How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?
Answer: Three; (a) the first, how great my sins and miseries are; (b) the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries; (c) the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance. (d)
We have made the point that the Catechism teaches us that Christianity is the life of the mind. This is not the same as saying that Christianity is reducible to a series of ratiocination exercises. Christianity believes that knowing the truths about God leads to knowing and loving God. Christianity is never less then knowing God but it is always much more than knowing God. Remember, James teaches that the Demons believe in God but their knowledge of God is hardly salvific.
We have talked about the necessity of knowing our sin. Sin is any want of conformity to or violation of God’s law. Sin is rebellion against God’s character. Sin is defiance against God’s revealed way. Sin is the attempt to de-god God and en-god ourselves. The catechism insists that in order to have the Christian comfort that we belong to God we must be conversant (familiar) with our sin.
The catechism also insist that in order to enjoy the comfort (strength) that comes from belonging to God we must know how we may be delivered from all our sins and miseries. You see the knowing of our sins and miseries is not an end in and of itself but such a knowing of our sins and miseries is intended to pole-vault you into the more important understanding of how it is that you are delivered from those sins and miseries.
Notice that the catechism does not say, “the second, that I am delivered from my sins and miseries.” No, the catechism insists that in order for you to know Christian comfort you must know how you are delivered from your sins and misery. The catechism cites these passages in order to legitimate the statement that we must come to know how it is we are delivered,
(c) John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
Acts 10:43 To him (Jesus) give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
The second part of the catechism will, with precision, explain how it is that we are delivered. In the current contemporary setting in which we find ourselves this is quite important. Increasingly, we have churches that are filled with Christians who are absolutely clueless as to how it is that they are delivered. They will insist that they are delivered. They will praise up and down the name of “Jesus.” They may even make mention of the Cross. But in the end they stare at you with the dumb cow look if you start talking about the mechanics of salvation, or, “how it is we are delivered.” It is akin to a seamstress insisting that she likes dresses but is clueless on how to make a dress. Caleb, all Christians should have some fundamental understanding of “how it is we are delivered,” that goes beyond cant Christian sloganeering and trite magical Christian phrases. The catechism will give you those fundamentals on “how it is we are delivered from all of our sins.”
Quetion #2 ends with the third reality that we must know in order to find comfort in the fact that we are owned by God. The catechism has a expectation that Christians will know, “how they shall express their gratitude to God for such deliverance.” This will form the third division of the catechism.
So as we break down the Heidelberg catechism, it goes like this
I.) Our Sins and Miseries (Questions 3-11)
II.) Man’s Deliverance (Questions 12-85)
III.) Man’s Gratitude (Questions 86-129)
The expectation of the catechism (following Scripture) is that once man knows how it is he is delivered there will be the natural desire to want to display gratitude. The third part of the catechism, following God’s law as a guide to life, answers how it is that we may show gratitude for the great deliverance that we’ve been freely given.
We should note that section #1 and section #2 are entirely God’s work. If we are to know our sins and miseries, and if we are to know how it is we are delivered it is entirely the favor of God that reveals these truths to us. Section #3 however concentrates on our response to God’s graciously giving to us what we do not deserve. Now, it remains true that even our response to God’s grace is all of grace and yet there is a concursive work in sanctification where, after God has worked in us conformity to Christ, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, part of which is showing gratitude.
Christians have been delivered for the purpose of the glorifying of God that is driven by the motive of gratitude. Gratitude for a completely free deliverance from sin then becomes the foundation for a purpose driven life, the purpose of which is obey God’s law-word and so glorify God. We see thus, that our salvation that we are freely given does not find its end purpose in us. No, the purpose of our deliverance is that we might be a people who are in a mad pursuit to give glory to God through Holy Spirit led obedience to God’s revelation in gratitude for all that God has done for us by sending Jesus Christ to redeem us.
Scripture has the expectation that we will live differently (by a different code) from those not yet delivered,
Eph.5:8 For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: Eph.5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Eph.5:10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. Eph.5:11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.
1 Pet.2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Pet.2:10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Rom.6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
Rom.6:2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Rom.6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Rom.6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
Christians who do not live in gratitude are testifying that they have not yet either become conversant with their sin, nor familiar with their deliverance. Any man or woman who begins to realize both the sin they have been rescued from and the character of the God who has rescued us will exhaust themselves in being creative in manifesting gratitude for so great a salvation.