Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 34
Q 92. What is God’s law?
A 92. God spoke all these words:
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”
THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”
THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”
THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.”
THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not murder.”
THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not commit adultery.”
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not steal.”
THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Q 93. How are these commandments divided?
A 93. Into two tables. The first has four commandments, teaching us how we ought to live in relation to God. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.
Q 94. What does the Lord require in the first commandment?
A 94. That I, not wanting to endanger my own salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, sorcery, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.
That I rightly know the only true God, trust him alone, and look to God for every good thing humbly and patiently, and love, fear, and honor God with all my heart.
In short, that I give up anything rather than go against God’s will in any way.
Q 95. What is idolatry?
A 95. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word.
That Law of God has, in modern times, gotten some pretty bad press. All the rules and regulations that are laid down in Scripture causes people to feel the weight and the guilt of our sins. Often, people have turned to the New Testament, ignoring this part of Scripture completely.
“God is love,” we say, “and He loves me for who I am.”
While certainly this is true. God loves everyone in spite of who we are; He loves us for who He knows us to be… who He calls us to be.
So what about this law stuff then? Is it obsolete? Old news? Not relevant?
The simple answer is no.
We often overlook this, but it is important to note that the writers of the Heidelberg Catechism placed the exposition of the Law in the “gratitude” section, not the “guilt” section. I tend to think there are two important purposes for this.
First, it is important to understand that new and renewed life that God calls us to live in gratitude for the gift of grace that we are given. The Law, specifically the 10 Commandments or their Jesus given summary: Love God and Love Neighbor, create a model for a life set apart for God. While many of these would seem self-evident, one doesn’t have to look far to see a culture in which things like “idolatry” or “sabbath” mean very little. Yet we are called to be counter-cultural and set apart from the world.
Really, what these commandments have to do with is love. As Jesus said, they are indeed summed up in two commands: Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Properly oriented love is the way that God calls us to live. Misdirected, misguided, misoriented love is what causes us to sin. This is the fundamental root of idolatry: disoriented love. Whether this shows up through selfish behavior or worship of the “other,” that is elevating things to a level of importance in our life that is equal to or above God, it is disoriented love.
That brings us to the second reason for these commandments: sin. Scripture says that the Law is in place to help us recognize our sin. Yet, we still find this in the “gratitude” section. Why? Because sin is not the end of the story. Sin simply reveals to us our desperate need for a savior, for our Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we skip over all this “law stuff,” we actually tend to overlook the problem of sin. While no one really likes to talk about their sin, it is important that we understand its presence in our lives. Without sin, we don’t need a savior. Without a savior, there is no Jesus and no grace. If those do not exist, the Christianity is nothing more than a religious gathering with semi-professional motivational speakers… all of which amount to nothing significant beyond this life.
No, sin is real, and so is our need for a Savior. The 10 commandments reveal that need within us in a very real, very stark way. The exposition of these commandments brings these out in an even more in depth manner. It not only reveals, but through Scripture, begins to root out the presence of sin through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Then, not only can we be grateful for the grace we are shown in Jesus Christ, we can rejoice in the understanding that God isn’t finished with us yet. He loves us so much that He will continue His good work in us until the day that Jesus Christ comes again and we are glorified with Him and live in His presence forever!