Caleb’s Baptism (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 2 — Questions 3-5)


Part of the purpose for the Heidelberg Catechism, when it was written, was so that God’s people, in the geographic area where the Reformed faith had been chosen, could not only know their faith but also know their faith vis-a-vis the Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and Ana-Baptist strains of Christianity with which the Reformed people would come in contact. In the 16th century, unlike today, it made a significant difference that Reformed people knew what they believed and why they believed it in contradistinction to other less accurate expressions of Christianity. Because this is true there will be points along the way in the Catechism where a certain emphasis is brought out in order to alert people that the Bible teaches X and not Y like Lutherans, or Roman Catholics or Ana-Baptists believe. We will note those times as we move through future discussions.

Today, we turn to the first section of the Catechism proper; “Man’s Misery.” Keep in mind that for the next few entries the subject matter is going to be pretty dark. The intent of this section of the catechism is to close all avenues of answers to our sin problem so that we are forced to look in the only place where we can find the answer. Because that is the intent, the catechism repeatedly rams home the danger in which we find ourselves in this first section. People who are new to Christianity can get pretty depressed (miserable) in the teaching of this section of the catechism. Keep in mind that they are painting a dark picture so that when the light breaks forth that light will look all the more glorious.

It is significant to point out that the truths of the Catechism in their major divisions (in this case Man’s Sin) is accompanied by an emotion (in this case Man’s misery). When we come to know our sin the inevitable result will be a feeling of misery. Just as when we come to know our Deliverance their will be the inevitable result of a feeling of gratitude. Both of the truths and the accompany emotions are to drive behavior. The knowledge of our sin and misery is to drive the behavior of seeking for a Deliverer. The knowledge of being delivered is to drive the behavior of living our gratitude.

The catechism has told us that in order to live and die in God’s comfort we must know our sins and miseries. Now it asks,

Question 3. Whence knowest thou thy misery?

Answer: Out of the law of God.

The law of God has several uses. I’ve heard preachers give as many as six uses of the law but for our brief explanation here we will stick with the standard “three uses of the law.” The first use of the law that Reformed people talk about is what the catechism is speaking of here and through question 11. That first use of the law is referred to as the pedagogical use (And knowing how you love Latin — usus elenchticus sive paedagogicus). In this use of the the law, the law shows people their sin and points them to mercy and grace outside of themselves once they become exhausted with trying to keep the law in their own power. This use of the law has the purpose of exposing and rubbing people’s nose in their sin until they realize that they cannot get their nose out of the stink of their sin without help from a deliverer. I don’t know if your familiar with Pilgrim’s Progress, but in that book the main Character meets the law and cries out for mercy after being beaten about by the law, but the law keeps right on beating “Pilgrim,” because, in its first use, it does not know mercy, though it’s purpose is to point us to the merciful one.

John Calvin put the function of the first use of the law this way,

“(By) exhibiting the righteousness of God, — in other words, the righteousness which alone is acceptable to God, — it admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him.”

The second use of the law is commonly referred to as the the civil use (usus politicus sive civilis). That is, the law serves the commonwealth or body politic as a force to restrain sin. You were in Church last week and in the introduction to the Sermon we glanced against that idea a little bit when I spoke of how much of God’s law, because of Alfred the Great’s work had been woven into English Common Law. The fact that we have still have laws that forbid marrying our sisters (as one example) is because the second use of the law is still taken seriously (though admittedly few people would understand or agree with that).

The third use of the law is the normative use (usus didacticus sive normativus). This use of the law is for those who trust in Christ and have been saved through faith apart from works. This use of the law serves as the norm that norms all norms in terms of Christian behavior. It answers the questions, “How shall then we live.” This use of the law is found in the Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Days 32-52.

So, the first use of the law is to show us and convict us of our sin, and that is what the Scriptures teach.

Rom.3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

In question #4 the Catechism then looks for precision.

Question 4. What does the law of God require of us?

Answer: Christ teaches us that briefly, Matt. 22:37-40, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. This is the first and the great commandment; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

This requirement of the law is not good news for those outside of Christ, for those outside of Christ hate God and are lovers of self. The whole life of the pagan is to de-god God and en-god themselves. In the en-godding of themselves their only use for their neighbor is to serve them in their god-ness (i.e. — to use them). As those outside of Christ have themselves at the center of all reality, so they are convicted of violating God’s law requiring love to God and neighbor.

However, a word here regarding the Christian who hears these words. Remember, the call is to love God and neighbor perfectly. Who of us, who are in Christ, can ever say we love God and neighbor perfectly? None of us. And so as Christians when we hear this summary of the law we once again are reminded that our hope for meeting God’s law requirement is only met fully and completely in Christ. Yes, those of us in Christ, seek to love God and neighbor perfectly, and though we may make a good beginning in loving God and neighbor, and though we might make advance in loving God and neighbor, we must admit that if it were not for Christ’s love for the Father being put to our account we would not meet God’s just requirement to fulfill God’s law and so would be without hope.

The catechism cites a few other Scriptures that make it clear that man’s first and foremost responsibility is to love God and neighbor.

Deut.6:5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Lev.19:18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

Mark 12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

Luke 10:27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

Love to God is the purpose for which man was made. When man refuses to render up love to God and neighbor he may hurt his neighbor but he does not hurt to God. Man reaches out to strike God by his refusal to render up the love that God requires and the result is that he always strikes and injures himself.

When man refuses to love neighbor he creates a culture of conflict of interests instead of the harmony of interests that God created men unto. In the creation God created man to work in harmony with one another but what happens when man turns on God man creates a hell hole culture where everyone is seeking to take advantage of everyone else in order to get ahead. This is what man creates when he refuses to love neighbor.

The catechism ends this Lord’s day by asking,

“Question 5. Canst thou keep all these things perfectly?

Answer: In no wise; (a) for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbour.(b)

That we can not live up to God’s law perfectly is repeatedly taught in Scripture.

Rom.3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Rom.3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Rom.3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The catechism reminds us in answer #5

1.) That the requirement is to keep God’s law perfectly. No failings allowed.

2.) That sinful man not only does not love God but is prone by nature to hate God and neighbor.

When it comes to what God requires in terms of obedience is absolute perfection. 99.99% compliance is not acceptable and will result in eternal separation from God’s peace, bliss, and blessing. Remember, God is a perfectly Holy and just beings and were God to allow even small sinners into his presence, apart from Christ’s perfection, His Holiness and Justice would be rightly called into question. God has said, “The soul that sinneth shall surely die,” and that allows for no exceptions or God is a liar, and so not God.

All of this is complicated by the fact that human beings, by nature, are inclined to hate God and neighbor. This is called the doctrine of original sin. Because of man’s union with Adam (more on that later) man is born with a bent towards selfish self love that precludes love to God and neighbor and includes outright hatred of God and neighbor. Not all men express this inborn nature with the same intensity (thank God) but all men are prone, by nature, to hate God and neighbor. Unless God does something men are born to hate God and neighbor and cannot not hate God and neighbor and furthermore love to hate God and neighbor. Such is the ruin of man unto what God requires of him in His just law.

The doctrine of original sin teaches that we are not sinners because we sin but rather we sin because we are sinners. In order that love of God and neighbor might blossom in the breast of fallen man there must be a change (more on that later), but until that change comes, men outside of Christ spend their entire existence plotting and planning on how to express their hatred toward God and neighbor, all the while, insisting to themselves and others that they are the very wellspring of love and affection to “God” and neighbor.

Of course the Scriptures support what the catechism is teaching us here. In the catechism, we are not being given men’s opinions, but Gods truth.

(b) Rom.8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

Eph.2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Tit.3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.

Gen.6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Gen.8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Jer.17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Rom.7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Familialist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture. Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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