Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
The Heidelberg Catechism, published in 1563, was the work of two men, Zacharias Ursinus (a seminary professor) and Casper Olevianus (a minister) who lived in Heidelberg, Germany. They were asked by Frederick III, a ruler of a German state called the Palatinate, to prepare a catechism “to help the churches in his land to be Reformed in their doctrine rather than Roman Catholic or Lutheran or Baptist” (Rev. Norman Jones, Study Helps on the Heidelberg Catechism). Frederick “wanted a book that showed the heart of the gospel to men, women, boys, and girls who needed the comfort that only God can give” (William Boekestein, The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism).
1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
The catechism begins with the clear and simple testimony of a pardoned soul: the only comfort in life and in death is belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who loves us so much that He shed His blood for us on the cross. He fully paid for all our sins, so that we are forgiven of all our sins, and adopted into God’s family as His beloved children. The Holy Spirit lives in us to assure us that we are God’s children (Romans 8:15), and that “nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39); “whether we live, or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). The Holy Spirit also makes us willing to live for Him who died for us (2 Corinthians 5:15).
2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?
How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily? Three things: First, the greatness of my sin and misery. Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery. Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.
Based on the three main sections of the book of Romans, Question 2 gives the three main things every true Christian knows: (1) the greatness of their sin and misery; (2) how they have been saved from their sin and misery; and (3) how to show themselves thankful to God for salvation. Every Christian knows sin, salvation, and service–in that order. Sin, like a terrible disease, makes us seek the Physician’s remedy of salvation; which produces a life of thankful service.
The rest of the Catechism will explain these 3 topics:
- Sin (Questions 3-11)
- Salvation (Questions 12-85)
- Service (Questions 86-129)