Caleb’s Baptism — Those Who Are Saved (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 20)

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

Answer: No; only those who are in-grafted into him, and, receive all his benefits, by a true faith.

Let’s briefly remind ourselves of the flow of the catechism’s flow of thought. In the last few questions and answers the catechism has been teaching us the character qualities and attributes that are required of any mediator who would rescue us from God’s just wrath and our sins. They have taught us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who has these character qualities and attributes thus teaching us that there is no salvation in any other name but that of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, the Catechizers ask, in question 20, the very sensible question’ “Whether all men are saved by Christ.” It is sensible because it might be reasonable to assume that as all perished in Adam, so all would be saved by Christ. But the answer they give, following Scripture, is that relief from perishing is only had by those who have a true faith in Christ.

Notice several obvious matters here.

1.) The question presumes that all men are lost, or if you prefer, are in the way of perishing. If the descendants of Adam are to be released from the state of perishing that they are born under then they must have a true faith. If they do not have a true faith in Jesus Christ they will eternally perish.

That man outside of Christ is in the way of perishing is everywhere assumed by Scripture. Here are just a few verses,

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

Notice in all those verses from John 3 that the presupposition of Scripture regarding man without Christ is that he is in the way of perishing, underneath the penalty of God’s just wrath. As we have noted earlier, the reason that man without Christ, is in the way of perishing, is that man without Christ has a sin nature and consequently sins and so is in high rebellion to God.

2.) The catechism negates any notion of Universalism. Universalism is the doctrine that teaches that all men through all time will go to heaven no matter their relation to Jesus Christ while on earth. To the contrary the catechism, following Scripture, teaches that not all men are saved. Jesus speaking could say,

Matthew 25:45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Of course the corollary of this denial of Universalism is the truth that God does not love everybody. If God loved everybody, with redemptive love, then everyone would be saved. However, as it is the case that not all people are saved, this means that God does not and did not love, with a redemptive love, those who are not saved and who are not in-grafted into Christ.

Now, being postmillennialists we believe that a vast majority of mankind will be saved because we believe Scripture when in Revelation John sees in heaven

Revelation 7:9 … a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

That great multitude is in keeping with God’s promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. So, we assert, with the catechism and with Scripture, that not all men will be saved, but also that the number of men that will be saved will testify to the greatness of God’s grace to save and the vast reach of God’s saving power in Christ.

3.) As the catechism, following Scripture, negates Universalism, that means by necessity it teaches particularism. This is only to say that the Scripture teaches that God saves only who He intends to save. God is particular in His choosing. All people who believe that there are those who go to Hell believe that there is a particularity in God’s grace. The difference is that some locate the reason for that particularity in the individual human’s sovereign choice while others locate the reason for the particularity that Scripture teaches in God’s sovereign choice. Biblical Christians, believing in God’s exhaustive sovereignty, follow the Scripture when it insists that God is the reason that Universalism isn’t true and God is the one who makes the decision as to who and who will not be saved (particularism). Either man is sovereign over salvation or God is. We see this particularism in action in Acts,

16:13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. 14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

God opened Lydia’s heart while not opening the hearts of the other women who met there.

This particularity of God’s was even recognized by the Lord Jesus Christ,

25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

So, Universalism is not true. Not all men will be saved. And, those who will be saved are saved by God’s sovereign Particularism. Finally, God’s particularism is so vast that no man can number all those God intends to save via His sovereign particular choice.

4.) Heidelberg question 20 puts an end to the old liberal canard of “the Fatherhood of God over all men” and the “Brotherhood of all men under God.” Since Universalism isn’t true therefore it follows that God is not the Father of all men. God is nothing but an avenging Judge to those outside of Christ. The idea of the God’s Fatherhood of all men and so the Brotherhood of all men has often been used as a anti-Christ liberal ploy to force Christians to embrace people of other faiths as those who are our Brothers because God is the Father of us all. The nonsense of this idea has even made it into some of our hymnody.

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
We are family.
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony.

When we embrace the idea of God’s universal Fatherhood and man’s universal Brotherhood the temptation for us is to compromise our Christian beliefs in order that we can all get along with all our putative Brother’s on the earth. It is precisely because God is not the Father of all, redemptively speaking, that we must not yield our beliefs to the siren song of a compromise that would promise a compromised peace. Also, such thinking of the Fatherhood of God over all and the Brotherhood of all cuts the heart out of evangelism. If we are all Brothers then what is the need to evangelize? In point of fact if God is Father of all and we are all Brothers than it would be insensitive and insulting to others to suggest that their faiths are sub-optimal by seeking to evangelize them.

5.) Notice the language about being in-grafted Caleb. The phrase, “only those who are in-grafted into Christ,” linguistically supports God’s sovereignty. We are passive until we are in-grafted. God does all the in-grafting and only after we are in-grafted do we have a true faith. This is just to say that in salvation God does all the saving and we only do our required all (repentance, faith, obedience) after God has done all, but God having done all we always respond by working out our salvation with fear and trembling. God initiates and we respond and when God initiates with saving intent the elect never fail to respond.

The language of grafting communicates the idea of being taken out of one place and put into another. In the way that the language is used here it communicates being taken out of our Covenant head Adam where there is nothing but death and being placed in Christ where there is abundant life. To be in-grated into Christ is to be united with Christ. Christ is our covenant head and represents us before the Father so that the Father has the disposition towards us that He has towards His Son. Further to be in-grafted into Christ means to be given the Holy Spirit so that we increasingly become what we have been freely declared to because we are in-grafted into Christ. Romans 11 speaks a little regarding this being grafted into Christ,

Rom.11:17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Rom.11:19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Rom.11:20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

Being in-grafted into Christ we thus begin to desire what Christ desires, and we begin to conform to the likeness of Christ. In being in-grafted into Christ we receive the life of Christ and are sustained by that life, and over the course of time the graft begins to take on the characteristics of divine olive tree.

6.) The catechism speaks of receiving all of Christ’s benefits. The consequence of being in-grafted into Christ is that we receive all the spiritual blessings of Christ. This means that we have peace with God, which means not only the cessation of God’s just hostility towards us but also all the blessings that come by being favored of God. We no longer have reason to cower in fear before God. Receiving all Christ’s benefits means we no longer have to live with the guilt of sin and the misery of being without God and without hope. Receiving all Christ’s benefits means a boldness and confidence coming from knowing that the Sovereign God of the whole universe is ordaining all that comes into our lives for His advance and our profit. Receiving all Christ’s benefits means the end of temporal and earthly fear, for if God be for us, who or what can be against us? Receiving all Christ’s benefits means a profound sense of security and comfort because I know that I am not my own but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ. There are so many other benefits we could speak of that we receive. Death is no longer an enemy to us because we have the benefit of knowing to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We are increasingly given the ability to think God’s thoughts after him so that we confound God’s enemies. We are given the benefit of belonging to Christ’s body the Church so that we have precious fellowship with the Saints of God. We know that our Elder Brother, the Lord Christ, continues to plead our cause before the Father. We know that we shall finish our race here well because God who won us is able to keep us until the very end. We are given the benefit of having a continued affection for our High Captain the Lord Christ and a desire to defend His honor at every turn.

As we move through the catechism we will see many of these benefits up close in more detail.

The fact that we receive all Christ’s benefits in light of being united to Christ is seen in Ephesians,

3 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,

7.) Answer 20 ends by noting the necessity of true faith. The idea that we must have a “true faith” implies that such a thing as false faith exists. We will talk more about that in the next question and answer that provides a biblical definition of faith. Suffice it to say here that not all professions of faith qualify as true faith.

I would like to end though by observing that a true faith in Christ can not be held apart from knowing the true Christ. I only bring this up because there are those who say that people can be saved by Christ even though they have never heard of him. These people will argue that if people who have never heard of Christ will just follow the good that they know then they will be saved by Christ. Some will even contend that well intentioned practitioners of other gods will have their well intentioned but misguided worship accepted as worship of Christ precisely because they were well intentioned. C. S. Lewis makes such a argument in his novel, “The Last Battle.” Such types of doctrine (and there are many nuances to this teaching I have not brought forth here) are nowhere found in Scripture. Only those who have had Christ placarded before them and so have embraced Christ in faith, in this life, will have the Lord Christ as their mediator. Scripture not only looks for a general faith in a known Christ but it also expects a intimate faith in a known Christ. We must not only believe in the Son but we must pay Him homage,

Ps.2:12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

If there are exceptions to the necessity to have faith in a known Lord Jesus Christ those exceptions would be the unborn, the newly born, and the mentally impaired. In such cases it is best for us to simply say, “Will not the Lord of all the earth do right,” though we can have complete confidence of their salvation if they were Baptized members of the covenant community.

Scripture clearly teaches that eternal life is pinned upon knowing the Christ of Scripture,

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

The fact that Jesus Christ requires the knowledge of Himself along with the Father, for eternal life, is a strong testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ.

Now couple that scripture with Jesus’ statement,

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

And you have the clear teaching that one can not be saved (have fellowship with the Father) except by a true faith in a known Christ.

Don’t let your faith be shipwrecked by those who insist on Universalism by appealing to a few texts in Scripture not properly read against God’s complete revelation.

I sign off by citing a few more Scripture that convey how important faith in Christ is,

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

Rom.3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

Heb.4:2 For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Heb.4:3 For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Heb.10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

Heb.11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Caleb’s Baptism — The Scriptures Placard To Us Christ (Heidelberg Catechism Q. 19)

Question 19. Whence knowest thou this?

Answer: From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise; and afterwards published by the patriarchs (b) and prophets, (c) and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; (d) and lastly, has fulfilled it by his only begotten Son. (e)

In question 19 Caleb, the authors of the Catechism (Zacharias Ursinus & Caspar Olevianus) finish Lord’s Day #6 asking from where we know what they taught us in questions 16-18 regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. The answer they give is insightful on several accounts.

First, the Catechism’s answer indicates that we know what we know about Christ and the Christian faith from the Scriptures, and yet the way they give the answer indicates that the Catechizers (Zacharias Ursinus & Caspar Olevianus) wanted to impress upon the student that the Gospel is inclusive of all of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. This overturns the notion that the Gospel is somehow to be restricted to what we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; those books of the Bible known as “The Gospels.” It is true that in the Gospels we get the life and work of Jesus Christ but the Catechism wants to impress upon us that ones finds the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ everywhere in the Scripture. It is because this is true Caleb that during the Liturgy at Charlotte CRC we will give “God’s Absolution of Sin” from week to week from different portions of Scripture, Old and New Testament.

This observation reminds us that when we read the Scripture we need to read all of the Scripture understanding discovering Christ. Put negatively, if we read Scripture, all the while missing the person and work of the Lord Christ we are not reading Scripture aright. To miss Christ while reading the Scripture is like reading Tolkien and missing the One ring. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Great High Priest who does all the rescuing (saving) of His people. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Great High King who leads us in dominion taking under His authority; a dominion that incarnates our freely given salvation into whatever we are called to. Some portions of Scripture will emphasize Christ in His work as our Prophet speaking to us words of comfort and challenge. But all of Scriptures proclaims our great Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

This truth that we have just examined can be a plumb line for you in years to come when it comes to deciding what Church you may or may not attend. If you are not being given Christ from the Pulpit and from the teaching lectern but are being given therapeutic psychology feel good piffle then the Church is no Church. The Church’s call is hold out Christ to God’s people in all its preaching and teaching from Scripture.

Second this answer emphasizes that God’s revelation is about redemption. When God spoke to man He spoke a revelatory word that explained redemption both as to how God saves man and as to how God would have man manifest His saved life. It is true that God acts throughout Scripture but His acting would mean nothing to us if we did not have his explanatory word in revelation. That Jesus dies on a cross would mean nothing if God did not give a revelatory word that explains that the death of Jesus was for sin. The God who acts in redemption is the God who speaks in revelation.

Third this # 19 answer reveals that redemption is progressive. By that we mean that redemption grows and expands, in terms of its contour with the passage of time. Think of it this way. If you were to plant a tulip bulb without knowing what it would produce ahead of time you would have no idea what that bulb would eventually look like without the passage of time. Redemption, like the tulip bulb, begins as a bulb in Genesis and grows incrementally, stage by stage, to a tulip throughout Scripture, blooming to full flower in the Springtime that is the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We look back now seeing the whole tulip in springtime and see more clearly the whole unfolding process from bulb to bloom. This process, as we see it unfold in Scripture is called “the progress of redemption.” The first glimmering we get of the Gospel is found in Genesis

Gen.3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall crush thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This is our proverbial tulip bulb of the Gospel. We look back now and see how this promise of God is the beginning of the Gospel. This is Gospel because in it we learn of the great conflict between the seed of the serpent (Satan’s co-laborers) and the seed of the woman (ultimately, the Lord Christ and penultimately, His people) that ends in the Messiah being bruised by the serpent and the serpent being crushed by the Messiah. In the Cross the serpent bruised the Messiah but in the Resurrection and Ascension the head of the serpent was crushed. This theme of conflict and of bruising and crushing is a theme the developed throughout the Scriptures.

One example, of the development of the this Gospel conflict theme between, is David vs. Goliath. David is a picture of the Lord Christ fighting solitary for His people against the serpent champion Goliath. Goliath is decked out in scale armor, the Hebrew word literally meaning “scales”. (1 Sam. 17:5) Typologically this harkens back to the scales of the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. David posits a stone between the Serpent representative’s eyes and proceeds to cut his head off. Goliath was dressed like a serpent with his scale armor, and he died like a serpent, with a head wound. David, as a type of Christ has crushed the head of the serpent.

In the New Testament this theme is likewise taken up after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. In Romans, the Holy Spirit, hearkening back to this theme began in Genesis can say in 16:20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

I have given you just one example but this is a theme we find repeatedly developed in Scripture. Think of Jael crushing the head of Sisera, the serpent representative opposing God’s people (Judges 4). Similarly there is Judges 9:52-53.

52 So Abimelech came as far as the tower and fought against it; and he drew near the door of the tower to burn it with fire. 53 But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.

These are all instances where we see the theme of God’s representative crushing the head of the serpent developed and we find it ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Christ crushing the head of Satan in His resurrection and ascension.

Of course there are other themes that the Scriptures develop that are typological of Christ who is the fulfillment of all the Gospel that is promissory in the Old Testament. The Gospel is first pronounced in Paradise as a tulip bulb but through the rest of Scripture we see the Gospel continued to unfold and develop. What this reminds us is that a proper reading of the whole of Scripture is like watching a time lapsed film that shows the growth of a acorn into a great oak condensed into a comparatively short book. Centuries passed in the progress of Redemption and the Scriptures give us the necessary information to understand the whole — if we read the Scripture understanding that we needs see Christ.

This video might give you an idea of what I’m trying to get at. Who would have ever guessed that the baby at the beginning of this time lapsed video would be the 12 year old at the end.

Similarly, no one would have been able to identify the Gospel from Genesis 3 unless the Scriptures gave us the progress of redemption in a time lapsed form, condensing vast amounts of time into a comparatively small book. The baby of Genesis 3 is the same Gospel message all grown up in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

A few scriptures that are given from the prophets that pronounced Christ,

Gen.22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

Informs us that all the nations that remain distinct nations are blessed by the seed of Abraham who is Christ. The New Testament begins by tell us that Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Gen.12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

In Revelation 7:9 we see all the different nations — nations which retain yet their national identity — blessed by having been saved by the work of Christ. Many different blessed nations and yet one spiritual people of God.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,

Gen.49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. Gen.49:11 Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine; he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes:

The Kings (sceptre standing for Kingly office) in the OT were from Judah and Christ is from the tribe of Judah. Likewise in the Sermon on the Mount we see the Lord Christ as a Lawgiver, the anti-type of Moses the great lawgiver who last gave law from a Mountain context. The whole notion of this King and lawgiver gathering people is spoken repeatedly about in the OT,

“Now the predicates of the covenant are applied in Isa. 19 to the Gentiles of the future, — “Egypt my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance,” Egypt, the people of “Jehovah of hosts,” (Isa. 19:25) is therefore also expected to live up to the covenant obligations, implied for Jehovah’s people. And Assyria comes under similar obligations and privileges. These nations are representative of the great Gentile world, to which the covenant privileges will therefore be extended.”

Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment: A Study of the Scope of “Spiritualization” in Scripture (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2011), p. 94.

“More than a dozen excellent commentaries could be mentioned that all interpret Israel as thus inclusive of Jew and Gentile, in this verse, — the Gentile adherents thus being merged with the covenant people of Israel, though each nationality remains distinct.”

“For, though Israel is frequently called Jehovah’s People, the work of his hands, his inheritance, yet these three epithets severally are applied not only to Israel, but also to Assyria and to Egypt: “Blessed be Egypt, my people, and Assyria, the work of my hands, and Israel, mine inheritance.” 19:25.

Thus the highest description of Jehovah’s covenant people is applied to Egypt, — “my people,” — showing that the Gentiles will share the covenant blessings, not less than Israel. Yet the several nationalities are here kept distinct, even when Gentiles share, in the covenant blessing, on a level of equality with Israel. Egypt, Assyria and Israel are not nationally merged. And the same principles, that nationalities are not obliterated, by membership in the covenant, applies, of course, also in the New Testament dispensation.”

Wyngaarden, pp. 101-102.

And then this King and Lawgiver gathering people is fulfilled in the New Testament, as on the day of Pentecost, people hear the Gospel pronouncement in a multitude of languages, thus revealing that the distinct peoples are gathered unto Him just as written in Genesis 49 as a Gospel declaration. That the Apostles understood it this way is seen in how they quote the Scripture. In Acts 15:14 forward they quote a Old Testament text (Amos 9:11-12) to prove that the coming in and gathering of the Gentiles into the Church and unto Christ is a fulfillment of the promise to rebuild David’s fallen inheritance. Christ is the one who has gathered the people unto Himself as the greater David who holds the eternal scepter and is the eternal lawgiver. This greater David shall continue to bear His scepter and publish His law until all the nations are gathered under the shade of His great rule.

The writers of the Catechism then go on to give Scriptural texts to show how the Gospel was promised in the Prophets and by the sacrifices and ceremonies of the old covenant. Everywhere we turn in Scripture we find the Lord Christ placarded. I won’t wear you out with teasing each passage out in order to develop the theme of how all Scripture proclaims Christ. This is the material that gives us a lifetime of study and preaching.

Prophets Proclaiming the Gospel

Isaiah 53.

Isa.42:1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. Isa.42:2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. Isa.42:3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. Isa.42:4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. Isa.43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Isa.49:5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. Isa.49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth. Isa.49:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. Isa.49:23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Jer.23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. Jer.23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jer.31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: Jer.31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jer.32:39 And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: Jer.32:40 And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Jer.32:41 Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul.

Mic.7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. Mic.7:19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Mic.7:20 Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old. Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

Rom.1:2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

Heb.1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Acts 3:22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. Acts 3:23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Acts 3:24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Acts 10:43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

NT Insistence that the OT Sacrifice and Ceremonies Proclaimed the Gospel

(d) Heb.10:1 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. Heb.10:7 Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.

Col.2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

John 5:46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.


(e) Rom.10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Gal.4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, Gal.4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Gal.3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

Col.2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

The Scripture gives us Christ. It gives us Christ as the great High Priest who is also the suffering servant. It gives us the ascended King leading His people from triumph unto triumph. It gives our great Prophet who speaks God’s word to us. The Scripture was and is given to give us Christ.

Caleb’s Baptist — Behold The Deliverer (HC Q. 18)

Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, (a) and a real (b) righteous man? (c)

Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ: (d) “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (e)

Questions 16 and 17 taught us that if we are going to be delivered from our sins then certain quality characteristics must be found in the person who rescues us from our sin. Those character qualities are repeated in question 18 with the inquiry asking who fits that description.

Note that in question 18 that the our deliverer and rescuer is spoken of as a Mediator. We have mentioned the mediatorial aspect before but reviewing briefly we underscore that a Mediator is one who represents both parties in a dispute. In the Old Testament the Priests filled the role as the Mediator. The Old Testament Priest represented the people to God in his sacrificial responsibilities and he represented God to the people in his very person. So, we learn from this language that whoever is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man, is also the person who God has set aside to be a Mediator.

One aspect that is interesting about the Lord Christ having the two natures of God and real righteous man is that in being both God and Man the person of Christ has the properties which belong to both natures. This is only to say that the human and divine natures belong to the person of the Lord Christ and so are ascribed to Him in his person. The impact of this means that properties that belong uniquely to both divine and human natures are attributed to the one person of Jesus. For example, the person Jesus can be spoken of in his human nature (Jesus wept, Jesus grows in wisdom and stature, Jesus was tired) but the person Jesus can also be spoken of in his divine nature (omnipresence, all knowing, etc.) However, as we learned in our last session, this does not mean that any of his human nature was divinized, nor was any of his divine nature mixed with the human nature.

Let me clarify with a couple examples Caleb. In John’s Gospel Jesus says,

17:5, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

The person of Jesus here is claiming something that could only be true of divinity. Jesus is claiming pre-existence and eternality. We might ask how it is that Jesus, who was born of a virgin, and so had a beginning of days, could claim pre-existence with the eternal God. The answer to that is that second person of the Trinity took to himself a human nature, as that was added in the incarnation, and so the person Jesus of Nazareth can speak John 17:5 as one who has a divine nature belonging to His person. The language of Scripture often ascribes to the person of Jesus attributes that could only belong to God.

Another example of this that works in the other direction is found in Acts 28:20

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Of course it is Jesus who purchased the church of God with His own blood. Paul, in Acts, is speaking of the attributes of humanity (blood) as being ascribed to God. As the person Jesus has a divine nature, and as a man he has blood, it can be said that God purchased the church with His own blood even though the divine nature can not bleed.

So, we see that the Scripture teaches that Jesus has two natures. We see that Scripture affirms that Jesus was one person. But we also see Scripture speaking in such a way that “the properties of both, the human and the divine natures, are now the properties of the person, and are therefore ascribed to the person,” and yet without confusing or mixing, nor separating or changing the Divine and Human natures. The fancy theological term for this is communicatio idiomatum.

The reason this is important to keep in mind is that there is a tendency to forget one or the other of these natures. In the early Church, the temptation was to forget the humanity of Jesus. The heresy called gnosticism was constantly denying that Jesus was human. In our era the tendency is to forget that Jesus is divine. We treat the Lord Christ so casually. This is evidenced, I would suggest, by people talking incessantly about having a “relationship with Jesus,” forgetting that this person we talk so casually about having a relationship with is the one whom the Apostle John fell before as dead because of the intense divine glory of His divine presence.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus is God. Here are but three,

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Rom.9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Jer.23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus is Man. Here are but three,

Luke 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Philip.2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Heb.2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; Heb.2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Heb.2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus was without sin. Here are but four,

Heb.4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Heb.7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

1 Pet.1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

1 Pet.2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Remember, this all started by looking for someone qualified to bring us rescue from our sins. That all of this is, in Scripture, seen predominantly in that light is proven by a few texts from Scripture,

1 Tim.2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Heb.2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

There are other philosophical reasons why the divine and the human meeting in Jesus is monumentally important but the Catechism is only concerned with the soteriological (pertaining to salvation) reasons as to why the Lord Christ Christ is both human and divine. In short, unless the Lord Jesus Christ was and is human and divine we could not have been delivered from our sins and would be without God and without hope.

Question 18 ends by quoting 1 Cor.1:30,

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

The importance of this text is found in the reality that as we as Christians are placed in Christ as our representative before the Father, we now wear before the Father the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption of our representative the Lord Jesus Christ so that when we are considered by the Father we are considered as belonging to the one the Father delights in and so the Father delights in us.

This is why there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved.

Caleb’s Baptism … Very God of Very God (HC Q. # 17)

Question 17. Why must he in one person be also very God?

Answer: That he might, by the power of his Godhead (a) sustain in his human nature, (b) the burden of God’s wrath; (c) and might obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life. (d)

In the previous question and answer Caleb we examined why it was that Christ must be very man of very man (100% man) in order to qualify as someone who could rescue the descendants of Adam from their sins. In this question the Catechizers (principally Zacharius Ursinus, and secondarily Caspar Olevianus) explain why it is that Christ must be very God of very God in order to successfully become our deliverer.

Before we get to the issue of Christ’s divinity in relation to accomplishing our deliverance we should say a brief word about the the combination of Heidelberg questions 16 and 17. In these two question and answers we have taught what is known as the doctrine of Christ’s Hypostatic Union. This is the doctrine that affirms that the Lord Jesus Christ was one person with two natures. We could get lost in all of the implications of this Caleb but suffice it to say that this is an important doctrine to embrace even if we will not understand it completely in this life. The doctrine is so important that the Church has an ancient creed that teaches on it (creed of Chalcedon) and is so important that one cannot be a Christian without embracing Scripture’s teaching on Christ’s hypostatic union.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches that at one and the same time the Lord Jesus Christ has both a human and divine nature and yet within one person. The early church argued about this for centuries before affirming that Christ was perfect in Godhead while at the same time being perfect in manhood. Teasing out the Scriptures, the Church went on to affirm, as against a party in the Church called “the Eutychians” that these two natures of Christ were not co-mingled so that the Lord Christ was a kind of a being with a hybrid single nature that was partly God and partly man. Continuing to embrace Scripture, the Church, at the same time, had to correct another party that was on the other extreme from the Eutychians, and who, instead of giving us a Christ whose natures were blended into a hybrid, gave us a Christ who was two persons as well as two natures. What the Scriptures affirm and what the Heidelberg catechism teaches is that Christ is one person with two natures.

That Christ has both natures can seen with a simple glance at Scripture,

Very God of Very God

He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33)
He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8)
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59).
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15)
He knows all things (John 21:17)
He gives eternal life (John 10:28)
All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9)

Very Man of Very Man

He worshiped the Father (John 17).
He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5)
He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)
He prayed to the Father (John 17)
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1)
He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)
He died (Rom. 5:8)
He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)

This doctrine of the Hypostatic Union also insists, as against yet a different heretical school of thought (Apollonarians) that the Lord Christ is human as to both body and soul. Some of the errant teaching yet today, following the errant teaching from centuries ago, insist that Jesus Christ has a human body but that His Spirit was the divine spirit logos.

The denial of this important doctrine continues with us today. The same errors are taught today that were taught thousands of years ago. This is true, not only of the example mentioned in the paragraph above but it is also true of Jehovah Witnesses and Christian Scientists for example. The Jehovah Witnesses deny Christ’s divinity while affirming His humanity. The Christian Scientists deny Christ’s humanity while affirming His deity. All of these sects will marshal Scripture to prove their heresy, conveniently leaving out other Scripture that is against them.

I can’t stress enough how important this teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism is. If a person denies this Hypostatic Union of Christ they have no reason to be considered a Christian. A great deal more could be said here, but I don’t want to bog you down. For our purposes here it is important to remember that, in the words of the Chalcedon Confession that is confessed by all Christians everywhere,

(Christ is) to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;

Now, as the Catechism deals with this issue it wants to emphasize that Christ had to be God in order to able to provide deliverance for His people. If Christ was merely human he could not have successfully undergone the intense wrath of the Father against sin. Scriptures teaches the character of God’s just wrath against sin that the Lord Christ bore for His Father’s glory,

Deut.4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Nah.1:6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

Ps.130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

This was the wrath of God against our sins that the Lord Christ suffered in our place. That just wrath of God against sin would have consumed a merely human Jesus before the penalty against sin had been fully recompensed. So, the catechism teaches that Christ had to likewise be very God of very God in order to receive in His person the just penalty against sin.

Note a matter important here though Caleb. Note the way the catechism carefully phrases the truth,

“by the power of his Godhead sustain in his human nature the burden of God’s wrath”

Reformed theology, following Scripture, has always taught that God can not suffer, nor can God die. If God dies all the lights in the universe go out. Since this is true, Biblical theology affirms that it was Christ’s divine nature (HC — “by the power of His Godhead”) that sustained Christ’s human nature so that the person of Christ could pay for the sins of His people. Some people will say, in a sloppy manner, that “God died on the cross,” but it is more accurate to say that the person of the Lord Christ, as the lamb of God, died on the cross, if only because by definition the God of the Bible can’t die.

Clearly, what HC #17 is concerned about is the fact that the death of the Lord Christ, who is very God of very God, is a substitutionary death (a death in our place) and is so successfully, in part, because as sustained by His divine nature the person of Christ could bear our penalty in full, and win for us the life and acceptability before God that had been forfeited by Adam. That Christ was there dying in our place (in our stead, on our behalf) is clearly taught by Scripture,

Isa.53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted….

Isa.53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

And that the consequence of that death in our place (in our stead, on our behalf) is acceptability again before God and a restoration of life is likewise taught in Scripture,

Our healing is in His wounding

Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Acceptability before God dependent upon Christ’s Death

1 Pet.3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Restored brought to the elect because of Christ’s Death

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

So, Heidelberg Catechism question and answer #17 teaches us that if were to be saved, then He who would serve as our deliverer must be very God of very God.

God’s 9th Word — Part II

As we begin this morning we want to connect God’s Character to God’s law.


Scripture teaches repeatedly that “God is just.”

Dt. 32:4 “ The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are [a]just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He.

Psalm 33:4 For the word of the Lord is upright,
And all His work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Even the pagan Kings could testify as did Nebuchadnezzar,

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are [a]true and His ways [b]just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

And when all is said and done, God’s justice will be a theme in the singing in the final age

Revelation 15:3 And they *sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

“ Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!

The character of “God as just” is seen in His ten words given to mankind. In our series on God’s justice on display in the Ten Commandments we have seen repeatedly that God is just and righteous and has given men, as His image bearers, His just character to live by.


In Psalm 37 we see a connection between God who is just and His love for those who live by His just Character.

Psalm 37:28 For the Lord loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30 The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31 The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.

God is Just and He loves seeing His justice in His Redeemed people as His Law is in their hearts.

We shouldn’t need to say this but we will nonetheless. It is understood that our only righteousness is found in Jesus Christ who is our law keeping perfection before the Father. But it is precisely because we are counted as having fulfilled the law in Jesus Christ that we esteem God’s law.

God is just, and we are just in Christ, and so we seek to speak up God’s justice by advocating for and living by God’s law.


This is why we spend time considering the ten words. We spend time considering God’s ten words because we desire to live the abundant life and we desire for God’s justice to be known among the nations.

This just character of God as seen in God’s law is seen as a threat by those who prefer to define justice according to their own law word. They feel threatened by God’s just character and so God’s law.

But, we might ask, is so threatening about God’s law?

Is it threatening that all people might honor, respect, and submit to lawful authorities? (#5)

Is it threatening that all people be committed to protecting the lives, and welfare of all other men? (#6)

Is it threatening that all people be committed to their own spouses and that all be committed to ending sexual exploitation? (#7)

Is it threatening that all people refused to steal property of others thus protecting their own material welfare? (#8)

And in light of the fact that all of this expresses God’s just Character, would it be threatening if everyone took this God seriously? (#1 – 4)

These commandments of God are those commandments that people have serious problems with. Because these laws are so threatening they must be removed from the places were children gather, they must be removed from the places where litigants gather, and they must not be appealed to as a basis for public policy.

Yet despite this cavil against God’s law if we as God’s people were to cease advocating for God’s law in our own personal lives and for the public square we would be left being in opposition to the character of the God we say we serve.

When it comes to God’s justice whoever is not with God is against God, and whoever does not gather with God scatters.

And so we teach and esteem God’s law. Not as our righteousness before God. We have that in our Lord Christ. No, we teach and esteem God’s law out of a sense of gratitude and love for the fact that the law no longer condemns us because we are righteous in Christ.


And what shall happen if we give up on God’s law as a transcendent standard for our personal lives and for the public square?

Well, obviously we then will live by injustice. If God is just, and if His ways are altogether perfect, if we give up on God’s law we give up on justice and embrace injustice.

If we give up on God’s transcendent justice, as summarized in the Ten Commandments then we must find justice in the immanent.

Ill. — Transcendent Justice — Navigating by North Star

If there is no North Star then some other standard for justice has to be appealed to. That other standard will inevitably be defined by whoever has the most power.

If we will not be guided by the North Star of God’s transcendent law we will be guided by man’s immanent law that teaches, per Chairman Mao, that “power comes from the barrel of a gun.”

We will either serve the creator God’s transcendent justice or the “justice” that we create will serve the desires of which ever creature is in control.

The Russian novelist Dostoevsky, in his book “The Brother’s Karamazov” warned that once God is set aside, “man will be lifted up with a spirit of divine titanic pride and the man-god will appear.”

That man-god that Dostoevsky speaks of could be the arrival of anarchy where each man is his own god and where the law is, “every man does what is right in his own eyes.” That man-god could be the arrival of some democratic majority such as the one which was channeled by Robespierre in the French Revolution and gave the law of the guillotine. That man-god could be the arrival of some Despot and Tyrant setting atop a Nation-State who gives the law of his whim and fancy through the procedure of extra-constitutional signing statements or by fiat run around of constitutional authority. However the man-god arrives, he arrives because we failed to esteem God’s transcendent law that gives us North Star justice.

And so we appeal to God’s law as a transcendent norm that norms all other norms. We believe that if we did not appeal to God’s law as a transcendent norm that norms all other norms we would be a cruel and mean people. This is an important point to tease out for a moment.

When Alabama State Supreme Court judge Roy Moore insisted that God’s law stay in the court building in Alabama he was depicted as mean and as a obscurantist. But Judge Moore was the one who in his insistence that God’s law remain in the court room who was reflecting the milk of human kindness.

Often Christians with their transcendent norms and with their advocacy of God’s law as a universal norm that all men should be governed by are seen as the mean people but in point of fact it is people who appeal to get rid of the North Star that was given to regulate human behavior who are the cold hearted mean people. Those who desire to throw off God’s law to be ruled by the un-anchored relative law of the creature are the cruel and the despotic. Those people who have successfully thrown off God’s North Star rule of “Thou Shalt Not Kill” as being oppressive have successfully murdered over 50 million unborn children. Those people who have successfully thrown off God’s North Star rule of “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,” with legislation that has been counter intuitive to the support of the family are responsible for the destruction of untold numbers of family and individual lives. We could go on, but you get the idea, it is those who oppose God’s law as a transcendent norm that norms all norms who are the mean ones and the cold hearted.

With all that as backdrop we continue to examine God’s law.

This week we take up the 9th commandment again.

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness

That this law still has influence in our lives is seen by how we raise our children. Likely, all of us raised our children impressing upon them the importance of “telling the truth,” and we made sure that our children didn’t run with other children who we knew were capable at lying. In our marriages we expect spouses to be honest with one another and we find it to be a fault in a husband and wife that lies to their spouse. In the workplace we still look for honesty in both our employees and our employers even if we are often disappointed.

And in the public square we still have the residual influence of God’s transcendent “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” on our books. We still have laws against perjury, slander, and libel, and fraud, and insider trading, and obstruction of justice, even if those laws are not enforced as much as they should be.

We take it for granted that “Honesty is the best policy,” but in other cultures untouched by Christian thinking this is not necessarily so.

Don Richardson, in his book, “The Peace Child” related the story of a tribe where lying and deceit was the greatest honour / trait a man could have! And upon the first telling of the death of Christ, initially the tribe thought Judas was the hero because of his deceit.

So, unlike other cultures, we still have a residue of a memory of “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.”

A people who are honest and truth tellers are necessary to have a culture that can function, whether that culture is just in a family, or a workplace, or a community. If we could not trust one another to be truth tellers relationships would not be stable, and commerce could not function. If we could not trust one another to be truth tellers we would be withdrawn and solitary. If we could not trust one another to be truth tellers we would grow to be suspicious and paranoid.

We can see how important “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness” is for healthy communities.

In the Catechism we are instructed what is required in this commandment

Answer: That I bear false witness against no man, (a) nor falsify any man’s words; (b) that I be no backbiter, nor slanderer; (c) that I do not judge, nor join in condemning any man rashly, or unheard; (d) but that I avoid all sorts of lies and deceit, as the proper works of the devil, (e) unless I would bring down upon me the heavy wrath of God; (f) likewise, that in judgment and all other dealings I love the truth, speak it uprightly and confess it; (g) also that I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honor and good character of my neighbour. (h)

Types of False Witness

Last week we spent time on the fact that this commandment is especially in reference to the court room looking at how this commandment serves as a legal fence around the other commandments. There is no way, that judicially, one can protect Life, Marriage, and Property, unless one can get to the truth.

But clearly, the ninth commandment has in mind a much wider scope than the judicial system alone. It forbids all forms of false witness, all forms of lying (Eph.4:25).

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

The 9th commandment aims at preserving reputations and our neighbors good name. One way to destroy a man is to destroy his reputation and so the 9th commandment seeks to protect reputations by forbidding

(1) backbiting and gossip.

Scripture speaks of backbiting as done by the wicked.

Rom.1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Rom.1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

Gossip may not include overt lying. Gossip may succeed in false witness by leading astray or by giving truth in such a way that one knows it will be misinterpreted.

Backbiting is a graphic word that communicates an attack on someone in such a way that he can not defend himself. In our imagination we should see it closely akin to the guy in the Movie who shoots someone in the back. Backbiting attacks a person where he is most vulnerable because he can not ward off the attack.

(2) judging rashly

The disciples passed a blind man and asked Jesus who had sinned — the blind man or his parents (John 9:2).

Clearly this was a rash judgment as Jesus points out that neither was the case.

We need to remember this prohibition as we deal with people. Sometimes it seems so obvious what motives for people’s behavior that is reported to us, but we must be careful not to judge rashly. Matters are often not what they first seem. We should try to give people the benefit of the doubt … especially those that we know.

As we enter into this election cycle it will be important for us to not judge rashly. Advertisements on all sides are aimed at us spending 30 or 60 seconds to convince us to judge rashly. Of course judgments are necessary but we should try to, as much as possible, arm ourselves with all the facts before we come to a conclusion.

(3) Libel.

Libel is lying openly and intentionally in print.

Libel often occurs by twisting someone’s ones words, by giving half a quote or by not giving the full context. Truth is in precision.

When we enter into this kind of behavior we are violating the 9th commandment.

As Christians we are to be characterized as dealing in truth.

Jesus said that when we speak lies we speak the Devil’s language. (John 8:44)

Elsewhere Scripture teaches,

Prov.12:22 Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight. Prov.13:5 A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.

Jesus Christ Our Truth Before God

We are liars. None of us keep the command to not bear false witness perfectly.

And so we must constantly repair to Christ.

Our trusting in Christ does not give us license to lie (shall we go on sinning that Grace might increase?) but it does remind us that when give up on our own self righteousness in terms of bearing false witness, Christ is the one who is our righteousness before God.