or that we may receive what we ask at the hands of God by ordinary means and lawful ways, the hand of God reaching them to us from heaven. “This we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” “Let him that stole, steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good.” (2 Thes. 3:10. Eph. 4:28.) 3. That we may use them with a good conscience and with thanksgiving. For God desires that we should take unto ourselves the assurance that when he gives us these things he also grants unto us the privilege of enjoying his gifts. God desires that we should use his gifts, not as thieves and robbers, but cheerfully and with thanksgiving.” Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 644-45.
Prayer and Piety: Our Father in heaven, thank you for your provision of all things truly needful for body and soul in this life and in the one to come. Thank you for your good provisions for our bodies: for life, breath, health, nourishment, strength, shelter, clothing, security, stability, order, justice, peace. And for our souls in knowledge of You, for beauty, truth, family, friends, and helpers / providers of every sort. As those accepted by You in mercy and grace in Christ we pray, Amen.
Application and / or Resource(s): In faith, we can learn to see beyond the immediate means of provision for our lives each day, being grateful for those things but more so grateful to their Provider, seeing by faith the Source from which all good things flow and learning to be humbly, gratefully content with His wise and loving provision, whatever that may be.
Lord’s Day 51: Humanly Forgiving As We Have Been Divinely Forgiven
126. What is the fifth petition?
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;” that is, be pleased, for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us miserable sinners our manifold transgressions, nor the evil which always cleaves to us;1 as we also find this witness of Your grace in us, that it is our full purpose heartily to forgive our neighbor.2
1 Ps 51:1-7, 143:2; Rom 8:1; 1 Jn 2:1-2; 2 Ps 51:5-7; Mt 6:14-15, 18:21-35; Eph 1:7
Scripture: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:1–7
Comment: To forgive is to inwardly, genuinely, permanently, and without the tiniest mental reservation release a debt, real or imagined, never to revive it again. This is central to what God has done for us in Christ. To be like God, we must learn to truly forgive in a similar manner as a finite human reflection of that divine forgiveness, requiring divine grace to do so. Being born sinners, in this life we also act each day according to our sinful nature, adding daily to our objective guilt and so owing God an ever increasing debt for those disharmonious, ugly affronts and violations of His perfect Being. Even the “tiniest” sin would be a debt beyond any possibility of repayment, humanly speaking. And without full payment of that debt, there is no possibility of right standing before His infinite, perfect, majestic Being. But, as those genuinely gifted with penitent faith in Christ, we know that we stand permanently forgiven, absolved of all guilt and its horrific, eternal penalty. That comes to us, not on the basis of any personal virtue(s), act(s), thought(s), or behavior(s), but solely on the basis of the substitutionary, sacrificial life and death of Christ on our behalf and not for any other reason.
“Cyprian correctly and piously observes, respecting the order and argument of this fifth petition, that we pray for the pardon and forgiveness of our sins, after praying for a supply of food, that he who is fed by God, may live in God; nor do we merely have regard for this present, temporal life, but also for that which is eternal, to which all those attain whose sins are pardoned. This same Father likewise observes, that this petition is a remarkable and free confession of the church, in which she acknowledges and deplores her sins, and is at the same time a comfort that the church shall receive the forgiveness of sins according to the promise of Christ; and also binds us to extend forgiveness to our neighbor. Christ, therefore, by this petition wills, 1. That we acknowledge our sins. 2. That we thirst and long after the forgiveness of sins, inasmuch as this is granted to none but such as desire it, and who do not trample under foot the blood of the Son of God. 3. That our faith may be exercised, seeing that this petition springs from faith, and also confirms faith. For faith is the cause of prayer, and prayer is the cause of faith as it respects the increase thereof.” Z. Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, pp. 648-49
Prayer and Piety: Father, by the power of Your Spirit working through your Word, help us to know and experience the beauty, power, joy, release, and peace of your divine forgiveness for us in Christ as we extend our human forgiveness to all our offenders, to the eternal glory of Your Name. As those in Christ we pray. Amen.
Application and / or Resource(s): If God forgave us only to the extent we truly forgive others for their real or imagined infractions against us, what would our standing be before God – partially forgiven / guilty (unforgiven) or fully exonerated of all guilt?
Lord’s Day 52: The Battle Rages, the Testings Come, the Victory Assured
127. What is the sixth petition?
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil;” that is, since we are so weak in ourselves that we cannot stand a moment,1 and besides, our deadly enemies, the devil,2 the world,3 and our own flesh,4 assail us without ceasing, be pleased to preserve and strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit, that we may make firm stand against them and not be overcome in this spiritual warfare,5 until finally complete victory is ours.6
1 Ps 103:14-16; Jn 15:1-5; 2 2 Cor 11:14; Eph 6:10-13; 1 Pt 5:8-9; 3 Jn 15:18-21; 4 Rom 7:23; Gal 5:17; 5 Mt 10:19-20, 26:41; Mk 13:33; Rom 5:3-5; 6 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Cor 12:7; 1 Thes 3:13, 5:23-24
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:8–9
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” John 15:18–21
“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” Galatians 5:17
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Comment: As Christians, we are often only dimly aware regarding the deadly enemies within and without and the unrelenting battlefield that is this life, not really grasping how powerful, skillful, destructive, and malicious our varied foes are. There are spiritual foes, highly skilled, perverse theologians, spiritual thugs who plot and act against us with undiluted malevolence solely aimed at wreaking havoc on our life, growth, productivity, and blessings, especially our love for God, fellow Christians, family, and neighbors. In turn, these beings skillfully formulate lies and distortions in ours and others’ thinking, stirring up individuals, groups, and the wider culture to reject, attack, and hate us as truth tellers and truth livers, regardless of how benign and loving we might be (see the life of Jesus). We pray for the conversion and solid establishment in the faith of many misguided human actors. On top of all that, we have to deal with the death throes of our own sinful, twisted impulses and desires, our own confusions, gaps in knowledge and understanding, doubts, and unbeliefs. The milieu in which we live each day is not at all benign but powerfully geared toward our destruction. It’s best that we realize that, in our own power and resources, we don’t stand a chance. Therefore we pray to and rely on God for the powerful help that only He can provide to guide us safely, productively, joyously home. Finally, the temptations toward sin of our flesh, the world, and the devil can be used at the same time as refining, strengthening testing allowed by God in addition to any direct test from Him.
God has promised to deliver us from all evil, its guilt and punishment, including the impacts of all evil within and without, whatever the source, influence, skill, or power. In doing that He cannot and will not fail. But we often have not in this life because we do not ask of Him in believing faith.
128. How do you close this prayer?
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever;” that is, all this we ask of You, because as our King, having power over all things, You are willing and able to give us all good;1 and that thereby not we, but Your holy name may be glorified for ever.2
1 Rom 10:11-13; 2 Pt 2:9; 2 Ps 115:1; Jer 33:8-9; Jn 14:13
Scripture: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” Psalm 115:1
Comment: It is His kingdom, His power, and His glory alone, not ours. He is the sovereign Lord of all history and all creation, great, good, and majestic in holiness, graciously, infallibly guiding all things to their glorious conclusion, including our everlasting, wholly undeserved, greatly welcomed salvation.
129. What is the meaning of the word “Amen?”
“Amen” means: so shall it truly and surely be. For my prayer is much more certainly heard of God than I feel in my heart that I desire these things of Him.1
1 Ps 145:18-19; Isa 65:24; 2 Cor 1:20; 2 Tim 2:13
Scripture: “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” Psalm 145:18–19
Comment: Regardless of any feeling, doubt, dullness, or unbelief, any prayer said with the tiniest amount of faith in the One to Whom we are praying is received by Him, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth and answered in His wisdom, not ours. We can be fully, confidently assured of that.
Prayer and Piety: Thank you Father, for your Spirit, Word, and your gifts of historic and current Pastors and Teachers to us. Bless us and bless your church to your eternal glory. As those in Christ we pray. Amen
Application and / or Resource(s): Let us learn to pray this disciples’ prayer each day with increasing understanding and growing faith in the One to Whom we are praying.