Caleb’s Baptism — Lord’s Day IV (a)


Lord’s Day #4 is the final Lord’s Day in the first section of Man’s Sin & Misery and it begins by explicitly bringing forward what was implicit in Lord’s Day #3 and that is the issue of “fairness.” Lord’s Day #3 began with, “Did God create man so wicked and perverse,” so as to clear God’s name for man’s depravity. Lord’s Day 4 begins with

4. Lord’s Day

Question 9. Does not God then do injustice to man, by requiring from him in his law, that which he cannot perform?

Just as in question #6 of the previous Lord’s Day the reason that question #9 is framed the way it is, is in order to clear God’s name of doing man injustice. So, God did not create man so wicked and perverse and so is not responsible for man’s wickedness and perversion and God does not do fallen man a disservice by requiring of fallen man what he cannot preform.

This simple idea that fallen man is responsible to obey God though not able to obey God is foundational to understanding Biblical Christianity Caleb. The Christian Church that is orthodox everywhere teaches that responsibility does not imply ability. Fallen man is responsible to have faith, repent, and obey God but fallen man is not able to do that because of the depravity coming from the fall. Simply phrased, man’s responsibility to keep God’s law does not imply the ability to keep God’s law.

Most Churches deny the truth established here that man is responsible though unable. Most Churches, whether they are epistemologically self conscious regarding this issue or not presume that because God holds fallen man responsible to his law therefore fallen man is able to obey God’s law. As a result of believing this most Churches, somewhere in their evangelism, tuck the idea in their message that fallen man can do something in and of themselves that God requires in order to get right with God. Yet, Heidelberg Catechism (HC) question 9 forbids that kind of Humanist / Arminian thinking. If fallen man is able to get right with God by his ability to do something in and of himself (even if God is giving him co-operating grace) to meet what God requires in His law (faith, repentance, obedience) then fallen man saves himself. And yet, we learned from the last Lord’s Day #3 that man is totally depraved and so can contribute nothing to his salvation. Indeed, man is so dead in his trespasses and sins that apart from God’s grace alone he can not even become aware of his sin apart from God opening his eyes to see his sin.

So, when churches deny that responsibility does not imply ability they are denying a fundamental truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do overturn the graciousness of grace in our salvation. If Churches hold in their evangelism that someone’s decision to choose Christ is the pre-eminent fact that differentiates Christians from non-Christians then that Church believes mans responsibility to choose God implies his ability to choose God and so has given up the graciousness of grace. The pre-eminent fact that differentiates Christians from non-Christians is that the Spirit of God, because of the death of Christ for His elect, regenerated a man so that for the first time he has the ability to recognize his inability and cry out to God for mercy in the face of his responsibility to God.

While we are here we might as well give the flip side of this that some also hold in error. There are those who avoid the mistake of thinking that as God holds us responsible therefore we are able,” but fall into the error of thinking that “since fallen men are not able to obey God, therefore fallen men are not responsible to God.” God holds all mankind responsible to Himself and the lack of fallen man’s ability to obey God does not mean that we do not tell men that they are responsible to render up faith, repentance, and obedience.

Caleb’s Baptism (Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 3 – Q. 6-8)


You will remember that in our last entry we left off with the fact that man is required to keep God’s law perfectly and yet man is by nature prone to hate God and neighbor, thus revealing that man can not accomplish what God requires. Because of this deficiency in man — this proneness to hate God and neighbor — God’s disposition towards man is the disposition of a just Judge about to pass sentence on the guilty criminal.

At this point the Catechism pauses to query whose fault this wicked proneness, found in men, to hate God and neighbor is. Whose fault is it that man has this wicked sin nature? Is this sin nature that is prone to hate God and neighbor God’s fault?

Question 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?

In fallen man there is always the tendency to want to blame something besides themselves. Fallen man will always try and play the victim in order to excuse, rationalize, or justify his behavior. Even in Adam’s fall we find this tendency to want to play the victim and blame someone else. Eve blamed the serpent. Adam blamed both God and Eve. This predilection to not shoulder responsibility for our behavior is found everywhere yet today. We blame our parents. We blame our teachers. We blame our environment. We seldom hold ourselves responsible for our behavior.

And so the Catechism asks, in light of our proneness to hate God and neighbor if it is God’s fault that man is as wicked and perverse as he is. Before we charge on from here, pause just a moment to realize that what the Catechism has taught here is that man, outside of Christ, is duly characterized as “wicked and perverse.” Every person you meet, outside of Christ, is wicked and perverse. Now, not all men will be wicked in perverse in the same way or to the same degree but all men outside of Christ are prone to hate God and neighbor and so are wicked and perverse.

The Catechism answers this question that has been posed of whether God created men so wicked and perverse,

By no means; but God created man good, (a) and after his own image, (b) in true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love him and live with him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise him. (c)

Only after God had completed His creation with the creation of man did he pronounce all that He had made as “very good (Gen. 1:31).” Man was the crown of God’s creation and the man that God created was not created wicked and perverse nor with a sin nature prone to hate God and neighbor. The fact that there was no proneness to hate God, as man was originally created, is seen in the fact that Adam had intimate fellowship with God prior to his expulsion from God’s temple garden sanctuary due to his sin. The fact that there was no proneness to hate neighbor, as man was originally created, is seen in Adam’s delight in the presence of Eve.

Indeed, Adam was the very opposite of wicked and perverse upon creation. Adam was so excellent that he was the very image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and revealed that image when, like God, he exercised dominion. Adam’s presence in the garden, having dominion by tending and keeping the garden put under his charge, was a small scale model of God having dominion over the universe through His tending and keeping of the cosmos.

However, the image of God that God created man as, was found not only in man’s dominion activity, but it is also found in the reality God created man as truly righteous (legally innocent of any condemnation resulting from sin) and holy (set apart as unto God). Man was created not wicked and perverse but as legally innocent before God (in righteousness) and as set apart for God’s service (in Holiness) (Ephesians 4:24).

This man who was the image of God was not made to hate God but to know and love Him (Colossians 3:9-10).

So, this begs the obvious question, “If God did not create man so wicked and perverse, prone to hate God and neighbor, where does this sin nature of man come from?” or as the Catechism puts it,

Question 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?

First of all a word on “nature.” When Christianity speaks on man having a nature that is depraved it is saying that the substance or essence of man in his spiritual dimension is to be inclined towards evil. Because of the nature of birds they fly. Because of the nature of fish they swim. Because of the nature of dogs they bark. Because of the nature of man, they sin.

So, what is being emphasized here is that man has a depraved human nature. This belief is contrary to most people you bump into. I challenge you Caleb, to do a informal survey by asking your non Christian friends, “Do you think that you’re basically a good person,” and I am willing to bet that they would overwhelmingly say “yes.”

Indeed in some quarters it is believed that man does not have a nature at all. Man has no inclination towards anything and the individual man himself creates and recreates whenever he desires his own temporary nature. As a philosophy this is called “existentialism.” It is quite popular today though most people who are functional existentialists have no idea what the word means.

Back to the matter at hand. If God is not responsible for man’s depraved nature then who is responsible? The Catechism answers that question,

Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; (a) hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin. (b)

Man’s depraved nature is the consequence of man’s fall.

Note what is being presented here is the organic unity of the human race. All of mankind was contained in Adam and so when Adam sinned Adam despoiled his nature and that despoiled nature became the definitive identifying trait for all humans who would follow Adam (Romans 5:12). All men are conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and all men commit sin because of that sinful nature. Because this is true, any solution we must look for, must be a solution that addresses not merely our individual acts of sin but must provide something of an answer for the sin nature out of which our sinful acts make themselves known.

This idea that mankind is organically one is an important truth grasp that we will return to in later posts. As Americans we tend to think of people as individuals only without relation to other people. There is some truth in that, however there is also truth in the idea that mankind must be considered in its organic unity one with another. The Gospel makes no sense without its teaching on both original sin (that is the teaching we find here) and its teaching on Adam being man’s Federal Head (a teaching that we will find elsewhere in the Catechism and a teaching that reinforces the idea of man as considered in his organic unity from another angle).

The important matter to note here is that man cannot blame God for his depravity and is responsible for his own sin nature. Now someone might object, “Its not fair that I have a sin nature just because Adam blew it.” However, to object this way is only to 1.) indict God for His failure in creating a good enough representative of mankind, and 2.) To wail about the nature of reality as God has created it. Because of the organic unity of mankind, ma has a sin nature regardless of whether or not he thinks it fair.

The catechism then turns to the implication of this human depravity.

Question 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?

Answer: Indeed we are; (a) except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God. (b)

This answer is known as the doctrine of total depravity. Allow me to explain.

The Bible teaches that man’s nature is fallen and so depraved. Let’s consider just a few of the scriptures that clearly teach that truth,

Gen.8:21 The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth;

Romans 8:7 — The carnal mind is at warfare with God, for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so…

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.

Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. Job 15:14 What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? Job 15:16 How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?

Job 15:35 They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.

Isa.53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Spiritually man is dead in his sins and trespasses. All man outside of Christ can do is sin all the time. Total depravity teaches that every inclination of a man’s heart is bent away from pleasing God. Total depravity teaches that because of man’s fall all man can do is increase God’s hostility and animosity towards him. Conversely total depravity does not teach that all men are equally excellent in the expression of their depravity. Nor does it teach that all depravity among men will express itself the same way. Nor does it teach that when compared among themselves men cannot do relative good. The depravity of a man who funds a Children’s burn hospital is of a nobler quality then the depravity of a man who molests children. However, the actions of neither men, if outside of Christ, make no difference upon God one whit in terms of their standing before God. Both are condemned as sinners and both have the anger of God set against them. So a totally depraved person might do what we call “civil good” but that “civil good” avails nothing in terms of salvation.

This belief in the Scripture’s teaching on man’s total depravity sets off Reformed Christians as Biblical vs. other denominational expressions of Christianity. Because we believe that man’s total depravity is total we do not believe that man cooperates with God in any way in his being regenerated (born again). This sets us off from Lutherans, Wesleyans, Many Baptists, Church of Christ, Pentecostals, etc. if only because each of these believes, in one form or another, that God’s regenerating power can be resisted and as such they all teach, to one degree or another, that man is not totally depraved. In point of fact, anyone who accepts the premise that Jesus died for all individual men who have ever lived and who ever will live must deny total depravity.

Anyone who honestly believes in total depravity, as the Scripture defines it above, will be paedo-Reformed. All deviations from the Reformed faith are deviations at some point from the doctrine of total depravity. As such, belief in it and a right understanding of it is paramount because a great deal necessarily follows from the embrace of this truth. As such you won’t mind too terribly much if I drone on a bit.

In order to make fine distinctions let us continue to press on. The belief in total depravity is not the same thing as believing in Utter depravity. Utter depravity teaches that unbelieving man never gets anything right. Total depravity teaches that pagan man gets things right sometimes but when he does get things right in is in spite of his hatred toward God. Utter depravity teaches that we are all as wicked as we possibly could be. Total depravity teaches that there is always room for improvement in how depraved man can show himself. As Reformed Christians because we do not believe in Utter depravity we do believe, for example, that a pagan employer could treat his pagan employees in a manner that wasn’t abusive. The thing to note about total depravity is that Reformed Christians, following passages like Ephesians 4:17-19,

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, [a] excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality [b]for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

believe that men outside of Christ are corrupt at their core and that in all their thinking, acting, willing, and emoting, there is a bent towards sin. This is why they must be born again in order to no longer hate God and neighbor. Because man is totally depraved he is totally unable, apart from the regenerating work of the Spirit of God to do anything that pleases God.

The catechism, allows in a beam of hope when it introduces the idea of being regenerated by the Spirit of God. We are dead in our trespasses and sin, totally depraved and shot through with corruption. However, though our state is sad it is not hopeless. There is the hope that we might be regenerated by the Spirit of God. To be regenerated (born again) is to be given spiritual life so that we have a new nature which alters and counteracts our inclination to hate God and our neighbor. This regeneration is completely gracious (it is a reality that we are given that we do not deserve) and comes to us apart from our own will and decision (John 1:13, 3:3, 5). Being regenerated is something that must happen to us and is not something we can do to or for ourselves and is not something we can successfully resist or decline. Without being born again we cannot be part of God’s battalions nor enjoy His blessings.

Regeneration is a bringing to life and occurs when the Spirit of God is poured out on those who are His. It is a reality that gives us new inclinations and desires. This interior renewal happens within us so to speak and when coupled with what happens outside of us in the reality of imputation, (more on that later) and what will happen in the consummation (more on that later also) the consequence is salvation. A salvation for which we were set apart from eternity past.

So, in summary, God is not responsible for man’s sinful nature. In point of fact God created man as His image, which is to say having dominion, and in being righteous and holy. Because of the organic unity of mankind Adam’s fall in the garden means that all men now have a sin nature. This sin nature is so thorough that unless we are born again we are unable to do any good and are inclined to all wickedness.

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.

Caleb’s Baptism (2C)

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.

The Heidelberg & God’s Fifth Word

Q. What is God’s will for you
in the fifth commandment?

A. That I honor, love, and be loyal

to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline;1 and also that I be patient with their failings—2 for through them God chooses to rule us.3

1 Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:1
2 Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18
3 Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21

In God’s fifth word He has set aside
Honor for our family line
Love for our own is His desire
Fidelity to kin, what He requires
God has ordained that we would find
His eternal order where we first abide

In God’s family structure I should learn
The introduction to a godly order
By my parents I’m taught to obey
And instructed to walk in God’s way
This teaching begins in my family borders
So, as years unfold, from God I will not turn

Parental weakness with love is covered
In Parental shortcomings I understand
That through their faults, God sanctifies
So teaching me, that I must mortify
The sin that requires that they meet my demands
And the selfishness in me yet uncovered


In His fifth Word God has set aside
Honor for our family line
Love for our own is His desire
Fidelity to kin, what He requires
God has ordained that we would find
His eternal order where we first abide

In God’s family structure I learn
The introduction to a godly order
By my parents I’m taught to obey
And instructed to walk in God’s way
My teaching is within my family border
So that from God I will never turn

Parental weakness with love is covered
In Parental shortcomings I understand
That through their faults, God sanctifies
So teaching me, that I must mortify
Sin that requires they meet my demands
And the selfishness in me yet uncovered