Did Ursinus Teach Final Salvation Through Works?

Zacharias Ursinus (1534–83) was the principal author of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). He was responsible for perhaps as much as 70% of the catechism, though the two source documents that he created, from which much of the catechism was formed, drew from many sources (including Luther), so the source criticism of the catechism is challenging. For more on the background of the catechism see Lyle Bierma et al ed., An Introduction to the Heidelberg Catechism: Sources, History, and Theology (2005) and J. I. Good, Good, The Heidelberg Catechism in Its Newest Light ( Philadelphia, PA: Publication and Sunday School Board of the Reformed Church in the United States, 1914).

Ursinus was from Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) and studied in Wittenberg with the great Protestant scholar Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) for several years before finally siding with the Reformed just after Melanchthon’s death. Frederick III (1515–76), the elector Palatinate, called him to teach theology in the University in Heidelberg and in the seminary, the Collegium Sapientiae (the College of Wisdom). So, Ursinus had deep roots in the Protestant Reformation. Melanchthon had been involved in controversies over how to relate good works to salvation. There had been those (e.g., John Major in the early 1550s) who had tried out formulae to the effect that the believer enters salvation by grace but retains it by good works. Melanchthon, who had battled the Antinomians (e.g., Johannes Agricola) decades earlier in the 1520s, had toyed with such language but ultimately rejected it. He had no interest in corrupting the doctrine of justification and sanctification (salvation) by sola gratia, sola fide. The question of the relation between good works was, then, “in the air,” when Ursinus reached Heidelberg.

Ursinus’ Catechisms Before The Heidelberg
In his larger catechism (Q. 46), also known as the Summa Theologiae, which he wrote in preparation for drafting the official catechism of the Palatinate (Heidelberg), he taught salvation as the product of grace alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide):

46 Q What does it mean to believe in God?

A It means to be firmly convinced that this one true God who has revealed himself in the church is Lord of all creatures so that with the highest right he is able to do with them whatever he wishes, and yet he so desires our good that we ought to expect from him everything that pertains to our salvation.

Of course one sees here the lineaments of what will become Heidelberg 21. Note that the question pertains to faith and that the instrument of salvation is not good works but faith. One sees the same doctrine in his Catechismus Minor (from the same period) Q. 17. He repeated this doctrine in Summa Q. 49 in the very same terms. Salvation is through faith alone. Under Christology (e.g., Summa 45), in both catechisms, he taught that Christ is the Savior, that Christ accomplished our salvation for us. Nowhere are we said to be co-Saviors, cooperating sufficiently with grace unto salvation. Of course, Ursinus knew nothing and taught nothing of a two-stage salvation wherein we are said to be initially justified sola gratia, sola fide but only finally saved through faith and works. In his Minor Q. 51, (as in Heidelberg 64) free salvation does not make the believer careless about sanctification and good works.

A No. Rather, it kindles in me an even stronger desire to continue and advance in piety, since, without true conversion to God, I cannot take comfort in the confidence of my election. And the more certain I am of my salvation, the more I want to show God that I am thankful.

In Q. 90, obeying the fifth commandment (to honor parents and superior authorities) is said to “serve our salvation.” Q. 195 in the Summa echoes this doctrine. In Q 219 he addressed the problem of assurance.

Q But since no one is saved except those whom God from eternity has chosen for salvation, how can you be convinced that the promise of grace belongs to you when you don’t know whether you are elect?

A Because by true faith I accept the grace of God offered to me, and by that most certain proof I know that I have been chosen and will always be kept by God for eternal life. For if he had not chosen me from eternity, he would never have given me the Spirit of adoption.

We note two things: the absence of any mention of good works and his immediate turn to the unique function of faith. “By true faith” (language later to be adopted repeatedly in the Heidelberg) “I accept the grace of God offered…”.

In Summa 233 and in Minor 98 prayer, like good works, is said to “serve” our salvation but it is not made an instrument. In Summa 264 the ministry of the church is said to work toward the “perfecting” of our salvation. Clearly here, Ursinus was thinking of our progressive sanctification graciously wrought and aided by the due use of the ordained means of grace.

In Summa 267 he explained the relationship between the ministry of the church and the sanctification of the Christian. Notice the instrument of salvation.

267 Q Isn’t the Holy Spirit’s honor taken awaywhen sanctification is attributed to the ministry?

A No, it is not. For the strength and power by which we are sanctified is all from the divine Spirit; the ministry is simply his instrument. By it he moves the hearts and souls of the elect whenever and however he sees fit; not because he could not do otherwise, but because it pleased divine wisdom, through the foolish preaching of the cross, to save those who believe.

God the Spirit uses means and instruments. The ministry of Word and sacrament is a divinely instituted instrument of sanctification. Notice, however, what is the instrument of salvation: faith. God saves believers. Had Ursinus intended to teach salvation through faith and works, he should have written, “to save those who believe and obey” but he did not because, for Ursinus, faith was the alone instrument of salvation.

In Summa 269 he gave his students a diagnostic test to determine whether the ministers were preaching God’s Word faithfully:

269 Q And how can we be sure that the Word of God is being proclaimed by ministers?

A If they proclaim the teaching written in the books of the Old and New Testaments, and if what they say conforms to the articles of faith and the commands of God; in short, if they teach us to seek our complete salvation
in Christ alone.

Again, Ursinus wrote nothing about the instrumental role of good works. Studying God’s Word privately, he wrote, is “necessary for your salvation” (Q. 270). The force of this language, however, does not seem to be instrumental. It was analogous to that in 281 where he wrote about the use of the sacraments in the Christian life:

A Those who do not make use of the sacraments, when it is possible, show that they have no faith
and exclude themselves from the communion of saints and God’s covenant. Nevertheless the promise made to believers is valid for those deprived of the sacraments against their will.

Those who refuse the sacraments “show” that they do not believe. Here he was thinking of fruit and evidence and not of instruments (see also Minor Q. 55). This is the same language he used in Summa 123 where he wrote that being a member in the visible church is “necessary for all who will be saved.” Membership is not instrumental but it is necessary. Unlike some in the contemporary debates, Ursinus regularly distinguished between is, with, and through.

In Minor 19 he made it clear that not only is Christ the only Savior but it is those who believe who are saved:

19 Q Why do you call him “Jesus” meaning

A Because I am firmly persuaded that he alone by his merit and power is the author of perfect and eternal salvation for me and all who believe in him.

Had Ursinus wanted us to think that good works were co-instrumental in our salvation it is odd that he missed his opportunity to say so here. So too in Summa 135 where Jesus was said to be the Savior only of believers. Faith is always and only the instrument of salvation. In this connection Minor 52 speaks only of the instrumentality of faith in salvation.

Rather, consistently good works were said to be the result of salvation as in Summa 160:

160 Q Why does he call himself our God who brought Israel out of Egypt?

A First, so that we may be reminded that this alone is the true God who revealed himself from the beginning in the church by his sure Word and clear divine testimonies. Second, so that, considering that we are saved and set free from all evil by him, we may realize that we owe him thanks and obedience.

God is the Savior and believers are the saved. We respond with good works out of heartfelt gratitude. He taught this explicitly in Summa 214:

214 Q Since we are not made right with God by this obedience, why does he require it?

A First, so that we might give our thanks to him who has freely justified and saved us. Second, so that even in our reconciliation it will still be clear that God is an enemy of sin, since he receives in grace only those who repent.

For Ursinus, in his catechisms, salvation is a free gift, offered graciously and received through the sole instrument of faith. Works are the said to be the by product of true faith, to act as evidence of salvation given and received but there are nowhere said to function as co-instruments with faith nor is salvation ever structured in two stages, initial and final.

On Heidelberg Catechism 91
Above we considered the two catechisms Ursinus wrote in preparation for the drafting of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563). We saw that, though he taught both the necessity and even inevitability of good works issuing from new life and true faith as fruit and evidence of salvation, he did not distinguish two stages of salvation (initial and final) nor did he teach that good works are the instrument of final salvation. He certainly taught nothing about an “initial justification” sola gratia, sola fide and continuing or maintaining justification through good works.

Nevertheless, Ursinus’ career did not end in 1562. After the publication of the Heidelberg Catechism he was assigned by the Elector Palatinate, Frederick III, with explaining and defending the catechism in a series of lectures. They were later published as the Body of Orthodox Doctrine or Explication of the Catechism. He addressed the question of good works at length in his lectures on Heidelberg 91, which is in the beginning of the third part of the catechism. Remember, the catechism is in three parts: Guilt (law), Grace (Gospel), and Sanctification or Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. The Heidelberg is a Protestant catechism, i.e., it distinguishes law and gospel and teaches justification and sanctification (salvation) sola gratia, sola fide. For Ursinus, becoming Reformed did not entail abandoning all he had learned from Melanchthon even if it did mean putting it in a somewhat different framework, namely the framework of the covenant of works made with Adam before the fall, in which Adam was under the law for glorification and the covenant of grace made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David after the fall in which believers are declared righteous and saved only on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed and received through faith alone.

According to the catechism, the first use of the law is to convict us of our sins and the gospel declares our righteousness and salvation from sin and wrath sola gratia, sola fide. Believers do good works out of thankfulness, in union with Christ, in communion with the saints.What are good works (bona opera)? Good works are such as are performed according to the law of God, such as proceed from a true faith, and are directed to the glory of God.”1

Ursinus was an Augustinian. He was a Calvinist. He accepted Augustine’s and Calvin’s reading of Romans 7 (as distinct from that of Pelagius, who knew that Paul could not have been describing a believer). He was realistic about the effects of the fall and the corruption of sin even in those who are in a state of grace (favor with God) for Christ’s sake alone:

The works of the saints are not perfectly good or pure in this life:

1. Because even those who are regenerated do many things which are evil, which are sins in themselves, on account of which they are guilty in the sight of God, and deserve to be cast into everlasting punishment. Thus, Peter denied Christ thrice; David committed adultery, slew Uriah, attempted to conceal his wickedness, numbered the children of Israel, &c. The law now declares, “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Deut. 27:26.).

2. Because they omit doing many good things which they ought to do according to the law.

3. Because the good works which they perform are not so perfectly good and pure as the law requires; for they are always marred with defects, and polluted with sins. The perfect righteousness which the law requires is wanting, even in the best works of the saints. The reason of this is easily understood, inasmuch as faith, regeneration, and the love of God and our neighbor, from which good works proceed, continue imperfect in us in this life. As the cause is, therefore, imperfect, it is impossible that the effects which flow from this cause should be perfect. “I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23.) This is the reason why the works of the godly cannot stand in the judgment of God. “Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them.” (Ps. 143:2. Deut. 27:26.) Inasmuch, therefore, as all our works are imperfect, it becomes us to acknowledge and lament our sinfulness and infirmity, and press forward so much the more towards perfection.

From what has now been said, it is evident that the figment, or conceit of the Monks in reference to works of supererogation—by which they understand such works as are done over and above what God and the law require from them, is full of impiety; for it makes God a debtor to man. Yea, it is a blasphemous doctrine; for Christ himself has said: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; for we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10.)2

Our good works are, in themselves, so defiled by sin, that they are acceptable to God only because he has imputed to them Christ’s righteousness. To understand Ursinus on this point it is essential to grasp his Augustinian realism about sin. Ursinus was not a Methodist nor a Perfectionist of any sort. He wrote, “Yet they are, nevertheless, acceptable to God in Christ the Mediator, through faith, or on account of the merit and satisfaction of Christ imputed unto us by faith, and on account of his intercession with the Father in our behalf.”3 It was only by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness that Abel’s works were accepted as righteous.4

As he turned to the necessity of good works he re-stated his exposition of Heidelberg 86 in two points. Good works are necessary first as “the proof of our faith and election” and second as “a good example by which others are won to Christ.”5 Since it is being claimed that Ursinus taught that good works are the instrument or part of the instrument of final salvation (as if he taught a two-stage salvation) let us observe that here, where he might have articulated such a view, he remained classically Protestant. In his elaboration Ursinus distinguished between the ways good works are owed to God, the ways we owe them to ourselves, third, the ways we owe them to our neighbors. Under the first heading he gave three reasons why good works are necessary:

  1. “In order that the glory of our heavenly Father might be illustrated or on account of the glory of God.”6
  2. “That we may present to God the obedience owed.”7
  3. “That we might be thankful to God or on account of the gratitude we owe to God.”8

Under the second heading, he discussed how our good works testify to our faith and contribute to our assurance. Ursinus taught the practical syllogism:

  1. believers do good works.
  2. By God’s grace I do good works out of gratitude
  3. Therefore I am a believer

Our good works are not the foundation (basis) of our standing with God nor the basis for our assurance. The gospel and the promises of Christ are the basis for our assurance but good works do help. As Belgic Confession (1561) art. 24, Ursinus appealed to the analogy of trees and fruit. How does one know that a tree is alive? It produces fruit. The fruit does not make the tree good but it gives proof that the tree is alive, that it is good. This is why faith is not “formed” (Rome) by good works but it is evidenced by it yet those good works never become the ground or instrument of our standing before God.9

He also appealed to what Calvin called the “twofold grace of God (duplex gratia Dei) and what his colleague Caspar Olevianus called the “double benefit of Christ” (duplex beneficium), namely that we have from God’s gracious hand both justification and sanctification. Good works give evidence that we have received this double benefit and thereby contributes to our assurance that we really are elect. Good works also exercise (exerceatur) our faith.10 When we do good works we “adorn” (ornemus) and “commend” (cohonestumus) our profession of faith. He quoted Ephesians 4:1.11 In passing (number 6 under this heading) he mentioned in passing, “that we might avoid temporal and eternal penalties.”12 As proof he quoted Matthew 7:19, ” Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” The seventh reason we ought to do them for ourselves is that rewards graciously given might follow (consequamur; here the Willard translation creates a misleading impression) good works in this life and the life to come. He quoted 1 Timothy 4:8, godliness is profitable for this life and the life to come. “For unless God willed the hope of rewards and the fear of penalties to be impulsive causes of good works, he would not make use of these arguments in his promises and judgments.”12 A correspondent wrote recently to ask if, under this heading, Ursinus had put the believer back under the covenant of works. I think not. First, Ursinus was writing under the broader heading of the covenant of grace, not the covenant of works. Second, His use of Matthew 7 here links this passage to the earlier line of argument from fruit and evidence. Third, Ursinus assumed that reasonable people, enlightened by new life (regeneration) would fear God. Fourth, we do turn to God to be saved from the wrath to come. Fifth, there is such a thing as a holy, filial fear of God (Heb and of the consequences of sin. Such reverence is one of the reasons why believers do good works. It is an expression of our gratitude. As we interpret this passage we may not read it without remember all that he has already said about the role and function of good works.

These last two points are no more than the teaching of Hebrews 12:7–11:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (ESV).

Perhaps our cultural setting and the influence of broad evangelical antinomianism makes it more difficult to appreciate this sort of teaching but it is biblical. Being disciplined by our heavenly Father does not mean that we are being put back under the covenant of works for our standing with God or that we are “in by grace” and “stay in by works.” It is believers that God chastises and corrects and believers ought to have a healthy respect for almighty God even as they love and adore him for saving them graciously from wrath and judgment.

Finally, under this head, he turned to how they relate to one’s neighbor.13 This section is brief. We do them in order to benefit our neighbor and to edify him. He quoted 2 Cor 4:15 and Philippians 1:24. We do do them so “that through us scandals might be avoided.” He quoted Matthew 18:7 and Romans 2:2414 The third reason (relative to our neighbor) that we do good works is that we might gain (lucrifaciamus) unbelievers (infideles) for Christ.15 He quoted Luke 22:32.

Here began to address directly the question whether (utrum) good works (bona opera) are neessary (necessaria) unto salvation (ad salutem) or whether they are “pernicious” (perniciosa) to the same.16 As mentioned in the first part of this essay, Ursinus was well aware of the controversies Melanchthon and the Protestants had experienced in the 1530s, 40s, and 50s over how to relate justification to sanctification and sanctification to good works and salvation. The view that they are “necessary” to salvation was proposed by John Major and the view that they are “pernicious” or injurious by Nicholas von Amsdorf. He criticized both ways of speaking as “ambiguous and scandalous,” i.e., vague and liable to give offense. He was particularly unhappy with von Amsdorf’s expression since it tends to diminish (damnare) trust (fiduciam) but also zeal for good works.17 Major’s thesis can be retained if it is understood properly. The marginal note in the 1616 edition says, “the degree to which good works are necessary.”18

They are necessary unto salvation not as cause to effect or as merit to reward but as part of salvation itself, as antecedent to consequent or as means to an end.19

Later Reformed theologians would describe good works as “constituitive” of salvation. This is what I call the “is” of good works. We are not saved because of good works. They never become the ground of salvation. We may be confident that “medium” does not mean “instrument” since he was elaborating on the expression “pars ipsius salutis.” This is the equivalent of the Westminster Divines saying “having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life” (WCF 16.2). Good works are the fruit of the “saving graces” (WCF 11.2). He continued to explain the relationship of good works to salvation by analogy with justification. Good works are necessary to salvation as they are necessary “unto righteousness” (ad iustitiam) or “unto justification” (ad iustificationem) or “in those being justified” (in iustificandis), i.e., as a consequence of justification (quam consequens iustificationis) since sanctification (regeneratio) is inseparably conjoined with justification.20 This was Calvin’s doctrine of the duplex gratia Dei (twofold grace of God) or Olevianus’ duplex beneficium. Justification gives rise to progressive sanctification and sanctification produces good works as fruit and evidence of salvation.21

At the top of the next page, however, he hastened to add “but I do not use this form of speaking” because it is ambiguous (which had already said) and because “it gives birth to contentions and give our adversaries opportunity for quibbling. 22 He also did not speak thus because this way of speaking is not found in Scripture. It is prudent (tutius) to say “good works are necessary in those being justified (iustificandis) and in those being saved” (salvandis). 23 Ursinus was unwilling to say things about salvation (the broader concept) that he could not say about justification (the narrower concept). It is “ambiguous” (ambigue) to talk about the necessity of good works in justification since such a way of speaking may be understood to make good works prior or antecedent to justification (ante iustificationem), which way of speaking would overturn the material cause of the Reformation. He was unequivocally and irrevocably committed to justification sola gratia, sola fide. Neither was he willing to say that good works are a “cause of justification” (causa iustificationis).24 Rather, he wanted to follow Augustine: Good works do not precede (praecedunt) being justified but they follow the justified.25

From there he responded to the objection that good works are so essential to salvation that it is not possible to have salvation without them. In answer he reminded the reader of Heidelberg 87,

87. Can they then not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, impenitent life?

By no means, for, as the Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, he concluded, “good works are necessary to salvation” but he insisted on a distinction. They are, as he had already said and now repeats, “pars salutis (part of salvation). They are antecedent to salvation (antecedens salutem) but they do not merit salvation. They are necessary “in those being saved” (in salvandis) but they do not merit or cause salvation.


In the contemporary debate over salvation prompted by the thesis of a prominent evangelical leader that there are two stages in salvation, the initial being justification sola gratia, sola fide and the putative “final” stage through “that fruit [of justification] and that faith” or that we good works are for “maintaining” our justification it has been claimed that this two-stage soteriology with good works as the instrument of final salvation is nothing more than one finds frequently in the Reformed tradition. It has been claimed that Ursinus taught this very thing or something like it.

To examine this claim we have surveyed his two early catechisms, the Summa and the Minor (1561 and 1562) and his lectures on the Body of Orthodox Doctrine, which he gave for about two decades until his death in 1583. In none of these texts have seen even the slightest hint of a “two-stage” soteriology nor have found him teaching that good works are instrumental in our salvation. We have found him teaching that good works are constituitive of salvation, that they are found in the saved, that they are fruit and evidence of salvation, that they glorify God, that they assure the believer, and edify the neighbor. We even found him teaching that they help the believer to avoid temporal and eternal penalties (chastisements) but we have seen no indication that he thought or taught his students that good works are instrumental in salvation and certainly not co-instrumental with faith in salvation.


1. Zacharias Ursinus, The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, trans. G. W. Williard (Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company, 1888), 476. Corpus doctrinae orthodoxae (Heidelberg, 1616), 470.

2. Commentary, 481.

3. Ibid., 482.

4. Ibid., p. 482.

5. Ibid., p. 482–83.

6. Corpus doctrinae, 476. My translation.

7. Corpus, 477.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid., 478.

10. Ibid., 478.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Ursinus, Commentary, 484–85.

14. Corpus doctrinae, 478.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. “quod sint necessaria ad salutem, non tanquam causa ad effectum, vel tanquam tum ad mercedem, sed tanquam pars ipsius salutis, vel tanqam antecedens ad consequens, vel tanquam medium, fine ad finem.” (Ibid).


21. See Cornelis Venema, Accepted and Renewed in Christ and R. Scott Clark, Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant: The Double Benefit of Christ.

22. Ibid., 479.

23. Ibid.

24. Ibid.

25. Augustine, Ennaratio in Psalmum 110.3 (= English 111.3). Augustine of Hippo, “Expositions on the Book of Psalms,” in Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 8, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 545.

The Reasons Christians Do Good Works

Guilt, Grace, And Gratitude
The Heidelberg Catechism is in three parts: Law, Gospel, and Sanctification or Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. This is not an artificial interpretation of the Catechism nor is it an artificial arrangement of the Christian faith. Question 2 outlines the Catechism for us:

How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

Three things: the first, how great my sin and misery is; the second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery; the third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.

Notice that there are three things that one must know: sin and misery (guilt), how we are redeemed (grace), and how believers live in light of God’s grace (gratitude). Remarkably, even among Reformed Christians this outline is not as well known as it should be. I recall a discussion from more than a decade ago in which a person well familiar with the Reformed Churches professed that he had never heard this outline of the Catechism and suggested that it was some novelty. It is not a novelty. The principal author of the Catechism, Zacharias Ursinus (1534–83), who was authorized to comment on the Catechism in Heidelberg and who lectured on it explained:

There are others, again, who make the catechism consist of five different parts; the Decalogue, the Apostles’ Creed, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Prayer; of which, the Decalogue was delivered immediately by God himself, while the other parts were delivered mediately, either through the manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh, as is true of the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and the Eucharist, or through the ministry of the apostles, as is true of the Apostles’ Creed. But all these different parts may also be reduced to the two general heads noticed in the first division. The Decalogue contains the substance of the law, the Apostles’ Creed that of the gospel; the sacraments are parts of the gospel, and may, therefore, be embraced in it as far as they are seals of the grace which it promises, but as far as they are testimonies of our obedience to God, they have the nature of sacrifices and pertain to the law, whilst prayer, in like manner, may be referred to the law, being a part of the worship of God.
The catechism of which we shall speak in these lectures consists of three parts. The first treats of the misery of man, the second of his deliverance from this misery, and the third of gratitude, which division does not, in reality, differ from the above, because all the parts which are there specified are embraced in these three general heads. The Decalogue belongs to the first part, in as far as it is the mirror through which we are brought to see ourselves, and thus led to a knowledge of our sins and misery, and to the third part in as far as it is the rule of true thankfulness and of a Christian life. The Apostles’ Creed is embraced in the second part inasmuch as it unfolds the way of deliverance from sins. The sacraments, belonging to the doctrine of faith and being the seals that are attached thereto, belong in like manner to this second part of the catechism, which treats of deliverance from the misery of man. And prayer, being the chief part of spiritual worship and of thankfulness, may, with great propriety, be referred to the third general part.

Already, between 1563 and 1583 Ursinus was aware that there was discussion of the organization of the Catechism. It’s interesting that he did not “pull rank” as we say but he it also interesting that the did suggest there are different ways of analyzing the catechism. There is the superstructure and there are substructures within the catechism. A house has a basic frame within which there are rooms and hallways. So too, within the catechism. He argued that the five parts that some had seen we really only expressions of two great heads: law and gospel. That there is today such apparent resistance, within the Reformed world, to these basic categories, which Ursinus had inherited from Luther and Calvin, illustrates how far we have drifted from our roots. When he invoked these categories he was not being controversial. He just states them as a matter of fact, as accepted categories because they were universally accepted by the Reformed theologians and churches of the 16th and 17th centuries. Ursinus, Olevianus, Beza, and Calvin would not understand why some insist on saying that they are Lutheran distinctions since they themselves used them, advocated them, and taught them. In his Summa theologiae, written before the Heidelberg, Ursinus wrote:

Q.36 What distinguishes law and gospel?

A: The law contains a covenant of nature begun by God with men in creation, that is, it is a natural sign to men, and it requires of us perfect obedience toward God. It promises eternal life to those keeping it, and threatens eternal punishment to those not keeping it. In fact, the gospel contains a covenant of grace, that is, one known not at all under nature. This covenant declares to us fulfillment of its righteousness in Christ, which the law requires, and our restoration through Christ’s Spirit. To those who believe in him, it freely promises eternal life for Christ’s sake (Larger Catechism, Q. 36).

Not only did Ursinus clearly articulate the very same distinction between law as one principle (“do this and live”) and gospel as another (Christ has done) that he had learned from Philipp Melanchthon (1497&ndash1560), which Melanchthon had learned from Luther, and which Ursinus had heard in Geneva from Calvin and Beza but he did so in covenantal terms, which would become fundamental to Reformed theology. The great Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield would later call covenant theology “architectonic” to Reformed theology. Ursinus equated the law principle with the covenant of works (“the day you eat thereof”) and the gospel to the covenant of grace. Again, when he did this he did not intend to be controversial. He took these things as basic. The Westminster Divines adopted these categories and confessed them explicitly in the 1640s. There was some dissent, e.g., from the Arminians (Remonstrants) in the 17th century but it would only be in the 20th century that they would become highly controversial. From a historical perspective, however, these corollaries (the first use of the law = covenant of works and gospel = covenant of grace) were basic.

Calvin often spoke in terms of law and grace, instead of law and gospel, but he used the traditional terms also. Commenting on Romans 10:9, he wrote:

Do you see how he makes this the distinction between law and gospel: that the former attributes righteousness to works, the latter bestows free righteousness apart from the help of works? This is an important passage, and one that can extricate us from many difficulties if we understand that that righteousness which is given us through the gospel has been freed of all conditions of the (Institutes, 3.11.17)

He made this distinction no fewer than 35 times in his writings and it’s certain that one could many more instances. Calvin’s successor in Geneva was also insistent upon this distinction:

We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the ‘Law,’ the other the ‘Gospel.’ For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings…Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity (The Christian Faith, 1558)

Olevianus (and see the essay published here) wrote that the whole book of Romans could be analyzed as having two parts: law and gospel. Perkins wrote that it is impossible to preach God’s Word without using the distinction. Edward Fisher taught it clearly in The Marrow of Modern Divinity. William Twisse, the first prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly taught it explicitly and many other writers could be cited and have been in other places. Much of this evidence has been in print, in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry and online for many years now.

As we saw, however, Ursinus settled on the tripartite division of the catechism: “The catechism of which we shall speak in these lectures consists of three parts.” The evidence from the catechism itself and from Ursinus is conclusive. We must consider the catechism fundamentally organized in three parts: guilt, grace, and gratitude.

This organization is reflected in 86:

86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should 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, and also that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ (Heidelberg Catechism 86).

The major premise of this question is the biblical, Protestant doctrine of salvation sola gratiasola fide, that has been explored and explained repeatedly through this commentary on the catechism. The German text  uses the verb erkauft, which is fairly translated “to redeem” or “to purchase.” This imagery takes us back to Heidelberg 1, where we confess that our only comfort in life and in death that we “belong, body and soul, in life and death” to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ. This is Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “you were bought with a price, therefore honor God with your body” and 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought with a price; do not become the bondservants of men” (ESV). The Latin text says “liberati simus,” and says literally, “Since from all our sins and miseries, without any of our merit, only by the mercy of God, on account of Christ we have been liberated, why should we do good works?”  The rhetorical effect of the ordering of the phrases is to condition the final clause, the question. We are only discussing good works after reiterating that the biblical, Protestant, and Reformed conviction that redemption (salvation) is by grace alone, through faith alone. To make it crystal clear, the catechism specifically mentions the question of merit. It does rejects any notion that we sinners have merit of any kind, condign or congruent, relative to our standing before God. Here is a discussion merit in Heidelberg 62 and 63.

The catechism  speaks thus because the Reformed (e.g., Calvin and Olevianus) had long spoken of the “double grace” (duplex gratia) or the “double benefit” (duplex beneficium) of Christ. We are justified and sanctified by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Our new life, our sanctification, that process of being gradually conformed to the image of Christ is the consequence of our free justification and his gracious salvation of his people.

Sanctification As Fruit And Evidence
There is another piece to the back story, as they say in Hollywood. During the 1550s there were great struggles over how to express the doctrine of sanctification relation to the doctrine of justification. Prior to the 50s there had been questions. There had been those whom Luther labelled “antinomians” in the 1530s. This paragraph from his First Disputation against the Antinomians was used almost verbatim in the Heidelberg Catechism:

Likewise against those evils revealed and pointed out to us by the law, lest we despair, that other doctrine also has to be preserved in the Church, which teaches consolation against the accusation and terrors of the law, grace against God’s wrath, remission of sins and righteousness against sin, life against death. That doctrine is the gospel, which teaches that God through his word has locked up everyone under sin so that he might have mercy upon everyone; that he most certainly wants to remit the sins of all, liberate from death, and give righteousness and life to those who feel their misery, unrighteousness, and perdition, and certainly freely without any merit of ours, yet only in such a way that these benefits come upon believers because of Christ.

Here, to be sure, Luther was explaining the relation between the first use of the law and the gospel but this passage illustrates the degree to which the Reformed were dependent upon and influenced by Luther. He also defended what Melanchthon, the Lutheran orthodox, and the Reformed called the third use of the law (tertius usus legis):

The law, therefore, cannot be eliminated, but it remains, prior to Christ as not fulfilled, after Christ as to be fulfilled, although this does not happen perfectly in this life even by the justified. For it requires that we love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Matt. 22:37, 39). This will happen perfectly first in the coming life.

No one who has actually read Luther with any care should think that he is an antinomian. Unfortunately, some Reformed folk, relying upon mainline Lutherans (from the USA, Germany, and elsewhere) conclude from the way liberal mainliners speak (and the claims they make about Luther) that he was essentially antinomian. That would be like looking at what some mainline Presbyterian (PCUSA) writers in this country say about Calvin and drawing conclusions that e.g., would support the self-described “Occupy” movement. Again, I doubt any serious Calvin scholar would think this way since Calvin’s greatest fear about society was represented by the Anabaptists in the (1534–35) Münster rebellion. There are too many Reformed folk (and others who identify with aspects of Calvin’s theology, e.g., his soteriology) who do not read those sources that shaped  and influenced Calvin (and other Reformed writers) for themselves. Among those would be Luther.

Nevertheless, through the 1540s and 50s the question persisted among evangelicals (the word they used of themselves) or the magisterial Protestants how to relate sanctification and good works to justification. Some argued that we ought not speak of good works at all since that tends to lead Christians astray. It might tempt them to think once again that their good works, done in cooperation with grace, somehow contributed to their standing before God. It’s not as if there were no grounds for such a fear.  There were some saying that good works were a condition of standing before God. Remember, the Roman doctrine, out of which the evangelicals had come, taught that we justified because we are sanctified and we are sanctified by grace and cooperation with grace. Then there were some who were arguing ingeniously that Christ dwells in us by virtue of our union with him and God looks at us and sees the indwelling Christ and we are justified on the basis of Christ’s indwelling (and not on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed). So, the evangelicals had been ping-ponging between forms of legalism and antinomianism before the 1560s.

In our time, of course, we’ve seen the same sort of ping-ponging. We have the self-described, so-called Federal Vision movement arguing essentially the Arminian doctrine of salvation and calling it Reformed. Among the evangelicals there are antinomians arguing that the moral law no longer applies to Christians and then there are moralists (nomists) who teach that  we are justified and saved because we cooperate sufficiently with grace. So, we are not much better off in the early 21st century than we were in the mid-sixteenth century.

Thus, it is significant that the Reformed Churches confess:

86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should 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, and also that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ (Heidelberg Catechism 86).

Notice that we say “because.” There are some today, who call themselves Reformed, who, not unlike those in the 16th century who said that God accepts us because were Christ indwells us, would say that the catechism’s way of speaking is inadequate. They want to say that it is because Christ dwells in us and we in Christ (union with Christ) that we are sanctified and that justification and sanctification are nothing but parallel fruits of that union. That is not the teaching of the Scriptures as understood and confessed by the Reformed Churches. There are, as mentioned last time, two benefits and sanctification is the second benefit of Christ. Here we thinking and speaking of the logical order of salvation. We are not talking about time or a temporal or chronological order. Think of it this way: it is the justified, i.e., those of whom God has declared “just,” that the Spirit is necessarily, graciously, and gradually sanctifying. It is the justified, who are being sanctified, who do good works. If we reverse the order, then we have become Romanists again. Thus, we should reject soundly those who would do away with, as they say, “ordo salutis thinking.” To do away with the logical order in which the Spirit works, as taught by Scripture (e.g., Romans 8) is to send the Reformed Churches right off the cliff to destruction.

We should also reject soundly and unreservedly that teaching that will not say that believers, who are united to Christ by the Spirit, through faith alone, who are justified freely (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), have no moral obligation to be conformed to Christ and thus to do good works. That is antinomianism. No, the Spirit is conforming us to Christ’s image. Those who have been given new life (regenerated) will do good works. They want to do good works out of thankfulness. Gratitude is not, as some say, a second blessing any more than oranges are a second blessing on an orange tree (see Belgic Confession art. 24). This is the language of our Lord Jesus in John 15. Believers “show themselves to be thankful.” They manifest their new life by good works. They give evidence. That’s why the two words most often used by the classical Reformed writers and the Reformed confessions in this discussion are “fruit” and “evidence.” Anyone who is dissatisfied with this way of speaking is on the path to Rome, even if they do not realize it.

Sanctification And Assurance
Sanctification has another function in the Christian life: to bolster assurance. This doctrine has also been controversial in some circles. There is a view that says that sanctification can play no role whatsoever in assurance. There is also an approach that says that, in seeking assurance, the first place a believer looks is to his sanctification. In distinction the Reformed Churches confess:

86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should 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, and also that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ (Heidelberg Catechism 86).

The two clauses in view here are “he be glorified through us” and “we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof….” The Westminster Shorter Catechism famously begins by teaching that the “chief end of man” is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This notion, however, did not arise in the 17th century. He was common Reformed teaching. Adam was created to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Our Savior, the Last Adam, glorified God and now enjoys him forever, and we shall, by God’s grace, because of Christ’s obedience for us, enjoy him forever and by his grace, with the help of his Spirit, we seek now to glorify him day by day. We do that by obeying him, according to all the teaching of his Word and particularly by obeying God’s moral law. We will address the role of the law in the Christian life in more detail under Heidelberg 91.

When, by the grace of God, in union with Christ, with the help of his Spirit, we are obeying him (however imperfectly) that fruit of our free justification and salvation does contribute to our assurance. To be sure, we do not look first off to our sanctification (fruit) for assurance. That would be a mistake. Our sanctification, in this life, is never complete. Therefore, to look at our sanctification as the primary ground must necessarily result in uncertainty. Should we look principally at our sanctification then every time we sin we should lose our assurance. This is not only unbiblical and contrary to our confession but a terrible way to live the Christian life. The ground of our assurance is Christ’s obedience and righteousness for us not the Spirit’s work in us. The ground, the basis of, our assurance of our salvation and right standing with God is God’s gospel promise to us that “whosover believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The ground of our assurance is objective. It is fixed. It is established by Christ. It is immutable, i.e., it does not change. It cannot change. It is fixed in history and in the heavens. It rests upon God’s immutable, eternal decree and upon his immutable, eternal character and attributes.

Nevertheless, resting on the fact of Christ’s obedience for us and upon his promises to us, e.g.,

  • “it is finished”
  • “having therefore been justified”
  • “no one can snatch them from my hand”

we may also look to the evidence of the work of God’s Spirit in us as proof that we really do believe. We rightly say that we are justified and saved by grace alone, through faith alone (sola fide) but believers frequently ask the question, “how do I know that I believe”? It is not sufficient to answer that question by simply repeating the exhortation, “believe!” There are other questions. “Do I know the greatness of my sin and misery?” and “Do I know the history of salvation?” and “Do I agree that what Scripture says is true?” One who does not yet know himself to be, by nature, under the wrath of God, who has not sensed the jeopardy in which all of Adam’s children exist after the fall, is not ready to flee to Christ as his only hope and righteousness. Certainly true faith involves basic knowledge of the facts of Christ’s saving work and assent to those truths. He must also trust heartily that what Christ did, he did for us (pro nobis), for me (pro me). This is why it is so important for believers to hear and read over and again God’s law and Christ’s promises. We must be reminded constantly of what God demands and what Christ has fulfilled for us and promised to us.

It is entirely appropriate and even necessary, however, for the believer to find encouragement that he does actually believe by observing the evidences, however small and inadequate they may be in this life, that yes the Spirit of God has given him new life. We begin with the objective, the promises of God represented to us in the preached gospel and the gospel made visible in the sacraments. We are baptized people. We are being nourished by the body and blood of Christ. We are received in the church as members in good standing. We do see ourselves for what we are by nature: sinners. We acknowledge that and seek our standing before God only in what Christ has done for us. We are grieved by our sins. With Paul we sometimes despair “what will become of me?” That is the cry of the Christian who struggles with and sometimes seems overcome by sin and death. Finally, however, we say:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 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 8:1-4).

It is because of what Christ has done for us that we can move forward in conformity to Christ. Believers are no longer under the law of sin and death but under the “law of the Spirit of life.” Christ has liberated us from condemnation. The same righteous substitute has not only justified but he is sanctifying us. Is our sanctification perfect? No, not by a long shot but just as we trust Jesus for our justification and salvation so we trust him for our sanctification.

Christian Witness
The last major point of Heidelberg 86 is its reference to Christian witness relative to sanctification and good works. This last clause, “and by our godly walk win also others to Christ” is truly important for a variety of reasons. Here is the whole of question and answer 86:

86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should 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, and also that He be glorified through us; then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof; and by our godly walk win also others to Christ (Heidelberg Catechism 86).

Imagine how Christianity would be viewed has evangelical television preachers not been found to be committing fraud or to have committed immorality. Imagine if we did not have to account for pederasty among Romanist priests, the crusades, the inquisition, or the treatment of Jews in the middle ages (and after)? Sanctification or its absence has a great affect on the Christian witness to the watching world. Our sanctification or lack thereof has an affect on the plausibility of our testimony to the facts of redemption: the incarnation, Christ’s obedience, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension. Now, regardless of our failings, the facts are the facts. Jesus did what he did and he is returning and when he does he will settle accounts with the skeptics. Nevertheless, just a very brief review of the history of scandals in the church gives plenty of prima facieevidence that keeps us from being cavalier about the corruption of the Christian witness in the world.

The second thing that should be said is that the catechism and the Reformed faith should get at least a little credit for showing some concern about the spiritual welfare of the lost. Even though the catechism was drafted and adopted in a period when the state imposed religion upon its citizens, there is an open recognition that not everyone around us is a believer. This evident concern expressed in the catechism contradicts the assumption often made about the Reformed that they must be indifferent to the spiritual state (and the final state) of those around them who do not believe. The assumption is often made that if God has decreed who is and is not going to come to faith (he has) then Reformed folk must be indifferent (we aren’t). Yes, God is sovereign but that conviction is hardly distinctive to Reformed theology. It was widely held and taught in the church for the 1500 years before the Reformation. Augustine taught it. Anselm taught it, and Aquinas taught it, just to name three. These were all major theologians in the western church. God knows what he has decreed and we know that he has decreed but we do not know whom he has decreed to save and whom he has decreed to reprobate. The church’s duty is to make known the law and the gospel and offer salvation freely, seriously, and promiscuously to all who will recognize the greatness of their sin and misery, turn from it, and embrace Christ in true faith.

Evangelism properly is what the minister does in the pulpit when he proclaims the gospel to the world but each of us as Christians is a witness or gives witness to the faith (the objective facts of redemptive history and the basic truths of Scripture summarized in the creeds) and to our faith, i.e., to our personal appropriation of Christ by grace alone, through faith alone. Each of us is ordinarily surrounded by unbelieving friends, relatives, and co-workers. We must pray for them regularly that God the Spirit might do in them what he has done in us who believe: convict them of their need for Christ, grant them new life, and grant them the grace of faith and through it union with Christ. When we pray that way we should be prepared because God, in his providence, may well give us opportunity to give witness to Christ and to our faith in him.

When, by God’s grace, we do good works that gives witness to our faith and to the truth of the Christian faith. When our lives match our profession opportunities for witness are created. We do not have to choose between a silent witness of good works and a spoken witness to Christ and his truth. We believe in and confess both. They go together. May the Lord give us opportunities to give witness and may he bless that witness when it is given.

Catechesis Palatinae

Catechesis sive brevis institutio christianae doctrinae quo modo illa in ecclesiis et scholis 
palatinatus tum electoralis tum ducalis 


Fridericus Dei gratia Palatinus Rheni, ac Sacri Imperii Romani elector, Dux Bavariae, etc. omnibus quibus commissa est cura Ecclesiarum et Scholarum, 
 quae sunt in Palatinatu, S.D.

Postquam, quid nostri sit muneris, ex verbo Dei, atquae ex natura ipsa cognovimus, nosque in eo, ipsi potissimum qui id nobis imposuit, Deo Opt. Max. parere oportere: statuimus ut nihil esset, in quo tam in universa vita laboraremus, quam ut et nostrae conscientiae, satisfaceremus, et nostrorum saluti, quamtum in nobis esset, consuleremus.

Cum autem non satis esse existimaremus, nos ita consilio et ratione iustitiam administrare, ut nostrae fidei commissi populi, ius et honestatem colentes, placide tranquilleque viverent, nisi eo etiam perducerentur, ut Deum creatorem suum ac redemtorem ex verbo ipsius recte cognoscerent: (nam id unicum et firmum est fundamentum cum ceterarum virtutum, tum vel maxime omnis obedientiae et verae erga Deum pietatis) coepimus toto animo de ista re cogitare, nihil cupientes praetermittere, quod ad eam beatitudinem, tum parandam, tum conservandam pertineret. Et si autem et ab iis, qui nos proxime antecesserunt, cognatis nostris Palatinis et Electoribus (quorum memoriam cum amore ac reverentia usurpamus) varia utiliter et pie instituta sunt, ad gloriam Dei illustrandam, et populum in officio retinendum: tamen ut ipsi in principio gubernationis nostrae experti sumus, non ea adhibita est diligentia in illis exequendis, et ad utilitatem publicam accomodandis, quam par fuerit in re tanta adhiberi. quocirca minime mirum est, si ii, qui sperati erant fructus, percipi non potuerunt. His rebus permoti summus, ut non solum, quae ab ipsis recte instituta essent, revocaremus ac resitueremus: verum etiam, ut quae minus firma essent, fulciremus: quae vero corrupta et depravata essent, ea emendaremus et corrigeremus. Iacebant Scholae, tenera iuventus negligebatur, bulla erat in religione Christiana certa et consentiens institutio. Itaque vel male, vel ad nullam certam normam, sed ad cuiusque arbitrium iuventus erudiebatur, vel omnino non informabatur, sed reudis prorsus et impolita relinquebatur


Catechesis religonis christiane

Quaestio 1. Quae est unica tua consolatio in vita et in morte?

Quod animo pariter et corpore, sive vivam sive moriar, non meus, sed fidissimi Domini et servatoris mei Iesus Christi sum proprius, qui precioso sanguine suo, pro omnibus peccatis meis plenissime satisfaciens, me ab omni potestate Diaboli liberavit, meque ita conservat, ut sine voluntate patris mei coelestis, ne pilus quidem de meo capite possit cadere: imo vero etiam omnia saluti meae servire oporteat: Quocirca me quoque suo Spiritu de vita aeterna certum facit, utque ipsi deinceps vivam promptum ac paratum reddit.

Quaestio 2. Quot sunt tibi scitu necessaria ut ista consolatione fruens, beate vivas et moriaris?

Tria. Primum, quanta sit peccati mei et miseriae meae magnitudo. Secundum, quo pacto ab omni peccato et miseria liberer. Tertium, quam gratiam Deo pro ea liberatione debeam.

Prima Pars De Hominis Miseria

Quaestio 3. Unde tuam miseriam cognoscis?

Ex Lege Dei

Quaestio 4. Quid a nobis postulat Dei?

Id docet nos Christus summatim Matthaei 22: Diliges Dominum Deum tuum, ex toto corde tuo, ex tota anima tua, ex tota cogitatione tua, et ex omnibus viribus tuis. Istud est primum et maximum mandatum. Secundum autem simile est huic: Diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum. Ab istis duobus mandatis tota lex et Prophetae pendent.

Quaestio 5. Num haec omnia perfecte servare potes?
Minime: natura enim propensus sum ad odium Dei et proximi.

Quaestio 6. Num ergo Deus hominem ita pravum et perversum condidit?

Nequaquam: Imo vero bonum et ad imaginem sui condidit eum, hoc est, vera iustitia et sanctitate praeditum, ut Deum creatorem suum recte cognosceret, ex animo diligeret, cum eo beatus in aeternum viveret, idque ad eum laudandum et celebrandum.

Quaestio 7. Unde igitur existit haec naturae humanae pravitas?

Ex lapsu et inobedientia primorum parentum Adami et Evae. Hinc natura nostra ita est depravata, ut omnes in peccatis concipiamur et nascamur.

Quaestio 8. An vero adeo corrupti sumus, ut ad bene agendum prorsus non simus idonei, et ad omne proclives?

Certe: nisi per Spiritum sanctum regeneremur.

Quaestio 9.An non igitur Deus homini iniuriam facit, qui ab eo in lege sua flagitat, quae praestare non queat?

Minime. Nam Deus hominem talem condiderat, ut ea praestare posset: verum homo, impulsore Diabolo, sua ipsius contumacia, se et omnem posteritatem divinis illis donis orbavit.

Quaestio 10.Num Deus hanc contumaciam et defectionem hominis dimittit impunitam?

Imo vero horrendis modis irascitur, tum ob innata nobis peccata, tum ob ea, quae ipsi committimus, eaque iustissimo iusdicio praesentibus et aeternis suppliciis punit, quemadmodum ipse pronunciat: Maledictus omnis qui non permanet in omnibus quae scripta sunt in libro legis, ut ea faciat.

Quaestio 11.An non igitur Deus etiam est misericors?

Est ille quidem misericors. verum ita ut etiam sit iustus. qua propter postulat eius iustitia, quod adversus summam Dei maiestatem commissum est, id quoque ut summis, hoc est, sempiternis cum animi tum corporis suppliciis luatur.

Secunda Pars: De Liberatione Hominis

Quaestio 12. Quoniam igitur iusto Dei iudicio, temporalibus et aeternis poenis obnoxii sumus: estne reliqua ulla ratio aut via, qua his poenis liberemur et Deo reconciliemur?

Vult Deus iustitiae sua satisfieri: quocirca necesse est, vel per nos, vel per alium satisfaciamus.

Quaestio 13. Possumusne ipsi per nos satisfacere?
Nulla ex parte: quin etiam debitum in singulos dies augemus.

Quaestio 14. Postestne ulla creaturum in coelo vel in terra, quae tantum creatura sit, pro nobis satisfacere?
Nulla: Nam principio non vult Deus, quod homo peccavit, id in ulla alia creatura plectere. Deinde, nec potest quidem, quod nihil nisi creatura sit, iram Dei adversus peccatum sustinere, et alios ab ea liberare.

Quaestio 15. Qualis ergo querendus est mediator et liberator?
Qui verus quidem homo sit, ac perfecte iustus, et tamen omnibus creaturis potentior, hoc est, qui simul etiam sit verus Deus.

Quaestio 16. Cur necesse est, cum verum hominem, et quidem perfecte iustum esse?
Quia iustitia Dei postulat, ut eadem natura humana, quae peccavit, ipsa pro peccato depndat: qui vero ipse peccator esset, pro aliis depndere non posset.

Quaestio 17. Quare oportet eum simul etiam vere Deum esse?
Ut potentia suae divinitatis, onus irae divinae carne sua sustinere, nobisque amissam iustitiam et vitam reparare ac restitutere possit.

Quaestio 18. Quis autem est ille Mediator, qui simul est vere Deus ac verus ac perfecte iustus homo?

Dominus noster Iesus Christus, qui factus est nobis sapientia a Deo, iustitia, sanctificatio et redemptio.

Quaestio 19. Unde id scis?

Ex Evangelio, quod Deus primum in paradis patefecit, ac deinceps per patriarchs et prphetas propagavit: sacrificiis filium suum unigenitum complevit.

Quaestio 20.Num igitur omnibus hominibus qui in Adam perierant, per Christum salus redditur?

Non omnibus, verum iis tantum, qui vra fide ipsi inseruntur, eiusque beneficia amplectuntur.

Quaestio 21. Quid est fides?

Est non tantum notitia, qua firmiter assentior omnibus, quae Deus nobis in verbo suo patefecit, sed etiam certa fiducia, a Spiritu sancto per Evangelium in corde meo accensa, in qua in Deo acquiesco, certo satuiens, non solum aliis, sed mihi quoque remissionem peccatorum, aeternam iustitiam et vitam donatam esse idque gratis, ex Dei misericordia, propter unius Christi meritum,

Quaestio 22.Quaenam sunt illa, quae necesse est hominem Christianum credere?

Omnia, quae nobis in Evangelio promittuntur, quorum summa in Symbolo Apostolico, seu in capitibus catholicae et indubitatae omnium Christianorum fidei, breviter comprehenditur.

Quaestio 23. Quod est illud Symbolum?

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, creatorem coeli & terrae: Et in Iesum Christum, Filium eius unigenitum Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu sancto, natus ex Maria virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus et sepultus: Descendit ad inferna, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis,ascendit ad coelos, sedet at dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est ad iudicatuum vivos et mortuos: Credo in Spiritum sanctum. Credo sanctam Ecclesiam, Catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, et vitam aeternam.

Quaestio 24.In quot partes distribuitur hoc Symbolum?

In tres partes. Prima est de aeterno Ptre, et nostri creatione. Altera est de Filio et nostri redemtione. Tertia est de Spiritu sancto, et nostri sanctificatione.

Quaestio 25. Cum una sit tantum essentia divina: our cur tres istos nominas, Patrem, Filium et Spirtum sanctum?

Quia Deus ita se in suo verbo patefectit, quod tres hae distinctae personae sint unus ille, verus et aeternus Deus.

De Patere

Quaestio 26. Quid credis cum dicis: Credo in Deum Patrem, omipotentem, creatorem coeli et terrae?

Credo aeternam Patrem Domini nostri Iesu Christi, qui coelum et terram, cum omnibus, quae in iis sunt, ex nihilo creavit, quique eadem aeterno suo consilio et providentia sustentat ac gubernat: propter Christum Deum meum et patrem meum esse: itaque sic ei confido, sic in eo acquiesco, ut no dubitem, quin provisurus sit omnibus, tum animo, tum corpori meo necessariis. Quin etiam, quae mihi mala in hac aerumosa vita mittit, ea in meum salutem sit conversurus, eum et facere id possit, ut omnipotens Deus, et facere id velit, ut benignus Pater.

Quaestio 27. Quid est providentia Dei?

Omipotes et uique praesens Dei vis, qua coelum et terram, cum omnibus creaturis, tanquam manu sustinet ac gubernat: ut quae terra nascuntur, pluvia item et siccitas, gertilitas et sterilitas, cibus et potus, nona et adversa valetudo, divitiae et paupertas, omia denique non temere aut fortuito, sed patero eius consilio et voluntate contingant.

Quaestio 28. Quid nobis prodest haec cognitio creationis et providentiae divinae?

Ut in adversis patientes, in secundis grati simus, in futurum vero optimum in Deo fidissimo Patre spem repositam habeamus, certo scientes, ihil esse, quod nos ab eius amore abstrahat, quandoquidem omnes creaturae ita sunt in eius potestate, ut sine eius arbitrio, no modo nihil agere sed ne moveri quidem possint.

De Filio

Quaestio 29. Quare Filius Dei appellatur Iesus, hoc est, Salvator?

Quia nos salvat ab omnibus peccatis nostris: nec ulla salus aliunde peti debet, nec alibi reperiri potest.

Quaestio 30. Creduntne igitur illi in uicum Servatorem Iesum, qui a sanctis, aut a se, aut aliunde felicitatem aut alutem quaerunt?

Non: Etsi enim verbo quidem eo Servatore gloriantur, re ipsa tamen abnegant unicum Servatorem Iesum. Necesse est eim, aut Iesum non esse perfectum Servatorem, aut qui eum Servatorem fide amplectuntur vera, eos omia in ipso possidere, quae ad alutem requiruntur.

Quaestio 31. Quare appellatur Christus, hoc est, unctus?

Quod a Patre ordinatus, et Spiritu Sancto unctus sit summus Propheta ac Doctor, qui nobis arcanum consilium et omnem voluntatem Patris, de redemtione nostri patefecit; et summus Pontifex, qui nos unico sacrificio sui corporis redemit, assidueque pro nobis apud Patrem intercedit: et Rex, qui nos suo verbo et Spiritu gubernat, et partam nobis alutem tuetur ac coservat.

Quaestio 32. Cur vero tu Christianus appellaris?

Quod per fidem membrem sum Iesu Christi, et unctiois ipsius particeps, ut et nomen eius cofitear, meque sistam ipsi vivam gratuidinis hostiam, et in hac vita, contra peccatum et Stanam, libera et bona conscientia pugnem, et postea aeternum cum Christo regnum in omnes creaturas teneam,

Quaestio 33. Quam ob causam Christus vocatur Filius Dei unigenitus, cum os quoque simus filii Dei?

Quia solus Christus est coaeternus, et naturalis aeterni Patris Filius: nos autem propter eum, ex gratia, a Patre adoptati summus.

Quaestio 34. Qua de causa appellas eum Dominum nostrum?

Quia corpus et animam ostram a peccatis, non auro, nec argento, sed pretioso suo sanguine redimens, et ab omni potestate Diaboli liberans nos sibi proprios vidicavit.

35.Quid credis cum dicis: Conceptus est per Spiritum Sanctum, natus ex Maria Virgine?

Quod ipse Filius Dei, qui est, et permanet verus ac aeternus Deus, naturam vere humaam ex carne et sanguine virgiis Mariae, operatione Spiritus Sancti assumpsit, ut simul sit verum semen Davidis, fratribus suis per ominia similis excepto peccato.

Quaestio 36. Quem fructum percipis ex sancta conceptione et nativiatate Christi?

Quod is noster sit Mediator, et sua inocentia, ac perfecta sanctitate, mea peccata, in quibus conceptus sum, tegat, ne in conspectum Dei veniant.

Quaestio 37. Quid credis cum dicis: Passus est?

Eum toto quidem vitae suae tempore, quo in terris egit, praecipue vero in eius extremo, iram Dei adversus peccatum iniversi generis humai, corpore et anima sustinuisse: ut sua passione, tanquam unico sacrificio propitiatorio, corpus et animam nostram ab aeterna damnatione liberaret, et obis gratiam Dei, iustitiam ac vitam aeternam acquiret.

Quaestio 38. Quid causae fuit, cur sub iudice Pilato pateretur?

Ut innocens coram iudice politico damnatus, nos a severo Dei iudicio, quod omnes manebat, eximeret.

Quaestio 39. Est vero quiddam amplius, quod affixus sit cruci, quam si alio genere mortis affectus esset?

Sane amplius: Ex hac enim re sum certus, eum maledictionem, quae mihi incumbebat, in se recpisse: nam mors crucis a Deo erat maledicta.

Quaestio 40.Cur necesse fuit, ut Christus ad mortem usque se demitteret?

Propterea quod iustitiae et veritati Dei nullo alio pacto pro nostris peccatis potuit satisfierei, quam ipsa morte filii Dei.

41.Quare etiam sepultus est?

Ut eo testaum facceret, se vere mortuum esse.

Quaestio 42. Ad cum Christus pro nobis mortem oppetierit, cur nobis quoque moriendum sit?

Mors nostra non est pro peccatis nostris satisfactio, sed peccati abolitio, et transitus in vitam aeternam.

Quaestio 43. Quid praeterea capimus commodi ex sacrificio et more Christi?

Quod virtute eius mortis vetus noster homo, una eum eo crucifigitur, interimitur, ac sepelitur, ne pravae cupiditates et desideria cranis posthac in nobis regnent, sed nos ipsos ei hostiam gratitudinis offeramus.

Quaestio 44. Cur additur: Descendit ad inferna?

Ut in summis doloribus et gravissimis tentioibus, me consolatione hac sustentem, quod Dominus meus Iesus Christus inenarrabilibus animi sui anguistiis, cruciatibus et terroribus, in quos cum antea, tum maxime in cruce pendens, fuerat demersus, me ab anguistiis et cruciatibus inferni liberaverit.

Quaestio 45. Quid nobis prodest resurrectio Christi?

Primum sua resurrectioe mortem devicit, ut nos posset eius iustitiae, quam nobis sua more peperat, participes facere. Deinde, nos iam quoque eius potentia ad novam vitam excitamur. Postremo, resurrectio capitis nostri Christi, nobis gloriosae resurrectionis nostrae pignus est.

Quaestio 46. Quomodo intelligia illud: Ascendit ad coelos?

Quod aspicientibus discipulis, Christus de terra in coelum sublatus est. atque etiamnum nostra causa ibidem est, et erit donec redeat ad iudicandum vivos et mortuos.

Quaestio 47. An ergo Christus non est nobiscum usque ad finem mundi, quemadmodum promisit?

Christus est verus Deus, et verus homo; itaque secundum naturam humanam, iam non est in terra: at secundum divinitatem suam, maiestatem, gratiam et spiritum, nullo unquam tempore a nobis abest.

Quaestio 48. An vero isto pacto duae naturae in cristo, non divelluntur, si non sit natura humana, unicunque est divina?

Minime: Nam cum divinitatis comprehendi non queat, et omni loco praesens sit, necessario consequitur, esse eam quidem extra naturam humanam, quam assumsit, sed nihilo minus tamen esse in eadem, eique personaliter unitam permanere.

Quaestio 49. Quem fructum nobis adfert ascensio Christi in coelum?

Primum quod in coelo apud patrem pro nobis intercedit. Deinde quod cardem nostram in coelo habemus, ut in eo tanquam certo pignore confirmemur, fore, ut ipse qui caput nostrum est nos sua membra ad se extollat. Tertio, quod nobis suam Spiritum mutui pignoris loco mittit, cuius efficacia non terrena sed superna quaerimus, ubi ipse est ad dextram Dei sedens.

Quaestio 50. Cur additur: Sedet ad dextram Dei?

Quia Christus ideo in coelum ascendit, ut se ibi caput suae Ecclesiae declaret, per quod Pater omnia gubernat.

Quaestio 51. Quid nobis prodest haec gloria nostri capitis Christi?
Primum, quod per Spiritum sanctum in nos sua membra, ecclesia dona effundit. Deinde, quod nos sua potentia contra omnes hostes protegit ac defendit.

Quaestio 52. Quid te consolatur reditus Christi ad iudicandum vivos et mortuos?

Quod in omnibus miseriis et persecutionibus, erecto capite, eundem illum, qui se prius pro me iudicio dei statuit, et maledictionem omnem a me abstulit, iudicem e eolo exspecto, qui omnes suos et meos hostes, in aeternas poenas abiiciat; me vero cum omnibus electis ad se in coelestia gaudia, et sempiternam gloriam traducat.

De spiritu sancto

Quaestio 53.Quid credis de Spiritu Sancto?

Primum, quod sit verus et coaeternus Deus, cum aeterno Patre et Filio: deinde, quod mihi quoque datus sit, et me perveram fidem, Christi et omnium eius beneficiorum participem faciat, me consoletur, et mecum in aeternum maneat.

Quaestio 54.Quid credis de sancta et catholica Christi Ecclesia?

Credo Filium Dei, ab initio mundi ad finem usque, sibi ex universo genere humano coetum ad vitam aeternam electum, per Spiritum suum et verbum, in vera fide consentientem, colligere, tueri, ac servare: meque vivum eius coetus membrum esse, et perpetuo mansurum.

Quaestio 55. Quid sibi vult Communio Sanctorum?

Primum, quod universi et singuli credentes, Christi et omnium eius bonorum, tamquam ipsius membra communionem habeant. Deinde, quod singuli, quae acceperunt dona, in commune commodum et universorum salutem prompte et alacriter conferre debeant.

Quaestio 56. Quid credis remissione peccatoris?

Deum propter satisfactionem Christi, meorum peccatorum, atquae illius etiam pravitatis, cum qua mihi per omnem vitam pugnandum ets, memoriam omnem deposuissse, et me iustitia Christi gratis donare, ne unquam in iudicium veniam.

Quaestio 57. Quid te consolatur Resurrectio carnis?

Quod non tantum anima mea, postquam e corpore excesserit e vesito ad Christum suum caput assumetur: verum quod haec quoque caro mea, potentia Christi excitata, rursus animae meae unietur, et glorioso Christi corpori conformabitur.

Quaestio 58. Quam consolationem capis et articulo de vita aeterna?

Quod, quoniam in praesentia vitae aeternae inita in meo corde praesentisco, futurm sit, ut post hanc vitam plena perfectaque beatitudine potiar, in qua Deum in aeternum celebrem: quam quidem beatitudinem nec oculus vidit, nec auris audivit, nec ullus homo cogitatione comprehendit.

Quaestio 59. At cum haec omnia credis, quid utilitatis inde ad te redit?

Quod in Christo iustus sum coram Deo, et haeres vitae aeternae.

Quaestio 60. Quomodo iustus es coram Deo?

Sola fide in Iesum Christum, adeo ut licet mea me conscientia accuset, quod aversus omnia mandata Dei graviter peccaverim, nec ullum eorum servaverm, adhaec etiamnum ad omne malum propensus sim, nihlominus tamen (modo haec beneficia vera animi fiducia amplectar), sine ullo meo merito, ex mera Dei misericordia, mihi perfecta satisfactio, iustitia et sanctitas Christi, imputetur ac donetur; perinde ac si nec ullum ipse peccatum admissem, nec ulla mihi labes inhaereret: imo vero quasi eam obedientiam, quam pro me Christus praestitissem.

Quaestio 61. Cur sola fide iustum esse affirmas?

Non quod dignitate meae fidei Deo placeam, ded quod sola satisfactio, iustitia ac sanctitas Christi, mea iustitia sit coram Deo. Ego vero eam non alia ratione, quam fide amplecti, et mihi applicare queam.

Quaestio Quaestio 62. Cur nostra bona opera non possunt esse iustitia, vel pars aliqua iustitiae coram Deo?

Propterea quod oporteat eam iustitam, quae in iudico Dei consistat, perfecte absolutam esse, et omni ex parte divinae legi congruentem: nostra vero etiam praestantissima quaeque opera, in hac vita sunt imperfecta, atquae adeo peccatis inquinata.

Quaestio 63. Quomodo bona opera nostra nihil promereantur, cum Deus et in praesenti et in futura vita mercedem pro his se daturum promittat?

Merces ea non datur ex merito, sed ex gratia.

Quaestio 64. An autem haec doctrina non reddit homnes securos et prophanos?

Non: neque enim fieri potest, quin ii qui Christo per fidem insiti sunt, fructus proferent gratitudinis.
de sacramentis

Quaestio 65. Quoniam igitur sola fides nos Christi atque omnium eius beneciorum participes facit: unde haec fides proficiscitur?

A Spiritu Sancto, qui eam per praedicationem Evangelii in cordibus nostris accendit, et per usum Sacramentorum confirmat.

66. Quid sunt Sacramenta?

Sunt Sacra et in oculos incurrentia signa, ac sigilla, ob eam causam a Deo instituta, ut per ea nobis promissionem Evnagelii magis declaret et obsignet: quod scillicet non universis tantum , verum etian singulis credentibus, propter unicum illud Christi sacrificium in cruce peractum, gratis donet remissionem peccatorum, et vitam aeternam.

Quaestio 67. Num utraque igitur, et verbum et Sacramenta eo spectant, ut fidem nostram ad sacrificium Christi in cruce peractum, tanquam ad unicum nostrae salutis fundamentum deducant?

Ita est. Nam Spiritus sanctus docet Evangelio, et confirmat Sacramentis, omnem nostram salutem positam esse in unico sacrificio Christi, pro nobis in cruce oblati.

68.Quot Sacramenta instituit Christus in novo foedere?

Duo, Baptismum et sacram Coenam.

De baptismo

69. Qua ratione in Baptismo admoneris et confirmaris, te unici illius sacrificii Christi participem esse?

Quod Christus externum aquae lavacrum mandavit, addita hac promissione, me non minus certo, ipsius sanguine et Spiritu a sordibus animae, hoc est, ab omnibus meis peccatis lavari: quam aqua extrinsecus ablutus sum, qua sordes corporis expurgari solent.

70.Quid est sanquine et Spiritu Christi ablui?

Est accipere a Deo remissionem peccatorum gratis, propter sanguinem Christi, quem is pro nobis in suo sacrificio in cruce profudit. Deinde etiam per Spiritum sanctum renovari, et ipso sanctificante membrum christi fieri, quo magis ac magis peccatis moriamur, et sancte inculpateque vivamus.

Quaestio 71. Ubi promisit Christus, se nos tam certo sanguine et Spirituo suo abluturum, quam aqua baptismi abluti sumus?

In institutione Baptismi, cuius haec sunt verba: Ite et docete omnes gentes, baptizantes, baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus sancti: Qui crediderit et baptizatus fuerit, servabitur: qui non crediderit, condemnabitur. Haec promissio repetitur, cum scriptura Baptismum nominat lavacrum regenerationis, et ablutionem peccatorum.

Quaestio 72.Estne ergo externus Baptismus aquae, ipsa peccatorum ablutio?
Non est: Nam solus sanguis Iesu Christi purgat nos ab omni peccato.

Quaestio 73. Cur ergo Spiritus sanctus baptismum appellat lavacrum regenerationis et ablutionem peccatorum?

Deus sine gravi causa sic loquitur, videlicet non solum ut nos doceat, quemadmodum sordes corporis aqua purgantur, sic peccata nostra sanguine et Spiritu Christi expiari: verum multo magis, ut nobis hoc divino symbolo ac pignore certum faciat, nos non minus vere a peccatis nostris interna lotione ablui, quam externa et visibili aqua abluti sumus.

Quaestio 74. Sunte etiam infantes baptizandi?

Omnino. Nam cum aeque ac adultiad foedus et Ecclesiam Dei pertineant: cumque per sanguinem Christi, remissio peccatorum, et Spiritus sanctus fidei effector, non minus quam adultibus promittatur: per Baptismum Ecclesiae Dei inserendi sunt, et ab infidelium liberis discerndi, itidem ut in Veteri foedere, per circumcisionem fiebat, cui in Novo foedere substitutus et Baptismus.

De coena domini

Quaestio 75. Qua ratione in Coena Domini admoneris et confirmaris, te unici illius sacrificii Christi in cruce oblati, atque omnium eius bonorum participem esse?

Quod Christius me atque omnes fideles de hoc fracto pane edere, et de poculo distributo bibere iussit, in sui memoriam, addita hac promissione: Primum corpus suum non minus certe pro me in cruce oblatum ac fractum, et sanguinem suum pro me fusum esse: quam oculis cerno, panem Domini mihi fragi, et poculum mihi communicari. Deinde animam meam non minus certo ipsius corpore, quod pro nobis crucifixum, et sanguine qui pro nobis fusus est, ad vitam aeternam ab ipso pasci: quam panem et vinum, Symbola corporis et sanguinis Domini, e manu ministri accepta, ore corporis percipio.

Quaestio 76. Quid est crucifixum corpus Christi edere, et fusum eius sanguinem bibere?

Est non tantum totam passionem et mortem Christi certa animi fiducia amplecti, ac per id remissionem peccatorum et vitam aeternam adipisci: sed etiam per Spiritum sanctum, qui simul in Christo et in nobis habitat, it sacrosancto eius corpori magis ac magis uniri, ut quamvis ipso in coelo, nos vero in terra simus, nihilominus tamen caro simus de carne eius et os de ossibus eius: utque omnia corporis membra ab una anima, sic nos uno eodemque Spiritu vivificemur et gubernemur.

Quaestio 77. Quo loco promisit Christus, se credentibus tam certo corpus et sanguinem suum sic edendum et bibendum daturum, quam fractum huncpanem edunt, et peculum hoc bibunt?

In Institutione Coenae, cuius haec sunt verba: Dominus noster Iesus Cristus, ea nocte qua proditus est, accepit panem: et gratiis actis, fregit ac dixit: accipite, (comedite,) hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis frangitur: hoc facite in mei recordationem. Itidem et pculum, postquam coenassaent, dicens hoc poculum est novum foedus per meum sanguinem: Hoc facite, quotiescunque bibertis, in mei recordationem. Quotiescumque enim ederitis panem hunc, et poculum hoc biberitis, mortem Domini annunciate, donec venerit. haec promissio a Paul repetitur, cum inquit: Poculum gratiarum actionis, pro gratias agimus, nonne communio est sanguinis Christi? Panis, quem frangimus, nonne communio est corporis Christi? quoniam unus panis, unum corpus multi sumus: Nam omnes unius panis participes sumus.

Quaestio 78. Num ergo panis et vinum fiunt ipsum corpus et sanguinis Christi?

Nequaquam: verum, ut aquam Baptismi in sanguinem Christi non convertitur, nec est ipsa peccatorum ablutio, sed Symbolum tantum et pignus earum rerum, quae nobis in Baptismo obsignantur: ita nec panis coenae Dominicae, est ipsum corpus Christo: quanquam pro ratione Sacramentorum, et usitata Spiritui Sancto de his loquendi forma, panis Christi corpus appellatur.

Quaestio 79.Cur ergo Christus panem appellat suum corpus, calicem vero suum sangu9nem, seu novum foedus per suum sanguinem: Paulus item panem et vinum, communionem corporis et sanguinis Christi?

Christus non sine gravi causa sic loquitur: videlicet, non solum ut nos doceat, quemadmodum panis et vinum corporis vitam sustentant: sic etiam crucifixum suum corpus et effusum suum sanguinem, vere esse animae nostrae cibum ac potum, quo ad vitam aeternam nutriatur: Verum multo magis, ut hoc visibili signo ac pignore nobis certum faciat, nos non minus vere, corporis et sanguinis sui, per operationem Spiritus sancti, partcipes esse, quam sacra ista Symbola, in eius memoriam, ore corporis percipimus: Tum etiam, quod eius passio et obedientia, tam certo nostra sit, quam si ipsimet pro nostris peccatis poenas dedissemus, et Deo satisfecissemus.

Quaestio 80.Quid interest inter Coenam Domini, et Missam Papisticam?

Coena Domini nobis testaur, nos perfactam remissionem omnium nostrorum peccatorum habere, propter unicum illud Christi sacrificium, quod ipsemet semel in cruce peregit: tum etiam nos per Spiritum sanctum inseri Christo, qui iam secundum naturam suam humanam tantum in coelis est ad dextram Patris, ibique vult a nobis adorari.
In Missa autem negatur, vivos et mortuos habere remissionem peccatorum, propter unicam Christi passionem, nisi etiamnum quotidie Christus pro ipsis a Sacrificulis offeratur: tum etiam docetur, Christum corporaliter sub speciebus Panis et Vini esse ideoque in illis adorandum esse. Atque ita ipsum Missae fundamentum, nihil aliud est, quam abnegatio unici illius sacrificii et passionis Iesu Christi, et execranda idolatria.

Quaestio 81.Quibus accendum est ad mensam Domini?

Tantum iis, qui vere dolent, se suis peccatis Deum offendisse: confidunt autem sibi ea propter Chrstum remissa esse: et quas reliquas habet infirmitates, eas passione et morte illus obtectas esse, quique desiderant magis ac magis in fide et integritate
vitae proficere. Hypocritae autem, et qui non vere resipiscunt, damnationem sibi edunt et bibunt.

Quaestio 82.Sunte illi etiam ad hanc Coenam admittendi, qui confessione et vita, ac infideles et impios esse declarant?

Neququam: Nam eo pacto foedus Dei proganatur, et ira Dei in universum coetum concitatur. Quocirca Ecclesia, ex praescripto Christi et Apostolorum, hos, clavibus reni coelorum utens, a coena arcere debet, quoad resipuerint, et mores mutaverint.

Quaestio 83.Quid sunt claves regni coelorum?

Praedicatio evangelii, et Ecclesiastica disciplina: quibus coelum credentibus aperitur: infelibus autem clauditur.

Quaestio 84.Quo pacto aperitur et clauditur regnum coelorum praedicatione Evangelii?

Cum ex mandato Christi credentibus universis et singuilis, publice annunciatur, omnia peccata ipsis divinitus propter meritum Christi condonari, quoties promissionem evangelii vera fide amplectuntur: contra vero omnibus infidelibus et hypocritis denuntiatur, tantisper ipsis iram Dei et aeternam condemnationem incumbere, dum in suis sceleribus perseverant: secundum quod Engaleii testimonium, Deus tam in praesenti, quam in futura vita iudicaturus est.

85.Quo pacto clauditur et aperitur regnum coelorum per disciplinam Ecclesiasticam?

Cum ex mandato Christ, ii qui nomine quidem sunt Christiani, verum doctrina aut vita se ostendunt a Christo alienos, postquam aliquoties fraterne admoniti, ab erroribus aut flagitiis discedere nolunt, Ecclesiae indicantur, aut iis, qui ab Ecclesia ad eam rem sunt constituit, ac si ne horum quidem admonitioni pareant: ab iisdem interdictione Sacramentorum, ex coetu Ecclesiae, et ab ipso Deo, ex regno Christi excluduntur: ac rursum, si emendationem profiteantur, et reipsa declarent, tanquam Christi et Ecclesiae membra recipiuntur.

Tertia Pars: De Gratitudine

Quaestio 86.Cum ab omnibus peccatis et miseriis, sine ullo nostro merito, sola Dei misericordia, propter Christum liberati simus, quid est cur bona opera faciamus?

Quia postquam nos Christus suo sanguine redemit, renovat nos quoque suo Spiritu ad imaginem sui, ut tantis beneficiis affecti, in omni vita nos erga Deum gratos declaremus, et ipse per nos celebretur. Deinde, ut nos quoque ex fructibus, de sua quisque fide certi simus. postremo, ut vitae nostrae integritate alios Christo lucrifaciamus.

Quaestio 87.non possunt igitur illi servari, qui ingrati, et in peccatis secure persistentes, a sua pravitate ad Deum non convertuntur?

Nullo modo. Nam, ut scriptura testatur, nec impudici, nec idolatrae, nec adulteri, nec fures, nec avari, nec ebriosi, nec convitiatores, nec raptores, haereditatem regni Dei conseqentur.

Quaestio 88.Quibus partibus constat conversio hominis ad Deum?
Mortificatione veteris, et vivificatione hominis.

Quaestio 89.Quid est mortificatio veteris hominis?

Vere et ex animo dolere, quo peccatis tuis Deum offenderis, eaque magis ac magis odisse et fugere.

Quaestio 90.Quid est vivificatio novi hominis?

Vera laetitia in Deo per Christum, et serium ac promptum studium iustituendi vitam ex voluntate Dei, omniaque bona opera exercendi.

Quaestio 91.Quae sunt bona opera?

Tantum ea, quae ex vera fide, secundum legem Dei fiunt, et ad eius solius gloriam referuntur: non ea autem quae a nobis opinione recti conficta, aut ab hominibus tradita sunt.

Quaestio 92.Quae est Lex Dei?

Loquutus est omnia verba haec:

Primum praeceptum
Ego sum Dominus Deus tuus, qui eduxi te ex Aegypto, domo servitutis. Non habebus Deos alienos in conspectu meo.

Secundum (praeceptum)
Ne sculpas tibi simulacrum, nec ullam imaginem effingas eorum, quae aut supra sunt in coelo, aut infra in terra, aut in aquis sub terra: neque incurves te illis, neque colus ea. Ego enim sum Dominus, Deus tuus, fortis, Zelotes, vindicans peccata patrum in filiis, idque in tertia et quarta progenie eorum qui oderunt me: et misercordia utens in millesimam eorum, qui diligunt me, et observant praecpta mea.

Tertium (praeceptum)
Ne ursurpes nomen Domini Dei tui temere. Neque enim Dominus dimittet eum impunitum, qui nomen eius vane ururpaverit.

Quartum (praeceptum)
Memento ut diem Sabbathi sanctifices. Sex diebus operaberis, et facies omne opus tuum: At septimo die Sabbathum erit Domino Deo tuo. Non facies ullum opus, nec tu, nec filius tuus, nec filia tua, nec servus tuus, nec ancilla tua, nec iumentum tuum, nec advena, qui est intra portas tuas. Nam sex diebus fecit Deus coelum, terram, mare, et quaecunque in iis sunt, et requivit die septimo, ideoque benedixit dici Sabbathi, et sanctificavit eum.

Quintum (praeceptum)
Honora Patrem tuum et matrem tuam, ut diu vivas in terra, quam tibi Dominus Deus tuus daturus est.

Sextum (praeceptum)
Non occides.

Septimum (praeceptum)
Non committes adulterium.

Octavum (praeceptum)
Non furaberis.

Nonum (praeceptum)
Non dices contra proximum tuum falsum testimonium.

Decimum (praeceptum)

Non concupisces domum proximi tui, nec concupisces uxorem proximi tui, nec servum eius, nec ancillam, nec bovem, nec asinum, nec quicquam eorum, quae sunt proximi tui.

Quaestio 93.Quomodo dividitur haec praecepta?

In duas tabulas, quarum prior quatuor praecptis tradit, quo pacto nos erga Deum geraumus: Posterior sex praeceptis, quae officia proximo debeamus.

Quaestio 94.Quid postulat Deus in primo praecepto?

Ut, quam mihi chara est salus animae meae, tam studiose vitem et fugiam omnem (idolatriam), magiam, incantationem, superstitionem, invocationem sanctorum, aut caeterarum creaturarum: unicum autem et verum Deum recte agnoscam, ipsi soli fideam, summa humilitate, ac patientia me illi subiiciam, ab eo solo omnia bona exspectem; denique intimo cordis affectu ipsum amem, reverear, venerer, adeo ut omnibus potius creaturis renunciem, quam ut vel minimum contra eius voluntatem committam.

Quaestio 95.Quid est idolatria?

Est loco unius Dei, aut praeter unum illum et verum Deum, qui se in suo verbo patefecit, alius quippiam figere aut habere, in quo spem reponas.

Quaestio 96. Quid postulat secundum Praeceptum?

Ne Deum ulula imagine aut figura ex primam, nec ulla alia ratione eum colamus quam qua se in verbo suo coli praeceptis

Quaestio 97. An nulla ergo prorsus singende sunt imagines aut simulachra?

Deus nec ulla ratione essingi debet, nec potest: Creaturas autem, etsi exprimere quidem licet: vetat tamen Deus earum imagines singi, aut haberi, quo vel ipsas, vel Deum per ipsas colamus, aut honoremus.

Quaestio 98. An autem in templis imagines tolerari non possunt quae pro libris sint imperitae multitudini?

Minime: neque enim decet nos sapienttiores esse Deo, qui suam Ecclesiam non mutis simulacris sed viva praedicatione verbi sui vult erudiri.

Quaestio 99. Quid sancit Deus tertio praecpto?

Ut non solum execrando, aut peierando, verum etiam temere iurando, nomen Dei contumeliose, aut irruerenter ne usurpemus; neve tacendo aut connivendo, horrendis istis sceleribus communicemus: Sed sacro sancto Dei nomine non nisi summa cum religiioone et veneratione utamur, ut vera et constanti confessione, invocatione ominibus denique verbis et actionibus nostris ipse celebretur.

Quaestio 100. Estne igitur adeo grave peccatum iurando, dira imprecando, nomen Dei temerare,
ut Deus etiam iis succenseat, qui quantum in se est, illud non prohibent aut impediunt?

Certe graviissimum: Neque enim ullum est peccatum maius, aut quod Deum gravius ostendat, quam sacri ipsius nominis contemelia. Quo circa etiam id scelus morte multari voluit.

Quaestio 101.Potestne quis etiam pie per nomen Dei iurate?

Postest, cum vel magistratus id exigit, vel alioqui necessitas hoc pacto fidem firmari, et veritatem stabiliari postulat: quo et gloria Dei illustretur, et aliorum salutis consulatur. Nam eius generis uisurandum, verbo Dei sancitur, ideoque etiam a sanctis in veter et novo foedere, recte est usurpatum.

Quaestio 102. Estne licitum iurare per Sanctos auralias creaturas?

Non: Nam legitimum iuramentum, est invocatio Dei, qua petitur, ut is tanquam unicum cordium inspector, testimonium det veritati et iuramentem puniat, sisciens fallat. Porro hic honos nulli creaturae convenit.

Quaestio 103. Quid praecipit Deus in quarto praecepto?

Primum, ut Ministerium Euangelii et Scholae conseruentur: utque ego cum aliis, tum praecipue festis diebus, studiose coetus divinos frequentem, vermbum Dei diligenter audiam, utar sacramentis precibus publicis meas quoque preces adiungam, pro facultatibus aliquid consferam in pauperes. Deinde, ut in omni vita a pravis actionibus vacem, Domino concedens, ut per Spiritum sanctum in me suum opus faciat, atque ita sempiternum illud sabbathum in hac vita exordiat.

Quaestio 104. Quid nobis iniungit Deus in quinto praecepto?

Ut parentibus, atque adeo omnibus qui nobis praesunt debitum honorem amorem et fidem praestemus, nosque ipsorum fideo libus praeceptis et castiga ionibus ea, qua par est, obedientia submittamus: Tum etiam uteorum vitia et mores nostra patientia toleremus, illud semper cogitantes, Deum nos illorum manu velle ducere ac regere.

Quaestio 105. Quid Deus flagitat Deus in sexto praecepto?

Ut proximum neque cogitatione, neque verbis, neque gestibus, nedum factis, vel per me, vel per alium contumelius afficiam, aut oderim, aut laedam, aut occidam: Sed omnem vindictae cupiditatem abiiectam, Adhaec ne me ipsum laedam, aut sciens in aliquod periculum coniiciam, Quocirca etiam ne caedes fierentm Magistratum gladio armavit.

Quaestio 106. Atiqui hoc praeceptum solam caedem prohibere videtur?

At caedem proibendo, docet Deus, se radicem et originem caedis, iram scilicet, invidiam, odium, et vindictae cupiditatem odisse, atque ea omnia pro caede ducere.

Quaestio 107. An vero id satis est, non neminem eo, quo dictum est, modo, occidere?

Non est satis: dum enim Deus iram, invidiam, odium damnat postulat ut proximum aequae ac nos ipsos diligamus, et ut humanitate, lenitate, mansuetudine patientia, et misericordia ergo eum utamur, quodque ei damno esse posit. quantum in nobis est avertamus: Ad summam, ita animo affecti simus, ut ne inimicis quindem benefacere dubitemus.

Quaestio 108. Quae est sententia septimi praecepti?

Deum omnem turpitudinem execrari: ideoque nos eam penitus odisse et destari debere: contraque temperanter, modeste et caste, sive in sacro coniugio, sive in vita coelibe vivere oportere.

Quaestio 109. Nihilne amplius prohibet Deus hoc praecepto, quam adulterium, et id genus turpidtunes?

Cum corpus et animus noster templa sint Spiritus sancti: vult Deus ut utrumque pure sancteque posideamus. Ideoque facta, gestus, sermones, cogitatones, cupiditates foedas, et quicquid hominem ad ista allicit, id universum prohibeti.

Quaestio 110. Quid vetat Deus in octavo praecepto?

Non solum ea furta et rapinas, quas magistratus punit: sed furti nomine comprehendit, quidquid est malarum artium et aucupiorum, quibus aliena captamus, et ad nos vi aut specie recti transferre studemus: qualia sunt, inquum pondus iusta vulna, inaequalis mensura, sucola merx, fallax, moneta, usura, aut alia quemvis ratio aut modus rem faciendi a Deo interdictus. His adde omnem avararitia, et multiplicem divinorum donorum prfusionem et abusum.

Quaestio 111. Quae sunt ea quae Deus hic iubet?

Ut commoda et utilitates proximi, quantum possim, adiuvem et augeam, eum eo sic agam, ut mecum ago cuperem: sedulo et fideliter opus faciam, ut aliorum quoque egestati subvenire queam.

Quaestio 112. Quid exigit nonum praeceptum?

No adversus quempiam dicam falsum testimonium, nullius verba calumnier, nulli obtrectem, aut convicium faciam, neminem temere, vel indicta causa condemnem. Verum omnis generis mendacia, fraudes, ut opera Diaboli propria, nisi in me gravissimam iram Dei concitare velim, omni cura fugiam: In iudiciis caeterisque negotiis veritatem secter, et id quod res est libere constanter profitear. Ad haec famam aliorum et existimationem, quantum queam, defendam et augeam.

Quaestio 113. Quid prohibet decimum praeceptum?

Ne vel minima cupiditate,aut cognitatione, adversus ullum Dei praeceptum corda nostra unquam solicitentur : sed ut perpetuo, et ex animo omne peccatum detestemur, contraque omni iustitia delectemur.

Quaestio 114. Possuntne autem illi, qui ad DEum conversi sunt, haec praecepta perfecte servare?

Minime: Vertum etiam sanctissi quique, quamdi vivunt, habent tantum exigua initia huius obedientiae: sic tamen, ut serio ac non simulato studio, non accendum aliqua tantum, sed secundum omnia Dei praecepta vivere incipiant.

Quaestio 115. Cur igitur vult Deus legem suam adeo exacte et severe praedicari, eum nemo sit in hac vita, qui eam servare possit?

Primum, ut in omni vita magnis magisque agnoscamus, quanta sit naturae nostrae ad pecandum propensio, tantoque avidius remissionem peccatorum, et iustitiam in Chrito expectamus: Deinde, ut hoc perpetuo agamus, illud semper meditemur, et pratiam Spiritus sancti a Patre imploremus, quo indies magis ac magis ad imaginem Dei renovemur, donec aliquando tandem, postquam ex hac vita decesserimus, propisitam nobis perfectionem laeti assequamur.

De Precatione

Quaestio 116. Quare Christianis necessaria est precatio?

Quia praecipua pars est eius, quam Deus a nobis postulat, gratitudinis. Tum, quia illis tantum suam gratiam et Spiritum sanctum Deus largitur, qui veris gemitibus, continenter haec ab eo petunt, et pro iis ipsi gratias agunt.

Quaestio 117. Quae ad eam preccationem requiruntur, quae Deo placeat, queque ap ipso exaudiatur?

Ut a solo vero Deo, qui se in verbo suo patefecit, omnia, quae a se peti iussit, vero cordis affectum petamus, et intimo nostrae inigentiae ae miseriae sensu, nos consepctu divinae Maiestatis, supplices abiiciamus, huic firmo fundameno innitamur, nos a Deo, qunquam indignos, propter Christum tamen certo exaudiri, quemadmodum nobis in suo verbo promisit.

Quaestio 118. Quae sunt ea quae a se peti iubet?

Omnia tum animae tum corpori necessaria, quae Dominus noster Iesus Christus ea preccatonie, quam nos ipse docuuit, complexus est.

Quaestio 119. Qui est precatio?

Pater noster, qui es in coelis: Sanctifctur nomen tuum: Veniat regnum tuum: Fiat voluntas tua, quemadmodum in coelo, sic etiam in terra: Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie: Et remite nobis debita nosra, sicut et nos rmittimus debitoriubus nostris: Et ne nos inducas in tentantionem, sed libera nos a malo. Quia tuum est regnum, potentia, et gloria in secula, Amen.

Quaestio 120. Cur praecpit Christus, ut ita Deum compellemus: Pater noster?

Ut statim in ipso precationis exordio, convenientem Dei filiis reverentiam et fiduciam erga Deum in nobis excitet, quae nostrae precationis fundamentum esse debet: nimirum, Deum propter Christum nobis Patrem factum esse, et quae vera fide ab eo petimus, nobis multo minus negare, quam parentes nostri, nobis bona terrena denegant.

Quaestio 121. Cur additur: Quis es in coelis?

Ne de coelesti maestate Dei humile quippiam aut terrenum cogitemus: simul etiam, ut ab eius omnipotentia, quaecunque animo et corpori sunt necessari, expectemus.

Quaestio 122.Quae est prima petitio?

Sanctififectur nomen tuum; hoc est: Da principio, ut te recte agnoscamus, et lucentem in omnibus operbus tuis omnipotentiam, sapientiam bonitatem, iustitiam misericordiam vertatem tuam veneremur, praedicemus et celebremus: Deinde, u universam vitam nostram, cogitationes, sermones et actiones, eo semper dirigamus, ne sanctissimum nomen tuum proper nos contumelia afficatur, sed honore potius et laudibus illustretur

Quaestio 123. Quae est secunda petitio?

Veniat regnum tuum; hoc est: regas nos ita verbo et Spiritu tuo, ut nos tibi magis magisque subiiciamus. Conserva et auge Ecclesiam tuam, destrue opera Diaboli omnemque potentiam se adversus maiestatem tuam efferentem; irrita fac omnia consilia, quae contra verbum tuum eapiuuntur, quoad plene tandem ac perfecte regnes, cum eris omnia in omnibus.

Quaestio 14. Quae est tertia petitio?

Fiat voluntas tua, quemadmodum in coelo, sic etiam in terra; hoc est: Da, ut nos et omnes homines, voluntati propriae renunciantes, tuae voluntati, quae sola est sancta, prompte et sine ulla murmure pareamus: atquae ita singuli mandatum nobis munus fideliter et alacriter exequamur, quemadmodum faciunt Angeli in coelo.

Quaestio 125. Quae est quarta petitio?

Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie; hoc est, suppedita nobis omnia, quae sunt ad hanc vitam necessaria, ut per ea agnoscaus, te unicum fontem esse, ex quo omnia bona emanant, ac nisi tu bendicas, omnem nostre=am curam et indiustraim, atque adeo tua ipsius dona, nobis infelicia et noxia esse. Quapropter da, ut fiduciam nostram ob omnibus creaturis aversam, in te solo colloceamus.

Quaestio 126. Quae est quinta petitio?

Remitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos remittimus debitoribus nostris; hoc est: nobis miserrimis peccatoribus, omnia peccata nostra, atque eam etiam pravitatem, qiae in nobis etiamnum haeret, propter Christi sanguinem ne imputes: quemadmodum nos quoque hoc tuae gratiae tesimonium in cordibus nostris sentimus, quod firmiter mobis propositum habemus, omnibus, qui nos effenderunt, ex animo ignoscere.

Quaestio 127. Quae est sexta petitio?

Ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo; hoc est: quoniam ipsi natura adeo debiles et ifnirmi summus, ut no momento quidem subsistere possimus: infensissimi autem hostes nostri, Satam, mundus, ac nostra ipsorum caro, nos continenter oppgunant: tu nos sustentes, et Spiritus tui robore firmes, ne in hoc Spirituali certamine succcumbamus, set tantisper illis fortiter resistamus, donec integram tandem victoriam obtineamus.

Quaestio 128. Quo modo concludis precationem tuam?

Quia tuum est regnum, potentia, et gloria in secula; hoc est: omnia haec a te petimus, quia cum et rex noster, et omninipotens sis, omnia nobis et vis et ptes largiri: Atque haec quidem ideo petimus, ut ex iis, non ad nos, sed ad sanctum nomen tuum, omnis gloria redeat.

Quaestio 129. Quid sibi vult particula: Amen?

Rem certam ac ratam esse: Nam precatio mea, multo certius a deo est exaudita, quam ego in corde mea sentio, me illud ex animo cupere.

Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

Note: This edition of the catechism is based on the 1978 translation published by the Reformed Church in the United States and modified by the removal of archaic language and with minor revision of the translation according to the German and Latin texts.

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 blood 4 has fully satisfied for all my sins, 5 and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; 6 and so preserves me, 7 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 for Him.11

1. Rom 14:7,8.
2. 1 Cor 6:19.
3. 1 Cor 3:23.
4. 1 Pet 1:18,19.
5. 1 John 1:7. 1 John 2:2.
6. 1 John 3:8.
7. John 6:39.
8. Matt  10:29, 30. Luke 21:18.
9. Rom 8:28.
10. 2 Cor 1:21, 22. Eph 1:13,14. Rom 8:16.
11. Rom 8:1.

2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?

Three things:1 the first, how great my sin and misery is;2 the second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery;3 the third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.4

1 Luke 24:46,47. 1 Cor 6:11. Titus 3:3-7. 2 John 9:41. John 15:22. 3 John 17:3. 4 Eph 5:8-11. 1 Pet 2:9-12. Rom 6:11-14. * Rom 7:24, 25. * Gal 3:13.  * Col 3:17.



3. From where do you know your misery?

From the Law of God.1

1 Rom 3:20. * Rom 7:7.

4. What does the Law of God require of us?

Christ teaches us in sum, Matt  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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (22:38, 39,40)

1 Luke 10:27. * Deut 6:5. * Gal 5:14.

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. I John 1:8,10. 2 Rom 8:7. Eph 2:3.


6. Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?

No,1 but God created man good and after His own image,2 that is, in righteousness and true holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.3

1 Gen 1:31; 2 Gen 1:26, 27; 3 2 Cor 3:18, Col 3:10, Eph 4:24.

7. From where  then comes this depraved nature of man?

From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise,1 whereby our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.2

1 Gen 3 (all). Rom 5:12,18,19. 2 Ps 51:5 * Ps 14:2, 3.

8. But are we so depraved, that we are wholly incapable of any good and prone to all evil?

Yes,1 unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.2

1 John 3:6. Gen 6:5. Job 14:4. Isaiah 53:6. 2 John 3:5. * Gen 8:21. * 2 Cor 3:5. * Rom 7:18. * Jer 17:9.


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, by willful disobedience deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.2

1 Eph 4:24. 2 Rom 5:12.

10. Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?

By no means,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, as He has declared: “Cursed is every one who continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them.”2

1 Heb 9:27. 2 Deut 27:26. Gal 3:10. * Rom 1:18. * Matt  25:41.

11. Is then God not 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 also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment both of body and soul.

1 Exod 34:6,7. 2 Exod 20:5. Ps 5:5,6. 2 Cor 6:14-16. * Revelation 14:11.



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 the same, either by ourselves or by another.2

1 Exod 20:5. Exod 23:7. 2 Rom 8:3,4.

13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction.

By no means, on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.1 1 Job 9:2, 3. Job 15:15,16. Matt  6:12. * Matt  16:26.

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 sin2 and redeem others from it.

1 Heb 2:14-18. 2 Ps 130:3.

15. What kind of a 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. 2 Jer 33:16. Isaiah 53:11. 2 Cor 5:21. Heb 7:15,16. 3. Isaiah 7:14. Heb 7:26.


16. Why must he be a true and righteous man?

Because the justice of God requires1 that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin, but one who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.2

1 Rom 5:15. 2 Isaiah 53:3-5.

17. Why must he also be true God?

That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath,1 and so obtain for2 and restore to us righteousness and life.3

1 Isaiah 53:8. Acts 2:24. 2 John 3:16. Acts 20:28. 3 I John 1:2.

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 Matt  1:23. 1 Tim 3:16. Luke 2:11. 2 1 Cor 1:30. * Acts 4:12.

19. From where  do you know this?

From the Holy Gospel, which God Himself revealed first in Paradise;1 afterwards proclaimed by the holy Patriarchs2 and Prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;3 and finally fulfilled by His well-beloved Son.

1 Gen 3:15. 2 Gen 22:18. Gen 49:10,11. Rom 1:2. Heb 1:1. Acts 3:22-24.  Acts 10:43. 3 John 5:46. Heb 10:7. 4 Rom 10:4. Gal 4:4,5. * Heb 10:1.


20. Are all men then saved by Christ as they perished in Adam?

No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.1

1 John 1:12,13. 1 Cor 15:22. Ps 2:12. Rom 11:20. Heb 4:2, 3. Heb 10:39.

21. What is true faith?

True faith is not only a certain 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 Spirit 3 works in me by the Gospel,4 that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God,5 merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.6

1 James 1:6. 2 Rom 4:16-18. 3 2 Cor 4:13. Phil 1:19, 20. 4 Rom 1:16.  Rom 10:17. 5 Heb 11:1, 2. Rom 1:17. 6 Eph 2:7-9. Rom 3:24, 25. Gal 2:16.  * Acts 10:43.

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 sum.

1 John 20:31. Matt  28:20. * 2 Pet 1:21. * 2 Tim 3:15.

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 from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty, from thence 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.


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 Pet 1:2. * I John 5:7.

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. 2 Isaiah 61:1. Ps 110:1. Matt  3:16,17 Matt  28:19. I John 5:7.

* 2 Cor 13:14.



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 vale of tears, 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 1:31. Ps 33:6. * Col 1:16. * Heb 11:3. 2 Ps 104:2-5. Matt 10:30.  Heb 1:3. Ps 115:3. * Acts 17:24, 25. 3 John 1:12. Rom 8:15. Gal 4:5-7. Eph 1:5. * Eph 3:14-16. * Matt  6:8. 4 Ps 55:22. Matt  6:25, 26. (See also Luke 12:22-24).  Ps 90:1, 2. 5 Rom 8:28. * Acts 17:27, 28. 6 Rom 10:12. 7 Matt  7:9-11. * Num 23:19.


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 upholds heaven and earth with all creatures,2 and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink,3 health and sickness, 4 riches and poverty,5 indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.

1 Acts 17:25, 26. 2 Heb 1:3. 3 Jer 5:24. * Acts 14:17. 4 John 9:3. 5 Prov 22:2. * Ps 103:19. * Rom 5:3-5a.

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 Rom 5:3. James 1:3. Job 1:21. 2 Deut 8:10. 1 Thess 5:18. 3 Rom 8:35, 38, 39 4 Job 1:12. Acts 17:25-28. Prov 21:1. * Ps 71:7. * 2 Cor 1:10.



29. Why is the Son of God called JESUS, that is, Savior?

Because He saves us from our sins,1 and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.2

1 Matt  1:21. Heb 7:25. 2 Acts 4:12. * Luke 2:10,11.

30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

No, although they make their boast of Him, yet in 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.

1 1 Cor 1:13. 1 Cor 1:30, 31. Gal 5:4. 2 Isaiah 9:7. Col 1:20. Col 2:10. John 1:16. * Matt  23, 28.


31. Why is He called CHRIST, that is Anointed?

Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit 1 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, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;5 and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.6

1 Heb 1:9. 2 Deut 18:15. Acts 3:22. 3 John 1:18. John 15:15. 4 Ps 110:4. Heb 7:21. 5 Rom 5:9,10. 6 Ps 2:6. Luke 1:33. Matt  28:18. * Isa 61:1, 2. * 1 Peter 2:24. * Rev 19:16.

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 that with a free conscience I 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. I John 2:27. * I John 2:20. 2 Acts 2:17. 3 Mark 8:38. 4 Rom 12:1. Rev 5:8,10. 1 Pet 2:9. Rev 1:6. 5 1 Tim 1:18,19. 6 2 Tim 2:12. * Eph 6:12.  * Rev 3:21.


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 John 1:14,18. 2 Rom 8:15-17. Eph 1:5,6. * I John 3:1.

34. Why do you call Him “our Lord”?

Because, not with gold or silver, but with His precious blood, He has redeemed and purchased us, body and soul, from sin and from all the power of the devil, to be His own.1

1 1 Pet 1:18,19. 1 Pet 2:9. 1 Cor 6:20. 1 Cor 7:23. * Acts 2:36. * Titus 2:14. * Col 1:14.


35. What is the meaning of “conceived by the Holy Spirit , born of the Virgin Mary”?

That the eternal Son of God, who is1 and continues true and eternal God,2 took upon Himself the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary,3 by the operation of the Holy Spirit ;4 so that He might also be the true seed of David,5 like His brothers in all things,6 sin excepted.7

1 John 1:1. Rom 1:3,4. 2 Rom 9:5. 3 Gal 4:4. John 1:14. 4 Matt  1:18-20. Luke 1:35. 5 Ps 132:11. 6 Phil 2:7. 7 Heb 4:15. * I John 5:20.

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 holiness covers, in the sight of God, my sin, wherein I was conceived.2.

1 Heb 2:16,17. 2 Ps 32:1. * I John 1:9.


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 passion, as the only atoning sacrifice,2 He might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the grace of God, righteousness and eternal life.

1 1 Pet 2:24. Isa 53:12. 2 I John 2:2. I John 4:10. Rom 3:25, 26. * Ps 22:14-16. * Matt  26:38. * Rom 5:6.

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 Acts 4:27, 28. Luke 23:13-15. John 19:4. 2 Ps 69:4. 2 Cor 5:21. * Matt  27:24.

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. * Phil 2:8.


40. Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer “death”?

Because the justice and truth1 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 Heb 2:9. * Rom 6:23.

41. Why was He “buried”?

To show thereby that He was really dead.1

1 Matt  27:59,60. John 19:38-42. Acts 13:29.

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 John 5:24. Phil 1:23. Rom 7:24, 25.

43. What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?

That thereby our old man is crucified, slain and buried1 with Him, that so 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 6:6-8. Col 2:12. 2 Rom 6:12. 3 Rom 12:1. * 2 Cor 5:15.

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 Isa 53:10. Matt  27:46. * Ps 18:5. * Ps 116:3.


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 Secondly, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life.2 Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.3

1 1 Cor 15:15,17,54-55. Rom 4:25. 1 Pet 1:3,4, 21. 2 Rom 6:4. Col 3:1-4.  Eph 2:5. 3 1 Cor 15:12. Rom 8:11. * 1 Cor 15:20, 21.

46. How do you understand 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 behalf2 until He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.3

1 Acts 1:9. Matt  26:64. Mark 16:19. Luke 24:51. 2 Heb 4:14. Heb 7:24, 25. Heb 9:11. Rom 8:34. Eph 4:10.
3 Acts 1:11. Matt  24:30. * Acts 3:20, 21.

47. Is Christ then not with us even unto the end of the world, as He has promised?1

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 Matt  28:20. 2 Matt  26:11. John 16:28. John 17:11. 3 John 14:17,18. John 16:13. Eph 4:8. * Matt  18:20. * Heb 8:4.

48. Since his human nature is not present wherever His Godhead is, are not then these two natures in Christ separated from one another?

Not at all; for since the Godhead is incomprehensible and everywhere present,1 it must follow that the same is not limited with the human nature He assumed, and yet remains personally united to it.2

1 Acts 7:49. Jer 23:24. 2 Col 2:9. John 3:13. John 11:15. Matt  28:6. * John 1:48.


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 Secondly, 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 Thirdly, 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 earth.4

1 I John 2:1. Rom 8:34. 2 John 14:2. John 20:17. Eph 2:6. 3 John 14:16. Acts 2:33. 2 Cor 5:5. 4 Col 3:1.
* John 14:3 * Heb 9:24.

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 John 5:22. * 1 Pet 3:22. * Ps 110:1.


51. What does this glory of Christ, our Head, profit us?

First, that by His Holy Spirit He bestows the heavenly gifts upon us, His members;1 then, that by His power He defends and preserves us against all enemies.2

1 Eph 4:10-12. 2 Ps 2:9. John 10:28-30. * 1 Cor 15:25, 26. * Acts 2:33.

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, with uplifted head, I look for the very same one, who before offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven,1 who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation,2 but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.3

1. Luke 21:28; Rom 8:23, 24; Phil 3:20, 21; Titus 2:13.
2. 2 Thess 1;6,10; 1 Thess 4:16-18.
3. Matt  25:41.
* Acts 1:10,11; Heb 9:28.



53. What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit ?

First, that He is co-eternal God with the Father and the Son.1 Secondly, that He is also given unto me,2 by true faith makes me a partaker of Christ and all His benefits,3 comforts me4 and shall abide with me forever.5

1 Gen 1:2. Isa 48:15. 1 Cor 3:16. 1 Cor 6:19. Acts 5:3,4. 2 Matt  28:19. 2 Cor 1:21, 22. 3 1 Pet 1:2. 1 Cor 6:17. 4 Acts 9:31. 5 John 14:16. 1 Pet 4:14. * I John 4:13. * Rom 15:13.

21 Sunday

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 Himself to everlasting life a chosen communion5 in the unity of the true faith;6 and that I am and forever shall remain a living member of the same.7

1 Gen 26:4. 2 John 10:10. 3 Eph 1:10-13. 4 Rom 1:16. Isa 59:21. Rom 10:14-17. Eph 5:26. 5 Rom 8:29, 30. Matt  16:18. Eph 4:3-6. 6 Acts 2:46. Ps 71:18.  1 Cor 11:26. John 10:28-30. 1 Cor 1:8,9. 7 I John 3:21. I John 2:19. * Gal 3:28.

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 secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.2

1 I John 1:3. 2 1 Cor 12:12,13. 1 Cor 12:21. 1 Cor 13:5,6. Phil 2:4-6. * Heb 3:14.

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; but graciously imputes to me the righteousness of Christ,2 that I may nevermore come into condemnation.3

1 I John 2:2. 2 2 Cor 5:19, 21. Rom 7:24, 25. Ps 103:3,10,12. Jer 31:34. Rom 8;1-4. 3 John 3:18. * Eph 1:7. * Rom 4:7,8. * Rom 7:18.


57. What comfort does the “resurrection of the body” afford you?

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 unto the glorious body of Christ.2

1 Luke 23:43. Phil 1:21-23. 2 1 Cor 15:53,54. Job 19:25-27. I John 3:2.

58. What comfort do you have you from the article of “life everlasting”?

That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy,1 I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man,2 therein to praise God forever.3

1 2 Cor 5:2, 3. 2 1 Cor 2:9. 3 John 17:3. * Rom 8:23. * 1 Pet 1:8.


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

1 Hab 2:4. Rom 1:17. John 3:36. * Titus 3:7. * Rom 5:1. * Rom 8:16.

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ;1 that is, although my conscience accuse 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 sin, 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

1 Rom 3:21-25. Gal 2:16. Eph 2:8,9. Phil 3:9. 2 Rom 3:9,10. 3 Rom 7:23.; 4 Titus 3:5. 5 Rom 3:24. Eph 2:8.
6 I John 2:2. 7 I John 2:1. Rom 4:4,5. 2 Cor 5:19. 8 2 Cor 5:21. 9 John 3:18. * Rom 3:28. * Rom 10:10.

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 God1 and I can receive the same and make it my own in no other way than by faith only.2

1 1 Cor 1:30. 1 Cor 2:2. 2 I John 5:10. * Isa 53:5. * Gal 3:22. * Rom 4:16.


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 wholly conformable to the divine law;1 but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.2

1 Gal 3:10. Deut 27:26. 2 Isa 64:6. * James 2:10. * Phil 3:12.

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

1 Luke 17:10. * Rom 11:6.

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

1 Matt  7:18. * Rom 6:1, 2. * John 15:5.



65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, from where comes this faith?

The Holy Spirit  works faith in our hearts1 by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the Holy Sacraments.

1 John 3:5. * Rom 10:17. 2 Rom 4:11. * Acts 8:37.

66. What are the Sacraments?

The Sacraments are visible holy signs and seals appointed of God for this end, that by the use thereof He may the more fully declare and seal to us the promise of the Gospel: 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.1

1 Gen 17:11. Rom 4:1. Deut 30:6. Heb 9:8,9. Ezek 20:12.

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

1 Rom 6:3. * Gal 3:27. * Heb 9:12. * Acts 2:41,42.

68. How many Sacraments has Christ instituted in the New Testament?

Two: Holy Baptism and Holy Supper



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 water1 and joined therewith this promise:2 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.3

1 Matt  28:19, 20. Acts 2:38. 2 Matt  3:11. Mark 16:16. Rom 6:3,4. 3 Mark 1:4.

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, that so we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblamable lives.2

1 Heb 12:24. 1 Pet 1:2. Rev 1:5. Zechariah 13:1. Ezek 36:25-27. 2 John 1:33. John 3:3 1 Cor 6:11. 1 Cor 12:13. * Heb 9:14.

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 ye, 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 believs not shall be damned.”2  This promise is also repeated, where Scripture calls Baptism the washing of regeneration,3 and the washing away of sins.4

1 Matt  28:19. 2 Mark 16:16. 3 Titus 3:5. 4 Acts 22:16.


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

1 1 Pet 3:21. Eph 5:26. 2 I John 1:7. 1 Cor 6:11.

73. Why then does the Holy Spirit  call Baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?

God speaks thus not without great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby that like 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

1 Rev 7:14. 2 Mark 16:16. * Acts 2:38.

74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Yes, for since they belong to the covenant and people of God as well as their parents,1 and since redemption from sin through the blood of Christ,2 and the Holy Spirit  who works faith, are promised to them no less than to their parents,3 they are also by Baptism, as the 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 instituted.6

1 Gen 17:7. 2 Matt  19:14. 3 Luke 1:14,15. Ps 22:10. Acts 2:39. 4 Acts 10:47 5 Gen 17:14. 6 Col 2:11-13.



75. How is it signified and sealed to you in the Holy Supper, that you do 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.

1 Matt  26:26-28. Mark 14:22-24. Luke 22:19, 20. 1 Cor 10:16,17. 1 Cor 11:23-25.  1 Cor 12:13.

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 (Bergebung) the forgiveness of sins and life eternal (ewiges Leben);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 by one soul.5

1 John 6:35,40,47,48. John 6:50-54. 2 John 6:55,56. 3 Acts 3:21. 1 Cor 11:26. 4 Eph 3:16-19. Eph 5:29, 30, 32. 1 Cor 6:15,17,19. I John 4:13. 5 John 14:23. John 6:56-58. John 15:1-6. Eph 4:15,16. John 6:63.

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 brake 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 supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.”1 And this promise is also repeated by St. Paul,2 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? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

1 1 Cor 11:23-25. 2 1 Cor 10:16,17.


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; so also in the Lord’s Supper the sacred bread1 does not become the body of Christ itself, though agreeably to the nature and usage of sacraments it is called the body of Christ.

1 Matt  26:29. 1 Cor 11: 26-28. Exod 12:26, 27. Exod 12:43,48. 1 Cor 10:1-4.

79. Why then does Christ call the bread His body, and the cup His blood, or the new testament in His blood, and St. Paul, the communion of the body and the blood of Christ?

Christ speaks thus not without 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.

1 John 6:51-55. (See question 76) 2 1 Cor 10:16,17. (See question 78)


80. What difference is there between the Lord’s Supper and the Popish 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 passion of Jesus Christ,5 and an accursed idolatry.

1 Heb 7:27. Heb 9:12, 25-28. Heb 10:10,12,14. John 19:30. 2 1 Cor 6:17. 3 Heb 1:3. Heb 8:1. 4 John 4:21-24. John 20:17. Luke 24:52. Acts 7:55. Col 3:1. Phil 3:20, 21. 1 Thess 1:9,10. 5 Heb, chapters 9 and 10. * Matt  4:10.

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 passion 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 1 Cor 10:19-22. 1 Cor 11:28, 29. * Ps 51:3. * John 7:37, 38. * Ps 103:1-4. * Matt  5:6.

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 wherefore 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 life.

1 1 Cor 11:20, 34a. Isa 1:11-15. Isa 66:3. Jer 7:21-23. Ps 50:16,17. * Matt  7:6. * 1 Cor 11:30-32. * Titus 3:10,11. * 2 Thess 3:6.


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 Matt  16:18,19. Matt  18:18. * John 20:23. * Luke 24:46,47. * 1 Cor 1:23, 24.

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 John 20:21-23. * Acts 10:43. * Isa 58:1. * 2 Cor 2:15,16. * John 8:24.

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 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 Matt  18:15-18. 1 Cor 5:3-5,11. 2 Thess 3:14,15. 2 John 10,11.



86. Since then we are redeemed from our misery by grace through Christ, without any merit of ours, why should 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 also that He be glorified through us;2 then also, that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by the fruits thereof;3 and by our godly walk win also others to Christ.4

1 Rom 6:13. Rom 12:1, 2. 1 Pet 2:5,9,10. 1 Cor 6:20. 2 Matt  5:16. 1 Pet 2:12. 3 Matt  7:17,18. Gal 5:6, 22, 23. 4 Rom 14:19. 1 Pet 3:1, 2. * 2 Pet 1:10.

87. Can they then not be saved who do not turn to God from their unthankful, impenitent life?

By no means, for, as the Scripture says, no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like shall inherit the Kingdom of God.1

1 1 Cor 6:9,10. Eph 5:5,6. I John 3:14,15.


88. In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man1 and the quickening of the new.1

1 Rom 6:4-6. Eph 4:22-24. Col 3:5-10. 1 Cor 5:7

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 Rom 8:13. Joel 2:13.

90. What is the quickening 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 Rom 5:1. Rom 14:17. Isa 57:15. 2 Rom 8:10,11. Gal 2:20. * Rom 7:22.

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 opinion or the commandments of men.4

1 Rom 14:23. 2 1 Sam 15:22. Eph 2:10. 3 1 Cor 10:31. 4 Deut 12:32. Ezek 20:18, 20. Isa 29:13. Matt  15:9. * Num 15:39.



92. What is the Law of God?

God spoke all these words, saying:

First Commandment

I am the Lord your God, which have 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 any graven 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 yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that 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 shall you labor, and do all your work: but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, thou, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger that is within your gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore 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 gives you.

Sixth Commandment

You shall not kill.

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 manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

See Exod 20 and Deut 5. * Matt  5:17-19. * Rom 10:5. * Rom 3:31. * Ps 119:9.

93. How are these Commandments divided?

Into two tables:1 the first of which teaches in four commandments, what duties we owe to God; the second, in six, what duties we owe to our neighbor.2

1 Exod 34:28. Deut 4:13. 2 Matt  22:37-40.

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 fear10 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 10:7,14. 2 Lev 19:31. Deut 18:10-12. 3 Matt  4:10. Rev 19:10. Rev 22:8, 9. 4 John 17:3. 5 Jer 17:5. 6 1 Pet 5:5,6. 7 Heb 10:36. Col 1:10b,11. Rom 5:3,4. 1 Cor 10:10. 8 Ps 104:27-30. Isa 45:6b, 7. James 1:17. 9 Deut 6:5. 10 Deut 6:2. Ps 111:10. Prov 9:10. Matt  10:28. 11 Deut 10:20. 12 Matt  5:29, 30. Matt  10:37. Acts 5:29.

95. What is idolatry?

Idolatry is to conceive or have something else on which to place our trust instead of, or besides the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.1

1 Eph 5:5. Phil 3:19. Eph 2:12. John 2:23. 2 John 9. John 5:23. * Ps 81:8,9. * Matt  6:24. * Ps 62:5-7. * Ps 73:25, 26.


96. What does God require in the second Commandment?

That we in no wise 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. Rom 1:22-24. Acts 17:29. 2 1 Sam 15:23. Deut 12:30-32. Matt  15:9. * Deut 4:23, 24. * John 4:24.

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 any likeness of them, either to worship them, or to serve God by them.1

1 Exod 23:24, 25. Exod 34:13,14. Deut 7:5. Deut 12:3. Deut 16:22. 2 Kgs 18:4. * John 1:18.

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 Jer 10:8. Hab 2:18,19. 2 2 Pet 1:19. 2 Tim 3:16,17. * Rom 10:17.


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 silence and connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others; and in sum, that we use the Holy Name of God in no other way than with fear and reverence,4 so that He may be rightly confessed5 and worshipped6 by us, and be glorified in all our words and works.7

1 Lev 24:10-16. 2 Lev 19:12. 3 Matt  5:37. James 5:12. 4 Isa 45:23. 5 Matt  10:32.
6 1 Tim 2:8. 7 Rom 2:24. 1 Tim 6:1. Col 3:16,17.* 1 Pet 3:15.

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 the same?

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

1 Lev 5:1. 2 Lev 24:15,16. * Lev 19:12. * Prov 29:24, 25.


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 Testament.2

1 Deut 10:20. Isa 48:1. Heb 6:16 2 Gen 21:24. Gen 31:53,54. Josh 9:15,19.  1 Sam 24:22. 1 Kgs 1:29. Rom 1:9.

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 2 Cor 1:23. 2 Matt  5:34, 36. * Jer 5:7. * Isa 65:16.


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 church,2 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 fromm my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting Sabbath.7

1 Titus 1:5. 1 Tim 3:14,15. 1 Tim 4:13,14. 1 Tim 5:17. 1 Cor 9:11,13,14. 2 2 Tim 2:2. 2 Tim 2:15. Ps 40:10,11. Ps 68:26. Acts 2:42,46. 3 1 Cor 14:19, 29, 31. 4 1 Cor 11:33. 5 1 Tim 2:1, 2. 1 Tim 2:8-10. 1 Cor 14:16. 6 1 Cor 16:2. 7 Isa 66:23. * Gal 6:6. * Acts 20:7. * Heb 4:9,10.


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 Eph 6:22. Eph 6:1-6. Col 3:18, 20-24. Prov 1:8,9. Prov 4:1. Prov 15:20. Prov 20:20. Exod 21:17. Gen 9:24, 25. 2 Rom 13:1. 1 Pet 2:18. Rom 13:2-7. Matt  22:21. 3 Eph 6:4,9. Col 3:19, 21. * Prov 30:17. Deut 27:16. * Deut 32:46. * Prov 13:24. * 1 Tim 2:1, 2. *

1 Tim 5:17. * Heb 13:17,18.


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

1 Matt  5:21, 22. Matt  26:52. Gen 9:6. 2 Eph 4:26. Rom 12:19. Matt  5:25. Matt  18:35. 3 Matt  4:7. Rom 13:14. Col 2:23. 4 Exod 21:14. Matt  18:6,7.

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

1 Rom 1:28-32. 2 I John 2:9-11. 3 James 2:13. Gal 5:19-21. 4 I John 3:15. * James 3:16. * James 1:19.

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

1 Matt  7:12. Matt  22:39. 2 Eph 4:2. Gal 6:1, 2. Rom 12:18. 3 Matt  5:7. Luke 6:36. 4 Rom 12:10. 5 Exod 23:5. 6 Matt  5:44,45. Rom 12:20, 21. * Col 3:12-14. * Matt  5:9.


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 in single life.4

1 Lev 18:27, 28. 2 Jude 22, 23. 3 1 Thess 4:3-5. 4 Heb 13:4.
1 Cor 7:1-4.

109. Does God forbid nothing more in this commandment than adultery and such gross sins?

Since both our holy body and soul are temples of this 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

1 Eph 5:3,4. 1 Cor 6:18-20. 2 Matt  5:27-30. 3 Eph 5:18,19. 1 Cor 15:33.


110. What does God forbid in the eighth Commandment?

God forbids not only such theft1 and robbery2 as are punished by this magistrate, 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 ells, measures,5 goods, coins usury,6 or by any means forbidden of God; also a covetousness7 and the misuse and waste of His gifts.8

1 1 Cor 6:10. 2 1 Cor 5:10. 3 Luke 3:14. 1 Thess 4:6. 4 Prov 11:1. Prov 16:11. 5 Ezek 45:9,10. Deut 25:13-15. 6 Ps 15:5. Luke 6:35. 7 1 Cor 6:10. 8 Prov 5:10. * 1 Tim 6:10. * John 6:12.

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

1 Matt  7:12. 2 Eph 4:28. * Phil 2:4. * Gen 3:19. * 1 Tim 6:6,7.


112. What does the ninth Commandment require.

That I bear false witness against no one,1 wrest 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 in so far as I can defend and promote my neighbor’s good name.8

1 Prov 19:5,9. 2 Ps 15:3. 3 Rom 1:28-30. 4 Matt  7:1, 2. Luke 6:37. 5 John 8:44. 6 Prov 12:22. Prov 13:5. 7 1 Cor 13:6. Eph 4:25. 8 1 Pet 4:8. * John 7:24,51. * 1 Pet 2:21, 23. * Col 4:6. * 1 Pet 3:9.


113. What does the tenth Commandment require?

That not even in 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

1 Rom 7:7,8. * Prov 4:23. * James 1:14,15. * Matt  15:11,19, 20.

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 this 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

1 I John 1:8-10. Rom 7:14,15. Ecclesiastes 7:20. 2 Rom 7:22. James 2:10,11. * Job 9:2, 3. * Ps 19:13.

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 secondly, 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

1 I John 1:9. Ps 32:5. 2 Rom 7:24, 25. 3 1 Cor 9:24, 25. Phil 3:12-14. * Matt  5:6. * Ps 51:12.



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 beg them of Him, and render thanks unto Him for them.2

1 Ps 50:14,15. 2 Matt  7:7,8. Luke 11:9,10,13. Matt  13:12. * Eph 6:18.

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 secondly, that we thoroughly know our need and misery,4 so as to humble ourselves in the presence of His divine Majesty;5 thirdly, that we be firmly assured,6 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

1 John 4:22-24. 2 I John 5:14. Rom 8:26. 3 Ps 27:8. 4 2 Chron 20:12. 5 Ps 2:10. * Ps 34:18. * Isa 66:2. 6 Rom 10:14. James 1:6. 7 John 14:13-16. Daniel 9:17,18. 8 Matt  7:8. Ps 143:1. * Luke 18:13.

118. What has God commanded us to ask Him?

All things necessary for soul and body,1 which Christ our Lord comprised in the prayer, which He Himself taught us.

1 James 1:17. Matt  6:33. * 1 Pet 5:7. * Phil 4:6.

119. What is the Lord’s Prayer?

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done in 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 yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever*. Amen.1

*This doxology does not appear in the oldest manuscripts of Matthew 6:13. It is drawn from 1 Chronicles 29:10–13. It appears first in Byzantine copies of the NT. A shorter version appeared in the Didache, which has been dated from the late 1st century to the late 2nd century. 1 Matt  6:9-13. Luke 11:2-4.


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 Matt  7:9-11. Luke 11:11-13. * 1 Pet 1:17. * Isa 63:16.

121. Why is it added: “in heaven”?

That we may 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, 25, 27. 2 Rom 10:12. * 1 Kgs 8:28. * Ps 115:3.


122. What is the first petition?

“Hallowed be Your 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 John 17:3. Matt  16:17. James 1:5. Ps 119:105. 2 Ps 119:137. Rom 11:33-36. 3 Ps 71:8. Ps 100:3,4. * Ps 91:1, 2. * Eph 1:16,17. * Ps 71:16.


123. What is the second petition?

“Your 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. Ps 143:10. 2 Ps 51:18. Ps 122:6,7. 3 I John 3:8. Rom 16:20. 4 Rev 22:17, 20. Rom 8:22, 23.
5 1 Cor 15:28. * Ps 102:12,13. * Heb 12:28. * Rev 11:15. * 1 Cor 15:24.


124. What is the third petition?

“Your 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 that so every one may fulfill his office and calling as willingly and faithfully3 as the angels do in heaven.4

1 Matt  15:24. 2 Luke 22:42. Titus 2:12. 3 1 Cor 7:24. 4 Ps 103:20, 21. * Rom 12:2. * Heb 13:21.


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 you to be 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, 28. Ps 145:15,16. Matt  5:25, 26. 2 Acts 14:17. Acts 17:27, 28. 3 1 Cor 15:58. Deut 8:3. Ps 37:3-7,16,17. 4 Ps 55:22. Ps 62:10. * Ps 127:1, 2. * Jer 17:5,7. * Ps 146:2, 3.


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 still 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 51:1-4. Ps 143:2. 1 John 2:1, 2. 2 Matt  6:14,15. * Ps 51:5-7. * Eph 1:7.


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 world3 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 John 15:5.  Ps 103:14-16. 2 1 Pet 5:8,9. Eph 6:12,13. 3 John 15:19. 4 Rom 7:23. Gal 5:17. 5 Matt  26:41. Mark 13:33. 6 1 Thess 3:13. 1 Thess 5:23, 24. * 2 Cor 12:7.

128. How do you close this Prayer?

“For yours 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 10:11,12. 2 Pet 2:9. 2 John 14:13. Ps 115:1.

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 things of Him.1

1 2 Cor 1:20. 2 Tim 2:13. * Ps 145:18,19. Eph 3:20, 21. Rom 8:31-39.


A Historical, Theological, Pastoral, and Polemical Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

Note 22 April 2008: What follows is very rough draft of the beginning of a commentary on the HC. This material may not be published, re-published or distributed without the express permission of the author.


It is the great need of the confessional Reformed community, i.e., the “sideline” denominations and federations in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council (NAPARC) and the “borderline” denominations (e.g. the Evangelical Presbyterian Church or the Christian Reformed Churches) those moving either toward the confessions or moving away from the Reformed confessions, recover the Reformed confession.

.The verb “to recover” signals that something has been lost and needs to be sought and found. That something has been lost seems fairly evident. The list of what has been lost and the list and explanation of the reasons why they have been lost would make the first half of a compelling book (hmm, somebody should write that book; hey, hold on, someone is!). We have lost important elements of Reformed theology (e.g., the Creator/creature distinction), piety (e.g., the preaching of the gospel and sacraments as the objective means of grace), and practice (e.g., the regulative principle of worship). The two chief reasons for these losses are the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Certainty (QIRC) and the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience (QIRE). The alternative to these quests is confessional Reformed theology, piety, and practice.

Toward their recovery let us take our catechism to hand and begin working through it step by step.

What is a Catechism?

A catechism is a book of question and answers. It was an ancient way of teaching and remains an effective way of teaching today since, however much the world changes around us, people are still still people. We still have to eat, sleep, and learn and those things don’t change fundamentally.

The Heidelberg Catechism was published in three editions with the third and final edition appearing in 1563. It was commissioned by Frederich III upon becoming the elector (governor) of the Palatinate in what we now know as Germany. Heidelberg was the capital city of the Palatinate (political district in the Holy Roman Empire). When he became elector, Frederick inherited a religiously confused situation. Not many years before, of course, everyone had been Roman Catholic. Then, under his predecessor, Otto Heinrich, the Lutheran Reformation had been introduced. Friederich, however, was not a Lutheran but Reformed. So the people were going to change religions for the third time in just a few years. Of course this all sounds strange to us, but it was the 16th century and under the terms of the Peace of Augsburg (1555) the ruler’s religion was the peoples’ religion (cuius regio, eius religio, whose the rule, his the religion). It’s a long story but this arrangement was known generally as Christendom and it was widely assumed in Europe that there must be a state church and that there could be only one church in a country or political district. In the pre-modern world, one did not assume the right to choose one’s religion any more than one assumed the right to choose one’s ruler.

Thus, Frederick gathered in Heidelberg a group of scholars and pastors to implement a Reformed Reformation. The two best known of this group were Zacharias Ursinus (1534-83) and Caspar Olevianus (1536-87). These two men were the principal authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, though it was edited by a committee. Frederick did not want it known who wrote the catechism. As a result we don’t know exactly who wrote which questions in every case. A great deal of research has been done to try to sort out the “source-criticism” of the catechism. It seems likely that Ursinus wrote most of the catechism and Olevianus wrote less. They certainly drew from a number of existing Protestant catechisms including Luther’s small catechism, Calvin’s catechisms, and many others.

What is Your Only Comfort? The Relevance of the Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism was intended to explain the Reformed faith to those who were unsure of what Reformed people believed and how the Reformed faith related to what they had learned before, Romanism and a version of Lutheranism.

Like the Heidelbergers in the 16th century, we live in a religiously confused time. Though the faith is not being imposed on us from above, nevertheless, like the Heidelbergers, we are not entirely sure what we believe and why. That much is evident by the bewildering array of “evangelical” options (open theism, closed theism, inerrancy, limited inerrancy, traditional church, emerging churches etc. ad infinitum). Not only were the Heidelbergers confused but they faced the same temptations we do, to confuse the law (“do this and live”) with the gospel (“Christ has done for sinners”). They were tempted to present themselves to God partly on the basis of grace and partly on the basis and/or through (does it really matter which?) their cooperation with grace. Like us, they struggled with assurance (“have I done enough? Does God really approve of me?”). Like us, they wondered how they ought to live? Remember, when they lived, it was the “modern” world! People said, “It’s the 16th century! We know better than to think that…(fill in the blank).” Though they lived in different times we have much in common with them.

Like the 16th-century Heidelbergers, we too need to learn and re-learn some basic truths. That there is one comfort for Christians and there is one way to obtain that comfort and without it, well, let’s just say that this life is hard enough and the next life will be hell.

Recently I saw video footage of some pre-historic beast that, until recently, no one knew existed. Relative to the great ocean of contemporary evangelical options in theology, piety, and practice, the catechism is like that pre-historic beast. It just continues to exist, to swim, to be what it has always been.

That is not to say that the catechism is irrelevant, far from it! If relevance is defined by truth, need, and felicity of expression, then the catechism is more relevant now than ever before. It has been a long time since Christian folk were so confused about theology, piety, and practice. In our time, Reformed folk have probably drifted farther from their moorings than at any time since the 16th century. Many congregants can recite the words to a seeming endless list of repetitive “Scripture” choruses, they can tell you about Joel Osteen’s latest message, but they couldn’t tell the rudiments of the doctrine of the Trinity or the doctrine of justification or the nature of the Lord’s Supper if they were waterboarded.

So, once more into the breach comes the pre-historic catechism starting with the absolute basics of the Christian life a working gradually through the Biblical faith from A to Z — and when you’re learning a new language, starting with the first letter of the alphabet is a the way to go.

The alphabet of the catechism begins with comfort (Trost), but not quite in the way we’re used to using the word. It doesn’t signify “comfort” as in “comfort foods,” something that makes me feel better (but may or may not be of any real help). The Latin translation of the catechism asks, “What is your only consolation in life and in death?”

What is the bedrock truth that you know with heart and mind to be true, that will sustain you when everything else you know in this life goes south? “That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” This is a comfort, a certainty, a consolation, a hope, a confidence in which one can and must rest because, as long Jesus delays his return, there isn’t a mortal alive who isn’t resting in something, and will not need some comfort.

It’s possible for one’s comfort, hope, and consolation to be true! When it comes to the end, when one’s skin goes cold and life ebbs away, you will want not just any comfort, but THE comfort. You will not want Joel Osteen by your bedside, you won’t want “Shine, Jesus, Shine” but you will want someone singing Ps 77, you will want Ursinus or Olevianus, as it were, with you. You want someone who isn’t promising you pie in the sky now but someone who always told you the truth, even it when it was unpleasant. Then you will believe when he tells you this truth: Every mortal who trusts in Christ knows with head, and heart, and his whole soul, that as he lives this life and leaves it, he does so in the arms of the one who loved us and gave himself for us. That’s your best life now.

Americans know in their heart of hearts they’re going to die but they don’t like to admit it. It’s a mark of our post-Christianity that this culture is so obsessed with youth and beauty. Most folk don’t die at home anymore. Many folk have never seen a dead person. We go away to antiseptic hospital rooms to die and are boxed up and delivered to the funeral home and, in many cases, (even the “open casket” seems to be disappearing) never seen again.

It wasn’t so in the 16th century. Death as a routine part of life. Life expectancy was rather shorter than it is today. One of the things that tipped me to this fact was a 16th-century sketch of Olevianus as an old man, except at the time of the sketch he wasn’t “old.” He was 30 years old.

You know, of course, about the “Black Death,” which swept through Europe in the middle ages killing as many as 1/3 of the population. Death was a frequent visitor in everyone’s house. So, for the catechism to ask about our comfort in “in life and in death,” was a good and necessary question then and it remains so now. No matter how much we exercise (and that’s a good thing), diet, and preen, should Jesus delay his return, we’re going to die. It’s hard enough when friends and loved ones disappoint us, but eventually even our body will disappoint us. When all else fails, on what will you depend? On your good works? Be honest, you know that all of your works are tainted. Never in your life have your motives been completely pure about anything. If in the greatest act of self-denial in your life you hoped secretly that someone would notice. Your obedience isn’t perfect so it’s not trustworthy. If your obedience isn’t perfect then your sanctity isn’t perfect, so you can’t trust it. Your friends aren’t perfect. You can’t work forever. Your employer or employees or your business partner will let you down when you need them most. Your spouse will disappoint you. Your best friends will fail you.

On what or whom can you trust?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

Only Jesus never let anyone down. Only Jesus is a faithful Savior. Lot’s of people and things promise help, but, at some point they all become liars. Jesus never did. He told his disciples why he came up to Jerusalem. He told them what was going to happen and why. They tried to talk him out of it and even started a gang fight, but Jesus would not be stopped. He knew what had to be done and he did it –every day of his life. God’s justice is relentless and had to be satisfied (just ask the folk of Noah’s generation!) and Jesus did it. Jesus knew that without his life and death we would always be in the power of death. Because he was faithful, however, we, for whom Jesus has earned the ground of our comfort and and to whom the Spirit has given faith, are free from the tyranny of death.

Whatever the advertisers tell you — unless Jesus returns first — you are going to die. If, however, you trust in Jesus it’s just a temporary thing. Death can’t hold you because it couldn’t hold him and you are united to him and the power of his life by faith and by the same Spirit who raised him. As surely as Jesus lives, so will you.

The Structure of the Catechism

The Heidelberg Catechism, building on the breakthrough of the first stage of the Reformation, is organized in three parts. Remarkably, as basic an insight as this is, it continues to elude nearly all evangelicals and many ostensibly Reformed folk. This should not surprise us because even when the catechism first appeared there was some confusion about how to interpret it. Zacharias Ursinus, whom Frederick III authorized to explain and defend the catechism, mentions some of the alternatives and then proceeds to explain that the catechism is in three parts: Law, Gospel, and Sanctification. He said:

The chief and most important parts of the first principles of the doctrine of the church, as appears from the passage just quoted from the Epistle to the Hebrews, are repentance and faith in Christ, which we may regard as synonymous with the law and gospel. Hence, the catechism in its primary and most general sense, may be divided as the doctrine of the church, into the law and gospel. It does not differ from the doctrine of the church as it respects the subject and matter of which it treats, but only in the form and manner in which these things are presented, just as strong meat designed for adults, to which the doctrine of the church may be compared, does not differ in essence from the milk and meat prepared for children, to which the catechism is compared by Paul in the passage already referred to. These two parts are termed, by the great mass of men, the Decalogue and the Apostles’ creed; because the Decalogue comprehends the substance of the law, and the Apostles’ creed that of the gospel. Another distinction made by this same class of persons is that of the doctrine of faith and works, or the doctrine of those things which are to be believed and those which are to be done.


There are others who divide the catechism into these three parts; considering, in the first place, the doctrine respecting God, then the doctrine respecting his will, and lastly that respecting his works, which they distinguish as the works of creation, preservation, and redemption. But all these different parts are treated of either in the law or the gospel, or in both, so that this division may easily be reduced to the former.

There are others, again, who make the catechism consist of five different parts; the Decalogue, the Apostles’ Creed, Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Prayer; of which, the Decalogue was delivered immediately by God himself, whilst the other parts were delivered mediately, either through the manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh, as is true of the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, and the Eucharist, or through the ministry of the apostles, as is true of the Apostles’ Creed. But all these different parts may also be reduced to the two general heads noticed in the first division. The Decalogue contains the substance of the law, the Apostles’ Creed that of the gospel; the sacraments are parts of the gospel, and may, therefore, be embraced in it as far as they are seals of the grace which it promises, but as far as they are testimonies of our obedience to God, they have the nature of sacrifices and pertain to the law, whilst prayer, in like manner, may be referred to the law, being a part of the worship of God.


The catechism of which we shall speak in these lectures consists of three parts. The first treats of the misery of man, the second of his deliverance from this misery, and the third of gratitude, which division does not, in reality, differ from the above, because all the parts which are there specified are embraced in these three general heads. The Decalogue belongs to the first part, in as far as it is the mirror through which we are brought to see ourselves, and thus led to a knowledge of our sins and misery, and to the third part in as far as it is the rule of true thankfulness and of a Christian life. The Apostles’ Creed is embraced in the second part inasmuch as it unfolds the way of deliverance from sins. The sacraments, belonging to the doctrine of faith and being the seals that are attached thereto, belong in like manner to this second part of the catechism, which treats of deliverance from the misery of man. And prayer, being the chief part of spiritual worship and of thankfulness, may, with great propriety, be referred to the third general part.

If you’ve been around churches that use the catechism you might have head these parts expressed as “guilt, grace, and gratitude,” or “sin, salvation, service.” Those are all right, because they all say the same thing, though law, gospel, and sanctification gets to a basic Reformation truth that is widely misunderstood, denied, or confused: the distinction between law and gospel and the relations between those two categories and sanctification.

By this distinction, the confessional Protestants (e.g., Luther, Bucer, Calvin and the authors of the catechism) meant to reject the old patristic, medieval, and Roman doctrine that the Bible contains two kinds of law, old and new, and that under the new law (wherein Jesus is the “New Moses”) there is more grace to keep the law. They meant to say instead that the Bible contains two kinds of speaking, “law” (do this and live) and “gospel” (Christ has done or shall do for you). These two
ways of speaking are found throughout the history of redemption, throughout God’s Word.

This distinction was essential to the Reformation. It was the foundation for the doctrine of justification sola gratia, sola fide. The Reformation read the apostle Paul to be teaching just this distinction in the book of Romans. Indeed, the catechism itself is patterned on the book of Romans which is in three parts: law, gospel, and sanctification (the Christian life).

The pattern of the catechism is revealed quite clearly in the second question of the catechism:

Q2: How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?


Three things: First, the greatness of my sin and misery. Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery. Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.

The question asks for a number in order to answer the question. The answer is: three (not two – no this isn’t a Monty Python sketch! Some folks have tried to re-organize the Reformed as “grace and obligation.” Such a move is incompatible with the Heidelberg Catechism). There are three things that the Christian must know, 1) the greatness of his sin and misery; 2) how he is redeemed from the same; 3) how he is to be thankful to God for his redemption.

The third question makes this “law/gospel” reading of the catechism perfectly plain: “From where do you know your misery? A: Out of the law of God.” It is not the gospel that teaches us our sins, it is the law. This is exactly what the confessional Protestants before and after the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism taught. This is what we have come to know as the “first” use or the pedagogical use of the law. In this use the law (“do this and live”) acts like a school teacher (as they used to act in the ancient world) and beats us and demands perfection. There is nothing wrong with the law. As we shall see, the problem lies with us. This relentless and holy and righteous demand for perfection is an instrument in the hands, as it were, of the Holy Spirit who uses it to drive his elect to see themselves as they really are, outside of Christ: under condemnation and unable to fulfill the law’s demand.

The catechism doesn’t turn formally to the gospel per se until Q.19, but the gospel section of the catechism begins in Q. 12 and continues through Q. 85. This is important, because some of the revisionists (covenantal nomists/moralists) write and speak as if Q. 86 was a summary of the gospel. It isn’t. The gospel section ends with Q. 85. This distinction is important so that we do not slip back into the medieval/Roman/Socinian/Arminian confusion of law and gospel and of justification and sanctification.

According to the catechism (Q. 19) the gospel has been revealed throughout the history of salvation. The gospel is that Christ, as the righteous and holy One, has merited righteousness for his people, he has paid the penalty incurred by their sin, has suffered actively all his life in the place of all his people, died a horrible death for all his people, and has been raised for all his people. The good news is that all that the law requires for perfect righteousness has been accomplished and we benefit from it only be trusting, resting, and receiving Christ and his finished work for us as our own.

The catechism, however, does not stop there. From Q. 86 through 129, the catechism deals with the Christian life, with our new life in Christ, with dying to sin and living to Christ, the dying of the old man and the making alive of the new. The catechism is explicit, as we shall see, that we do not live this new life apart from grace, but in grace, and through faith. We do not live the new life in order to earn God’s approval or in a state of probation or under the law’s judgment. Rather, we live the new life in Christ, in grace, out of gratitude to Christ for his grace to sinners and his obedience for them, even unto the cross. We live the Christian life according to God’s revealed, moral will. Reformed folk call this the “third use” of the law, whereby the law serves as the norm of the Christian life. We cannot present ourselves to God either in part or in whole as law-keepers. To attempt that is legalism of the first order. The law doesn’t sanctify or justify or save us, but that doesn’t mean that we may dispense with it. Those who would do that are rightly called “antinomian.”

The catechism follows the pattern of Romans very closely. Having been redeemed, we belong to Christ and we want to do his will, not to be just but because we are just in Christ and we are his grateful people.

Just as we are theologically confused in our time so we are morally confused. The catechism offers a brilliant exposition of God’s law as the norm for our new life. As we meditate on the catechism may God renew our moral vision as the redeemed of the Lord.

“…has fully satisfied for all my sins…”

In order to understand our confession we need to know a little about the history of the medieval church before the Reformation. Rome taught (and teaches) that Christ died to make salvation possible (by the way, does this sound familiar? Don’t lots of evangelicals speak just this way about salvation?) The Reformed way of speaking about salvation is to say that Jesus accomplished salvation for us and applies it to us by his Spirit. According to Rome, however, Jesus’ death makes it possible and the Spirit begins the process of sanctification and eventual justification in baptism. In the Roman scheme, our duty is to cooperate with grace toward eventual, final justification. When we sin, according to Rome, we are obligated to do penance. The Roman Catechism, para. 1468 says:

“The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.” Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.” Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.

Rome recognizes that few are capable of doing penance perfectly. The next section of the catechism then turns to the very same doctrine that began to stir the beginnings of the Reformation: indulgences, an instrument instituted by Rome to remove “temporal” (this life and purgatory, para 1478) punishments. To obtain an indulgence, one must draw from the “treasury of merit.” One may obtains an indulgence e.g., by traveling to Rome in a jubilee year. Catechism para. 1476 says:

We also call these spiritual goods of the communion of saints the Church’s treasury, which is “not the sum total of the material goods which have accumulated during the course of the centuries. On the contrary the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God. They were offered so that the whole of mankind could be set free from sin and attain communion with the Father. In Christ, the Redeemer himself, the satisfactions and merits of his Redemption exist and find their efficacy

Christ’s merits (and those of the saints, para. 1477) compose a treasury from which one draws and in which one participates by trusting and obeying (cooperating with grace, i.e., fulfilling assigned acts of penance). This is an anticipation of the final judgment (para 1470). Christ is said to have satisfied, but it’s always conditional. He’s has satisfied “if I…” Acts of penance have the virtue (power) of reconciling us with God, ourselves, and others.

Not so in the Heidelberg Catechism. According to the Protestant view, Jesus has propitiated God’s wrath and expiated our sins. He has satisfied for “all my sins.” He has reconciled God to me and all believers. Rome says, “It is begun.” Jesus says: “It is finished.” He has redeemed me from all the power of the devil. It isn’t just “underway.” It’s done. God is not propitiated, he is not reconciled, and I am not redeemed in any way by anything the Spirit does within me or anything I do in cooperation with grace. It’s done for me. The only “condition,” (instrument really) is this: “if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart” (HC 60). The whole Reformation can be said to have turned on the difference between two prepositions. When it comes to being right before God the Roman preposition is “in” and the Protestant preposition is “for.” Thank God for that little preposition “for!”

“…and so preserves me….”

One of the doctrines that distinguishes the Reformed faith from its competitors (e.g., Lutheranism, Rome) and its derivatives (e.g., Arminianism, Federal Visionism) is that we confess the doctrine of the preservation and perseverance of the saints. Scripture teaches that “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” That is a categorical, unconditional promise. It is Jesus’ promise. He didn’t make that promise lightly. There is someone who would, were it possible, “snatch” Christ’s people from his hand. He began trying to snatch them when he encountered Jesus in the desert. He tried to snatch them by tempting Jesus in the same way he tempted the First Adam. He offered Jesus power and influence. The First Adam accepted this “false covenant” (Olevianus). The Second Adam obeyed God’s law without wavering. This adversary tried to snatch Jesus’ people when Jesus was at his weakest. He tried to snatch them when Jesus was tempted to doubt. He tried to snatch them as the soldiers mocked Jesus. It never happened. Jesus had all his people firmly in hand and he never let them go, not for a moment. He took us with him into the tomb, as it were, and he took us with him, as it were, when he emerged from the tomb. He took us with him when he ascended to the right hand in power. Our preservation and perseverance is as certain as Jesus’ ascension.

Some folk are telling you that, “there are two parts to every covenant, and if you don’t do your part, you’ll fall away just like those folk in Hebrews and all those Israelites.”

As with most errors, this warning is partly true. It’s true that there are two parts to every covenant. It’s true that some of the Israelites did not enter into the promised land. It’s true that some folk in the visible church fall away, but it’s not true that they fell away because they failed “to do their part.” That would be true if we were in a covenant of works, but we’re not. We’re in a covenant of grace. Our part is not to “do” anything in order to “keep” what we’ve been given. Paradoxically, what we have to do is to stop “doing” but to trust him who “did” for us. That’s the nature of grace. It’s a covenant of grace and that means that it is unconditional for us. It was conditional for Jesus, but it’s free for us who believe. “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works” (Rom 11:6).

Ps 95 and Heb 4 warn us about the Israelites but the warning is not to “be good” in order to persevere, but to believe. Heb 4:2 says that the Israelites heard the gospel just as we have. The gospel is the message of Christ’s finished work FOR sinners. God’s Word says:

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest….

Jesus persevered and entered into his rest. Faith is “receiving and resting” or “resting and relying” on our “elder brother” Jesus who has gone into the promised land ahead of us.

“…indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.” The catechism interprets the word “good” in Rom 8:28 to mean “salvation,” i.e., deliverance from condemnation and the consequences of sin. In the providence of God all things work together not just for our general well being but specifically for our salvation. When the writers of the catechism invoked Paul’s language, they did so advisedly. They had a rich experience of the consequence of sin. They had a generous understanding of “all things.” The plague swept through European cities on a regular basis and it came to Heidelberg. Once infected with the plague, the disease moves rapidly through the body (in about 6 days) and its victims rarely survived and death was miserable.

Life expectancy generally in the sixteenth century was rather less than it is today. Infant mortality rates were much higher. Death was a constant companion. Suffering was rarely far away. Heidelberg was famous for its good wine and that was largely because it was safe. It was difficult to find wine that was not poisonous, so Heidelberg’s wine was prized. Most folk subsisted on a black bread. Sanitation as we know it, didn’t exist. Clean water was hard to find. You get the picture. So, when the catechism writers said, “all things,” they were speaking to a suffering people and in the midst of what most of us would regard as unbearable circumstances.

If life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” (Thomas Hobbes), from where did they get such confidence in God’s goodness? They derived it from the great acts of redemption in God’s Word. They derived it from the promises of the gospel. They derived it from the incarnation, obedience, death, resurrection, ascension, and ceaseless intercession for his people at the right hand of the Father. The folk who wrote our catechism knew themselves and their need. They weren’t deluded about themselves or their ability to cooperate with grace, to be good enough to stand before God. They were committed to trusting utterly in Christ and his work for them. They also, however, drew confidence from their own personal experience of God’s grace. They were encouraged by the stories of remarkable providences that travelers brought to Heidelberg and by the examples in their own lives to which they could point. They were confident because God the Holy Spirit witnessed to them, working through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, saying: “Yes, it’s true and it’s true for you.” May God grant you this confidence today and on this Lord’s Day.

How Many Things?

Some folk would have it that to know anything you must know everything. Others would have it that you can’t know anything at all. Because we are Christians. however, we don’t start with our mind in a glass jar, in splendid isolation from all else. We begin as human beings and as creatures made in the divine image. Because we are Christians, we start with God and his revelation to us. We do not have to climb a ladder of being or morality to get to God. He has already come to us. He began speaking to us in the garden. He spoke to us about who we are: image-bearers, analogues of the God who is. He spoke to us about how he made us, as good creatures, able to do all that he commanded. He spoke to us about what we were to do: obey his will, to love him and each other with all our faculties. He also spoke to us about a state of blessedness that transcends the garden which, though lovely, was only provisional. The wonderful thing is that we weren’t broken. We weren’t sinful. We weren’t needy, but still there was more (a consummate state) looming before us.

That is the great mystery of the fall. In the medieval and Roman accounts of the fall, we sinned, in effect, because we are finite. We couldn’t do anything else really. They set up a scheme which some contemporary moralists describe as “maturity.” Implied in this scheme is that the human problem is finitude which has to be remedied by participating in the divine being.

When the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort, you may live and die happily? The answer is not, “We were created finite.” The first answer is: “The greatness of our sin and misery.” In order to appreciate the greatness of our sin and misery one must have a sense of the exaltation of our position and the glory of the potential blessedness that lie before us.

According to at least some of the older Reformed theologians, that blessedness was symbolized by the tree of life. Herman Witsius describes it as a sacrament. By analogy, we might call the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a sacrament of death: “the day you eat therefore you shall surely die.” These are legal words and categories. Adam was in a legal relation to his God. Yes, they were friends, but that friendship was premised on his righteousness and as soon as that righteousness was violated, as soon as Adam made what Caspar Olevianus called a “false covenant” with the Evil One, then the friendship was dissolved and became righteous warfare by God against us and our sin.

It is no small thing then that Paul calls Christ the “second Adam.” It’s one thing for the first Adam, and all we with him, to face a trial and to fail. It’s another thing for the Second Adam to face that trial, for all who believe, bearing the weight of our sin and knowing the consequences of his obedience. For the first Adam, a successful probation would lead to life. For the Second Adam, a successful probation meant suffering and death and only then would he experience the blessedness promised to the obedient.

Give thanks today for the Second Adam who, knowing the greatness of our sin and misery, undertook our obedience that we might have what we do not deserve.

Turning on the television on Sunday morning is probably sufficient reason to become more strictly sabbatarian, but if you persevere you will like see a TV preacher and if he is like most of them, he has a plan for your life. That plan nearly always is about how you can be a better, happier, more fulfilled person. Those are probably good things to know, but why do you need a preacher to learn them? Why can’t you learn them from Dr Phil or Dr Laura, or Judge Judy for that matter? They have lots of good advice.

According to the Heidelberg Catechism there are more important things to know in this world. The first thing we need to know our real condition. It is remarkable how hard it is to learn the truth about anything let alone about ourselves. We are so full of self-deception and deceit that the only way to come to true self-knowledge is for God to give it. Only he can overcome the lies we tell ourselves and to others.

The degree of our natural blindness is such that we don’t even realize how miserable we are. When I was a kid in Nebraska, we played in the snow until we became numb. That was okay because the cold didn’t hurt any more but it carried some risk. Being numb meant that we might actually stay out too long and get too cold and hurt ourselves. That’s the danger of being numb.

Outside of Christ we’re all numb. We’re cold and miserable and we don’t even know it. It’s only when we are beside a thawing fire that we begin to find out how cold we really are. It hurts at first but it’s a good sort of pain. That sensation is the first signal of the truth, of reality breaking through. It’s good to know the truth about ourselves and it’s absolute imperative that we learn the truth about ourselves. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

The tendency in theology before the Reformation, in both the East and West, was to downplay the effects of the fall. The Western church always affirmed unequivocally the fact of the fall and rejected Pelagius as a heretic. We sin because we’re sinners and we became sinners in Adam’s fall. Formally, the western church agreed thus far with Augustine. Most of the church, however, denied Augustine’s conclusions about the extent of the effect of the fall. Most of the western church, almost from the time of Augustine’s death (and even before), tended say, “Yes, we’re sinful, but we’re not so sinful that we cannot do our part, i.e., cooperate with grace.” It was a given in medieval theology God begins the process of justification/sanctification/salvation but that our cooperation with grace was of the essence of condign merit which was said to be essential to justification. According to most medievals, that sanctity is Spirit-wrought makes it condign but that it involves our cooperation makes it meritorious. Most medieval theologians were either semi-Pelagian or semi-Augustinian, depending on the degree to which they thought we are corrupted by sin. Most of the medieval church transformed sin from depravity to “deprivity,” (to coin a term) i.e., the absence of grace or even divinity. There were exceptions. Throughout the entire history of the medieval church (1000 years) there were genuine Augustinians. For example, Gottschalk stood up for a genuinely Augustinian view of sin and grace. In the late medieval period there was a sort of renaissance of Augustine’s doctrines of sin and grace. That neo-Augustinian movement was one of the developments that made the Reformation possible.

The “semi” approach (of whatever sort) to sin and grace, however, remained the dominant view into the sixteenth century. That’s why the Reformation was so remarkable. The Reformation not only turned back to Augustine’s view of sin and divine sovereignty, but it transformed them in significant ways. Still, almost as a soon as the Reformation re-introduced the Augustinian views of sin and grace (mutatis mutandis) versions of the old “semi” and even versions of the old Pelagian errors reared their heads. The Anabaptists rejected the Protestant doctrine of salvation in favor of the the medieval views. Of course, Rome rejected the renewed Augustinian views and even some of the Protestants were uneasy about the confessional Protestant doctrines mainly because they all feared that if justification is said to be completely free then sinners will have no incentive to be good. About 30 years after the Heidelberg Catechism was published, Jacob Arminius began raising serious questions that would help create a movement that would bring back the old view of “grace and cooperation with grace.” Even before the Heidelberg was drafted, however, there were movements within Protestantism do incorporate those ideas, so much so that much of Protestantism was convulsed by a series of arguments over justification, grace, and works in the 1550s.

Thus it is important to notice how clear the catechism is when it says that one of the things we need to know is the “greatness of my sin and misery.” According to the Reformed confession, we are not a little sinful. We’re not “sinful, but not so sinful that we can’t cooperate with grace.” No, we’re terribly sinful. We’re dead in sins and trespasses (Eph 2). According to the HC, our natural inclination after the fall, is to hate God and neighbor. Our natural inclination is to seek our own interests. Our natural inclination is to defy God by setting up idols, by serving those idols, by murder, by theft, by covetousness, by lust, by rejection of authority of all kinds. The fact that we do not act out those impulses is due to the goodness of God’s providence whereby he restrains us from doing all that we might. That’s no credit to us, however. Left to ourselves, absent the benevolent providence of God, Thomas Hobbes’ state of nature would be our daily reality.

The first thing that the revisionists have always done, after Augustine, after Luther, and after Calvin is to downplay the effects of the fall. One of the first things that the Protestants did, which the catechism reaffirms, is to reassert the profundity of human depravity. We can’t do “our part.” If we could, then grace would not be grace. That’s why we have a Savior. He did not make salvation available to those who either “do what lies within them” or to those who “do their part” by cooperating with grace. The only thing that, after the fall, lies within us is sin. We’re so sinful that we can’t do “our part.” The Christian faith is that Jesus earned salvation for all his people and he gives it freely to all of them through faith alone.

“The greatness of my sin and misery.” The English noun, “misery” is probably derived from the Latin verb misereo, “to pity.” The Latin adjective miser means “wretched.” In this phrase “sin and misery” are not synonyms. Rather, in our translation, the noun “misery” (German, Das Elend; Latin, miseria) refers to the consequences of sin. Sin is law breaking. Law breaking has objective and subjective consequences. It shouldn’t be a surprise. God promised: “the day you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). That is what happened. Where, as his image bearers, we should have entered into a state of objective and subjective blessedness, we actually entered into a state of misery. It is objective because the noun misery describes our state. Apart from grace, regardless of our experience at any given moment, our state is miserable, wretched. Subjectively, “wretched” also describes our experience. If you’re under 30, just wait. If you’re over 30 (depending upon how far over!) you’re finding out about misery first hand. For one thing, the body begins to revolt. When we’re young, by and large, the body is our servant. It does what we want it to do, when we want, the way we want. Increasingly however, as we age, we become servants of our bodies. The body demands more and more time and attention as it begins to rebel and complain and eventually when it begins to work against us. We experience misery in countless other ways (e.g., emotionally, mentally, spiritually). Paul understood this objective and subjective state of misery: “O wretched man that I am!” (Rom 7:24) He connected his state of misery to the “law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Rom 7:23). This is the confession of a man who is in touch with reality.

Unless and until we are graciously allowed to see ourselves and our state as they really are, grace holds no interest for us.

“How I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.” The Heidelberg Catechism was written not just to those who profess the Christian faith but to those who actually believe the Christian faith. The writers of the catechism had to assume, for the purposes of writing the catechism, that the hearers/readers of the catechism are united to Christ by true faith (HC 21) and a vital union with Christ.

According to the catechism, and the Reformed faith generally, there is a great difference between profession of faith and true faith. This is a distinction of the greatest importance and one which some seem bent on blurring. Some folk (who call themselves “the Federal Vision”) who are concerned about the ill effects of revivalism and religious subjectivism (as I am) in contemporary Christianity seek to redress the problem by turning to what they call the “objectivity of the covenant.” In their scheme, all baptized persons are said to be in the covenant of grace in very same way. They speak of a “covenantal” election, union with Christ, justification etc. By “covenantal” they mean conditional and temporary. They argue from the example of the temporary national covenant with Israel. Just as God chose the Israelites to be his temporary national people so he “elects” individuals today to a temporary conditional status as Christians which status is said to be retained by faithfulness (trust and obedience). “If,” they say, “we keep our part of the covenant we will be ultimately righteous before God.” Faith is now said to have two parts: trusting and obeying. This, they say, is what God asked of Adam before the fall; what God asked of Abraham after the fall, what God asked of his Son Jesus, and what God asks of us.

Please note how they move from Israel’s status as a national covenantal people with Israel to the baptized person today. Does Scripture do this? Not exactly. Both Paul and the writer to the Hebrews to appeal the example of Israel as the old covenant visible church. There is a distinction to be made here. Israel fulfilled a couple of roles in the history of redemption at the same time, that’s because there have always been two covenants operating in history: works and grace. By making a national covenant with Israel, our Lord re-instituted a picture of the covenant of works that he had made with Adam. Just as Adam was called to obey the law and enter into glory, so national Israel was called to obey and remain the national people of God. As we all learned in catechism class, Israel failed miserably and lost her status as the national people of God. So this re-institution of the covenant of works on a national basis served to direct national Israel to the true Israel of God who would keep the covenant of works perfectly for all the elect.

The covenant of grace, first announced after the fall (Gen 3:14-16) was also re-published during Israel’s national covenant because Israel also served as the visible church under Moses and David. The covenant of grace was unconditional. It was temporarily administered through the national covenant but which, before the national covenant, during the national covenant, and after the fulfillment of the national covenant, included folk from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). This covenant is a free promise of righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

These are two distinct covenants operating on two distinct principles.

The proposed revisions of the Reformed faith, however, blur the distinction between these two covenants and between these two principles.

With just a moment’s reflection, you can see right away how different this proposed revision of the Reformed faith is from what the Heidelberg Catechism actually says. The catechism says “How I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.” The catechism does not say that “how I am placed in a temporary relation to Christ and his salvation conditioned upon grace and my cooperation with grace.” It does not say, “How I could be redeemed from my all my sins and misery.” The catechism speaks of our redemption as present reality. According to the catechism I am now presently redeemed.

In the history of the Christian church there was a covenant theology that did place Christians by baptism into a state of grace conditioned upon grace and cooperation with grace that described faith as trusting and obeying and righteousness as a future possibility but never a present reality. The medieval church taught this system for a millennium and the whole Protestant church rejected that system as one man.

Remember the question: “How many things are necessary for you to know that in this comfort you may live and die happily?”

It is not possible to live happily in a conditional temporary covenant wherein my righteousness is contingent upon my performance of the terms of the covenant. It is impossible because of our sin and misery. Because of sin we’re not able or even willing to keep the terms of the covenant.

That’s why we have an perfectly obedient and wholly trustworthy Savior who performed all the conditions of the covenant of works and Israel’s national for us.

That’s why faith, in justification, is not “trusting and obeying” but “a certain knowledge and a hearty trust.”

Works and grace are two different systems (1 Cor 11:5).

They are two different religions operating on two different principles.

The Heidelberg Catechism doesn’t confuse them and it premises our assurance on Jesus’ fulfillment of the covenant of works for us.

The second thing that a believer must know is that “I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.” We do not confess that “believers might be redeemed, if they do their part, if they cooperate with grace.” We do not confess that “believers are redeemed, but they could lose their redemption.” We do not confess “Jesus made it possible for believers to be redeemed, if they do their part.” All these alternatives to the theology and language of the catechism are destructive to assurance because each of them subtly changes two of the terms of the second thing that believers must know.

First, the alternatives each redefine the noun “believers.” According to the catechism, if one is a believer, then one is united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone. That union is created by God the Spirit and is irrevocable. True faith is nothing but a certain knowledge and a hearty trust that Christ has kept the law for me, has died for me, was raised for me and lives and intercedes for me. True faith necessarily produces sanctity, but it isn’t itself sanctity, at least not as regards justification.

The second revision that is being proposed by some is the addition of the conditional clause, “if I do my part” or “if I cooperate with grace.” The first form is more blatantly Pelagian (denying grace). The second is more subtle. It is not openly Pelagian. Indeed, it was universally held and taught in the medieval church. Before Augustine died it became the predominant view in the Western (Latin) church. Most all of the medieval theologians taught that we are sanctified (and hence justified) by grace and cooperation with grace.

One problem with this formulation is that it also subtly downplays the power and effect of sin. It says, in effect, “I am sinful, but not so sinful that I cannot cooperate with grace.” Another problem with this formulation is that it introduces a contingency into the doctrine and justification that destroys any ground of assurance of justification. Who can honestly say, “I have cooperated with grace”? Really? Perhaps a Wesleyan might think that one has achieved entire perfection, but no real Augustinian, Calvinist could think that anyone in this life could think that he could achieve entire perfection.

Apart from perfect cooperation, apart from perfect righteousness how could anyone hope to stand before an entirely holy and righteous God?

The medieval theologians understood that problem and because they all held that, in effect, “God says what he says (e.g., “righteous”) because we are intrinsically what we are,” they had to set up a system whereby we can become intrinsically righteous. In other words, they all assumed that God can only say of us, “righteous” if we really, actually, intrinsically are righteous. Thus they had to set up a scheme where this could be. They set up a scheme whereby we can accumulate sufficient (condign or “worthy”) merit in order to be intrinsically just.

Knowing, however, that even with the help of prevenient (“first coming”) grace, we don’t accumulate sufficient righteousness and condign merit, they also set up a scheme of congruent (or imputed) merit. In this scheme, God is said to recognize when one has done “what lies within him” (either with grace or without) and therefore he has pledged to impute worth to our best efforts.

Even so, all medieval theologians, including those neo-Augustinian theologians in the late medieval period recognized that virtually no one achieves perfect righteousness in this life. That reality necessitated logically, a period of purification during an intermediate state after death known as purgatory. For all medieval Christians, righteousness with God was thought to be a process that would not be culminated in this life.

Thus, the pilgrimage of the medieval Christian was beset with uncertainty. “Have I done enough? “Have I cooperated with grace? Have I done my best?” The honest answer to these questions must be no. Indeed, the medieval church agreed (and Trent made magisterial Roman doctrine) that assurance of righteousness before God, in this life, was impossible apart from special revelation. Doubt was of the essence of faith. That’s why the Council of Trent (1547) declared that anyone who says that faith is “confidence in the divine mercy” is eternally condemned. No, for the medieval church and for Rome, faith is cooperation with grace and grace was a sort of medicine (they frequently used metaphor of medicine to describe grace) with which the sinner is infused on the path to becoming a saint.

When, however the the Heidelberg pastors confessed, “I am redeemed from all my sins and misery,” they rejected the entire medieval religion of “grace and cooperation of grace” and the religion of uncertainty and purgatory in favor of pure grace (defined as divine approval) which does not just make righteousness possible or contingent upon cooperation by sinners, but it actually accomplishes righteousness definitively, in this life, so that the sinner, though he remains intrinsically sinful, can nevertheless know that his is righteous before God on the basis of a perfect righteousness.

To be sure, that righteousness has been accomplished “outside of us” (extra nos) for us (pro nobis) by Christ alone. He accomplished righteousness and the whole of his perfect righteousness is credited (imputed, reckoned) to all who do nothing but believe.

There have been numerous attempts to resurrect the old “grace and cooperation” with grace scheme. The Arminians tried it in the late 16th and early 17th centuries and it has persisted since. Richard Baxter tried it in the 17th century. The neo-nomians tried it during the Marrow Controversy (18th century) and moralists have tried it repeatedly since and they trying it again today (in the Federal Vision). Some folk even say that “grace and cooperation with grace” toward eventual righteousness is Reformed theology. Well, it isn’t, no according to the Reformed confessions.

Some groups, who are Reformed in other respects, have, however, resurrected the notion that certainty of righteousness is dependent upon a special revelation. I’ve known folks who were Reformed who, nevertheless denied that it was possible for them to have “assurance” in this life apart from “the blessing.” Some of these folk won’t come to the Lord’s Table until they have “the blessing.” I’ve heard stories of ostensibly Reformed congregations where only a few (the “select of the elect”) come to the table, where only those few are permitted to come to the table because they have succeeded in convincing the elders that they have had “the blessing.” Other predestinarian evangelicals speak about the “sealing” of the Spirit (e.g., Martyn Lloyd-Jones) in similar ways.

Reformed theology rejects the second blessing theology whether of the medievals or the modern evangelicals or the Reformed pietists. These errors are as destructive of assurance as the doctrine of “grace and cooperation with grace.” How do you know when you’ve had “the blessing”? Who gets to say what constitutes “the blessing?” What if I think I’ve had “the blessing” and you don’t think so? Who thinks it’s a good idea to chuck the biblical, confessional, and Reformed doctrine of revelation in favor of predestinarian Pentecostalism? Not I and, more importantly, not the Heidelberg Catechism

The basis of one’s assurance is neither the degree to which one has cooperated with grace nor a mystical, extra-canonical revelation that, “I am elect.” The basis of assurance is the promise of Christ, “who ever believes in him shall never perish.” Reformed theology does not ask believers to reckon, “Am I elect?” Reformed theology asks one to reckon, “Do I believe?”

The instrument for receiving the promise is neither cooperation with grace or a mystical, extra-canonical revelation, but true faith as defined by HC 21. As computer folk say, this is a “binary operation.” Relative to righteousness before God, faith either exists or it doesn’t. There are no degrees. There are degrees of sanctity, but righteousness before God results in sanctity, not the reverse. The sole object of true faith is Christ alone (solo Christo) and his saving work for sinners.

The second thing every believer must know to live and die happily is that I AM redeemed. Who ever knows the greatness of his sin and misery and trusts that the promise of the gospel is true is redeemed.

If you’re waiting for “the blessing,” stop it. Believe and you are righteous.

If you’re trying to attain righteousness by cooperating with grace, give it up. It’s not happening in this life. Jesus does not merely make salvation available to those who do their part. He earned it for his people and he gives it freely to all who stop working and who rest in him and receive him and his righteousness through faith alone.

“How I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.” It is fashionable now to suggest that we need to move beyond the old idea of a substitutionary atonement. Actually, the substitutionary atonement has been under assault for rather a long time. The old German liberals in the 19th century used to describe the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement as “slaughterhouse theology.” Before the rise of higher criticism, the 17th-century rationalists following Hugo Grotius denied that the atonement was substitutionary. Most recently some leaders of the Emerging Movement e.g., Steve Chalke has said recently,

The fact is that the cross isn’t a form of cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed [as the doctrine of penal substitution makes it out to be]. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement “God is love”. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil (Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 182-183; for more on the EM see Justin Taylor’s helpful introductory survey of the EM here

Those who are advocating this approach to the atonement are not simply attacking one “theory” of the atonement (as the did the liberals at the time of the 1924 Auburn Affirmation) but, as Don Carson says, they are attacking the very foundation of the gospel itself.

I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the gospel. Perhaps their rhetoric and enthusiasm have led them astray and they will prove willing to reconsider their published judgments on these matters and embrace biblical truth more holistically than they have been doing in their most recent works. But if not, I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the gospel itself. . . . (Don Carson, Becoming Conversant, 186-87)

It’s true that Scripture uses more than one metaphor for describing the nature and purpose of Christ’s death and it’s probably true that, in reaction to the liberal rejection of the doctrine of the (penal) substitutionary atonement, fundamentalists (the usual breeding ground of EM types) and conservatives have focused almost entirely this one metaphor or image.

It is also true, however, that EM types do not seem simply to be expanding the range of metaphors or images by which we may describe the nature and intent of Christ’s work. There is a widespread rejection of the assumptions that lie behind the Biblical doctrine of the atonement. It is widely assumed today that the only category of analysis that we may use today to describe divine-human relations is the relational category. There is a widespread rejection of legal (forensic) or commercial (e.g., accounting) categories of analysis. The rejection of these ways of speaking and thinking lie behind the current discomfort with confessional Protestant doctrine of justification. It lies behind the current move to re-cast Protestant doctrine of justification as a matter solely of union with Christ or even theosis (divinization).

Nevertheless, the Bible does teach unequivocally that we have been “redeemed,” i.e., that we have been purchased by Christ (e.g., 1 Cor 6:20, “You were bought with a price.”) Before Anselm (11th and 12th centuries) it was often held that God had to pay a ransom to the devil (think of Aslan’s death in the Chronicles of Narnia) as if God was in debt to the Evil One. Anselm helped us to understand, however, that the debt was not God’s but ours. We were made in righteousness with the ability to obey God. When we sinned against God we incurred a debt to the righteousness of God that had to be satisfied. Since it was humans that sinned, it must be humans that satisfy God’s justice. There is much more to say here but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

We confess that believers have been “redeemed,” i.e., that we have been purchased, bought, delivered from slavery to death and sin. We are owned by another, namely our Redeemer Jesus Christ. Another key assumption behind the doctrine of the atonement is a denial of human autonomy relative to God. Contemporary critics of the Reformed doctrine of the atonement, that Jesus died as the substitute for his people, that he paid the penalty owed by all his people, that by his death he propitiated (turned away) the righteous wrath of God, focus on these aspects of the atonement as “child abuse” or as distasteful, but we all work with these sorts of categories every day. Are the critics of this language saying that we cannot speak this way? Can they make the case that the Scriptures do not or are they asking us simply to discard this category of Biblical language? Is it really the substitutionary language that troubles them or is it the implicit denial of our autonomy (i.e., that I am a law unto myself).

At least old liberals were fairly straightforward about their denial of the atonement. They were children of the Enlightenment and believed that reasonable, modern, enlightened folk could no longer speak about divine-human relations this way. The EM critics of substitutionary atonement (who pose as critics of Modernity!) seem to hold similar views for similar reasons. They want to be regarded as hip, avant-garde critics of Modernity but one wonders if they aren’t just rationalist-modernist retreads?

The third thing that one must know “that in this comfort you may live and die happily?” is ” how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.”

At first, one of the strangest aspects of the current justification controversy (beyond the fact that it exists! Are the Reformed confessions really so hard to understand?) is that the critics of that doctrine which the Reformed churches confess to be the biblical doctrine of justification seem to have rejected one of the most important premises of the confessional doctrine.

The first part of that premise is that sanctity is neither a ground nor instrument of justification. The second part of the premise is that the sanctity is only and always the fruit of justification, that it flows out of thankfulness for our justification. This idea is essential to the Protestant doctrine of justification (yes, Virginia, there is a pan-Protestant doctrine of justification, but that’s another post).

On reflection, however, one remembers that there is a long tradition of rejecting thankfulness as the source of the Christian life. One of the Roman criticisms of the Reformation was that thankfulness is not enough, that it doesn’t provide sufficient motivation for sanctity (godliness). That’s why Rome teaches that one is justified because and to the degree one is sanctified. According to Rome, justification is a quid pro quo, it is a recognition of the fact that God has infused a one with grace and that one has cooperated sufficiently with that grace. In other words, according to Rome, justification is a recognition of intrinsic or inherent righteousness. According to Rome, God says what he says because you are what you are.

According to Rome, to make sanctity the fruit of justification and thankfulness the motive for sanctity just won’t work. If they don’t build sanctity into the process of justification (Protestants don’t speak of a process of justification; we speak of a process of sanctification and a punctilliar declaration of justification) then folk will not have sufficient reason to strive toward godliness.

The revisionists, moralists, and critics of the confessional Protestant doctrine of justification either don’t understand what we mean by gratitude/thankfulness, or they’ve succumbed to the spirit of rationalism. If so, they’ve given in to the temptation to make the faith just a little more reasonable by re-introducing the quid pro quo back into the Christian doctrine of justification. If God says, “Righteous” about those who are still intrinsically sinful, then why should anyone be good?

Well, that isn’t just a Romanist question. It was also the Socinian and Anabaptist and even a Remonstrant question. It’s the question that rationalist moralists always ask. The same spirit which asks, “how can God do this?” is the same spirit that will eventually ask, “Say, is God really one in three persons?” or “is Jesus really one person with two natures?” The logic in inevitable.

Of course, this is essentially the same objection which Paul anticipated in Romans 6. If it is the case that, where sin abounded, grace abounded more, then perhaps we should sin even more so that grace might abound more? You know the answer: NO! Why not? How can Paul escape the logic of his own argument? The answer is that there’s nothing to escape. The answer is that the objection assumes a false premise and neglects and implied premise in Paul’s argument.

The objection assumes that Paul (and the Heidelberg Catechism) has made justification into a mechanical operation and that, with the machine having worked once, one can keep turning the handle, as it were. Paul rejects this premise. Instead, Paul assumes another premise, namely that anyone who is actually justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, would be horrified by such a notion — that a justified person would take his gracious justification as license to sin. Why? Because he assumes that we understand that sinners are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. That the same Spirit who has united the sinner to Christ by faith is also operating within that sinner to sanctify him. That being the case (as he continues to argue in Romans 6) it is impossible that one whom the Spirit has united to Christ by faith alone, cannot live as if nothing has changed. A believer is united to Christ in his death, and therefore has been freed from the reigning power of sin and has been united to Christ in his resurrection and therefore the principle of new life is operating within the believer.

Thus, when the catechism “how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption” it is a rich (as opposed to poor) definition of thankfulness. The catechism will go on to elaborate on the ground of thankfulness and the power of thankfulness and the structure of thankfulness, but it always assumes the Pauline doctrine of union with Christ wrought by the Spirit whenever it speaks of the Christian life being motivated by gratitude.

The Protestant scheme of justification answers another objection I’ve heard, i.e., that the confessional doctrine of justification reduces sanctity to a second blessing. I respond by saying that this is a false dichotomy (second blessing v moralism). Sanctity is, if you will, the natural, organic result of justification. This is how the Scriptures themselves speak about the Christian life. This is why Paul uses the metaphor of “fruit” (Gal 5) to describe the Christian life. Belgic Confession Art. 24 speaks at some length about how sanctity is the fruit, i.e., the logically and morally necessary result of justification. When my tangerine tree produces tangerines, is that second blessing? No. Frankly, that’s just stupid. It’s what tangerine trees do: produce fruit. If my tangerine tree didn’t produce fruit then either it’s not a tangerine tree (it might have been labeled incorrectly at the nursery) or it’s dead. Either way, if there’s no fruit, then I don’t have a living tangerine tree. The fruit, however, as the Belgic Confession hastens to add, doesn’t make the tree a tree. The tree makes the fruit. If we say that the fruit makes the tree, then we’ve gone back to the Roman definition of faith in the act of justification, that faith is formed or made a reality by acts of love (fides formata caritate) or by our cooperation with grace, which the Protestants regarded as “works” in the Pauline sense of the term.

There is one other issue. In place of the “guilt, grace, gratitude” scheme of the catechism (which, as Paul Althaus noted decades ago is the pan-Protestant doctrine) some are proposing an elaborate doctrine of “union with Christ.” In this re-construction of the Reformed doctrine of union, we’re not justified not by faith alone but by faith and by Spirit-wrought sanctity which is said to be the result of union with Christ. I’ve written on the HB at some length about about this re-construction of the doctrine of union with Christ so I won’t do so here. It’s enough to say that justification through sanctity is justification through sanctity whether it’s fides formata or “Spirit-wrought” sanctity is a form of moralism. After all, some of the proponents of this scheme have even adapted the Roman doctrine of a two-stage justification whereby one is initially justified in this life (according to Rome and some Federal Visionaries it’s in baptism and according to the “unionistas” it’s sola fide) and finally (wholly, according to Rome and partly according to the “unionistas”) justified by intrinsic sanctity at the judgment.

  1. Paul doesn’t know anything about a two-stage doctrine of justification (“having been justified” and “having now been justified” Rom 5:1, 9). Believers are now as fully justified as we shall ever be;
  2. This is another attempt to “rig” the game, i.e., a way to get folk to behave themselves, by building sanctity into justification;
  3. The Protestants distinguish between a) justification as God’s declaration that a sinner is constituted righteous on the ground of Christ’s righteousness imputed and received through faith receiving and resting alone and b) vindication as the recognition of what was and is true of the justified. James speaks of “vindication” in James 2 and we confess that we shall be vindicated, not declared finally justified, at the judgment.
  4. Any two-stage doctrine of justification is necessarily and ironically a second-blessing scheme. In the confessional and historic Reformed doctrine, believers are justified now. In the “two-stage” scheme, we’re provisionally justified now and finally justified then. What’s that if not a second blessing?

When the Reformed churches adopted the Heidelberg Catechism, they knew what they were doing: consciously rejecting moralism (justification by sanctification) in all its forms and rationalism in all its forms, however seductive it might seem.

Christ, to whom we are united by the Spirit, is the power of the Christian life. The motive of the Christian life is thankfulness. We don’t have to choose between these things as we consider the source of the Christian life. When the catechism says “how we are to be thankful for such redemption” it is focusing on the existential, personal, motive for the Christian life. The catechism will turn to our union with Christ later on. Why then, does the catechism start with thankfulness?

The first part of the answer is the medieval setting in which the catechism was written. I know that some folk get narcolepsy anytime I use the word “medieval.” Don’t go to sleep just yet. Can you imagine a religion in which the chief motivations for piety are guilt and fear? I guess you can. That was the medieval religion: Grace and guilt. That’s the religion of much of fundamentalism. It’s the religion of all the moralists (e.g., the covenant nomists et al).

By contrast, the Protestant religion was guilt, grace, and gratitude.

Thankfulness is not a theme to which most of us probably pay attention in Scripture, but it’s a major theme for the Apostle Paul. As part of his law-preaching prosecution of human sinfulness in Rom 1:21 Paul uses the expressions “glorify God” (doxazo) and “give thanks” (eucharisteo) as synonyms. To give thanks is to glorify God. In this case he uses them as part of the first use of the law. It is a fundamental human obligation, as image bearers, to acknowledge God as our Creator and to glorify him as such. As fallen people, in whom the image has been defaced, we refuse to acknowledge God.

In Rom 6:16 Paul says that we are necessarily slaves either to God or to sin. If we sin, we are slaves to sin and death. v. 17: “But thanks (charis) be to God, you who were slaves of sin have become have obeyed from the heart…” The noun for thanks here is the same noun used for “grace.” In other words, there is an integral relation between “thanks” and “grace.” Only those who have received the grace, i.e., undeserved favor, of God are those who are thankful. When Paul says, “thanks to God” is reflecting a basic Christian impulse.

Imagine that you, in a fit of rage, wantonly and violently and irrationally destroyed your neighbor’s car. Imagine that your neighbor was, for the purposes of this story, perfectly innocent. What does your neighbor owe you? Justice! He owes you prosecution to the full extent of the law. If, however, he fixed his car and gave you a 7-series BMW that would be grace. What should your response be? Should it not be humility and profound gratitude? Would you not think of your neighbor’s wonderful graciousness every time you thought of or saw that BMW? Of course you would! Wouldn’t that sense of gratitude color your life and relation to your neighbor and everyone else?

Of course Christians have committed crimes that are even more inexplicable than this. We violated God’s law when we had been constituted righteous and holy. We forfeited glory for what? As Christians, are the recipients of a grace that far transcends an automobile. As Paul says, we were slaves to sin and now we’ve been made free in Christ.

Paul’s doctrine of the Christian life might be described as a doctrine of thanks:

“Thanks (charis) be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:25) Even though we continue to struggle with sin, “there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1). “Thanks (charis) be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57). “Thanks (charis) be to God who, in Christ, always leads us in triumphal procession….” (2 Cor 2:14) “Thanks (charis) be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor 9:15).

For Paul, thankfulness is not a light matter. It is a powerful motive for the Christian life. It is a recognition of who we are and what God in Christ has done for us, and what the Spirit is doing within us, and who we are now in Christ.

“How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

We can’t.

With Christ helping us, we won’t.

If I may start with something I posted a few weeks ago: The English noun, “misery” is probably derived from the Latin verb misereo, “to pity.” The Latin adjective miser means “wretched.” In our translation, the noun “misery” (German, Das Elend; Latin, miseria) refers to the consequences of sin.

So, how does one become aware of one’s misery? Our catechism is unequivocal and completely clear: Out of the law of God.

In the context of the Reformation there was no other answer. The confessional Protestants (Lutheran and Reformed) were united in their conviction that there are two grammatical moods throughout Scripture: “do” and “done” or law and gospel. The Protestant recovery of what has come to be known as the law/gospel hermeneutic was essential to the Reformation.

For a millennium before the Reformation, the church was agreed that there is only one sort of word in Scripture: law. The church distinguished between the “old” (Moses) law and the “new” (Christ) law. The only difference between the old and new laws was said to be the degree of grace available to aid believers in their obedience to the law. According to the medieval church, there’s more grace under the new law than under the old.

The Protestants rejected this entire scheme. They read the Bible to contain two kinds of words throughout: law and gospel. According to the Protestants the law says “do this and live.” The law requires perfect obedience and righteousness. The law is utterly unforgiving. The gospel, on the other hand, is a different kind of word. The gospel promises what shall be done and declares that which has been done for Christ’s people. The gospel says, “the seed of the woman will crush the serpent.” The gospel says, “I will give you rest.” The gospel says, “For God so loved the world….”

This distinction is the only way to understand this answer of the catechism. The catechism does not say that the gospel teaches us our misery because that is neither the function nor the nature of the gospel. The gospel is good news! If someone announces to you that you’ve been given unconditionally a million dollars, you probably wouldn’t go into a funk of self-loathing. You would probably go to dinner at a nice restaurant, make some investments, and give your pastor a raise. That’ the natural reaction to good news.

If, on the other hand, someone comes to your door to remind you of something dreadful you did back in 1957, something you very much wanted to forget, something you tried to bury into your subconsciousness, something shameful, that would not be good news. That would be bad news. That would be a stark reminder that you are still guilty, that the debt remains, that the potential for punishment lingers.

That’s the difference between good news and bad news. It is clearly the latter that teaches us our misery and our need.

Tragically, in reaction to Dispensationalism, many Reformed folk seem to have rejected the law/gospel distinction. This rejection has been in play long enough that a good number of folk don’t even seem to be aware of it. More than a few people have said to me, “I don’t believe that law/gospel stuff. It’s Lutheran.”

Well, the law/gospel distinction is Lutheran AND Reformed. I understand that some folk mistakenly think that only Lutherans confess the law/gospel distinction. The idea that only Lutherans hold the law/gospel distinction would surprise the many Reformed theologians and ministers who have taught it, e.g., the principal commentator on the catechism Zacharias Ursinus (1534-83):

Q.36 What distinguishes law and gospel?


A: The law contains a covenant of nature begun by God with men in creation, that is, it is a natural sign to men, and it requires of us perfect obedience toward God. It promises eternal life to those keeping it, and threatens eternal punishment to those not keeping it. In fact, the gospel contains a covenant of grace, that is, one known not at all under nature. This covenant declares to us fulfillment of its righteousness in Christ, which the law requires, and our restoration through Christ’s Spirit. To those who believe in him, it freely promises eternal life for Christ’s sake (Larger Catechism, Q. 36).

Calvin’s successor in Geneva, Theodore Beza (1534-1605) said:

We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the ‘Law,’ the other the ‘Gospel.’ For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings…Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity (The Christian Faith, 1558).

I could go on, but these two quotations speak for the entire Reformed tradition. Our theologians repeated this distinction again and again. If you want to read more about this, there is a chapter on it in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry.

When we understand the distinction between law and gospel we may understand more clearly why we confess that it is the law, not the gospel, that teaches us our misery.

Q. 4 of the catechism asks, “What does the Law of God require of us?”

First, note how the catechism thinks about the law. It does not ask, “What does the law of God give us?” nor does it ask, “What does the law of God do for us?” but rather “what does the law of God require?” (German: erfordert; Latin: postulat). There’s no ambiguity in the verb “to require” in the English or Latin translations or the German original. The German means “to demand” as does the Latin.

The use of this verb is significant. It signals again how the Reformed churches view the law in its first or pedagogical use. Indeed, even if we think of the law in its third or normative use it still never does anything but demand. The law is what it is. It reflects the divine nature. God is what he is (Exod 3:14). He is immutably holy and righteous. He never changes. His holiness and justice never change. His demand for utter justice and holiness is relentless, as it ought to be.

Getting this right is not easy. There has always been a temptation to downplay the demands of the law. Ironically, the downplaying of the demands of the law doesn’t always come from the antinomians, i.e., those who deny the abiding validity of the moral law. Rather, it comes just as often from those who want Christians to obey the law. The move to soften the demands of the law or to ignore them altogether usually come in recognition (implicit or explicit) of our inability to keep the law perfectly. Rather than do what Christians ought to do, seek a perfect law keeper, the moralists, whether Roman or “Protestant,” who want us to be justified by being sanctified take the sting out of the law by implying or saying that the law doesn’t really mean what it seems to say: “cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.” They say, “We can’t do it. It isn’t just for God to demand of us what we can’t do. Therefore God must not really demand it.” Of course the minor (second) premise is false. It’s a rationalist (i.e., man-made) premise. God’s Word never says anything about the law relative to justification (righteousness before God) except: “do this and live.”

The paradox of seeming to affirm the law while actually denying or softening it so that we can seem to keep it is not new. Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing exactly this. They had their own “fence around the law” whereby they replaced God’s law with their own traditions and excused themselves from actually having to obey God’s law as it stands. So they could plot the murder of Jesus while posing as righteous men. Thus Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs.” Indeed they were.

The medieval church did this in a variety of ways. On the one hand, the medieval church portrayed God as a righteous and fearsome judge. On the other hand, however, the medievals sent the signal that, “well, God doesn’t really demand perfection.” God was sometimes portrayed as a genial Irish priest (e.g. Father Flannigan of Boys Town – see the Mickey Rooney film) who knows that deep down you’re really a good boy/girl but you just had a tough go. This was the effect of the doctrine of congruent merit by which God was said to impute worthiness (merit) to one’s best efforts (“to those who do what lies within them, God denies not grace.”)

Remarkably, some Reformed folk have resuscitated a version of the doctrine of congruent merit, apparently entirely ignorant of the history of medieval theology and the Reformation’s categorical and vehement rejection of it. They have it that Christians are in a temporary, conditional covenant whereby God doesn’t really demand perfect righteousness for justification but looks upon our best efforts as if they were perfect.

Q. 4 of the catechism was part of the Reformed rejection of the scheme of congruent merit and the revised version being promulgated by revisionists.

In case you aren’t sure, God is not a genial Irish priest.

The wages of sin is death.

Yes Virginia, there is no such thing as congruent merit. God’s righteousness demands utter moral and legal perfection.

To paraphrase the milk commercial? “Got perfect righteousness?”

Christ teaches us in sum, Matt 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:38, 39, 40).

The Reformed churches have always recognized that the law is really very simple: love God with all your faculties and your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. Easy, right? Well, not exactly. This is, in effect, what we were called to do in the garden, love God utterly and love one another. Having failed to keep this law, it was re-stated in a much more elaborate, historically conditioned, temporary form for the Israelite national covenant. The moral law, however, remained constant: love God and neighbor. This is the sum of the law expressed under the New Covenant by our Lord himself. It can be expressed in the “10 Words” (the Decalogue) or in just these few words from Matt 22.

It’s worth noting that though the law is cast in terms of “love,” it law requires total fidelity and obedience. It’s substantially the same as that expressed in Gal 3:10, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.”

There is a logical order, love God then neighbor. The latter is like the former. The latter flows from the former. Without the former, the latter is impossible. Without love of neighbor, love of God cannot be said (James 2) to exist.

We (all image bearers in all places and times) owe this love to God and neighbor as a matter of natural obligation.

It’s also worth noting that this expression of law also entails a certain view of human beings. We are image-bearers created with faculties (heart, mind — I take soul and strength to be cumulative). We are intellective creatures and affective creatures. All our thought life and everything we love must reflect love of God.

As God’s image bearers we owe total devotion of these faculties to God and then to neighbor.

No exceptions. This sobering realization should give us pause before we speak glibly about “love” and about being absorbed with God, at least apart from Christ.

How did you do today? Are you ready to stand before a righteous God on the basis of your love for God and neighbor?

“No for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.”

Q. 5 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks a question the answer to which seems to be obvious. The answer is obvious if one shares the catechism’s (and Scripture’s) assumption about the results of the fall. In the history of Christianity, not everyone has shared the catechism’s view of the consequences of the fall. There are three views about how sinful we are. 1) Pelagianism says that we are not sinners until we sin, that Adam set a bad example for us that we can choose not to follow; 2) Semi-Pelagianism says that we sinned in Adam but we not so sinful that we cannot cooperate with grace; 3) Augustinianism (and the view of the Reformation) says that we sinned in Adam and the consequences were, as God said they would be, deadly. We are unable to do anything toward redemption. We are not even able to cooperate with grace. This is our understanding of Rom 1-3; 1 John 1:8, 10, and Eph 2:1-3. The wages of sin is death. The Black Knight is wrong. It’s not “just a flesh wound.” The fall inflicted a mortal wound.

The Augustinian and Reformed (and confessional Protestant generally) account of the effects of the fall not only distinguishes us from some of the Fathers and from much of the medieval church (both East and West), but also from much of evangelicalism since the 18th century. Pelagianism seems pretty obviously false on its face and indeed few folk have had the nerve to say, “Right, Adam no relation to us really. He didn’t represent me. His actions had no direct consequences for me. I become a sinner only when I choose to sin, therefore I am, in effect, Adam.”

More regularly folk have said, “Well, it’s not as bad as all that. Sure in Adam’s fall sinned we all, but after all, we’re only human. We had concupiscence before the fall — and needed grace even then to control it — and we need grace after the fall. Yes it was bad, not not so bad that we can’t do our part.”

This second approach is much more seductive because it seems to acknowledge the fall but it also mitigates it. It makes the whole thing just a little less offensive and a little more manageable and reasonable.

The problem is that the fall wasn’t the least bit reasonable. We were created good and righteous and holy. There was no reason we had to fall. Scripture (and the Reformed confession) knows nothing of concupiscence (lust) before the fall. We needed no “grace” before the fall because there was nothing wrong with us before the fall.

There is a great contrast in our states before and fall the fall and it is a great mistake to flatten out the difference. Before the fall we alive, though not glorified yet, and after we were “dead.” After the fall, we became unable to obey. All our faculties were affected by sin. We became corrupt in all our parts. Our first, natural inclination became to love self rather than our Creator and our neighbor. Our first inclination (habitus) became to hate God and his law and the truth of this understanding is confirmed by the story of human history immediately after the fall. Think of Cain. Think of the chaos that seems to have enveloped humanity in the years after the fall. Life really did begin to be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and (in some cases anyway) short.”

This approach to the nature and effects of the fall explains why the confessional Protestant churches have been so insistent on the graciousness of justification. We are sinners. We are not able to help ourselves. We need grace. Grace isn’t just assistance for the weakened (that was the medieval and Arminian view). It is salvation for the lost.

This approach also helps explain why we say what we do about the law and about justification. Failure to uphold this confession of the effects of sin also explains why moralists always say what they do. More about this next time.

6. Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?


No, but God created man good and after His own image, that is, in righteousness and true holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.

The Reformed Churches are known for teaching that God controls all that happens. When we think about salvation, this doctrine of divine sovereignty is a great comfort. It means that I did not save myself and my salvation is in the safe and good hands of our all-powerful and gracious Father. When it comes to accounting for sin and evil, the doctrine of divine sovereignty can be a little more difficult, especially for those whose theology begins and ends with divine sovereignty.

To be sure, the problems of sin and evil are no less severe for those who deny divine sovereignty. The idea that God voluntarily withdraws his control or only occasionally exercises control over history faces huge biblical-theological problems. Who gets to say when God is exercising control? If God’s decree does not comprehend everything, then is there some sort of vacuum in the universe? Does God get “responsibility” only for the things we like but has no relation to the things we don’t like? What if the things we like and dislike change? The idea that God is naturally incapable of ordering all things according to his will is even more bizarre. Did God speak creation into existence? It seems so. If that is the case, why is he incapable of ordering his creation? Did things “get away” from him? Is he incompetent? Where, without employing the most tortured exegesis, would one get the idea from Scripture that God is either unable or unwilling to sovereignly arrange things according to his good pleasure?

These preliminary questions are enough to suggest that there is no great advantage in abandoning the confessional Reformed view, whatever its difficulties.

So, if God is sovereign and the fall happened, how is God not morally responsible for the fall and it’s consequences? In other words, if God is sovereign, how can he hold us morally liable for sin and evil?

There are at least two parts to the answer. One part of the answer is in Rom 9:19-22:

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump done vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience evessels of wrath fprepared for destruction?…

Paul says that we lack standing to question God about his ways. The truth is that we’re not really able to understand the solution to the problem of evil, at least not as God understands it. Insofar as we are able to think about it, there is no utterly satisfactory answer. There’s no way to make the problem go away or to eliminate the mystery.

That doesn’t mean that there is nothing to say. We do have something to say. First, as already suggested, it doesn’t help to deny God’s sovereign control of all things. Second, we should do as Paul and recognize our moral and metaphysical limitations. We’re not God. Third, we can mitigate the problem a bit by doing as the Scriptures and the catechism do, by looking at the nature of the creation and fall itself.

One part of the Reformed way to approach the problem of sin and evil is not to look first at eternity and the divine decree (contrary to the assumption that many make about Reformed theology) but rather to look at history. The mainstream of confessional Reformed theology has appealed to the decree as a source of explanation a posteriori i.e., after the fact. In other words, we haven’t started with the divine decree and from that truth deduced a whole system of theology from it on the basis of what must be true.

When the Reformed Churches turn to history to begin to explain or mitigate the problem of sin and evil, we are following Scripture. The fact is that God created everything and everyone “good.” The affirmation is terribly important. It was widely held in the medieval church that creation (including humanity) was inherently defective by virtue of its finitude. It was widely assumed that there is a sort of scale of being (think of a ladder) at the top of which is God and at the bottom of which is creation and what creation needs is “perfection,” i.e., to move up the scale of being toward God. In this scheme, the fundamental human problem is not sin but finitude. Sin is regarded as a symptom of a more fundamental problem.

This doctrine continues to be the magisterial teaching of the Roman Church, which teaches that humans and God both participate in “being.” Many evangelicals are also influenced by this way of thinking. Their piety and theology revolve around the quest to deny or over come their humanity. One sees this in the fundamentalist rules that say, in effect, “don’t touch,” “don’t taste” (Col 2:21). The influence of this scale of being idea reflects itself in false dualisms, where that which is immaterial is good and that which is material is either thought to be evil or worthy of suspicious. The old Roman Catholic and fundamentalist view of sex as inherently sinful reflects such a dualism. The evangelical (and fundamentalist and revivalist) neglect of the visible, institutional church. Much of that neglect or denial is grounded in the view that God does not operate through human, created things such as sermons, water, bread, and wine. One sees this tendency in the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation. The elements cannot remain mere elements. The essence of the elements of communion must be transformed into divinity.

Even more fundamental to this whole discussion is the question of the relation of nature to grace. There is much confusion surrounding this topic. There are four basic views

  1. Rome says that grace perfects nature. This is the “scale of being” view already described. In this scheme nature, as such, is thought to be defective.
  2. The Anabaptists (and many evangelicals) say that grace obliterates nature. Like Rome, these folk regard nature, as such, as inherently defective, but unlike Rome, they expect grace to utterly replace creation altogether. Various forms of perfectionism and the higher life/second blessing doctrine.
  3. Pantheists and liberals equate grace with nature. In this scheme there is no distinction whatever between nature and grace. In this scheme there is no distinction the Creator and the creature. There can be no doctrine of sin and redemption except to reduce everything to metaphor and figure. “Sin” can be a lack of awareness of one’s potential (or state) and “redemption” becomes realization of one’s state.
  4. The confessional Protestant view is that grace renews nature, that the latter was created good (and was, therefore, not defective) and has been corrupted or is put to corrupt use by virtue of sin. All human faculties (e.g., the intellect, the will, and the affections) are radically corrupted by sin. Because of the fall, by inclination, we think wrongly, we choose wrongly, and we love wrongly. It is only by grace that we ever come to think, will, or love rightly.

There is no question that humans are fallen and sinful. Rom 1-3 and Eph 1-2 (among other places) is abundantly clear about that. It is less clear to me that creation per se is fallen or sinful nor is it clear to me that creation or creational enterprises need to be redeemed, though evangelicals and transformationalists speak this way routinely. Creation is subject to futility (Rom 8:19-23) and is groaning to be released from the bondage to decay and to enter into the consummate state, but that is not quite the same thing as to say that creation is “fallen.” Rocks don’t have any faculties. They don’t sin. I doubt that dogs sin — my Scottish Terrier is stubborn, but we wouldn’t expect any less from a proper Scotsman would we? Certainly he suffers from the consequences of the fall, but whatever we say in that regard, nothing about the fall makes creation, as such, evil or even something that needs to be “redeemed.” I worry about the effect of equivocating about sin and redemption by applying the same terms to humans and creationally generally. The effect is to broaden thus weakening the ideas of sin and redemption.

Nature generally may need to be renewed, but certainly human nature (it was humans who sinned and they who are redeemed) must be renewed by grace. Humanity, however, remains humanity even in a state of grace. Humans shall ever and only be human, even in glorification.

There is one more thing to be said about the Reformed turn to the history creation and the fall as a partial explanation for the problem of sin and evil.

When it comes to accounting for the entrance of sin and evil into God’s good creation, the first Reformed move is to turn to the history of creation and redemption.

God made us not only “good,” i.e., without defect or lack of being, but also righteous and holy. Strictly defined, the adjective “righteous” speaks to our conformity with the law. We were legally pure. To say that we were created “holy” means that we were created without moral stain or corruption. Holiness is the antithesis of sin. It is the opposite of defilement and impurity. It also refers to being eligible to stand before God in worship.

In other words, our first parents had a right to be in the garden. They were worthy of their estate. They were without legal defect. They were legally just. Further, they not only met the terms of justice (meritum de condigno), they were also worthy of standing before God as priests. Adam, as the first human and the federal head of all humanity, was the priest, the prophet, and the king. He was to rule creation (symbolized by the act of naming the animals) and he was to speak God’s Word to all creatures, and especially to those who oppose God and his kingdom and he was to serve as the religious representative of humanity before God and to keep his temple/garden clean from all potential impurity.

Having been created in righteousness and true holiness he had the potential to fulfill these duties. There was nothing about being human before the fall that necessitated the fall.

We confess these things in defiance of and opposition to the Roman doctrine of “super added grace” (donum super additum) before the fall. This doctrine teaches that Adam had concupiscence (lust) before the fall such that he needed a sort of pre-lapsarian grace to restrain this potential for sin inherent in humanity. We deny that Adam had concupiscence before the fall. We confess that Scripture teaches that concupiscence exists only after the fall and because of the fall. We also confess this understanding of Scripture over against those so-called Federal Visionists (e.g., James Jordan and John Barach et al) who have proposed to replace the Biblical and historic Reformed doctrine of merit with “maturity.”

Doubtless without knowing it, these earnest Protestants have resurrected the Roman doctrine of the donum super additum. By proposing that Adam needed to mature they are implying that Adam was deficient. This is an unavoidable conclusion. Let’s say that we have a 10-year old child who is unusually tall and can physically operate the controls of an auto. Do we let him drive? No, not on the streets anyway (perhaps in a Kansas pasture — where I learned to drive at 14). Why not? Because the child is immature. The child lacks the necessary judgment to be able to operate an auto on public streets with other autos.

The Reformed confession explicitly denies that Adam was deficient. The Reformed Churches confess that Scripture teaches that Adam was intellectually, morally, volitionally, and legally mature. Just because he was not yet glorified does not mean that he was immature. That is why Paul regards him as the federal head of all humanity (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15:45). If Adam was initially immature and needed to mature then are these revisionists proposing that Adam also became a the federal head at a given point in his maturity? When was he not a federal head?

We confess that had he chosen, he might have obeyed the law, he might have loved God with all his faculties and his neighbor as himself. In Belgic Confession Art 14 we confess, that he was “capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God.” He did, for some period of time, obey the law. We confess that he “willfully subjected himself to sin and consequently to death and the curse, giving ear to the words of the devil. For the commandment of life, which he had received, he transgressed….” It’s clear that he was not “under grace” but “under law” and could have kept that “commandment of life” or “covenant of life” or “covenant of nature” or “covenant of works.” He was able because he was not a sinner until he sinned.

If Adam had been immature, the standard would have been different. We don’t hold children to the same standard as adults. Children are charged as minors and detained in juvenile facilities. Their criminal records are regarded differently because they aren’t as fully culpable for most offenses as adults. Scripture knows nothing of a two-stage approach to Adam’s probation. Adam is the first head of all humanity. He did not become the head of humanity upon his maturity.

The Reformed Churches also confess that God created Adam with a purpose in view.

Q. 6 pt. 4

The second half of this answer has not received the sort of attention that it needs. It begins with a purpose clause, “that…” or “in order that…” In other words, the Catechism (and the Reformed Churches) teaches that Adam was created in his holy and righteous state for a purpose: “that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify him.”

For centuries before the Heidelberg Catechism was written, the patristic and medieval church had taught that Adam was in probation. The Reformation theologians and churches continued this doctrine and it appears here in the catechism (and again in Q. 9). The doctrine of Adam’s probation held that Adam was under a temporary test. If he passed, he, and we with him, would enter into eternal blessedness and glory. This is the background of the catechism’s language “and live with him in eternal blessedness.” Adam was not created in eternal blessedness. He was created under the law. It is clear from the narrative in Genesis 2:16-17:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you mshall surely die.” (ESV)

Implied in the phrases “you shall not eat” and “in the day you eat of it is a test. That this was a test appears in 3;1. The Evil One comes to tempt the first Adam (just as he later came to tempt the Second Adam — and we know certainly that probation was temporary). He queried the truth of God’s Word. He suggested that God was afraid of his creature. That was a test. Would Adam obey his Suzerain? Would he exercise his offices as prophet, priest, and king? Would he fulfill the test and expel the Evil One and crush his head in the name of Yahweh?

Of course we know the answer and so did the writers of the catechism.

That’s the tragedy of the modern ignorance of this basic Christian doctrine of Adam’s probation. It leads to a denial of our Lord’s probation. Jesus becomes not the Second Adam (as he was for Paul) who obeyed for us, but rather, a mere example. This way of thinking tends to make Jesus into the first Christian, rather than the Christ. It’s not as if no one has ever taken such steps! The Socinians in the 16th and 17th centuries did just this and a number of the Remonstrants followed them down the same rationalist path.

In the current controversies, it has not been observed often enough how marginalized Jesus’ work is in the theology of the revisionists. In their accounts of redemptive history and Reformed theology they move blithely from Adam’s faith and obedience to ours — without passing of or collecting $200. Paul doesn’t do any such thing. When it comes to sin, as he should, Paul moves from Adam to us. When it comes to obedience and righteousness, Paul contrasts Adam (and all humans in Adam) and Christ (and all believers united to Christ by faith).

Paul thinks this way because he understood the nature of sin and death and the nature of grace and life. Our catechism thinks, if you will, in Pauline trajectories. It certainly doesn’t think like the revisionists.

We confess the faith in the knowledge and confidence that Jesus passed the test. That he was vindicated by his resurrection and glorification. That he has entered into the blessedness that was promised to Adam, but which he failed to earn.

As Adam’s children, we are, as he was, created to obey the law. It is, as Mike Horton says, “hardwired” into us. Like Adam, we too are created for immortality. The path to that blessedness and glory is not by our doing, but by trusting in Jesus who has done for for all his people.

The fall was not God’s fault. It was comprehended in his providence and decree from all eternity, but, in point of fact, it was not God who sinned. It was we who sinned. We disobeyed. We brought death and condemnation into the world. It was Christ the Word who was “full of grace and truth” for us. He entered glory through the cross and so must we, not so much our own crosses, but through his.

Let us think of Jesus not as the first the first Christian but the only Christ, not so much as our model, but our Savior and let us rest in him and his work for righteousness and life.

We Did It

How many times have you said or heard it said, “I’m only human” as way of excusing or minimizing sin? As we’ve seen, we were created righteous and holy. As we struggle with the problem of evil and sin we start with the given that God is not morally liable or at fault for the entrance of sin and evil into the world. God did not sin. God does not tempt us to sin. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” we are praying that God would not test us beyond that we are able to withstand.

The catechism puts the question directly:

7. From where then comes this depraved nature of man?


From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, whereby our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.

First it’s necessary to get some things, such as the nature of sin, straight. The patristic and medieval theologians sometimes spoke of sin not as depravity but as “deprivity,” if you will. By coining this word I mean to suggest that the medieval church particularly thought of sin as a fundamental lack in human nature, even prior to the fall. As we’ve seen, such a view of sin is contrary not only to Scripture but also to our confession. It won’t work to make “nature” the problem since that move really makes God liable for sin by virtue of being the Creator.

We have to affirm both that God made us good and that despite that goodness and righteousness, we voluntarily willed to sin. There’s no use in flattening out the mystery of sin. The fall, we say, was (and is) disobedience. It was not a “fall from grace” in the sense that folk often speak. Yes, Adam (and we in him) were in God’s favor. God approved of us, but that approval was relative to our righteousness and holiness. In other words, when we speak of favor before the fall it does not mean what it means when we speak of favor or grace after the fall.

Second, we must get to grips with the fact that sin is lawlessness. This, of course, his how the Apostle John describes sin. It is also how the catechism characterizes sin. Adam was under the law and he broke that law: the day you eat thereof you shall surely die.” This was a negative way of expressing the positive: “Love the Lord your God with all your faculties and your neighbor as yourself.”

In the modern period we have had a great deal of trouble with the very idea of sin. Frequently the idea of sin has been denied a priori. It is often assumed that sin could not exist. Modern folk believe in progress above all and human perfectability. These are two of the great religious hereies of the age.

Even within conservative Christian and Reformed circles it is suggested that we can think of relationships without considering legal or forensic categories. It is suggested that to think of God relating to humans on the basis of law, even before the fall, is inappropriate. Why? I submit that we may have been more influenced by modernity than we like to admit. It also seems that we’re not as immune from the influence of Pelagianizing ideas as we might like to think. Some of us are tempted to blur the line between humanity before and after the fall, to read the postlapsarian world into the prelapsarian world. This is an ancient error that resurfaces periodically.

It’s pretty hard to think of any relationship that is not predicated upon law. Few relationships are as intimate as family but even that most tender bond is premised on the law. I can love them until I’m blue in the face but if I have no legal relationship to them, they aren’t my family. If the legal relationship is violated then the familial relationship is destroyed.

So it was with Adam as the Federal head of humanity as he represented us to God. His filial (son-ship) relation to God was premised upon his legal righteousness. When he violated that law, he also violated a relationship.

“Whereby our nature became so corrupt….” The idea that humans are, by nature, corrupt is heresy to modernity. One of the planks of modern and late modern (what folk call “postmodern”) religion is the essential goodness of humanity. Even those evangelicals who think of themselves as “postmodern” (who are hardly postmodern at all but rather only “most modern”) accept as givens such modernist premises. That humans aren’t really very sinful was a fundamental doctrine of the Finneyite Second Great Awakening and continues to undergird the theology of Finney’s children.

It was Pelagius who notoriously denied original sin. There were others after him, whom we call semi-Pelagians, who affirmed the existence of original sin, but who denied Augustine’s doctrine and Paul’s doctrine of total depravity. Most of the medieval church was semi-Pelagian. Most of the medieval church held that we’re sinful, we’re in need of grace, but we’re not so sinful that we cannot do our part to cooperate with grace. Semi-Pelagianism was criticized by a number of medieval theologians beginning as early as the 9th century. By the 14th century criticism of semi-Pelagianism was widespread. There were a number of notable strongly Augustinian theologians in the late medieval church.

In the Reformation, Luther rejected semi-Pelagianism in his lectures on the Psalms (1512-15) and on Romans (1515-16). Luther read Augustine’s Lectures on the Psalter and realized that Augustine’s account of the theology of the Psalms was much closer to the biblical text than that which he had been taught in university. As he worked through Romans he was confirmed in his view that, by virtue of the fall, we are not only sinful but dead in sin and completely unable to cooperate with grace. This became Calvin’s doctrine and the doctrine of the Reformed Churches in the HC.

The Remonstrants (Arminians) rejected the strict Pauline, Augustinian, Lutheran, and Reformed doctrine of original sin. Yes, they said, we’re sinful, but not so sinful that…

It’s this version of semi-Pelagianism that reigns throughout evangelicalism today. Any theology that says “grace and cooperation with grace” relative to justification is necessarily semi-Pelagian. It’s this version of semi-Pelagianism that threatens to re-enter the Reformed churches via movements such as the Federal Vision or via the theology of covenant nomism (NPP) or the theology of Norman Shepherd. The latter says that Adam was to cooperate with grace toward salvation and Jesus cooperated with grace and we’re to cooperate with grace toward salvation just like Adam and Jesus. This move from Adam to Jesus to Us, whereby Jesus becomes the first Christian, is not only the move of 19th-century liberalism but it is also the move of a sort of Pelagian. Indeed, Jacob Arminius would blush at Norman Shepherd’s construction of the relations between Adam, Jesus, and the believer. Arminius had a more profound doctrine of original sin and its consequences than Shepherd.

The Pauline doctrine and the doctrine of the Reformed Churches, however, is not semi-Pelagian. We do not confess that, by virtue of the fall, we are sinful. We confess that we are corrupt in all our faculties such that we are “dead in sins and trespasses.” Relative to justification and salvation we are utterly helpless. Unlike those medieval theologians and the Arminians who held that God gives a sort of prevenient grace that gives all the opportunity to be justified and saved if we do our part, we confess no such view of grace and human ability.

Sin did not inflict just a “flesh wound.” The effects of sin are devastating. By nature, after the fall, instead of loving righteousness. we love unrighteousness. Instead of choosing light, we choose darkness. Instead of seeking what is beautiful, we seek what is ugly. Instead of valuing life, we made a covenant with death. We call these effects of the fall depravity.

Partly because of our doctrine of sin we confess that the only grace we know is the free, unconditional, unmerited or de-merited favor of God toward those who cannot do anything toward their own awakening from spiritual death to life (regeneration) and who cannot even cooperate with grace toward justification. Yes, having been raised with Christ, having been united to Christ by faith alone, by grace alone, we may be said to cooperate with grace in progressive sanctification. This is necessary, but that’s a topic for another day.

Paul says that there isn’t a single one of us who is righteous, not one one. We have all sinned in Adam. We all have our own actual sins. Every one of our faculties is corrupted. Paul says that the wages of sin is death. Our first instinct, after the fall is to murder (e.g., Cain) and when we build civilizations (e.g., Gen 6) they become uncivilized. This is why the modern dream of peace is utopian. It denies the nature and consequences of sin. Of course there will be wars and rumors of wars! Human beings are inherently wicked. Our slogan is “What’s mine is mine and what’s your’s is mine.”

The modern dogma of human progress, however, has blinded us to the reality of sin. We were all rebuked by a secular psychologist in the 1950s, who raised the ugly spectre of sin again at the height of modern arrogance.

For anyone with eyes to see, sola gratia, the effects of sin are everywhere, whether it is morons in Jena, LA threatening to lynch people, Jihadists murdering innocents in the name of Allah, a business man taking advantage of a customer, or some drunk weaving home in dylan%20saved.jpghis car after a night out.

The catechism, as it were, does not need to be reminded about the reality of sin and its effects. The catechism reminds us that we are all “conceived and born in sin.” We don’t confess that sex is evil, but we do say that none of us escapes the effects of the fall. As Dylan said, “stone cold dead as I stepped out of the womb.”

But are we so depraved, that we are wholly incapable of any good and prone to all evil?


Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.

Like Dr Jekyll most of us maintain decent outward lives but like Dr Jekyll, we all have within us a rapacious beast. The outward decency that most of us maintain most of the time is deceiving. Ironically, the only reason that Mr Hyde (no offense Danny!) doesn’t emerge more often is that God restrains our evil hearts and hands by his providence. He enables civil goodness that we eagerly mistake for genuine righteousness and goodness.

Therefore, contrary to the frequent caricature of Reformed theology, we don’t confess that we are as bad outwardly as we might be all the time. We confess, however, that the potential is certainly present. By virtue of the fall, we are genuinely wicked within. When we do horrible things, it should be no surprise to a Christian. By virtue of the fall, our natural inclination, our habitus, our propensity is to do evil. Do I have to catalogue the sins of the modern period? Modern and late modern folk like to rant about how terrible Christianity has been yaddah yaddah. Well, the Christians, as rotten as we have been at times, are pikers as compared to the pagans. Have you any idea how many folks the pagan totalitarians and utopians have killed in the modern period? Start with the Russian communists, then the Chinese communists, then the Cambodians, then African tribal wars, then throw in the Nazis, and we’ve arrived at some pretty startling numbers that dwarf the rest of history. When it comes to mass murder, we’ve been pretty productive for “Englightened,” “mature,” “civilized,” “developed” people since the beginning of the 20th century.

Large scale evil is easy to see. Subterranean evil, if you will, is harder to see and just as bad: suburban sex parties (a local girl was kidnapped and murdered a few years ago and in the course of the investigation it turned out that a whole neighborhood was “swinging”), cheating on taxes, and stealing from the boss. It’s everywhere because we’re everywhere and wherever we are, there sin is also.

The modern religion is that we’re basically good. Every Christmas some TV reporter tells us about something nice someone did, some basic act of humanity that “restores one’s faith in human goodness.” There is real human goodness. No I haven’t lost my faith. That is civil goodness and that is dim reflection of our original, created goodness, but because of the fall, all that “goodness” is of no spiritual value. It’s always corrupted. It’s never pure. It’s always, at some level, self-serving and does not meet the standard of God’s righteousness.

The modern religion of basic human goodness is a lie. It is Pelagian (see the posts on Q. 7). It assumes that we’re not fallen with Adam. It rejects the very notion of a federal solidarity with Adam as “unfair” and federal solidarity with Christ as superfluous.

Modern evangelicalism is the child of modernity. We might call it “semi-modern.” Most evangelicals know that we’re sinful, but they don’t think that we’re so sinful that we can’t “do our part.” This idea has even infiltrated into the Reformed Churches at different times in the garb of Arminianism and now in the Federal Vision. This is a basic premise to all “grace and cooperation with grace” schemes. Anyone who says that we must or can cooperate with grace toward justification denies the nature and effects of sin.

Gen 6:5 “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”


Ps 5:9 “their throat is lan open grave”


Ps. 143:2, “Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.”


Rom 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”


Rom 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they obecame futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Rom 3:9-20 “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:


‘None is righteous, no, not one;

no one understands;

no one seeks for God.

All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;

no one does good,
not even one.’


‘Their throat is an open grave;

they use their tongues to deceive.’


‘The venom of asps is under their lips.’


‘Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.’


‘Their feet are swift to shed blood;

in their paths are ruin and misery,

and the way of peace they have not known.’
‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’

It is not as Scripture is describing only Hitler and Pol Pol Pot! No. It describes YOU and ME and everyone of Adam’s children. This is what we, Europeans, Asians, Africans, Americans, South Americans, all are by nature. It doesn’t matter how much you made or didn’t make last year. It doesn’t matter where you went to school or didn’t go to school. It doesn’t matter how much you donated to Good Will or Red Cross. It doesn’t matter how nice your front lawn is. It doesn’t matter how well groomed your children are. Your hard childhood doesn’t excuse you.

Until you recognize yourself in these verses, Jesus and his righteousness for sinners and the grace of God to sinners will mean nothing.

That is why the HC is completely realistic about what sort of people we have become after the fall. We need to recapture that realism without falling into despair or cynicism, that is a denial of grace and redemption. The catechism preaches the law because it wants to drive us to Christ and his gospel, but the gospel is for sinners. God redeems sinners.

In 1977 Billy Graham published How to Be Born Again. This book was in a long tradition of religious “how to.” By today’s standards, compared to Joel Osteen and the like, it was positively orthodox. At least it talked about sin and the need for grace and salvation.

The truth is, however, there is no “how to” when it comes to being born again. The question the catechism asks is “are we so depraved…?” To say “depraved” is to say corrupt. In his book Graham spoke of sin as a disease. That’s not right. It isn’t a disease. It’s a death. There’s a difference. One can be ill and still function. One cannot be dead and function. Scripture says that “the wages of sin is death.” Because we are so utterly corrupted, we are incapable of any spiritual good. Some medieval theologians talked about “doing what lies within us.” Paul says that there is nothing within us to do. This is why the metaphors of “death” and “birth” are so important.

The HC says “born again.” Of course it is referring to Jesus’ dialogue with the Pharisee Nicodemus. The latter came to Christ late one night to ask him to ask our Lord some important questions. He came at night because he couldn’t come by day. He couldn’t afford to be seen treating Jesus with respect or asking him serious questions. Remember that the Pharisees were the “masters” of the law. They had their own “fence around the law” to keep God’s people from breaking any of the 614 commandments of the Torah (Gen – Deut). They were known for their knowledge of and outward obedience to the law, or at least their outward obedience to their interpretation of the law.

Nicodemus understood that Jesus had real power and authority. This troubled him because his paradigm told him that, if anyone should have such things in this world, it should be the Pharisees who possessed them, but they did not. He knew that they had power and influence with people (like magicians) but not with God. Jesus, however, had divine power and authority.

Jesus replied that “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This isn’t what Nicodemus expected. He expected some sort of method. He expected some rule. He expected something he could do. The fundamental lie is that we can do something to get what we want from God.

Jesus said, in effect, “You can’t do anything.” That’s the point of saying “born again.” In fact, if we read the word “again” the way it is usually used in John’s writings it is even better understood to mean “from above.” It could well be that Jesus meant to imply two things at the same time. We must be born again and that birth is “from above.”

Paul says that we’re dead in sins and trespasses. Jesus says the same thing by using the metaphor of birth. From an observational perspective, we mark the beginning of life at birth. To say “born again” or “born from above” is to say “You aren’t really born, you’re dead, oblivious. You lack the principle of life.”

The pharisee didn’t understand — he wasn’t born again/from above! He couldn’t understand. What is Jesus doing? How is Nicodemus going to be able to do anything? He can’t. That’s the point. Jesus isn’t giving advice. He’s not offering “how to” methods. He’s preaching the law. This is why he speaks below of “bearing witness.” This is not an informal expression. He’s invoking the legal standard of courtroom testimony. As a Pharisee, who had memorized the Torah, Nicodemus should have understood immediately what Jesus was doing, that the Lord was prosecuting Nicodemus for his sin and unbelief. He’s teaching Nicodemus about his fundamental need.

The Lord says,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel yand yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

Nicodemus has physical, biological life but he doesn’t have Spiritual life because only God the Holy Spirit gives life and, as yet, the Spirit had not yet given life to Nicodemus. Sometimes Reformed writers have written about the Spirit’s work as if he has nothing to do with means but notice, however, how it is that Jesus expects the Spirit to give life, if he will: through the Word. What we see here is the law, but in the next few verses Jesus preaches the gospel: “For God so loved the world….”

Notice too how our Lord speaks of the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, he blows where he wills, as it were. The Spirit who hovered over the face of the deep is the Spirit who gives life to sinners.

It is not we who must do anything to “be born again.” It is the Spirit of God who must do. He must come. He must give life. He must regenerate. He must give life. Nicodemus doesn’t yet understand, but Jesus does — the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). The Son, from whom the Spirit is eternally proceeding, is he from whom, in the economy of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes to his people.

There are signs in the gospel of John that, indeed, the Spirit of God did work through the preaching of the law and the gospel. In John 7:50-51 he makes a meagre attempt to defend Christ before his colleagues. In 19:38-39 we read that, after Jesus’ crucifixion, Nicodemus came again to Jesus with myrrh and aloes for Jesus’ burial. John notes that this was the same Nicodemus who had earlier come to Jesus at night.

John doesn’t say explicitly that Nicodemus was born again but it is certainly suggested. Those associated with the care of Jesus’ body are those who loved him. The rest of the pharisees are nowhere to be seen, but Nicodemus was there. Perhaps it is because the Spirit had or was doing his mysterious work?

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, but man, through the instigation of the devil, by willful disobedience deprived himself and all his posterity of those divine gifts.

As we have seen repeatedly through the first eight questions of the HC, Scripture teaches that we were created good. This truth needs to be repeated because it has been denied so widely and often that one suspects that most Christians whether evangelical or Roman or Orthodox do not really believe that we were created good. Rome teaches and many evangelicals believe that we were, in some way, defective from the beginning and that the fall happened because we were defective. Of course Scripture says that opposite: “And it was very good.”

Why is it necessary to go over this once again? Because it is essential to the answer to this question. Is God unrighteous for demanding of fallen humans, who cannot now perform it, the same obedience that he demanded of them before the fall, when they could actually do it?

The answer is no. God is just in his demand of sinners that they obey because they were created with the ability to obey. The fact that they cannot now obey is not God’s fault. He has not changed. His law has not changed. His righteousness has not changed. Indeed, in the nature of things, it cannot change. God being who and what he is. There’s nothing wrong with God’s standard.

Part of the problem is that we don’t understand the word “righteous” any longer. It means “just.” It means “without moral flaw.” It means “beyond question.” It means “the standard by which everything is measured morally and legally.”

Of course, as fallen and corrupt sinners, we think that WE should be the standard of righteousness! We demand of God that he change his standard to conform to us. Yes, we “erred” we think to ourselves, but “to err is human, to forgive divine.” Ah, now we have God right where we want him. We’ve established a new morality, a parallel morality to his and we assert it vigorously and demand that he come to heel.

The main difficulty is that God isn’t having any of it. He won’t come to heel. He won’t change himself or his standard. Our sin is not, as it were, his problem. It is our problem. He does not have to conform to our changing standards and expectation, we must conform to his. The law of God is perfect, holy, and righteous. There is nothing wrong with it and everything right with it. It’s expectation is relentless. It’s demand is relentless: “Perform.” “Do.” “Obey.” “Love God and neighbor flawlessly and perpetually or die.” “The day you eat thereof you shall surely die.” “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.” “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.”

One corollary to these facts is this: the Heidelberg Catechism assumes and clearly implies that before the fall we under the law. The catechism clearly says that we were made so that we could obey it. We did not obey it but we could and, presumably for an indeterminate period of time, we did obey it. Only after the fall, when we had sinned, can we be said to be under grace.

It is difficult to get modern people to imagine, on the one hand, that we were were once good but are now, by nature, bad. It is exceeding difficult to get late moderns to imagine that we are all, by nature, under a just and relentless law. The late modern person assumes that there is no universal law that could possibly bind all persons, in all times, without exception. It is of the essence of late modernity to imagine that we are our own law-givers.

It is important for us to realize how deeply ingrained these ideas are. This recognition helps us to understand, in part, why folk are so resistant to the notion of a probationary, prelapsarian covenant. Opposition to this covenant is often couched in terms of an answer to critics of the covenant of works/nature/life/law. The Barthians reject the covenant of works on several grounds, chief among them, the a priori that there could not have been any such arrangement between God and man. As far as I can tell, Barth hardly believed in creation, as we have understood it, let alone an historic person, a prelapsarian law, and an historic fall.

Others, influenced by Barth, have rejected the covenant of works because they want to begin with grace and not law. They do this as a response to the criticism that to begin with the covenant of works/law/nature/life is “legalistic.” In contemporary theological discourse, the adjective “legalistic” is a magic word. Just as when we were children and in some children’s game someone said the magic word and we all fell down, so it is today that, when someone utters the word “legalism,” we must, as it were, fall down, abandon our position and take up a fall-back position. We all know that legalism is a bad thing. We don’t want to be associated with a bad thing. We want folk to believe the faith and if this “legalistic” construct keeps folk from the faith, then we must abandon it.

Not I. Yes, it is true that the prelapsarian covenant of life/works/nature/law is legalistic. So what? We were under law! God made a law. We had to keep it. Our status was contingent upon keeping it. Our life was contingent upon keeping it. Our entrance into eschatological glory was contingent upon law keeping. The future of the human race was conditioned upon our law keeping. If we kept the law, God would approve of us. If we failed to keep the law, God would disapprove of us and that’s a bad thing. When it comes to the covenant of works, I’m a legalist! You betcha.

Why do we resist this but we accept other legalisms routinely. If we run a red light and get pulled over, we cannot complain. We broke the law. Is it legalistic for the officer to write a ticket? We might try to argue so, but we know that we are liars. We know we did it and we know that we are guilty. Theft is still wrong. Is a shopkeeper legalistic for prosecuting a thief? No. Have you ever taken a new position and been put on “probation?” If you haven’t, you probably will be. Students are on probation all the time. The first year of my doctoral work I was on “probationary” status. I had to perform certain tasks to successfully fulfill the probation. Civil life is generally a covenant of works, one giant probation. There are no “do-overs” when it comes to civil righteousness. To the degree we don’t reckon with these realities, to that degree we delude ourselves. Law is everywhere and it reflects the creational order.

Why do we fear the adjective “legalistic”? Because when folk accuse the covenant of works/life/nature/law of being “legalistic” they are equivocating. Legalism, after the fall, as a way of justification by and for sinners, is a bad thing, but before the fall and for the sinless (e.g. Jesus!), is it’s a good thing. We fear it because we do not distinguish clearly before the prelapsarian world and the postlapsarian world. This is a fundamental mistake.

The sinless have nothing to fear from the law. The law is their friend. The law does not accuse them. The law does not condemn them. It is the sinner and the sinful who should fear the law. Adam, before the fall, was neither a sinner nor sinful. Jesus, born of a virgin, was neither a sinner nor sinful. They were righteous and able to keep the law. Jesus, the Second Adam, did keep the law. He was under a covenant of works. Indeed, we could even say that he was under a twofold covenant of works since he had not only to keep the covenant of works/law/nature/life that Adam refused to keep but he also had to keep the legal covenant he voluntarily made with his Father (pactum salutis) from eternity. Talk about legalism!

Please bear in mind our definition of sin: “Any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God.” That’s significant. The Roman communion defines the fall as a fall from grace. We do not. We confess that the fall was a violation of the law. So, yes, it is fair to require sinners to keep the law. The fall is not the fault of the law. The law is good, holy, and just. We were made to keep the law. The needs to be kept. It demands to be obeyed and it demands reparations from those who have not kept it.

In this light, we can see why it is so wonderful to speak of a covenant of grace. The covenant announces that someone else has kept the law, has satisfied its demands, has paid the penalty for our lawbreaking for us (pro nobis). This is the good news: Christ the law keeper and penalty payer has come. This is what it means for Paul to call him the “last Adam.” He is the head of all who believe (Rom 5). By his one act of obedience, we, who believe, who are united to Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, are made right again with God for all time.

If we begin with a covenant of grace, however, pious it may sound, we actually do a great disservice to Adam and to Christ. We diminish Christ’s work for us. If we say Christ was under a covenant of grace, we deny his obedience for us. Grace, by definition, means that Christ did not really fulfill the terms of justice. How is that not blasphemy? To say suggest that Adam was under grace is to deny his initial righteousness and holiness. As a righteous and holy man, Adam had no need of grace.

Just as the last Adam was under law for us, so the first Adam, and we in him, were under law. Only against this background can we understand and appreciate what it means to speak of grace. If the first covenant was “gracious” and we are under that “gracious” covenant then grace is no longer grace and law is no longer law and the good news is no longer the good news.

I understand the impulse to make the faith attractive, but giving up the covenant of works/law/nature/life is too high a price to pay. As Cornelis Plantinga says about the doctrine of the Trinity, it is attached to the gears and pulleys of the Christian faith. To cut it loose would bring the whole thing, the message of the gospel, to a stop.

10. Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?

By no means, 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, as He has declared: “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them.”

Most people in our age seemed truly shocked by the notion that there is an abiding, universal, unbending moral standard. I think that we have all got so used to simply making up things as we go along that it never occurs to most of us that, in fact, there is a revealed, moral, righteous, eternal law to which each and everyone of us must give account.

The first thing the Evil One did was to raise doubts about this very question? “Has God really said?” Is the law really abiding, eternal, immutable etc? Or, is it the case that the law is situationally determined? Could it be that we can reason with God and show him how unjust he’s being? The Adversary offered to Adam an alternate explanation of reality. He offered to him a story that included the fulfillment of innate human potential and a story that implied that God isn’t really just– and in fact suggested that God is positively unjust for seeking to suppress that innate potential divinity by means of the law.

To reinforce his law and to signal how he regards disobedience, the LORD instituted the strongest possible punishment for disobedience: “The day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” Looking back, of course, it all seems so clear. There may have been certain kinds of (plant and animal) death before the fall, on that question I’m uncertain, but I’m sure that no humans, no image bearers had died before the fall. Thus, the idea of human mortality must have been strange to Adam. I wonder if he contemplated it? Perhaps it seemed so unreal to him that when the Adversary suggested an alternate interpretation of the universe it had a certain plausibility to it? Of course, Adam’s job, his holy vocation before the face of God, was to despatch the Liar (and father of lies) immediately. He did not. As it turned out, that would be only one of a complex of sins (James 1:13-15).

It is no small thing that God instituted the death penalty for sin. The Apostle Paul understood the consequences and reflects on it when he says “the wages of sin is death.” The moment Adam chose to enter into what Olevianus called a “false covenant” with Satan, he died. He died spiritually. Now God was no longer his friend. When God the Son came looking for Adam, it was not in friendship but in judgment and Adam knew it. Ridiculously, he attempted to hide himself from the omniscient ruler of the universe. This first futile postlapsarian act is immediate and prima facie evidence of the effect of the fall on the human intellect! Rule #1: When you offend an omniscient and omnipotent being, don’t compound it by hiding and lying.

The moment he sinned, he began to decay. Instead of passing the test and entering into glory and life, he failed the test and entered into condemnation and corruption.

Tragically, when he did so, he didn’t do it alone.

Adam did not act as a purely private person. This is another idea that is hard for us to understand today. We don’t always clearly distinguish between “private” and “public” acts or roles. Adam had a public, official role to perform as the representative of all humanity. He was created good (Col 3:10), in the image of his Creator. He was, as Augustine said, “able to sin, able not to sin.”

Whatever he did, he would do for all of us, and thus, what he did, we did. Thus, Adam was not alone in the Garden. There is another, literal, sense in which he was not alone. Beside his wife, there was another creature in the Garden: The Evil One. According to the Genesis narrative, as catechism summarizes it, he instigated sin. He tried or tempted Adam. It was the image bearer’s vocation to resist the tempter and to conquer him, to slay him out of devotion to the Lord. The curse for breaking the covenant of works/nature/life/law was death. The Evil One was manifestly a liar and the father of sin. He was intent on seducing Eve, and through her, Adam, into breaking the covenant. He proposed an alternative to the covenant of works/life/nature/law: a covenant of equality with God. Whereas the Lord had promised glorification on condition of obedience to God, the Evil Promised deification on condition of obedience to himself. Adam had a clear, unequivocal choice. He chose equality with God and with that choice, he also chose death.

The sin that he committed was the original sin. When he sinned, he became a sinner. Since, however, we are all Adam’s children, we don’t become sinners when we sin (that was the error of Pelagius). Rather, we sin because, in Adam, we are all sinners (Rom 5). We all have inborn sin. As a consequence of that inborn sin, we all commit actual sin. Scripture reflects on this relationship in Ps 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David confesses his sin but he also confesses his sinfulness. When he says that he was conceived in sin he isn’t reflecting on the act of procreation, but rather, on the results of the fall. Adam’s children are all sinful from the beginning of our existence. This is the teaching of Rom 5:12 Through Adam’s sin, “death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Outside of Christ, we face temporal punishment. Paul is explicit about the devastating effects and the overwhelming evidence of sin. Some would explain away sin by appealing to evolutionary biology, but that’s just a convenient dodge. It ‘s a way of making sin normal. It is a way of excuse ourselves, to relieve our selves of responsibility for our choices when, in fact, sin and death is the exact opposite of normal. It is abnormal. That’s why we experience the sting of death. The pain and grief associated with death is no mere evolutionary response. Indeed, evolution doesn’t explain the grief we experience when we lose a loved one. The Scriptural explanation does, however, account for human experience. We grieve because death was the consequence of sin. This is why Heb 9:27 relates our death and the coming judgment to the death of Christ.

The death that followed sin is curse. It was repeated in the history of redemption. Deut 27:26 says, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.'” The very curse of Gen 2:17 is repeated and re-affirmed in the context of the Israelite national covenant. Not that Israel’s justification before God or even her salvation from sin and death was conditioned upon works, but her status as a national people was a reflection of the original works principle. It served to remind them corporately of the righteousness of God’s law and the need for a law keeper.

This is just how the Apostle Paul understands this passage in Gal 3:10. He quotes this same passage and adds, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” (Gal 3:11).

Whether in the first covenant or during the Mosaic covenant or now, the wages of sin is death. The law is the standard of righteousness. The law is extrinsic and objective and unyielding. The law does not care about our feelings. It is what it is. The penalty is equally relentless.

The gospel is equally objective and extrinsic. That’s why Paul says that “the righteous shall live by faith.” Faith is, as we confess in the Belgic Confession, the “sole instrument” by which we come in possession of the righteousness which has satisfied the law of God.

We don’t like to face the ugly facts of sin and death, but they are just that: facts. Anyone with eyes can see the effects of sin all about us. Those effects testify of the reality of sin and that reality drives to look for a Savior who has faced our sin and addressed its consequences.

One of the more difficult doctrines for the modern mind to accept is the doctrine of divine punishment.

The modern creed has three or four points, one of which is universalism, i.e. the doctrine that all are saved. All dogs (and people) go to heaven. It is axiomatic for modern folk that God may not distinguish between human beings. It’s true that God is no respecter of persons, meaning that God doesn’t favor the rich over the poor (indeed, there is a good lot of biblical evidence to suggest that the relations are the other way round!), he doesn’t favor ethnic groups as such and so on. The modern creed, however, holds much more than that. The modern creed holds that God cannot distinguish or treat one human being differently than another. Since this is axiomatic, it’s a nearly universal assumption among contemporary evangelical and especially among liberal Christians. This is what most folk mean when they say “justice” or “fairness.” This is the a priori that lies behind the belief that Jesus made salvation possible for all (he wrote the check) and it’s up to us to appropriate that salvation by faith (or by faith and works), i.e. it’s up to us to “cash the check.” Among modern liberals (and particularly my old friends the Unitarian Universalists) the idea that God should have divided humanity into classes of elect and reprobate is one of the most horrific notions of historic Christianity that, in their mind, justifies their utter disgust with it.

A closely related corollary to the modern rejection of any idea of reprobation is the modern rejection of the doctrine of hell and punishment. I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me “I can’t believe in a God who would send people to hell.” It must be nice to be able to define your own god — on reflection, maybe not! Of course these same people also believe that they are basically righteous. They don’t accept the essential premise of the doctrine of hell and punishment: that, after the fall, God alone is righteous and that human beings deserve to be punished. Most people today don’t really accept the very idea of sin (transgression of or want of conformity to God’s law).

The pre-modern church, by contrast, had relatively less difficulty with this doctrine because they accepted the doctrines of divine righteousness and human sinfulness. In the modern period, after the Enlightenment, the proportions of people who accepted and rejected these doctrines were reversed. There were probably always some who rejected the doctrines of sin, hell, and punishment. That number certain grew during the Renaissance and was fueled by a series of theologically deviant movements in the sixteenth century. All those who have rejected the doctrines of sin, punishment, and hell have one thing in common: rationalism. Whatever Scripture seemed to say, the ratiionalist KNOWS that it couldn’t possibly be so because he KNOWS what justice is. Whereas the Christian begins with divine revelation, the rationalist intellect intersects with ultimate rationality or some universal rational principle to which all beings (god and humans) must assent. “Christian” rationalism has often posited that the human intellect intersects with the divine. Pagan rationalism sets up some version of autonomous rationality by which all other authorities (including Scripture) are levered. In the Enlightenment they set out to explain how it is that they KNOW that it couldn’t possibly be the case and it was on that basis that they openly sat in judgment over Scripture.

As the Enlightenment rationalism began to infiltrate into the church there were some who openly articulated the rationalist ground for rejecting reprobation, punishment, and hell. Others, liberals, accepted that rationalist account but tried to re-shape Christianity along more “Enlightened” lines without saying openly what they were doing. They thought it was okay if the little old ladies in their parishes thought that we all still believed the faith. This the sort of thing that provoked J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism. The liberals routed the “conservatives” and swept the board. They took control of the institutions, boards, and committees and within a decade or two mention of reprobation, punishment, or hell could only provoke disapproving clucking from the illuminati. Today it’s more likely to bring charges and some sort of academic star chamber proceeding on many campuses.

Progressively, since the 1970s, neo-evangelicals and their children have been making peace not only with the mainline but with the liberalism of the mainline, including the rationalist rejection of reprobation, punishment, and hell. Many of today’s evangelicals are the children and grand children of angry, purple veined, white-shirted, sweaty fundamentalists. They reacted by trading one form of doctrinal and ecclesiastical minimalism for another. Never did they give the Reformation a serious look because they just assumed the identity of the Reformation with their fundamentalist background. Now, sitting in a polite, latitudinarian, Anglican service, where everyone and everything is O so sweetly reasonable and where doctrinal pluralism is the order of the day and where (perhaps) the prayer book and personal religious experience are the only two universals really does change “plausibility structures.”

When John Stott (whom I don’t know but whose writing has been a great help to me) and John Wenham (whom I did know, and whose writing has been equally valuable) criticized and rejected the doctrines of hell and eternal punishment, that was the signal for many evangelicals that it was now okay to adopt, in effect, the liberal view on these topics. When I interviewed at a Christian College some years back an administrator asked me if I believed in hell. I said, “yes.” He asked, “Is anyone going there?” “Sadly, yes” I replied. He told me that they were having a difficult time finding candidates who still believed the doctrine of hell or eternal punishment.

There is much more to say and we haven’t even touched the doctrine of temporal punishment yet. One final thought for this post. We late moderns should not assume that our pre-modern forefathers (and foremothers) had an easy time with the doctrines of reprobation, punishment, and hell. In his commentary on this question, Zacharias Ursinus (the primary author of the catechism) wrote, in part, “In the exposition of this Question, we must consider the evil of punishment, which is the other part of the misery of man. In relation to this we are taught that God punishes sin most severely, justly, and certainly.

Unlike some, who seem positively to revel in the doctrines of reprobation, punishment, and hell, Ursinus strikes two chords: 1) he regarded the reality of punishment and hell as an “evil,” 2) he affirmed them anyway because he (and we with him) understood them to be biblical truths (not mere medieval fancies) and theological consequences of our doctrines of the righteousness and holiness of God and our doctrine of sin. The difference between Ursinus and moderns is that Ursinus regarded Scripture as the final authority for faith and life, whereas moderns assume that we are the principium cognoscendi (the beginning of knowing) and the final authority. Ursinus believed in sin. By and large, except when discussing corporate entities (e.g. society) moderns do not. Ursinus believed in fixed law and righteousness. Moderns do not. Ursinus feared God. Moderns do not. They won’t have a god they must fear.

Eternal punishment is one thing, but what about “temporal” punishment? Does God punish sin and sinners in this life?

Yes and no. One of the great laments of the psalms is “Why do the wicked prosper?” Ps 73 says that the “arrogant” and the “wicked…have no pangs until death; their bodies are fat and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind” (Ps 73:3b-5; ESV). If the law says “do and live” and “sin and die” then it would seem that justice requires that those who are wicked in this life should suffer proportionately and that those who are righteous in the life should prosper accordingly. Experience, history, and Scripture all testify to the contrary, however. There is not a strict 1:1 ratio. Indeed, as the psalmist (Asaph) observes, sometimes the corollary seems to be turned on its head. Sometimes they are inordinately prosperous! “Their eyes swell out through fatness….” (v.7). The dissonance between what is and what should can be so great, in this world, as to make people say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” (v. 11).

Asaph wrestled with this question almost to despair. He testifies: “But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task.” (v.17a). He was almost to despair, but not quite. It was a “wearisome task” until he “went into vthe sanctuary of God” where he “discerned their end” (v.17b).

The unbelieving (both inside and outside the covenant community) think that all is well. Indeed, sometimes God does prosper them materially. The mistake we make is how we evaluate blessing and curse. That’s what Asaph discovered in the sanctuary. He discovered the true nature of blessing and curse, after the fall and relative to God. What seems to the unregenerate, and sometimes to us in our unreflective moments, “blessing” isn’t really that at all. All that prosperity is really a sort of judgment. Asaph says that God has actually “set them in slippery places….” (v.18).

Everything that we reckon as a sign of divine blessing can be “destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors!” Ask Job. Ask those who were taken away in the captivity. Ask those who were in Palestine when Antiochus invaded (168/67 BC) or when Titus arrived (70 AD).

The problem is not that God is unjust but that we are “brutish and ignorant” (v. 22). Unbelievers and hypocrites (in and out of the congregation) may have much in this life but God guides his people in this life with his counsel and in the next he receives them “to glory” (v. 24). When we put the question of God’s justice in its eschatological perspective we can say with Asaph, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.”

Under the typological (old) covenant, under Moses and David, there was a general sort of correlation of earthly prosperity in the land and national, outward, obedience. When they were disobedient, eventually, the national, typological church was taken into captivity. All of that was nothing more than a giant sermon illustration pointing to the coming of the truly and completely obedient Son (Heb 3:5-6), the true Israel of God (Matt 2:15). God graciously granted to Asaph (and to others, we trust) insight into the true nature of things, beyond the typological national covenant.

The reality is that those who are not completely righteous are in jeopardy of eternal punishment (not annihilation) but they also suffer temporal punishment. Zacharias Ursinus, the major author of the catechism and the one authorized by Frederick III to give the authoritative exposition of the catechism addresses this very issue in his lecture on this question (Commentary, p.68). The catechism says that all sins are punished, but it seems that the wicked prosper, therefore how can we say that all sins are punished? He replies:

“They will at length be punished: yea they are even in this life punished, 1. In the conscience, by whose stings the wicked are tortured. 2. Also, in those things which they use with the greatest eagerness and delight; and the less they know, and acknowledge themselves to be punished, so much the heavier it is. 3. They are also often afflicted with other grievous punishments. And yet their punishment will be still more dreadful in the life to come, where it will be everlasting death.”

The temporal (this life) punishments that the wicked suffer are only the beginning of what is to come. Even though it “consists of several parts” These are two stages of what Ursinus called “one punishment.” “Present punishment is but the beginning of everlasting punishment.” (As an aside, he makes this point in response to the argument that it would be unjust for God to punish sin twice. His answer is that God doesn’t punish sin twice! This is interesting because this is one of the traditional objections to the doctrine of the imputation of active obedience).

What about the sufferings of the righteous, i.e. of those to whom Christ’s righteousness has been imputed? If their sins have been punished in Christ’s active suffering on their behalf, why does God continue to punish them? Ursinus helps us here again. The “afflictions” which believers suffer in this life are not to be regarded as punishments for sin, quid pro quo, but as “the chastisement of a father, sent for the purpose of humbling them. Hence it becomes necessary for us….” (p. 69). Of course, this is exactly what Heb 12:4-7 says.

Crefalo Dollar and Joel Osteen and the rest of the “best life now” crowd, in whatever form they may be found are false prophets. God’s people do suffer in this life. Ask Asaph! The wicked don’t always suffer as greatly, but if they remain outside of Christ those hidden punishments will come to fruition. We don’t live in the typological old covenant nor do we live in the consummate age. We live in the penultimate age when we must put up with the “health and wealth” liars and apparent inequity in this life because we trust that all will be made right in due time.

In the meantime, because we are not national Israel, because we are not charged with the literal destruction of God’s enemies, we ought not to long for it. We ought to pray that God would show the same mercy to them that he has shown to us who believe, who also, by virtue of the fall and of our sin, deserve nothing but temporal and eternal punishment.

11. Is then God not 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 also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment both of body and soul.

1 Exod 34:6,7. 2 Exod 20:5. Ps 5:5,6. 2 Cor 6:14-16. * Revelation 14:11.

When faced with the question of the divine wrath, the catechism asks the same question we do: my, that seems harsh. What about mercy? It’s funny how sinners, who so often sit in judgment over God and man, suddenly become interested in mercy when faced with relentless justice.

To answer the question, the catechism turns to the divine attributes. This is an important move in two ways. First, it says something about how Reformed theology works and how we understand Scripture. God has a nature. There are things that are true of God in perpetuity. We can say true things about God that were true a million years ago, that are true today, and that shall be true forever. Unlike the god of early modernity (who is either wholly hidden from us or wholly identified with the world) and unlike the god of late modernity (who is the creation of our subjectivity, he/she/it is what we perceive, wish, hope him/her/it to be), the God of Scripture simply is. The god of open theism might be, if we’ll cooperate. The god of process theism is becoming. The god of late modernity is contingent. In contrast to the Reformed faith, which denies that God has “parts or passions,” the god of late modernity suffers (patior, to suffer). The god of late modernity, of our time, is complex. He/she/it is never anything, never fully realized, and always contingent. He/she/it needs us. The god of late modernity is more like Woody Allen than he/she/it is like the Yahweh of holy Scripture.

The Reformed faith is neither early modern (rationalist or empiricist) nor late modern (subjectivist). The Reformed faith seeks to be biblical and Scripture does reveal God to be merciful to sinners. Exodus 2);6 describes him as “”Showing mercy to a thousand generations” (Ex 20:6). Scripture says that his name (i.e. who he is) is “compassionate, gracious, slow to Anger…” (Ex 34:6-7). God does relent from his judgments and justice, but that relenting, that restraint of wrath, that not giving to the unjust what they deserve, is premised on the satisfaction of justice. Where that is not present, mercy is not possible. However it may seem to us, mercy is not arbitrary because the divine justice is not arbitrary, nor are they grounded in something extrinsic to God. This is the great mistake of all rationalist theologies. They always want to try to save God from the charge of being arbitrary by showing how God’s acts can be justified by some standard outside of God. That seems satisfactory until we realize that if God must give account to some univocal standard of justice that binds him and us, then that standard must be God! The cost of rescuing God from the charge of being arbitrary is to lose God himself.

No, the standard to which God answers is himself, his own nature. He never acts contrary to it and he always acts according to it. It’s true that we don’t know God’s justice exhaustively, because we don’t know God exhaustively. We only know him as he reveals himself to us. We can correlate what he does with what he has revealed to us, but when our correlation fails, we must submit to God. We can and may never stand in judgment over God because such an attempt presumes that we know more about God than he knows about himself. Just to say these words shows how foolish such thinking is.

God is his divine attributes. He is just and he is merciful. His justice is merciful and his mercy is just. They meet perfectly in him. Yes, God is merciful, but he is equally just. Scripture says, “I am a jealous God…” (Ex 20:5). “He does not leave the guilty unpunished…” (Ex 34:7). In other words, God’s definition of justice is himself. We may live in a subjectivist time but God does not care. He did not submit to the demands of the Enlightenment that he justify himself and he won’t submit to the demands of the post-Enlightenment that he justify himself. No, we must be justified by him. God is just and the justifier.

God is merciful, but his mercy is premised on justice. His justice must be satisfied. Outside of that satisfaction there is no mercy. God is just. He has provided that that satisfaction of his justice. God is merciful; he has provided that satisfaction of his justice. You did not provide it.

Listen to me Christian: He could have demanded that you provide it. He did not. He provided satisfaction for his justice. Christ Jesus satisfied the justice of God. He did righteousness, he loved God and neighbor, he walked humbly with his God. We did not. He obeyed for us. His obedience is imputed to all who trust in him and in his finished work for sinners.

Listen to me you unbelievers. God is just. He will not be mocked. If you will not trust in Jesus the satisfier of God justice, then you must satisfy the justice of God yourself. Is it unjust? Did God sin? Did God rebel? Was it God or you who cursed your neighbor this morning (on the freeway)? Was it God or you who committed adultery (with your eyes and heart)? Was it God or you who stole from the cash register? Was it God or was it you who coveted your neighbor’s new car? That’s what I thought. God gave you life, he gave you breath. Despite your sin and rebellion he has provided for you generously and how do you thank him? By demanding that he do more, that he meet your standards!

In our age we are quick to dispense with the justice of God because it does not fit our paradigm. “It’s all good” we say. No, it isn’t all good. We’re not all good. God is good and we are not and therein lies the problem. “Dude, lighten up!” That’s what they said as the rain began to fall. They mocked Noah, right up to the time that they couldn’t swim any longer, as the water began to cause the Ark to float. Truth be told they, like we, probably shook their fist at God to the last, cursing him for not meeting their standard of justice even as he was in the act of holding them to his. Denying reality to the last.

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 the same, either by ourselves or by another.2

1 Exodus 20:5. Exodus 23:7. 1 Romans 8:3,4.

With this question we begin considering the second part of the catechism or the “grace” section of “guilt, grace, and gratitude.”


One of the great misconceptions about the Augustinian doctrine of divine sovereignty, which was re-stated by the Protestant Reformers and which came to expression in the Reformed confessions, is that it makes God arbitrary or capricious.

Without reflection or if we start from the wrong place, the acts of God might seem arbitrary. After all, during the fires, one house was taken and one was left behind. It’s not evident that there is any way to say that this house was taken but that one was left because of anything intrinsic to each house. It’s a mystery of providence. Of course folk frequently and falsely set up cause and effect relations to explain providence but Jesus isn’t having any of it (see John 9).

This fact, however, does not mean that we cannot say anything about God’s justice nor does it mean that God is really capricious. The charge that the God of Scripture is capricious rests ultimately on the assumption that unless we can explain his actions then we may sit in judgment upon them and him. In other words, the charge rests upon rationalism. Of course we cannot explain all of God’s acts and we cannot explain fully any of them! His ways are are higher than our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. If he did explain himself fully it would consume us. We are not capable of understanding.

If we consider that God always acts according to his nature, then he cannot be said to be arbitrary, especially if we concede that God’s understanding of his justice transcends our ability to comprehend it. That is a great difference between the triune God of Holy Scripture revealed in Christ Jesus and Allah or fate. The god of Islam really is capricious. He may forgive or he may not. No one can know. Allah cannot be known. He is utterly hidden. Indeed, he isn’t even really personal. The alleged identity of Yahweh and Allah is a great myth of liberalism and universalism. Such a claim is an insult both to Christianity and to Islam.

The God of Scripture is, in himself, hidden from us but he also reveals himself to us and what he reveals to us is true. There is a great divide between the Creator and the creature. We cannot know things as God knows them and we cannot know God as he knows himself, but we can know God because he has come to us and made himself known. He has revealed himself in creation and in redemption and chiefly in his Son, the Word: Jesus the Messiah.

We can correlate God’s promises to his saving acts in redemptive history. We can and must count him faithful to fulfill his law and his promises. He threatens judgment for sin. He threatens death for sin and he fulfills that curse (Gen 2:17; Exod 20:5). The whole history of the Israelite holy war against Canaan is the history of God’s righteous judgment upon unbelief and sin. He says: “…I will not acquit the guilty” (Exod 23:7). Every human being is personally obligated to produce perfect righteousness before God (Ex 34:7; Ez 18.4,20; 2 Thess 1:8-10; Gal 3:10). Unlike Allah, the God who is, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is not arbitrary. He cannot contradict himself. He cannot be what he is not. He cannot do what is contrary to his nature and his nature is just. The universal testimony of Scripture is that God’s righteousness must be satisfied.

Scripture also testifies, however, that God is gracious and merciful. He is merciful in that he does not give to all sinners what they deserve: hell (thanks to Danny Hyde for repeatedly pointing this out on Sunday mornings!) and he is gracious in that he gives to sinners what they cannot earn, his favor and out of his de-merited favor he himself supplies the righteousness required by his justice. I’m grateful to the person at the recent Gospel-Driven Conference at Ponte Vedra PCA who pointed out after one of the sessions that, in Ezek 16:63, Yahweh Elohim promises that he himself will atone for the sins of his people. Of course we remember the scene in Genesis 15 when Yahweh himself passes between the pieces, taking upon himself the obligation to fulfill the promise and to suffer the penalty of violation of the covenant.

This is the difference between biblical religion and all other religions. Only the God of Scripture promises to save his people by fulfilling the obligations of his law for them. All other faiths set up systems whereby we must do for ourselves or, as in the case of Rabbinic and Christian moralism, God gives grace so that we can do so ourselves.

In the biblical faith, however, God meets the terms of his righteousness for us. This is where grace and righteousness meet: in Christ. For us he became both righteous law-keeper (Second/Last Adam) and the Mediator of gracious, free salvation sola fide to and for all those for whom he came, whom the Father gave to him from all eternity.

The catechism says “God wills….” Our classic theologians spoke of God’s beneplacitum or his “good pleasure.” Sinners cannot stand before before a righteous and holy God. Not only does his nature make it that only the righteous can stand before God but also the divine will. God wills according to his nature, but the introduction of the reference to the divine will is very important. God is king and his will is sovereign. This a great lesson for our age.

Beginning perhaps with Erasmus, the modern age made the human will the arbiter of all things. In late modernity, following Nietzsche, we have reduced life to a struggle of the will. Modernity has consistently attempted to make God “come to heel” as it were, to domesticate him, to make his will subservient to ours. This is an ancient impulse. It is the program of hell, of course, packaged nicely in the garden and re-packaged for every age. The Scriptural testimony is overwhelming. God willed and spoke creation into being. God knows what he wills and wills what he knows. From the beginning humans have been obligated, by virtue of their mere humanity, their finitude, to submit to the divine will.

The turn to the divine will here is significant because it says something else about our understanding of Scripture. If God’s will is free, it is free. It is unconditioned. This “unconditionedness” or liberty (Luther) is behind grace. He is is not obligated to save any of us. He does so because he freely wills to do so. This idea of the freedom of the divine will is essential to the catechism’s definition of grace. The medieval doctrine was that grace is a substance (either created or uncreated) with which we are infused, with which we must cooperate, unto eventual justification. The Protestants re-defined grace as unmerited, de-merited divine favor. It is not a substance but a divine attitude. This moves justification and salvation away from the problem of being and into the legal and moral sphere.

Before the fall, we were in a state of favor or divine approval. By virtue of sin we could no longer be in God’s favor. In order to be restored to a state of divine approval the divine justice needed to be satisfied.

Again this way of speaking reminds us that for Reformed theology, in contrast for that which often passes for Reformed teaching today, there is no dichotomy between legal relations and personal relations. The latter is premised upon the former. Sin destroyed our legal standing with God. The law must be fulfilled and the penalty paid in order to restore us to favor.

Who must do it? The catechism, following Paul in Rom 2:13, teaches that it is the “doers of the law who will be justified.” The promise of the law is as relentless as the demand of the law. Of course, by virtue of sin we are incapable of performing what the law requires, but that doesn’t disable the promise and demand of the law.

Should there be a human being who was not disabled by sin, he could meet the terms of the law and satisfy it’s demands and receive its promised rewards. There will be more about this under the following questions. An even greater problem is whether what is done by one human can be transferred to another. There have always been skeptics when it comes to imputation and our age is no exception. There have been some pastors who have flatly denied the necessity of imputation (e.g. Rich Lusk).

Of course the Heidelberg Catechism does not share such skepticism. It teaches the doctrine of imputation explicitly. On this see Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry. Neither does the Apostle Paul share this skepticism. If Adam’s sin can be imputed to all humans, then the righteousness of Christ can be imputed to believers (Rom 5:12-21).

13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction.


By no means, on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.1
1 Job 9:2, 3. Job 15:15,16. Matt 6:12. * Matt 16:26.

Only Christianity accounts for sin.
All sub-Christian (i.e. Christian heresies) and non-Christian religions ultimately deny either the effect of sin or its reality. The Christian heresies (e.g. Pelagianism) denies the power of sin and the federal-legal relations between Adam and us. Non-Christian religions (e.g. Islam) tend to deny sin altogether. It’s pretty difficult to teach a religion of human effort and a thoroughgoing doctrine of sin. The compromise between the biblical and Christian doctrine of sin (that sin is lawlessness and necessarily produces death) and non-biblical views of sin has come to be known as semi-Pelganianism. Speaking anachronistically several of the leading rabbis of the first century were semi-Pelagian. They believed in salvation by grace and cooperation with grace. This doctrine of salvation became the dominant soteriology in the medieval church and it was to this error that the Remonstrants and the neonomians returned in the 17th century. It is to this same sort of semi-Pelagianism that the “covenantal moralists” of our day (i.e. the NPP and FV) would lead us.

It is against the errors of Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism that the catechism says that, “on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.” Where most of the medieval church and the Council of Trent had it that we sinners could, if we would, increase our merit before God by grace and cooperation with grace, we confess that, were it up to our doing, our cooperating, our accumulation of intrinsic merit, it is impossible. The only merit that is of any use is the merit of another, a merit that is extrinsic to us. As sinners all we can do is to daily increase our liability before God. Apart from the unmerited favor of God imputing Christ’s perfect righteousness to us, we would be utterly lost.

From the biblical view of sin and its consequences we must not only reject the obvious error of Pelagianism (the denial of sin) but also semi-Pelagianism in all its forms because it makes grace a palliative but, because, in semi-Pelagianism, it ultimately depends upon our cooperation, it is not salvation.

In the Reformed faith, grace is really grace because sin is really sin.

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 2 and redeem others from it.

1 Heb 2:14-18. 2 Ps 130:3.

Much of the history of Israel is a history of blood. Moses shed Egyptian blood to save the life of an Israelite slave. Yahweh delivered Israel out of the house of slavery through bloodshed. Joshua and the Judges shed Canaanite blood as they conquered the promised lnad. David was a man of blood as he assumed and defended his throne. The entire Old Testament (Mosaic) cultic (religiious) system was bloody. Indeed, the quantity of animal blood shed by priests in the service of Yahweh was so great that it has become a scandal to modern sensibilities.

Understanding something of that bloody history of redemption is essential for understanding the death of our Lord Jesus the Messiah. The reason there was so much bloodshed under the Old Covenant is not because, as the gnostics alleged, there was a venal and cruel OT god from whom we have been delivered in the New Covenant. After all, the Old Covenant prophets themselves reminded us that God does not “eat the flesh of bulls” or “drink the blood of goats” (Ps 50:13; Isa 1:11). For this reason Hebrews 10:4 reminds us that “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

No, the reason for all the Old Covenant bloodshed was to make a two-sided point and the first side of that point was and is that the Creator God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God who is, the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is absolutely righteous and that his justice must be satisfied. The second side of the point is that the sacrifice of animals is, of itself, futile toward that end.

One thing conferred significance to the sacrifice of animals under the typological administrations of the covenant of grace (i.e. those epochs of redemptive history from after the fall until the inauguration of the New Covenant): the obedience and death of Jesus the Messiah as the lamb of God. Every single animal sacrifice, beginning with the slaughter of an animal and the covering of our first parents Adam and Eve in bloody animal skins, anticipated and was given significance only by the reality that would one day appear. Every time some sinful priest slaughtered some animal in the Jewish temple its meaning was fundamentally not that with which the priest or the people invested in it. Its meaning, its utility, its power lie only in the typological connection it had to the final, eschatological (i.e. that which is from heaven) historical sacrifice of Christ.

All this is to say that there are two schools of thought relative to the typological sacrifices which we should reject. First, we should reject the old liberal notion that what made the sacrifices significant was the personal, subjective meaning invested in them by those who offered them or by those for whom they were offered. In other words, we should reject the Schleiermachian notion that what made them significant is the way they helped one subjectively realize a great sense of divine dependence. No, however interesting it might be to speculate about the subjective meaning the act of sacrifice might have had for the people or the priests, it is basically irrelevant for understanding them. We really only know two things about those who participated in the typological administrations: they believed and somehow looked forward to the incarnation and entered into the new covenant by faith (Heb 11) or they did not believe and, in that case, to such, the sacrifices were useless.

The second school of thought regarding the sacrificial system that we should reject is that notion that somehow the sacrificial system was the reality to which redemptive history will one day return. It completely turns the biblical self-understanding on its head to think that Jesus’ self-sacrifice was only provisional and temporary or that that one day the temple, typological system will be restored. No, the entire book of Hebrews makes it clear repeatedly and unequivocally that the entire typological system existed for one purpose: to point to the reality, to point to Christ and his sacrifice as temple, priest, and lamb. Yes, we must understand Jesus’ life and death in the light of the typological system but the spiritual and theological and historical meaning of the typological system is derived from its relation to Christ and his once-for-all sacrifice.

Our Bloody Religion pt 3 (HC 14)

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 2 and redeem others from it.

1 Heb 2:14-18. 2 Ps 130:3.

So far we’ve seen that the efficacy of divine institution of typological animal sacrifices, prior to the incarnation of God the Son, was dependent upon the coming fulfillment of those sacrifices in Christ.

The point of working through the meaning of the sacrificial system is to deal with the problem presented by the fact that it was not lambs and goats who sinned against God. It was human beings, image bearers, who violated the covenant of works (or life or nature). The consequence of sin was death, but it was not humans who were slaughtered in the Jewish temple. So what was happening in the Jewish cultus? God was anticipating the final, once-for-all sacrifice made by God the Son incarnate and the culmination of the once-for-all punishment of sin.

God was not obligated to save any. De potentia absoluta (regarding the absolute divine power) he might passed by or reprobated all humans fallen in Adam and he would have been just in doing so. Nevertheless, God in his mercy (not giving the punishment due) and grace (showing favor that is not due) willed to redeem a people for himself. Having willed to redeem a people for himself and because it was humans, and not lambs and goats, who sinned, the divine justice requires that the same class of beings who committed the sin should make payment for that sin.

Though it was humans who sinned and it is they who owe payment and positive righteousness they do have something in common with lambs and goats: they are all mere creatures. There is an ontological, categorical difference between the being which humans have and the being which God has. To begin, God is. That cannot be said of humans. God was, is, and shall be. His being is not contingent. He is simple, immutable, impassible, eternal, infinite, and immense. None of those attributes are true of any creature. No purely finite, temporal, passible, mutable, complex, and local creature could satisfy the divine wrath and, after the fall, accomplish positive righteousness.

All this is to begin to answer the great question posed by Anselm of Canterbury: Cur Deus Homo? (What the God-Man?) The short answer is that, having willed to redeem his elect, he could do so only in a way that is consonant with his justice. We know something about God’s justice from revelation. There are rough but true analogies to divine justice in nature and clearer indications of it in the typological revelation, e.g. “eye for an eye.” It is common to hear people mock the “eye for an eye.” Ghandi is famous for having said, “An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind,” and while that may be true on one level, that if we each go about seeking absolute justice for every wrong in this world we will destroy it, it’s a poor account of God’s justice. In fact God wills that his justice be satisfied. There’s every indication in the typological revelation that God is completely intolerant of disobedience. The liberals can mock the “slaughterhouse theology” of the OT and of the historic Christian, substitutionary doctrine of the atonement but we may, in turn, call them Marcionites and Gnostics. They may like to think of themselves as having advanced beyond bloodshed and atonement but God has not and there will come a time when they shall wish with all they are that they had not been more clever than God.

A Mediated Religion

15. What kind of a 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

11 Cor 15:21, 22, 25, 26. 2 Jer 33:16. Isaiah 53:11. 2 Cor 5:21. Heb 7:15,16.

One of the more puzzling and overlooked features of the Barthian, neo-evangelical, and covenantal moralist (i.e. FV) denial of the doctrine of the pre-lapsarian covenant of works is that it tends to deny, or at least downplay, the righteousness of God and it basically re-tells the entire story of Scripture by changing the plot. Denying the covenant of works tends to make God appear to be arbitrary. To be sure, the God of Scripture is absolutely free to act according to his nature. We creatures are not authorized to determine in advance what God may or may not do except to say that he cannot deny himself and he cannot lie. He cannot be what he is not. Within those parameters there are a great number of things that God might do that we cannot predict. God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. These are fundamental Scriptural data. To deny, however, that God is arbitrary is hardly to deny his freedom or, as some like to say, to “put God in a box.”

We don’t think of God as arbitary because we think of him as he has revealed himself in his Word. We don’t think that he has revealed himself exhaustively, of course. We understand from Scripture (e.g. Deut 29:29) that he has revealed himself sufficiently to allow us to speak about him truly. We cannot explain all that he has done or will do in his providence but we do know him truly and we can correlate what he has done in redemptive history with what he said about himself in the canonical Word.

According to the Reformed reading of Scripture, the God of the Bible entered into a covenant relation with humanity in creation, before the fall. This covenant relation was bounded by a law: love God with all your faculties and love neighbor as yourself. It was expressed in terms of trees. Adam was free to eat from any tree, even the tree of life, but he was forbidden from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This was a commandment, a law. Our Belgic Confession calls this the “commandment of life.” It seems undeniable that Adam was in a legal relationship with God. The law gave permission, “eat from any tree” and a restriction: “except for this one.” There was implied blessedness for obedience and this blessedness was symbolized by the tree of life. The curse of law breaking was explicitly revealed: “the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” Adam was in a covenant and it was not a legal covenant. What was required of him was legal righteousness.

Of course Adam himself presents another great problem for modernity. We confess that Adam was an historical figure. We confess that because the Bible teaches it. The temptation of modernity has been to place ourselves in judgment over the narrative of Scripture and to say, in effect, “We know a priori that the Adam figure of the creation narrative, of the garden narrative, must be a mythic way of expressing a spiritual truth. Does the Bible tell us fables for the purposes of teaching moral and spiritual truths? No. We should be honest, modernity tempts to deny the historicity of Adam. Dame Moderna comes to us suggesting that if we will only renounce (like Barth) our allegiance to an historical Adam, we shall be regarded as ever so much more reasonable and hip. I keep saying “temptation” because that is exactly what it is. It’s a covenant. If we will do x (renounce a historical Adam), Dame Moderna will do y (accept us as equals).

We must ask ourselves, “Is the bargain worth it?” What do we gain by accepting the proposed covenant? Is this the end of the deal or will Dame Moderna come to us with other, consequent covenants? Will she stop at Adam or will she press relentlessly for us to “cash in” the rest of redemptive-history? Of course the story of modern theology answers the question. Dame Moderna is not a only a temptress she is a tyrant. She has not been satisfied with doing away with an historical Adam. Starting with Adam she has ridden through the history of redemption, as it were, with an eraser doing away with very existence of the “Hebrews,” the Exodus, the flood (local or universal), and all forms of supernatural religion.

The other puzzling feature about the modern revision of Reformed theology is related to the first. It is an adaptation of the first. Just as the very idea of an historical Adam offends modern sensibilities, so too the idea of legal relation to God at the outset of human existence offends. The modern creed has a few basic tenets: the universal fatherhood of God, the universal brotherhood of man, and human progress. Implicit in the biblical story of a law-giving God and a law-breaking federal representative man is distinction. There is no reconciling the “law” story of the first man with the “grace” story of all men. If the first man was the legal representative of all humans and if he, and we in him, broke that original law, then it cannot be that all humans are now universally accepted by God. Indeed, according to Scripture the exact opposite is true. All humans are, in Adam, universally condemned by God.

Thus, to accept the biblical story as we have it is to place ourselves at odds with the whole sweep and spirit of modernity. For this reason we should be skeptical of anyone who, under the auspices of ostensibly being “more biblical” invites us to reject the reading of the Adam narrative as the story of a law-giving God and a law-breaking man.

The siren son of the biblicist is seductive. His tune says, “I am more biblical than thou.” The second movement sings, “I am simply following the narrative of the Bible.” He sings of paying “more attention to the history of redemption” and finally of “getting away from dogmatic preconceptions.”

Those are attractive songs but anyone who knows anything about the history of human thought realizes that however attractive such rhetoric might be to myopic moderns it’s a fantasy. It could only be attractive to those withe the attention span of a gnat. Humans always read the Bible in a context. Included in that context is an ecclesiastical setting. If someone is not reading and writing about Scripture from some ecclesiastical context, why would we so credit their conclusions as to allow them to fundamentally re-shape our reading of Scripture?

This is not to say that we cannot and should not learn from church-less Bible readers but learning is not the same thing as fundamentally re-writing our theology. Thus, if those who propose to re-write our theology do so from some ecclesiastical context then they also do so from a theological context. There is no ecclesiastical tradition that does not also have a theological tradition associated with it, even if it is to claim that they “just follow the Bible.”

So, every tempting proposal to revise Reformed theology by, e.g. doing away with the covenant of works, comes from some theological point of view and inasmuchas it comes from an ecclesiastical setting, it also entails some sort of confession, however brief or inadequate it may be. Thus no one “just” reads the Bible. The very claim is inherently dishonest. Just for fun, however, let’s think about listening to someone who is reading the Bible in a church of one, by himself. Why would this approach to Scripture be attractive to anyone with any sort of connection to the visible, institutional church? One of the things with which I try to impress my students is that the catholic church (in all times and places) has always read the Bible. Indeed, all the heretics, the Montanists, the Sabellians, the Arians, and the Pelagians quoted Scripture. The Anabaptitsts and the Socinians all said that they were “more biblical” than the Reformation churches.

It is not a matter of whether we are reading the Scriptures, closely, carefully, in historical context, in canonical (redemptive-historical) context, paying attention to the grammar, and comparing one passage with another, it’s a question of where we are doing so and with what church and to what end and with what confession? This is not to counsel skepticism. Reformation according to the Word does happen and it must happen. This is simply an argument to challenge the assumption that late Moderns (particularly individualist, autonomous, egalitarian Americans) seem to accept uncritically, i.e. that the lone, isolated, creedally-challenged interpreter is somehow to be privileged over the historic Reformed confessional reading of Scripture. The confessionalist reading of Scripture is much less indebted to or enslaved by the culture and assumptions of late/liquid modernity than the autonomous biblicist bent on narcissistically re-shaping Reformed theology in his own image.

Justice and Nature

16. Why must he be a true and righteous man?


Because the justice of God requires 1 that the same human nature which has sinned should make satisfaction for sin, but one who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.2

1Rom 5:15. 2 Isaiah 53:3-5.

There are two very interesting words here, “justice,” and “nature.” These two words really quite foreign to late moderns. There is a great deal of talk about “justice,” but it is typically conceived in relativistic terms. Justice is reckoned to be a human convention. I suspect about the last time anyone talked about justice and meant it in the older sense of “reflecting the divine moral order” was perhaps Dr King, when he gave the “I Have a Dream” speech on the mall in Washington, DC. Since that time, through the turmoil of the 60s and the radically subjective turn of much philosophy and most of the culture, many of us no longer believe in such things as a divinely consistuted standard of right and wrong. We suspect that it’s a merely human convention foisted upon by some conspiracy or other. The idea of “nature” has suffered a similiar fate for similar reasons.

That late modern subjectivists or modernist skpetics (e.g. radical empiricists) reject the existence of such things as “justice” and “nature” should not surprise us. Unbelief is bound to swing between rationalism (the autonomy of the human intellect relative to all other authorities) and empiricism (the autonomy of human sense experience relative to all other authorities) with interludes of subjectivism (e.g. Romanticism in the 19th century and deconstructionism today).

Christians, however, are bound to believe in such things as “justice” and “nature” because we confess that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” For Scripture, and consequently for the Reformed faith, God simply is. He is not a convention. He is not a product of the intellect or a mere deduction from human sense experience. Yes, we may see from nature and conscience that he is and that he has issued a universal moral law, but God is not the result of human rationalism or empiricism or subjectivism. God is that he is (Ex 3). He will be what he will be. He has a nature. He has attributes of which justice is one.

Because God has a nature and because we are his image bearers, we also have a nature. There is such a thing as human nature. We don’t have to pick sides in the “nature v nurture” debate. We affirm that there is such a thing as human nature in which we all share but we also affirm that it has been profoundly marred and corrupted by the fall. It has not been utterly wiped out. The vestiges remain and they are renewed by grace alone, in Christ alone. God the Creator has assigned a “nature” to us. It is a given. It is a limit. It is a boundary. We cannot escape it and we are morally obligated to it. We have the same nature as Adam. He we related to him legally and naturally, organically. We were “in him” legally and naturally. When he fell, we fell. His actions had profound consequences for all of us.

We share this common humanity not only with Adam, but also with Christ. He has the same nature as we. He isn’t merely “like” us (though he is that). Rather he is one with us. His humanity shares the same finitude as ours. He was tempted as we are tempted (Heb 4:15). He tired. He wept. He ate. He was in the womb. He was “very man.” He took his humanity, by the wonderful operation of God the Spirit, “from the Virgin Mary.” He suffered. He died. These are all things that happen to real humans, with real, true, flesh and blood. This is the consistent message of Hebrews:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

One of the great errors of the medieval church was that it lost sight of Christ’s true humanity and erected for herself a pantheon of intercessors in place of Christ via the cult of saints and of the BVM. As the Belgic Confession reminds us in Article 26:

So then, sheer unbelief has led to the practice of dishonoring the saints, instead of honoring them. That was something the saints never did nor asked for, but which in keeping with their duty, as appears from their writings, they consistently refused.

We should not plead here that we are unworthy–for it is not a question of offering our prayers on the basis of our own dignity but only on the basis of the excellence and dignity of Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is ours by faith.

God the Son took on our humanity (not something like humanity as the gnostics and docetists continue to say) for a purpose: to satisfy the divine justice. Just as fixed as the divine nature is, so fixed is the divine justice, i.e. the divine standard of right and wrong. This is an immutible (unchangeable and unchanging) standard of righteousness. In the 1960s it was a common colloquialism to call something “righteous.” The colloquial use of the adjective this way helped to create the impression that “righteous” or “righteousness” was just a convention, i.e., something that some one or some ones made up and that, with a change of opinion, it could be changed. In the late modern period, when the “hermeneutic of suspicion” reigns, everything is thought to be a mere convention or agreement.

There are conventions. Everything we think is not an eternal verity. Stop signs could be green. That stop signs are red is a convention. Red stop signs are not rooted “in the nature of things.” The fact, however, that there are conventions doesn’t mean that everything is a convention. “You shall not commit murder” is not a mere convention. It’s not as if, should we all sit and think about it and talk it over, we might decide that canibalism is permissible. Somethings are contrary to the nature of things. If one jumps off a high point, one will fall. It’s in the nature of things as constituted by God. Could God have willed things to be different? Yes. He might not have instituted gravity, but since he himself has a nature, and because his moral laws have reflect that nature, we cannot say the same thing about justice and righteousness. These things have a fixity, grounded in the divine nature, which we know via his voluntary self-disclosure (revelation), that even “natural laws” might not have. Theoretically things could be other than they are, but not so God and not so his moral law.

Question 16 Part 2: Satisfaction for Sin

Few things rankle the modern mind more than the idea that God’s justice must be “satisfied.” The old liberals (and some new feminists! See Lucy Reid, She Changes Everything, 16) derided this notion as “slaughterhouse theology.” The truly modern, autonomous person not not submit his sovereign self (or her sovereign, divine self) to El Shaddai, to Yahweh Sabbaoth of the Hebrew Scriptures nor to the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and certainly not to any God who demands satisfaction by a bloody death of a representative substitute.

The autonomous modern notwithstanding, Scripture unashamedly portrays the God of the Bible not only as just but as angry with sin and sinners “every day” (Ps 7:11; AV). God saves the “upright” or the just (Ps 11:7). That is the consistent testimony of Scripture. The Psalmists claim time and again to have been righteous, to have fulfilled the will of the Lord and on that basis more or less insist that God recognize this fact and deliver them from enemies (see Ps 18:21, 23; 73:13; 119:56). This pattern of revelation is grounded in the original condition of humanity. We were created and constituted righteous and holy and able to obey. We were given a law that we could obey. We freely chose to disobey, due to no fault of God or in his creation. Thus the fall is a great mystery.

In the fall our state or condition changed profoundly, but God’s righteous demand for complete obedience did not. Further, God’s law having been violated, not only did the demand for conformity continue but now there arose a requirment for satsifaction, damages if you will. The modern mind is outraged at a God who demand damages but I’ll bet that if I willfully (or even accidentally) rammed my car in the modernists car, that so-easily offended modernist would not hesitate to demand satisfaction from me! She would demand my auto insurance information and that my insurer would make right her car or provide her with a new one. Further, if, by hitting Madame Modernist, I violated the law, the authorities would punish me for failing to obey the law and after gaining satsifaction from me, the law would continue to require that I obey it.

Why is doctrine of double imputation or the imputation of the active and passive (suffering) obedience of Christ so difficult? We see it every day! I get ahead of myself.

Exodus 29 lays out in exquisite detail the requirments of Yahweh for the “sin offering.” The bull is ritually slaughtered outside the camp (v. 14). An entire ram is to be burnt on the altar of Yahweh. As if to rub the faces of the Enlightened in his most unenlightened religious (cultic) ritual, Scripture says in v.18, “It is a burnt offering to Yahweh. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to Yahweh.” The God of the Hebrews, the God of the Bible, is said to be “pleased” or even worse (to the modern) “soothed,” i.e. propitiated by a bloody, firey offering.

This is the stuff that drives the clever Socinians and Unitarians mad. This is also the very religious system to which Jesus, whom they would reduce to a mere wise man, rabbi, or teacher subscribed body and soul. The modernists object to the blood in the temple. Jesus objected to the money changers. Jesus never objected to the bloody temple sacrifices because every day more blood was spilled in the temple, every time a Jew brought an offering, he was testifying to the nature of divine justice and to the need for a perfect sacrifice to bring the entire sacrificial system to a close. Everytime a priest’s razor-sharp knife slit the throught of an innocent lamb, Jesus’ mission to, as the Baptizer said, “the lamb of God” was illustrated and vindicated.

God has a nature. His nature is righteous or just. When offended, the divine justice must be satisfied by a perfect, spotless offering. The consistent and crystal-clear teaching of the the OT prophets and the entire book of Hebrews (e.g. 10) is that the entire sacrificial system was incapable of providing that satisfaction. God was not pleased with the typological sacrifices and offerings. He demanded love, not sacrifice (Hos 6:6). Jesus was that love, not the squishy sort of love favored by the modernists but real, bloody, divine-human love for sinners, willing to take their place. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The modernists are gnostics. They won’t have that love, propitiating (wrath-turning) love. They want an ethereal love that is no love at all, because they worship a god that is not God at all, who has no justice. They are rebels who yell for justice, but when true justice is presented to them, they turn their heads like children who turn away from healthy food in favor of candy.

17. Why must he also be true God?


That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath,1 and so obtain for 2 and restore to us righteousness and life.3

1 Isaiah 53:8. Acts 2:24. 2John 3:16. Acts 20:28. 3 1 John 1:2.

The sub-text of Satan’s offer, in the garden, was power. You see, the covenant of works offered glorified, everlasting, consummated fellowship with God on condition of absolute submission and obedience to God. Adam had to trust God’s promise and he had to obey. The faith that Adam called to exercise was not like the faith that we, after the fall, are called to exercise. Confusing these two things is one of the great errors of all forms of covenantal moralism (e.g., the self-described “Federal Vision” movement and it appears not infrequently among writers who don’t necessarily identify with the FV movement but who share a common rejection of the historic Reformed doctrine of the covenant of works) is that it conflates Adam’s duty to trust the promise of life made to him with the faith believers after the fall have in Christ the Mediator and substitute, the Last Adam. By confusing these two kinds of faith the moralists become Pelagians, they put us after the fall in the same state as we were before the fall.

Glorified union and communion with the Triune God is a kind of power. It is conferred, derived power but it is real power. The Evil One knew that and thus he offered to us an alternative power without submission to God. It was a false, competing, alternative covenant of works. All we had to do was to submit to him, obey him. Follow him. Trust him. In this way a covenant of works was unavoidable. In his case the offer was not actually life, even if it was ostensibly life. The offer was ostensibly of knowledge but it was actually darkness. He offered an alternative source of power.

Thus, it is significant that we confess that by the power of his deity he, Jesus, God the Son, might bear in his humanity the burden of God’s eternal wrath. Power was offered and power is required. In the beginning only God had the real authority and real power to confer eternal life. The Evil One is a complete liar. That’s one of the more remarkable aspects of the fall: the Evil One is and has always been nothing more than a creature. A powerful and dangerous creature to be avoided and ultimately defeated but a creature nonetheless. No mere creature has ever had the authority or the ability (power) to offer or confer eternal life. Only God has that power and only God has that authority.

It is a great proof of Christ’s deity that he repeatedly offered eternal life on his own authority and on the authority of his Father and in his own name, through faith in himself. Why do you think that was? It infuriated the rabbis (and still does). It seemed like impossible arrogance! But where was that outrage in the garden? It’s quite misplaced. Here, in the incarnation, was a wonderful re-enactment of the Garden drama all over again. God the Son came to us and once again offered eternal life, union, and communion. This time the condition of the offer was not “do this and live” but “whosoever believes in me shall never perish.” The condition was trust in the Second Adam, the Final Adam, who would obey for us and who had in himself the power of an indestructible life. This Adam would refuse the temptation of the Evil One. This Adam is once again the Mediator of a covenant—not a covenant of works but a covenant of grace.

Before glory, however, there is death and the business of obtaining righteousness and life for us. The same Son who, in the garden, offered to us consummated glory and life now had to “obtain” or earn for us righteousness and life. Life, of the sort under discussion here, always had to be “obtained.” Adam had to obey, he had to submit in order to receive consummated life. Do you see the difference between life before the fall and life after the fall? Before the fall we had no need of “righteousness” because we were righteous. We confess (because Scripture teaches) that we were created “in righteousness and true holiness.” Now, however, righteousness had to be obtained. That’s why our tradition spoke of a covenant of works or a covenant of life or a covenant of law. The first Adam had to obey the law, to fulfill a covenant of works, to do battle with the Evil One in his Father’s holy place (the garden). He refused and made a false covenant with a false god—who is no god at all.

We should not miss the implied force of the expression “for us.” The “us” there are those who believe. Jesus came for, obeyed for, died for, and was raised for “us,” i.e., those who believe. The intent of the incarnation, actively passive (suffering) obedience and extent of the atonement is not addressed in detail in the catechism but there are clues. Those who struggle with Q. 37 should remember to read it in light of Q. 17 and globally in light of the expression “for us” (QQ. 31, 42, 45, and indeed in Q. 37 itself!). That prepositional phrase communicates a great deal about the original intent of the framers of the catechism and indicates how it ought to be understood today. Truly, the Synod of Dort was not changing Reformed doctrine of but elaborating upon what we already confessed.

Like the First Adam, the Second and Final Adam had to trust his Father but, like the first Adam, the faith he exercised was not the faith that we sinners exercise. The faith he exercised was that his Father’s promise was good, that he would reward his obedient Son with life. The empty tomb and the ascension of Christ are all the evidence we need that our Father’s promise was good. The obedience he rendered to his Father was not, as the moralists would have it, for himself, to qualify himself. He was born qualified! No, as Paul says, he was born of a woman, under the law, for us not for himself.

The faith we exercise is also that the Father will reward us with life if we meet the condition of the covenant but the difference for sinners is that the condition is not “do this and live” but “trust him him who has done for sinners.” The difference between the gospel and its corruption is the difference between saying “do this and live” and “trust him him who has done.” The Mediator makes all the difference but all moralists want us to take our eyes off of the Mediator or they want to make the Mediator just another believer, a mere
example. The faith we exercise is not that if we do, God will give but that Jesus, God’s Son, our one Mediator, obeyed for us and that he gives life freely, unconditionally to those who have not done but who trust in him who has done for us.

Jesus, the Second Adam (Rom 5), the Final Adam (1 Cor 15:45) is the life-giving Spirit. He was raised from the dead. He has life in himself to give. He earned the right to give to us life. He has the authority and he has the power and because Adam (and we in him) did not put to death the Evil One the Righteous One had to taste death for us. He did but he also tasted life, on the third day.

Your people will offer themselves freely,
on the day of your power,
in holy garments;
from the womb of the morning,
the dew of your youth will be yours
…He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head (Ps 110)

Against the Gnostics and Docetics

17. Why must he also be true God?


That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath,1 and so obtain for2 and restore to us righteousness and life.3

1 Isaiah 53:8. Acts 2:24. 2 John 3:16. Acts 20:28. 3 I John 1:2.

Already in the NT the church faced one of its greatest and deadliest heresies: the denial of Jesus’ humanity. The Greeks had room for men becoming gods and human-like behavior among by the gods but they had no room for a God-Man. Many of them had a great deal of trouble with the goodness of creation. They were deeply suspicious of the physical, material world. Many of them tended to regard the physical, material world as inherently corrupt and corrupting merely because of its materiality. The idea of God becoming man was, therefore, impossible, because it was mean that God had become corrupt. They associated the purity a god or the gods with their immateriality. This sort of dualism in being (ontological) between the good immaterial (spiritual) world and the evil material world probably lay behind some of the difficulties in the Colossian congregation that Paul addressed. Certainly the congregations in Asia Minor (central Turkey) to which the Apostle John wrote were troubled by this sort of false dualism (see 1 John 1:1-3; 4:2-3). For John it is “anti-Christ” to deny that Jesus is true God and true man.

Throughout post-Apostolic Christian history the church has continually been troubled by this great heresy. The apologists of the second century (100-200) addressed this error in various forms sometimes lumped under the heading of “Gnosticism.” In the high middle ages a sect, the Albigensians, arose who denied or downplayed Jesus’ humanity. Many of the sixteenth-century Anabaptists taught a theory that Christ had a “celestial” humanity thereby denying the true consubstantiality (i.e., sharing our human substance) between us and Christ. Perhaps the most central conflict between the confessional Reformed and Lutheran theologians and churches was the question of the nature of Jesus’ humanity. It seemed to the Reformed that the Lutheran doctrine of the genus maiestaticus, i.e., that Jesus’ humanity belonged to a class of one. They affirmed that he was true human but that the communication of the divinity with the humanity is such that his humanity is also quite distinct from ours. Thus, the Lutherans affirmed that Christ could know, in his humanity, what God knows the way he alone knows it (theologia archetypa) whereas the Reformed affirmed more clearly that his true humanity is consubstantial with us such that even in his humanity he knows only what humans can know (theologia ectypa). To the Reformed it seemed that the Lutheran Christology verged on Eutychianism (the confusion of the human and the divine natures) and, of course, to the Lutherans, the Reformed were nothing but crytpo-Nestorians (dividing the two natures). We say, however, that we are Chalcedonian (451 AD):

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

It is with these categories in mind that the Heidelberg Catechism says what it does about the Son bearing in his humanity the wrath of God against sin. We need a substitute and he must be like us in every respect, since excepted (Heb 4). This is why we speak of “consubstantiality.” He must be one of us. He cannot merely appear to be like us. Why not? Because it was one of us, created in righteousness and true holiness, who sinned, who violated God’s law and incurred the greatest penalty.

According to Scripture, as understood and confessed in the ancient church and by the Reformed churches, the justice of God is such that it must punish disobedience. This is the nature of justice even in our world. If a criminal is obviously, manifestly guilty but not punished we experience outrage. How can that be? If we know what justice is, why do we struggle so with the notion of divine wrath? We do because the modern world has been in revolt against the notion of divine justice (except when it suits us) for two centuries or more. Humans, of course, have been in revolt against God’s justice since the fall but never before, at least since the ascension, have whole societies been at war institutionally with the notion of divine justice. We invoke it (e.g., “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord….”) when it agrees with us but we deny it when it doesn’t.

Scripture testifies repeatedly to the existence and righteousness of God’s judgment. The strongest evidence for it is that Jesus taught it (e.g., Matt 5:22) and more than that he submitted himself to it. How can Jesus be the great moral teacher modernity has tried to make him out to be if he accepted and taught the existence of divine justice and wrath against sin and sinners? If he was a great teacher, as the modernists want us to think, then wasn’t he right about divine justice? If he was wrong about divine justice, as all the modernists say, then how is he a great teacher? Why wasn’t he just another ignorant fundamentalist raver?

Of course Jesus was more than just a teacher. He was our Mediator and substitute. He came in our place. He came, was incarnate, was born, obeyed, died, and was raised for us (Rom 5:8). That prepositional phrase “for us” says it all. Only a substitute does something for us, in our place. If we need something but have to been somewhere else at the same time, we send a substitute, some one to do something we need to be done. That person acts in our place. We experience the blessings of substitution in small ways every day. Husbands and wives act as surrogates for each other constantly (“Sorry, Jen can’t be here tonight, she’s flying to Dallas”). Again, if substitution works on a micro scale, why not on the grandest scale of all time?

Jesus came as our consubstantial substitute and he mediates for us now with God. Paul says that there is “one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5). One of the major themes of the book of Hebrews is Jesus’ office and work as our Mediator before the Father. This is why we pray in Jesus’ name. He stands before the Father for us as the representative righteous man for all of his people. He can do so because he bore in his humanity the wrath of God against sin.


The Other Side Of A Cross

17. Why must he also be true God?

That by the power of His Godhead He might bear in His manhood the burden of God’s wrath, and so obtain for and restore to us righteousness and life.

Almost from the beginning of the history of the apostolic church there arose movements that, like the Evil One, sought to suggest that God had made a mistake in creation, that we were not created in righteousness and true holiness. Ever since that terrible conversation with the Evil One we have either been suggesting that God erred in creation or that the fall was really his fault or both.

It isn’t true. We were created in righteousness and true holiness. Scripture says that creation was “good.” The first two humans were good. That’s an important word, especially in the context of the creation narrative and in light of all that transpired. Good is a loaded term there. It carries a number of ideas within it. It means that there was no defect, that it was pleasing to God the way a beautiful piece of art is pleasing to its creator. Chief among the ideas embedded in “good,” however, are “righteous” and “holy.” By righteousness we mean to say that we were legally upright. We were in conformity to the law of God. We had not transgressed. We were liable to no punishment because we had committed no crime. By holiness we we mean to say that we were created morally pure and good. We were without stain or pollution of any kind. On reflection it might seem surprising that we speak of holiness before the fall, since we tend to speak of holiness as a consequence of God’s work in us, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ, by the Spirit, after the fall. There was, however, holiness before the fall. Remember the creation narrative in Genesis 1. God set aside one day out of seven and called that day holy even before the fall. Even in a morally pure setting, before we had sinned, it was possible to set aside a day as distinct, as special, in order to point to a state of existence beyond our present state. More about that later.

We know from the creation narrative that the Sabbath day, the climax of the creation narrative, was holy. It was different. It was set apart. We know from the creation narrative that Adam and Even were holy. They were set apart. They were pure. They were not, however, glorified or in the consummate or final state. They were in a probationary state. They, and particularly Adam as the representative of all humanity (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15:45), had a test to pass. Should they pass that test, they would enter into the state of blessedness represented by the Sabbath and signified and sealed by the Tree of Life.

Within the apostolic period, however, there arose a dualist movement that taught that the created world was not inherently good. They taught that creation (the material world) as created was inherently corrupt and evil. They did what pagans and many misguided Christians have often done. In effect, without always admitting it, they blamed the Creator rather than the creature for the corruption of the original state. Implicit in the claim that the material, physical world is inherently corrupt is the idea either that God erred or that it is impossible for the material world to be good. Behind those notions is the assumption that humans live on a continuum with the spiritual world and that what we need is not salvation from sin and judgment but more being. In other words, what is really being said is that God held out on us, as it were. That, of course, is exactly what the Evil One said: “God knows that the moment you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you will be like him and he’s scared.” He was implying that God is a con artist and a liar.

We know, however, who is the con artist and the liar don’t we? This idea that the material world is inherently broken and evil was so pervasive some Christians, perhaps many, incorporated it into their thinking and began to say that Jesus’ humanity wasn’t real. It couldn’t have been.

  • Human nature is inherently evil.
  • Jesus was good
  • Ergo Jesus’ humanity couldn’t have been real.

The first premise is false and therefore the conclusion is wrong. Jesus’ humanity was and is true humanity. Our problem was not that were created badly. Our problem is far more mysterious and difficult to explain! We freely chose to sin. We voluntarily plunged ourselves into death and judgment.

The idea that the material world is evil was so pervasive that the Apostle John wrote 1 John against it. The error grew and by the middle of the Second Century (150 AD) it had developed into a full-blown heretical movement—the greatest of the ancient church—called Gnosticism. They developed a competing version of Christianity wherein salvation was not from sin but from creation and not by trusting in Jesus as our Mediator (substitute) but as one of many bringers of secret knowledge (Gnosticism) through which we could, for a fee, climb up a sort of cosmic ladder into a state of blessedness.

This very sort of teaching is widespread today. Peter Jones has been pointing it for a couple of decades. We have a Gnostic teachers in our town. They’re called “New Age” teachers but they teach almost exactly what the old Gnostics taught in the 2nd century. The Christian Science movement has been teaching Gnosticism for more than a century. More than a few evangelical Christians have incorporated Gnostic ideas into their theology. They’ve turned the faith from a public confession about public, historical truths and realities int o Gnostic secrets that divide the church into sects. They offer secret knowledge about how to climb the ladder into another state of being.

What was offered to us in the beginning was not that we would become competitors to God but that we would enter to a state of blessed communion with him, that we would be transformed by him and that, having passed the test, we would be utterly contented in him.

That future still exists. The way to such blessedness is not by overcoming our humanity but by embracing the truest human, Jesus, the Second Adam, the Mediator, the representative for all those who believe. When we disobeyed, we incurred a just death sentence. He paid that penalty for all who believe. When we trust him as our Substitute, we enter into communion with him through faith, worked by the Spirit. We begin to experience now, intermittently, in the church, in communion with other Christians, some of what will be. When we hear the gospel preached, when we see the sacraments administered, when we receive communion, we get a sense of what was intended and of what will be at the consummation.

God didn’t create this mess. We did. Grace means, however, that he entered into our sin and corruption, not by becoming a sinner, but by remaining righteous and holy, so that by the power of his resurrection, through union with Christ, we might be delivered from the fall and all its consequences. Don’t believe the lie. Creation is not inherently evil, even though sin has grotesquely deformed it. Heaven is not at the end of a ladder. It is on the other side of a cross.


When we’re at odds with another person sometimes things come to such a state that the only thing for it is a go-between, someone who is trusted by both parties. This is true for relations between God and humans. We often look for ways to relate to God. We build statues, we pick people living and dead as a representative for us with God. The Israelites wanted a mediator between themselves and the Lord at Sinai. When the Lord thundered from the darkness and gloom of Sinai, the Israelites recognized that Yahweh had revealed his glory and majesty and they were justly terrified. “If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, we shall die.” (Deut 5:25; ESV). In their place they sent Moses in their place, to go to God in their place, to go “hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.” (Deut 5:27; ESV).

Moses was a holy man, but he was just a man. He died. He was buried and he remained in his tomb. Moses was a temporary mediator. He anticipated another mediator.

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, who is freely given unto us for complete redemption and righteousness.

John 1:17 contrasts Jesus and Moses this way: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (ESV). Moses came bearing the law. His ministry was characterized by law. We learn more about how to think about that law when we see what John contrasts to the law, “grace and truth.” That’s an interesting contrast because clearly there was grace given to the Israelites under Moses. Deuteronomy 7 makes that clear. The Lord did not choose the Israelites because they had some quality that made them deserving of divine approval. God saved them because of his undeserved favor toward sinners. Nevertheless, John said “grace and truth.” What did he mean? He the second noun clarifies things. As Geerhardus Vos noted long ago, “truth” here (and elsewhere in John’s writings) does not mean, in the first instance, “true propositions as distinct from false propositions” (even though John certainly believed in an wrote true propositions and denied false ones!). Rather, he means something like “ultimate reality as distinct from provisional, temporary illustrations.”

Moses’ mediation between God and humans was temporary. It was illustrative of another Mediator and mediation that would come later. Paul says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV). Jesus is the man. He is the righteous one. He is the law keeper. He is the one qualified to stand in our place. There isn’t any one else who can stand. The Israelites were honest. They knew that they could not stand before God. We know, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we cannot stand. That’s why we pick mediators, but we’re not even qualified to pick a mediator. Even in our choice of mediators we get it wrong. We pick living humans or dead ones as if they are holy enough to represent us to God. What we’re really saying, however, is that God isn’t that holy, but he is but he is that holy. He is terrible in his holiness. We’ve only had occasional glimpses of it in history. If you’ve ever witnesses a great raging wildfire, that’s a small analogy of God’s holiness. It burns everything it touches. It is relentless and terrifying. It makes everyone want to run to safety. That’s what happened to the Israelites every time they saw flashes of it. That’s what happened in the New Testament when they saw it.  Ask the Apostle Paul about it. Ask Ananias and Sapphira about God’s holiness (Acts 5).

No, we can’t choose our mediator, because God has chosen one for us. More than that he has become our Mediator. God the Son took on flesh to become the representative of humanity to God and the representative of God to humanity. When the disciples asked to see the Father, Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:8–11). He is the true man, the righteous man and he is God and he is so in one person. He isn’t God plus man. He isn’t a sum. He is the God-Man. That’s why there can be no other mediator. No saint, not even blessed Virgin is qualified to represent us to God or God to us. They’re holy believers, glorified before the Lord but just that and no more. If they could talk they would tell you that, they would tell you: don’t pray to me, that’s silly. God the Son became incarnate and you try to talk to me, a mere human? Being dead does not confer divinity on Christians. It only confers glory.

We need a Mediator. The good news is that we have one and in his obedient life and death he substituted for all believers is now presently interceding for us all. In him we have a complete forgiveness, complete righteousness, and complete salvation. If we seek another mediator beside Jesus we are saying that he failed or that he was but a partial mediator. That’s a lie. That’s a defamation of God the Son incarnate. He did not say, “it is begun.” He said, “It is finished.”