Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 1

Q1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?


That I with body and soul, both in life and death,am not my own,2 but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ;who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins,and delivered me from all the power of the devil;and so preserves methat without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.11


[1] 1 Corinthians 6:19–20;  [2] Romans 14:7–9;  [3] 1 Corinthians 3:23;   [4] 1 Peter 1:18–19;   [5] John 1:17;  [6] 1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14–15;   [7] John 6:39; John 10:28–29;  [8] Luke 21:18; Matthew 10:30;  [9] Romans 8:28;  [10] 2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5;  [11] Romans 8:14; 7:22.



Q2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?


Three;1 the first, how great my sin and miseries are;[2] the second, how I may be delivered from all my sins and miseries;[3] the third, how I shall express my gratitude to God for such deliverance.


1 Luke 24:47;   [2] 1 Corinthians 6:10, 11; John 9:41; Romans 3:10, 19;   [3] John 17:3;  [4] Ephesians 5:8–10.

Commentary


The Heidelberg Catechism (HC) was penned by Zacharias Ursinus, professor at Heidelberg University, Germany, under the behest of Elector Frederick III. It was first published in 1563, but only became part of the Three Forms of Unity adopted by the Dutch Reformed Churches at the Synod of Dort, 1618–1619.


One who is familiar with the Westminster Shorter Catechism will immediately notice the difference in style between the two catechisms. The 
WSC is sublime, succinct, systematic and objective. The HC is personal, warm and often subjective. Apart from these outward difference, and the fact that the WSC reflects a more mature development of Covenant Theology, the contents of the two catechisms are largely in agreement. One who holds to the WSC would generally have no difficulty at all with the doctrine laid down in the HC and vice versa. Such is the unity of faith that exists between the different Reformed traditions.


Since the third edition of the Catechism, the 129 questions and answers have been divided into 52 Lord’s Day with the view of having the Catechism preached through once a year in the churches that adopt it as a standard. Our brief survey of this beautiful Catechism will follow this division.


The first two questions, as given above, are really introductory questions. Question 1 are minds us how we may have meaning in life by reclaiming what has been lost to mankind on account of the Fall of Adam, namely, comfort. Because of the entrance and existence of sin, and the consequent separation from God, man can no more naturally have any peace of conscience, nor assurance of any favourableness or blessedness in this life or the life to come. Man continues to yearn after comfort or freedom from pain and distresses, but this comfort eludes him who searches by his own effort. It can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ, by those who are united with Him by grace through faith. My chief comfort, therefore, comes through knowing that I belong wholly to the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed me by His blood, thereby delivering me from the power of sin and Satan and rescuing me from the wrath of God. And as Christ has paid an infinite price for my redemption, I have the assurance that He will preserve my soul and body both in life and death, so that nothing will separate me from His love. And not only so, but He gives me His Holy Spirit to assure me of His love, and to enable me to live a life pleasing to Him.


Question 2 gives a summary of the knowledge that we need to have in order that we may enjoy this comfort. This three-point summary forms the outline of the rest of the Catechism, 
viz., Knowledge of (1) My sin and misery (Questions 3–11); (2) The way of deliverance (Questions 12–85); and (3) How to live a life of gratitude (Questions 86–129).