Saturday, November 4, 2017


Reformation 500 WEEK 45: Heidelberg Catechism QA 116-119

Question 116: Why is prayer necessary for Christians? Because it is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us, and because God will give His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who earnestly and without ceasing ask them of Him, and render thanks unto Him for them.

     The Christian life is a life of thankfulness. Prayer is the chief or main part of showing ourselves thankful for our salvation. God saved us first of all that we might thank and praise Him for His glorious grace. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ …having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:3, 5-6). You are “His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. Psalm 103:1-2; 116:12-17). “No one has faith who is not thankful for it; for all those who possess true faith taste the grace of God, and those who have tasted the grace of God show themselves thankful to God for it, and desire it more and more” (Ursinus, 620).

     The second reason why prayer is necessary is because it is God’s appointed way for us to receive all those things that are necessary both for soul and body. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15). “For everyone who asks receives” (Luke 11:10). Our Father in heaven already knows what we need (Matt. 6:8) but still He requires us to ask Him, because He wants us to realize what our real needs are; and that He is the only who can meet our needs. “We do not obtain the blessings which are necessary for us, except we ask them at the hands of God; for He has promised them to none but such as ask. Prayer is, therefore, just as necessary for us as it is necessary for a beggar to ask alms” (Ursinus, 620). 

     But don’t the wicked receive many gifts from God, who nevertheless do not ask or desire them? “The wicked do indeed received many gifts [Matt. 5:45]; but not such as are principle nor peculiar to the elect, as faith, repentance, conversion, remission of sins and regeneration. And still further, the gifts they do receive do not contribute to their salvation, but to their destruction” (Ursinus, 620).

        Our greatest need as Christians is for a continual supply of God’s grace and Holy Spirit, so that we might live an obedient and thankful life. Jesus says to all believers: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Since we believers already have the Holy Spirit, to ask our Father to give us the Holy Spirit is to ask for an increase of the Spirit’s grace and gifts, primarily the gift of sanctification, which is precisely what produces in us the faith and desire to call upon Jesus as LORD (1 Cor. 12:3). “God effects in us a desire for the Holy Spirit and gives Him to us in the very same moment…. We might also make a distinction between the beginning and increase of the Spirit within us, inasmuch as we do not desire the latter before we have the former. No one desires the Holy Spirit, except he in whom the Spirit dwells” (Ursinus, 621). For the Christian, prayer is a way of life: giving thanks, praying for help, and giving thanks for the help received: “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:18; cf. Eph. 5:20; Phil. 4:6-7).

Question 117: What belongs to such prayer which is acceptable to God and which He will hear? First, that with our whole heart we call only upon the one true God, who has revealed Himself to us in His Word, for all that He has commanded us to ask of Him; second, that we thoroughly know our need and misery, so as to humble ourselves in the presence of His divine majesty; third, that we be firmly assured that notwithstanding our unworthiness He will, for the sake of Christ our Lord, certainly hear our prayer, as He has promised us in His Word.

     Three things are necessary for our prayers to be acceptable to God. First, we must sincerely ask the true God what He commands us to ask. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit [sincerely] and truth [according to Scripture]” (John 4:24). “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14). “God does not desire us to direct vague and wandering petitions to Him, being uncertain what we should pray for. A king would consider himself derided and mocked if anyone were to kneel before him, without knowing what to ask as his hands” (Ursinus, 620). Second, we must ask with humility, which is to realize how unworthy we are to receive the help we so desperately need. “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown me” (Gen. 32:10); “we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You” (2 Chron. 20:12). Third, we must ask with assurance that God will hear our prayer for Jesus’ sake. Jesus said, “whatever you ask [according to His will] in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14; cf. Mark 11:24; Heb. 11:6).

Question 118: What has God commanded us to ask of Him? All things necessary for soul and body, which Christ our Lord comprised in the prayer which He Himself taught us.

     When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), Jesus taught them what we call the Lord’s Prayer (recorded in Luke 11:2-4 and Matthew 6:9-13). Jesus did not say, “Pray these exact words and no other.” He said, “In this manner, pray” (Matt. 6:9); that is, pray like this. The Lord’s Prayer “contains, in the most condense form, all things which are to be sought as necessary for soul and body. It is in like manner a rule or pattern with which all our prayers ought to conform and agree…. Hence Augustine declares that all the prayers of the saints which we have in the Scriptures are contained in the Lord’s Prayer. Augustine also adds, that we are at liberty to express the same things in other words when we pray” (Ursinus, 625-626).

Question 119: What is the Lord’s Prayer? Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

     The remainder of the Catechism will explain the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer.

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 116-119

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 45

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. 


Reformation 500 WEEK 44: Heidelberg Catechism QA 113-115

Question 113: What does the tenth Commandment require? That not even the least inclination or thought against any commandment of God ever enter our heart, but that with our whole heart we continually hate all sin and take pleasure in all righteousness.

     The Tenth Commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house [or wife, or anything that is your neighbor’s],” is the one commandment that speaks directly to the heart. The word covet means “strong desire.” By itself it is not a bad word. It depends on what we strongly desire. We can earnestly desire good things, as Paul commanded us in 1 Corinthians 12:31: “covet [earnestly desire] the best gifts.” The Tenth Commandment forbids “coveting those things which God has forbidden” (Ursinus, 606). Even if we don’t take what belongs to our neighbor, it is a sin to want it. Even if we don’t sleep with our neighbor’s spouse it is a sin to wish we could. Even if we don’t rob a bank, it is a sin to wish we could and to rejoice in others who do. Love “does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). The Tenth Commandment is last to teach us that obeying all of God’s commands is a matter of the heart. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart” (Deut. 6:5). “You shall not hate your brother in your heart…. but you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:17-18). “The Lord Jesus Christ re-emphasized this truth in His sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:20-48), that the commandments require heart-purity and heartfelt love to God and our neighbor. The natural, unregenerate man – such as the Pharisees in Jesus’ day were proud of their outward obedience and resented Jesus’ teaching about the heart [Matt. 23:28; John 7:7]” (Jones, Study Helps, 283).

     When God redeems us by faith in Jesus Christ, He not only forgives the eternal penalty of our wicked heart, He also purifies our hearts in sanctification, so that with our whole heart we continually hate all sin (even the least inclination or thought against any commandment of God) and take pleasure in all righteousness. “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness” (Psalm 119:35-36).

     The cure for covetousness is contentment. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; and be content with such things as you have: for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation…For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:8-10). Therefore, to sum up how to be content: “1. We must be satisfied with what God gives us because He is free and sovereign, and He gives us what He wishes us to have for our best. He alone is Master of our lives. 2. God is all-wise and infinitely good in giving His gifts. His love toward us in Christ is perfect. He never withholds from us that which is for our spiritual good and for His glory. To think that God would be unfair to us is folly and unbelief. We deserve nothing, and all we have, we have received by God’s rich mercy. 3. Contentment with God’s providence enables us to live in peace and joy, in gratitude and praise. The unsatisfied person is never happy, and is likely to break the commandments of God in order to get what he desires. Having the Lord and His salvation, we need nothing more, and our joy is full” (Jones, 284).

Question 114: Can those who are converted to God keep these Commandments perfectly? No, but even the holiest of men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of such obedience, yet so that with earnest purpose they begin to live not only according to some, but according to all the Commandments of God.

     “The natural man, who is un-regenerated, is not able to obey God’s holy will in any degree [Rom. 8:7] …. But the question asks if the converted or regenerated person can keep God’s holy commands perfectly.” Since the regenerated person “still has his ‘old man,’ the old nature of sin, he is unable to give God perfect obedience…. The most sanctified Christians, such as the Apostles, are still sinful and not perfect. The Scriptures tell us of Noah’s drunkenness [Gen. 9:21]. Job cursing the day of his birth (Job 3:1-2), David’s acts of adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11), Peter’s shameful denial of his Lord (Luke 22:54-62), and Paul’s confession of indwelling sin (Rom. 7:21). … Christ taught us to pray for daily forgiveness, even as we pray for our daily bread (Matt. 6:11-12; cf. 1 John 1:8-10)” (Jones, 287-288). Since the Lord commands us to “be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48), we only have a small beginning of the obedience which God requires. But at least by God’s grace we have a beginning, and an earnest purpose to obey all of God’s commands, just as Paul did: “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).

Question 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, and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; second, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.

     There are two reasons why God requires us to obey His commands perfectly even though we never will in this life. First, the more we learn what God requires in His commands, the more we discover how far short we fall (Rom. 3:20-23; 7:7); and the more earnestly we seek forgiveness and righteousness in Christ. “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25). Second, God’s law is not only designed to drive us to Christ for forgiveness but also for renewal (sanctification), so that God’s holy image is more and more restored in us (Eph. 5:1). We not only need daily forgiveness for covetousness, we also need daily renewal so that we “put to death…evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5) and learn to be more content with the Lord’s loving presence in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:12-13, 20). So, “God commands us to seek and to desire the perfect fulfillment of the law in this life…because He purposes at length to accomplish it in those who desire it, and to grant it to us after this life, if we here truly and heartily desire it” (Ursinus, 616).

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 HC Lord's Day 44 QA 113-115

For a double-sided PDF for easy printing: Reformation 500 Week 44

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.