Friday, August 18, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 34: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 92-95

Reformation 500 WEEK 34: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 92-95

Question 92: What is the Law of God? “And God spoke all these words, saying: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. [First Commandment] You shall have no other gods before Me. [Second] You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Third] 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] Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work, you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the LORD blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. [Fifth] Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you. [Sixth] You shall not murder. [Seventh] You shall not commit adultery. [Eighth] You shall not steal. [Ninth] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. [Tenth] You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

     We were created in God’s image to imitate God by obeying His law – which harmonizes with His eternal and unchangeable wisdom. God created Adam and Eve with a knowledge of His law (Rom. 2:14-15). “The law was engraved upon the heart of man in his creation, and is therefore known to all naturally” (Ursinus, 104). “Since the fall, however, which resulted in the corruption and depravity of our nature, a considerable part of the natural law has become obscured and lost by reason of sin [Rom. 7:7], so that there is only a small portion concerning the obedience which we owe to God still left in the human mind. It is for this reason that God repeated, and declared to the church the entire doctrine and true sense of His law, as contained in the Decalogue [i.e. the Ten Commandments]” (492). God wrote the Ten Commandments in stone (Exodus 31:18) as His permanent will for mankind. The other laws (both ceremonial and judicial) were temporary, designed only for Israel in the Promised Land, and were abolished by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).
     But the Ten Commandments were not abolished. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Jesus fulfilled the law “by teaching it and restoring its true meaning and sense, which He did by freeing it from the corruptions and glosses of the Pharisees, as appears from His sermon on the Mount” (Ursinus, 496). He fulfilled the law by obeying it perfectly and suffering its curse on the cross (Gal. 3:13). “Christ fulfills the law in us by His Spirit, by whom He renews us in the image of God [Rom. 8:4] …. This obedience is commenced in us in this life by the Spirit of Christ, and will be perfected in the life to come” (Ursinus, 496). We were “created, and have been redeemed by Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, that we might keep this law … both in this life and in the life to come [2 John 1:7; 1 John 2:3-4; 1 Cor. 7:19]” (Ursinus, 491).
The preface to the law, “I am the LORD your God, who delivered you from bondage,” makes it clear that God redeems His people from the bondage of sin in order that they might obey His law out of thankfulness for salvation (John 14:15; 15:14).  

Question 93: How are these Commandments divided? Into two tables: 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.

     The Ten Commandments were written on “two tablets of stone” (Ex. 34:1), for they contain all we owe to God and our neighbor. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 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” (Matt. 22:37-40).

Question 94: What does God require in the first Commandment? That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation of saints or other creatures; and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, with all humility and patience, expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.

     To have other gods is not to have the true God (the God of the Bible), or to worship anything that is not God. The unbelieving and ungodly have always “worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Sorcery, enchantments, or praying to unseen spirits are just some of the many ways people try (vainly) to find answers and help apart from the true God (see Deut. 18:10-12). God saves us so that we might begin in this life to love and desire Him more than anyone or anything else, so that our greatest desire is to please Him, and to fear to do the least thing against His will (Luke 14:26-33). “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God, my soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). “Make me walk in the path of Your commands, for I delight in it” (Ps. 119:35). 

Question 95: What is idolatry? Idolatry is to conceive or have something else in which to place our trust instead of, or besides, the one true God who has revealed Himself in His Word.


     Part of putting off the old man and putting on the new man is to avoid and flee all idolatry. Since we believers are not perfectly sanctified in this life, the sin of idolatry still clings to our heart, and therefore we must daily fight against it: “do not become idolaters as were some of them…. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:7, 14). “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Every day we need to be reminded to put God first. “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33).


NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 33: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA’S 88-91

Reformation 500 WEEK 33: Heidelberg Catechism QA’s 88-91

Question 88: In how many things does true repentance or conversion consist? In two things: the dying of the old man, and the making alive of the new.

Having considered why we must do good works (out of thankfulness for salvation), we will now learn that doing good works is part of what it means to live a repentant and converted life – which is exactly what sanctification involves.

The terms repentance (change of mind) and conversion (turning around) basically mean the same thing: to turn from sin to God for forgiveness and to obey Him out of thankfulness for salvation in Christ (Acts 11:21). “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19). The repentance of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18) is called “the conversion of the Gentiles” (Acts 15:3).

                When God grants us true repentance so that we are truly converted, this is the beginning of our life-long experience of sanctification. By His Holy Spirit God has set us free from the enslaving power of our old sinful nature by giving us a new holy nature (2 Cor. 5:17). This does not mean we no longer have our old sinful nature, but it does mean we are no longer slaves to it (Rom. 6:6, 14). We have a new nature that hates sin and desires to please God out of thankfulness for salvation (Col. 3:10). “There is a part of us which is renewed [the new man] and a part which retains its natural corruption [the old man]” (Calvin). The process of sanctification is the process of repentance and conversion, of turning from our old sinful nature and living according to our new nature. Scripture says to “put to death” (Col. 3:5) or “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and … put on the new man which was created according to God [in His image], in righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-23). We are sanctified “so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and unblameable lives” (Q&A 70).

Question 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.

The dying of the old man is the life-long process of mortification, of putting to death our sins by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13). “Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5; cf. Eph. 5:22-32). The Holy Spirit works in our hearts a godly sorrow for sin (Joel 2:13), which causes us to hate our sins and to turn from them more and more; “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Cor. 7:10). “I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6). This is a very painful process (Gal. 5:17). The apostle Paul, speaking as a new man in Christ, expressed what is true for every believer, “I do the very thing I hate…. For I do not do the good I want to do but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin [my old sinful nature] that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:15, 19-20). “Our conversion to God is not perfect in this life, but is here continually advancing, until it reaches the perfection which is promised in the life to come” (Ursinus, 474). “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” (Phil. 1:6). 

Question 90: What is the making alive of the new man? Heartfelt joy in God through Christ, causing us to take delight in living according to the will of God in all good works.

The making alive of the new man is the life-long process of God remaking us into His holy image, causing us out of thankfulness and joy to put on the new man. The old man must decrease. The new man must increase. Paul tells his fellow believers: “you have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him…. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering,” etc. (Col. 3:10, 12). “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us” (Eph. 5:1-2). Just as heartfelt sorrow causes us to hate sin and turn from it more and more, heartfelt joy in God through Christ causes us to take delight in living according to God’s will in all good works (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 2:20). “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart” (Psalm 40:8). When we do not put our sins to death but give in to them, then we must confess our sins to God and pray for the renewal of the new man. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:10, 12; cf. Jer. 31:18; Luke 12:32). “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name” (Psalm 80:18).

To sum up, the sanctified life is putting off the old man and putting on the new man. For example, “putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with His neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor…that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification” (Eph. 5:28-29). To put it very simply: “Turn away from evil and do good” (1 Peter 3:11).

Question 91: What are good works? Those only which proceed from true faith, and are done according to the Law of God, unto His glory, and not such as rest on our own opinion or the commandments of men.

Three things are necessary for our works to be good: (1) A good root: True faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Remember that prior to regeneration we are spiritually dead incapable of doing anything good. “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:18; cf. Matt. 12:33). The Lord makes us spiritually alive, giving us faith in Christ; and from the seed of faith comes a tree full of good fruit. True believers are “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit” (Mark 4:20; cf. Heb. 13:15); (2) A good standard: God’s law (John 14:15; 1 John 2:4) – not what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:25); not according to the traditions or commandments of men (Matt. 15:9). (3) A good goal: God’s glory; “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). To do anything to the glory of God, “is to do it, that we may testify our love, reverence and obedience to God, and that for the sake of showing our thankfulness for the benefits which we have received,” and not “from a desire to advance our own selfish interests;” God must “be respected first whenever we do anything; nor must we care what men may say, whether they praise or reproach us” (Ursinus, 478). Our good works are not perfectly good, but the unregenerate have no good works at all!

NOTE: These Posts were written and  designed as bulletin inserts by Pastor David Fagrey of the Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD .  

Link to this blog entry as a bulletin insert:  Reformation 500 Heidelberg Catechism 88-91

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 33


Official Seal of  the RCUS
This is the seal of the Reformed Church of the United States (RCUS).  As you can see its history goes back to 1748, when the RCUS began.  We celebrate with the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation we praise God for what is probably the most amazing spiritual revival in the history of the world.