Saturday, October 14, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 42: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA 110-111

Reformation 500 WEEK 42: Heidelberg Catechism QA 110-111

 Question 110: What does God forbid in the eighth Commandment? God forbids not only such theft and robbery as are punished by the government, but God views as theft also all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we seek to get our neighbor’s goods, whether by force or by deceit, such as unjust weights, lengths, measures, goods, coins, usury, or by any means forbidden of God; also, all covetousness and the misuse and waste of His gifts.

                The Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal,” is designed for “the preservation of the property or possessions which God has given to every one for the support of life” (Ursinus, 595). Behind this commandment is the fact that “all property – the world itself – belongs first of all to God the Creator: ‘the earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness” (Psalm 24:1). The Lord God gives His property to men as a sacred trust, and each person who owns property is responsible to use his property to serve God…. Never may we call our property or money absolutely our own, any more than our bodies and souls are our own, for it all belongs to our faithful Savior. We are always stewards or caretakers of God’s possessions…. All that we possess has been given to us by God to be used for His glory [Matt. 25:14-30]” (Jones, Study Helps, 274). “Behold, all souls are Mine” (Ezek. 18:4). “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). Daniel rebuked wicked King Belshazzar: “you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hands and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23). The Lord rebuked the wicked servant who buried his talent: “you ought to have deposited My money with the bankers, and at My coming I would have received back My own with interest” (Matt. 25:27).

                If the steward mismanages the owner’s property or money it is stealing. If we misuse and waste God’s gifts we steal from God, by robbing Him of the glory He would have received had we used our gifts in His service (Eph. 6:5-8). Tithing is a reminder of stewardship, which is why God says that if we do not tithe we are stealing from Him. “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, in what way have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:8).

To steal from our neighbor is also to steal from God, for God has given our neighbors everything they have to be used for His glory. Therefore, “the private ownership of property is a divine right. Property belongs to persons and no one has the right to take another person’s property ‘by force or by deceit.’ … Six deceitful ways of stealing from our neighbor are listed here: unjust weights, lengths, measures, goods, coins, usury are mentioned. Weights, lengths, and measures refer to business honesty. Unjust coins refer to counterfeit coins (coins made of a cheap metal which are passed off as precious metal) or clipped coins (a piece shaved of silver and gold coins, a trick often practiced in the Middle Ages). ‘Usury’ is charging excessive interest on money loaned to another person, or charging any interest on a loan to a Christian brother in need (Leviticus 25:35-36). The book of Proverbs has many statements about dealing honestly and justly with our neighbor. ‘Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight” (Prov. 11:1; cf. 13:11; 14:23; 20:10; Isaiah 1:22-23).… Other forms of cheating are false advertising (television has much of this!), receiving stolen goods (Prov. 29:24), not paying one’s debts, not paying wages (Lev. 19:13; James 5:4), and gambling … (Prov. 13:11; 16:8; 2 Thess. 3:10-12)” (Jones, Study Helps, 275).

“The right of private property, under God, is the foundation of the economic system called ‘capitalism.’ Freedom and private property are required by God’s Word for man’s societal life. The United States of America was founded by men who were steeped in these moral teachings of Scripture received from their Reformed and Puritan heritage. They embodied the basic principles of private property, economic freedom, and honest money (money with real value) into our basic law, the United States Constitution. Ungodly men have tried to do away with the Eighth Commandment” in exchange for a society in which “the government takes over the land, the property, and businesses with the promise to ‘help the poor.’ This ungodly kind of government is called Socialism or Communism or the Welfare State. It has been tried many times in history,” with the same results: “the persecution of the church and the enslavement of the people to godless dictators…. It is the duty of government to protect your rights, not take them away by confiscating property, imposing excessive taxes, and curtailing your right to work how and where you wish, by government restrictions. King Ahab sinned against God by taking away Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21), and King Rehoboam sinned by taxing the people too heavily (1 Kings 12:3-4, 14, 16)” (Ibid.).

Many socialists argue that the Bible endorses the common ownership of property in Acts 4:32: “the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” But the Bible goes on to make it clear that this practice was voluntary. After Ananias and his wife lied about how much money they gave to the common storehouse, Peter said to them, “While [the land] remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control” (Acts 5:4).

Question 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, and labor faithfully, so that I may be able to help the poor in their need.

Stealing begins with greed in our heart (Mark 7:22), with a desire to take instead of to give. The biblical cure for stealing is to ask the Lord Jesus for forgiveness and for spiritual renewal, so we learn the true meaning of His words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 22:35). God ordained work as a means to provide for our needs (Prov. 13:11; 14:23; 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 12:14), and to give to others who are in need. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need” (Eph. 4:28; cf. Prov. 13:22; 19:17; 2 Thess. 3:10).


As believers, we are learning to be faithful stewards, working for God’s glory, putting off our greed and putting on hard work and generosity. We are learning to fight against the desire to be rich (1 Tim. 6:9-10); and if we are rich we are learning not to “trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” We are learning to “be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:17-18). God’s grace is teaching us to treat others the way we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).


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 QA 110-111

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 42



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.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

REFORMATION 500 WEEK 41: HEIDELBERG CATECHISM QA 108-109

Reformation 500 WEEK 41: Heidelberg Catechism QA 108-109

Question 108: What does the seventh Commandment teach us? That all unchastity is accursed of God, and that we should therefore loathe it with our whole heart, and live chastely and modestly, whether in holy wedlock or in single life.

     The Seventh Commandment, “You shall not commit adultery,” forbids more than merely the outward act of adultery (sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse). Jesus said, “Whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Adultery begins with lust in our heart. “And pornography isn’t just a male problem. Both sexes have immoral fantasies. Women might be more captured by romantic literature and men by erotic pictures, but the end result is the same—you are committing adultery in your thought life” (David Powlison, “Breaking Pornography Addiction”). Jesus died on the cross, to deliver us from the penalty of lust, and also to purify our hearts, so that we begin in this life to learn by His Holy Spirit to be sexually pure (chaste), whether in marriage or in single life. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3-5). “The design of this commandment is the preservation of chastity…and the guarding of marriage, or keeping it holy” (Ursinus, 590).

     The seventh commandment forbids all sexual impurity (unchastity), including fornication (sexual intercourse between people not married to each other), homosexuality (sexual intercourse between people of the same sex), incest (sexual intercourse with a parent, child, sibling, or grandchild), bestiality (sex with an animal), and polygamy (having more than one spouse at the same time). “Do not be deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Only the Lord Jesus Christ can deliver us from both the penalty and addiction of sexual impurity, so that we learn to love chastity and loathe unchastity with our whole heart (Ps. 119:127-128).

     God hates lust not only because it spoils His image in mankind, but especially because it destroys the marriage relationship. “Marriage is a lawful and indissoluble union between one man and one woman, instituted by God [Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19:4-6];” “that it might be the means of perpetuating and multiplying the human race in a lawful manner [Gen. 1:28];” that it might be the means to “gather to Himself out of the whole human race, thus lawfully propagated, an everlasting church, which shall rightly know and worship Him [Gen. 17:7; Mal. 2:14-15; 1 Cor. 7:14];” “that it might be an image or resemblance of the union between Christ and the church [Eph. 5:30-32];” and “that wanton and wandering lusts might in this way be avoided [1 Cor. 7:1-5] (Ursinus, 592-593). “Marriage is honorable among all, and the [marriage] bed undefiled [see the Song of Solomon]; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).

     God “hates divorce” (Mal. 2:16). But He does permit divorce in the case of “sexual immorality” (Matt. 19:9) and in the case of an unbelieving spouse deserting their believing spouse: “if the unbeliever departs, let him depart” (1 Cor. 7:15). “Actions which are tantamount to desertion constitute adequate grounds for divorce. For example, the deliberate and unrepentant withholding of food, clothing, and sexual relations,” or “spousal abuse which is life-threatening or destructive of the “cleaving” aspect of marriage [Exodus 21:10-11] …. Remarriage is lawful for persons divorced on biblical grounds [Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:15]” (RCUS paper on Divorce and Remarriage).

Question 109: Does God forbid nothing more in this Commandment than adultery and such gross sins? Since both our body and soul are temples of the Holy Spirit, it is His will that we keep both pure and holy; therefore, He forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice thereto.

     In order for us to keep our body and soul sexually pure, we must remember that the Holy Spirit lives in us, which means that our body and soul are a temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives in us to sanctify us, to purify our hearts, so that we may more and more die unto sin and lead holy and blameless lives. “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:18-20). This is why He commands us to be holy: “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). He intends to use the command to be holy to make us holy, in answer to Jesus’ prayer: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17; cf. Ps. 119:9; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 5:26). Through prayerful reading of God’s Word, we desire to obey God’s Word. “Make me walk in Your commands, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things” (Ps. 119:35-37). Our lust will not condemn us or separate us from God’s love, but it still grieves the Holy Spirit who dwells in us; “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4:30). It is because we love God that we do not want to grieve Him with our sexual sins.


     It is also because we fear God that we avoid “all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice thereto.” Just because our heavenly Father will not punish us in hell for our sins, does not mean He will not discipline us for our sins in this life. “Whom the LORD loves He chastens” (Heb. 12:5; cf. Ps. 99:6-8; 1 Cor. 10:8). The Lord chastened Samson (Judges 16) and David (2 Samuel 12) for their sexual sins. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent” (Rev. 3:19). “By the fear of the LORD one departs from evil” (Prov. 16:6; cf. Gen. 39:7-12). “Nothing is more powerful to overcome temptation than the fear of God” (Calvin). “Therefore, … beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1). “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman?”  (Job 31:1). “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Ps. 101:2-3). We do not need to look at pornography in order to have sexual fantasies, but pornography will provide plenty of fuel for the fire. Better not to strike the match. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure (Gal. 6:10). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteous” (1 John 1:9). 

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 QA 105-107

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 41



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.

Page on Omaha Reformed Church's Website: Links to all Bulletin Inserts.