As Lutheran theology moved down
the Neckar River, Reformed theology traveled up the Rhine from Geneva,
Switzerland. The two theologies collided at Heidelberg, seat of the oldest
university in Germany and capital of the province known as the Palatinate.
Tension between Lutheran and Reformed Christians was intense. The Reformed
Christians did not hold to a real, bodily presence of Christ in the bread
and wine. To the Lutherans this was tantamount to abandoning the Lord's
Supper. Acting to end the controversy, Frederick III, the Elector and
ruler of the Palatinate, decreed that a catechism acceptable to both sides
be written. Completed in 1562, the Heidelberg Catechism was published in
January of the following year.
In time the
Heidelberg Catechism came to be recognized as generally,
“sweetspirited, experiential, clear, moderate and happily-phrased.”
This catechism is mainly the work of two of Calvin’s younger disciples,
Kaspar Olevianus and Zacharias Ursinus. The Heidelberg Catechism is
perhaps the most widely accepted symbol of the Calvinistic faith, and is
noteworthy for its emphasis on the less controversial aspects of Reformed
theology. As revised by the synod of Dordt in 1619 this catechism became
the standard of most of the Reformed churches of central Europe and, in
time, the Dutch and German Reformed churches of America. In Scotland
both Calvin’s Geneva Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism were
translated by order of the General Assembly and annotated.
influence of the Heidelberg Catechism in the church's preaching and
teaching continues to be felt in Germany, Austria, Holland, Hungary, parts
of Eastern Europe, Africa, Scotland, Canada, and the United States.
The Heidelberg Catechism opens with two questions
concerning our comfort in life and death. The knowledge that our only
comfort is in Jesus Christ frames the remainder of the catechism. Each of
its three parts corresponds to a line of Romans 7:24-25, where Paul
cries: "O Wretched man that I am; Who shall deliver me from this body of
death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord..." Thus, Part One
[questions 3-11] deal with our sin and guilt, Part Two [questions 12-85]
deal with the way in which God in Jesus Christ frees us, and Part Three
[questions 86-129] treat with the manner in which we express gratitude to
God for our redemption.
The Heidelberg Catechism
Lord's Day 1
1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in
death to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ has fully paid for all
my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of
the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall
from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things
must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by
his Holy Spirit assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly
willing and ready from now on to live for him.
2. What must you
know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second,
how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank
God for such redemption.
Wretched man that I am;
Lord's Day 2
3. How do you come
to know your miserable condition?
A. The law of God tells me.
4. What does God's
law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22: "'You shall
love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your minds [and with all your strength].' This is the greatest
and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your
neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the
5. Can you live up
to all this perfectly?
A. No. I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.
Lord's Day 3
6. Did God create
people so wicked and perverse?
A. No. God created them good and in God's own image, that is, in
true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their
creator, love God with all their heart, and live with God in eternal
happiness for God's praise and glory.
7. What is the
source of this corruption of human nature?
A. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in
Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived
and born in a sinful condition.
8. But are we so
corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all
A. Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.
Lord's Day 4
9. But doesn't God
do us an injustice by requiring in the law what we are unable to do?
A. No. God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.
They, however, tempted by the devil, in deliberate disobedience, robbed
themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.
10. Will God permit
such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A. Certainly not. God is terribly angry about the sin we are born
with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge God
punishes them now and in eternity. God has declared: "Cursed is everyone
who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the
11. But isn't God
A. God is indeed merciful but also just. Divine justice demands
that sin, committed against God's supreme majesty, be punished with the
supreme penalty eternal punishment of body and soul.
Who shall deliver me from this body of
Lord's Day 5
12. According to
God's righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and
forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's
requires that divine justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of this
justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or by another.
13. Can we pay this
A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.
14. Can another
creature any at all pay this debt for us?
A. No. God will not punish any other creature for what a human
being has committed. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of
God's eternal wrath against sin and release others from it.
15. What kind of
mediator and redeemer should we look for then?
A. One who is truly human and perfectly righteous, yet more
powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also truly God.
Lord's Day 6
16. Why must the
mediator be truly human and perfectly righteous?
A. God's justice demands that a human being must pay for human sin;
but a sinful human could never pay for others.
17. Why must the
mediator also be truly God?
A. So that the mediator, by the power of divinity, might bear the
weight of God's wrath as a human being, and earn for us and restore to us
righteousness and life.
18. Who is this
mediator true God and at the same time truly human and perfectly
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given to redeem us completely and
to make us right with God.
19. How do you come
to know this?
A. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already
in Paradise; later, God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets
and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law and,
finally, fulfilled it through God's own dear Son.
Lord's Day 7
20. Will all people
then be saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A. No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into
Christ and accept all his blessings.
21. What is true
A. It is not only a certain knowledge by which I accept as true all
that God has revealed to us in the Word, but also a wholehearted trust
which the Holy Spirit creates in me through the gospel, that, not only to
others, but to me also God has given the forgiveness of sins, everlasting
righteousness and salvation, out of sheer grace, solely for the sake of
Christ's saving work.
22. What then must a
A. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is
taught us in the articles of our universally acknowledged Christian faith.
23. What are these
A. I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy
Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was
crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell. The third day he rose
again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of
God the Father almighty. From thence he shall come to judge the living and
the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the
communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the
body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
Lord's Day 8
24. How are these
A. Into three parts: The first concerns God the Father and our
creation; the second, God the Son and our redemption; and the third, God
the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
25. Since there is
only one divine Being, why do you speak of three, Father, Son, and Holy
A. Because that is how God is revealed in God's own Word; these
three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.
Of God the Father...
Lord's Day 9
26. What do you
believe when you say, "I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of
heaven and earth?"
A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of
nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds
and rules them by eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father
because of Christ, God's Son. I trust God so much that I do not doubt that
God will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my
good whatever adversity God sends me in this sad world. God, being
almighty God, is able to do this; God, being a faithful Father, desires to
Lord's Day 10
27. What do you
understand by the providence of God?
A. The almighty and ever present power by which God upholds heaven
and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaves and grass, rain
and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and
sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by
chance but from God's sustaining hand.
28. How does the
knowledge of God's creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when
things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our
faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from God's love. All
creatures are so completely in God's hand that without the divine will
they can neither move nor be moved.
Of God the Son...
Lord's Day 11
29. Why is the Son
of God called "Jesus," meaning Savior?
A. Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation is not
to be sought or found in any other.
Do those who look for their salvation and security in saints, in
themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only Savior Jesus?
A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their deeds they deny
the only Savior and Redeemer Jesus. Either Jesus is not a perfect Savior,
or those who in true faith accept this Savior have in him all they need
for their salvation.
Lord's Day 12
Why is he called "Christ," meaning anointed?
A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been
anointed with the Holy Spirit to be our chief prophet and teacher who
perfectly reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God for our
redemption; our only high priest who has redeemed us by the one sacrifice
of his body, and who continually pleads our cause with the Father; and our
eternal king who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and
keeps us in the redemption he has won for us.
32. But why are you
called a Christian?
A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ and so I share in his
anointing. I am anointed to confess his name, to present myself to him as
a living sacrifice of thanks, to strive with a good conscience against sin
and the devil in this life, and afterward to reign with Christ over all
creation for all eternity.
Lord's Day 13
33. Why is he called
God's "only Son" when we also are God's children?
A. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God. We,
however, are adopted children of God adopted by grace through Christ.
34. Why do you call
him "our Lord"?
A. Because not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood he
has redeemed us from sin and from the power of the devil, and has brought
us, body and soul, to be his very own.
Lord's Day 14
35. What does it
mean that he "was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin
A. That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal
God, took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit, from the
flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a truly human nature so that he might
become David's true descendant, like his brothers and sisters in every way
except for sin.
36. How does the
holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?
A. He is our Mediator and, in God's sight, he covers with his
innocence and holiness the sinfulness in which I was conceived.
Lord's Day 15
37. What do you
understand by the word "suffered"?
A. That during his whole life on earth, and especially at the end,
Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the
whole human race. This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only
atoning sacrifice, he might redeem us, body and soul, from eternal
condemnation, and gain for us God's grace, righteousness, and eternal
38. Why did he
suffer "under Pontius Pilate" as judge?
A. So that he, though innocent, might be condemned by an earthly
judge, and so set us free from the severe judgment of God that was to fall
39. Is there
something more in his having been crucified than if he had died some other
A. Yes, for by this I am assured that he took upon himself the
curse which lay upon me, because the death of the cross was cursed by God.
Lord's Day 16
Why did Christ have to suffer "death"?
A. Because the righteousness and truth of God are such that nothing
else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God.
Why was he "buried"?
A. His burial testifies that he really died.
42. Since Christ has
died for us, why do we still have to die?
A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. Rather, it puts an
end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.
43. What further
advantage do we receive from Christ's sacrifice and death on the cross?
A. Through Christ's death our old selves are crucified, put to
death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no
longer rule in us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an
offering of gratitude to him.
44. Why does the
creed add, "He descended to hell"?
A. To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation that
Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of
soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the
anguish and torment of hell.
Lord's Day 17
45. How does
Christ's resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death that he might
make us share in the righteousness which he has obtained for us through
his death. Second, we too are now raised by his power to a new life.
Third, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge to us of our blessed
Lord's Day 18
46. What do you mean
by saying, "He ascended to heaven"?
A. That Christ was taken up from the earth into heaven before the
very eyes of his disciples and remains there on our behalf until he comes
again to judge the living and the dead.
47. But isn't Christ
with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A. Christ is truly human and truly god. In his human nature Christ
is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is
never absent from us.
48. If his humanity
is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren't the two natures of
Christ separated from each other?
A. Certainly not. Since divinity is incomprehensible and everywhere
present, it must follow that the divinity is indeed beyond the bounds of
the humanity which it has taken on, and is nonetheless ever in that
humanity as well, and remains personally united to it.
49. How does
Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?
A. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his
Father. Second, we have our flesh as a full guarantee in heaven that
Christ our head, will also take us, his members up to himself. Third, he
sends us, as a guarantee on earth, his Spirit by whose power we seek what
is above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God, and not
things that are on earth.
Lord's Day 19
Why the next words: "and sits at the right hand of God"?
A. Christ ascended to heaven so that he might show there that he is
head of his church, and that the Father rules all things through him.
How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?
A. First, through his Holy Spirit he pours out his gifts from
heaven upon us his members. Second, by his power he defends us and keeps
us safe from all enemies.
52. How does
Christ's return "to judge the living and the dead" comfort you?
A. In all my affliction and persecution I may await with head held
high the very Judge from heaven who has already submitted himself to the
judgment of God for me and has removed all the curse from me. He will cast
all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but he will take
me and all his chosen ones to himself into the joy and glory of heaven.
Of the Holy Spirit...
Lord's Day 20
What do you believe concerning "the Holy Spirit"?
A. First, the Spirit, with the Father and the Son, is eternal God.
Second, the Spirit has been given to me personally and, by true faith,
makes me share in Christ and all his blessings, comforts me, and remains
with me forever.
Lord's Day 21
54. What do you
believe concerning "the holy catholic church"?
A. I believe that the Son of God through his Spirit and Word, out
of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end,
gathers, protects, and preserves for himself a community chosen for
eternal life and united in true faith. Moreover, I believe that I am and
forever will remain a living member of it.
55. What do you
understand by "the communion of saints"?
A. First, that believers one and all, as members of this community,
share in Christ and in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each
member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully
for the service and enrichment of the other members.
56. What do you
believe concerning "the forgiveness of sins"?
A. I believe that God, because of Christ's atonement, will never
hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to
struggle against all my life. Rather, God by grace grants me the
righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.
Lord's Day 22
57. How does "the
resurrection of the body" comfort you?
A. Not only will my soul be taken immediately after this life to
Christ its head, but even my very flesh, raised by the power of Christ,
will be reunited with my soul and made like Christ's glorious body.
58. How does the
article concerning "life everlasting" comfort you?
A. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of
eternal joy, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no
eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart has ever imagined: a
blessedness in which to praise God forever.
Lord's Day 23
59. What good does
it do you, however, to believe all this?
A. In Christ I am right with God and heir to life everlasting.
How are you right with God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience
accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments and
of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still ever inclined
toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of
sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction,
righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a
sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for
me. All I need to do is accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
Why do you say that you are right with God by faith alone?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased
with me. Only Christ's satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me
right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in
no other way than by faith alone.
Lord's Day 24
Why can't the good works we do make us right, or at least help make us
right, with God?
A. Because the righteousness which can pass God's scrutiny must be
entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law. Even
the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin.
63. Then don't our
good works merit anything when God has promised to reward them in this
life and the next?
A. This reward is not earned; it is a gift of grace.
64. But doesn't this
teaching make people careless and wicked?
A. No, for it is impossible for those who are grafted into Christ
by true faith not to bring forth the fruit of gratitude.
Of the Sacraments...
Lord's Day 25
65. Since, then,
faith alone makes us share in Christ and all his blessings, where does
that faith come from?
A. The Holy Spirit creates it in our hearts by the preaching of the
holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.
66. What are the
A. They are visible, holy signs and seals instituted by God so that
by their use God may make us understand more clearly the promise of the
gospel, and put the divine seal on that promise; namely to grant us the
forgiveness of sins and eternal life, by grace alone, because of the one
sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross.
67. Are both the
Word and the sacraments intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of
Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
A. Right! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us, and through the
holy sacraments assures us, that our entire salvation rests on Christ's
one sacrifice for us on the cross.
68. How many
sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
A. Two: baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Lord's Day 26
69. How does baptism
remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for
A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it
gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the
body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul's impurity,
in other words, all my sins.
What does it mean to be washed with the blood and Spirit of Christ?
A. It means to have forgiveness of sins from God, through grace,
for the sake of Christ's blood which is shed for us in his sacrifice on
the cross, and also to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and sanctified as
members of Christ, so that we may more and more die unto sin and live in a
consecrated and blameless way.
Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as
surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
A. In the institution of baptism where he says: "Go therefore and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." "The one who believes and is
baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be
condemned." This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism the
water of rebirth and the washing away of sins.
Lord's Day 27
Does the outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
A. No, only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse
us from all sins.
73. Why then does
the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of rebirth and the washing away
A. God has good reason for these words, intending to teach us that
the blood and Spirit of Christ wash away our sins just as water washes
away dirt from our bodies. But more important, God intends to assure us,
by this divine pledge and sign, that the washing away of our sins
spiritually is as real as physical washing with water.
74. Should infants,
too, be baptized?
A. Yes. Infants as well as adults are in God's covenant and belong
to God's people. They, no less than adults, are promised the forgiveness
of sins through Christ's blood and the Holy Spirit who gives faith.
Therefore, by baptism, the sign of the covenant, infants should be
received into the Christian church and should be distinguished from the
children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Testament by
circumcision, which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.
Of the Lord's Supper...
Lord's Day 28
75. How does the
Lord's Supper remind and assure you that you share in the one sacrifice of
Christ on the cross and in all his gifts?
A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat of
this broken bread and to drink of this cup. He has thereby promised:
First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me
and the cup shared with me, so surely his body was offered and broken for
me and his blood was shed for me. Second, as surely as I receive from the
hand of the one who serves and actually taste the bread and the cup of the
Lord which are given me as sure signs of the body and blood of Christ, so
surely he feeds and nourishes my soul to everlasting life with his
crucified body and shed blood.
76. What does it
mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his shed blood?
A. It means to accept with a believing heart the whole passion and
death of Christ, and by it to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal
life. In addition, it means to be united more and more to his blessed body
by the Holy Spirit dwelling both in Christ and in us that, although he is
in heaven and we are on earth, we are nevertheless flesh of his flesh and
bone of his bone, always living and being governed by one Spirit, as the
members of our bodies are governed by one soul.
77. Where has Christ
promised that he will feed and nourish believers with his body and blood
just as surely as they eat of this broken bread and drink of this cup?
A. In the institution of the Lord's Supper which reads: "...that
the Lord Jesus, on the night when he was betrayed, took a loaf of bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body that
is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup
also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do
this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For as often as you
eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he
comes." This promise is repeated by Paul in these words: "The cup of
blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The
bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because
there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of
the one bread.
Lord's Day 29
78. Are the bread
and wine changed into the real body and blood of Christ?
A. No. Just as the water of baptism is not changed into Christ's
blood and does not itself wash away sins but is simply God's sign and
assurance, so too the bread of the Lord's Supper is not changed into the
actual body of Christ even though it is called the body of Christ in
keeping with the nature and language of sacraments.
79. Why then does
Christ call the bread his body and the cup his blood, or the new covenant
in his blood? And why does the apostle Paul call the supper a
participation in the body and blood of Christ?
A. Christ has good reason for these words. He intends to teach us
that as bread and wine nourish this temporal life, so too his crucified
body and shed blood truly nourish our souls for eternal life. But more
important, he intends to assure us, by this visible sign and pledge, that
we, through the work of the Holy Spirit, share in his true body and blood
as surely as our mouths receive these holy signs in his remembrance. He
also intends to assure us that all his suffering and obedience are as
definitely ours as if we personally had suffered and paid for our sins.
Lord's Day 30
80. What difference is
there between the Lord's supper and the popish [Catholic] mass?
A. The Lord's supper
testifies to us, that we have a full pardon of all sin by the only
sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which he himself has once accomplished on the
cross; and, that we by the Holy Ghost are ingrafted into Christ, who,
according to his human nature is now not on earth, but in heaven, at the
right hand of God his Father, and will there be worshipped by us: - but
the mass teaches, that the living and dead have not the pardon of sins
though the sufferings of Christ, unless Christ is also daily offered for
them by the priests; and further, that Christ is bodily under the form of
bread and wine, and therefore is to be worshipped in them; so that the
mass, as bottom, is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and
sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.
81. Who ought to
come to the table of the Lord?
A. Those who are displeased with themselves for their sins, and who
nevertheless trust that these sins have been forgiven them and that their
remaining weakness is covered by the passion and death of Christ, and who
also desire more and more to strengthen their faith and make their life
whole. The unrepentant and hypocrites, however, eat and drink judgment to
82. Should those be
admitted to the Lord's Supper who show by what they say and do that they
are unbelieving and ungodly?
A. No, that would dishonor God's covenant and bring down God's
wrath upon the entire congregation. Therefore, according to the
instruction of Christ and his apostles, the Christian church is duty-bound
to exclude such people, by the official use of the keys of the kingdom,
until they reform their lives.
Lord's Day 31
83. What are the
keys of the kingdom?
A. The preaching of the holy gospel and Christian discipline. Both
preaching and discipline open the kingdom of heaven to believers and close
it to unbelievers.
84. How does
preaching the gospel open and close the kingdom of heaven?
A. According to the command of Christ: The kingdom of heaven is
opened by proclaiming and publicly declaring to all believers, each and
every one, that, as often as they accept the gospel promise in true faith,
God, because of what Christ has done, truly forgives all their sins. The
kingdom of heaven is closed, however, by proclaiming and publicly
declaring to unbelievers and hypocrites that, as long as they do not
repent, the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rest on them. God's
judgment, both in this life and in the life to come, is based on this
85. How is the
kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
A. According to the command of Christ: Those who, though called
Christians, profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives, and
after repeated and loving counsel refuse to abandon their errors and
wickedness, and after being reported to the church, that is, to its
officers, fail to respond also to their admonition such persons the
officers exclude from the Christian fellowship by withholding the
sacraments from them, and God excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.
Such persons, when promising and demonstrating genuine reform, are
received again as members of Christ and of his church.
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord...
Lord's Day 32
86. Since then we
are redeemed from our sin and misery by grace through Christ without any
merit of our own, why must we do good works?
A. Because just as Christ has redeemed us with his blood he also
renews us through his Holy Spirit according to his own image, so that with
our whole life we may show ourselves grateful to God for his goodness and
that he may be glorified through us; and further, so that we ourselves may
be assured of our faith by its fruits and by our godly living may win our
neighbors to Christ.
87. Can those be
saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and unrepentant ways?
A. Certainly not. Scripture says: "Do you not know that wrongdoers
will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators,
idolaters, adulterers,...thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers
none of these will inherit the kingdom of God."
Lord's Day 33
88. What is involved
in genuine repentance or conversion?
A. Two things: the dying of the old self, and the coming to life of
89. What is the
dying of the old self?
A. It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more,
and to run away from it.
90. What is the
coming-to-life of the new self?
A. It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ and a strong desire
to live according to the will of God in all good works.
What are good works?
A. Only those which are done out of true faith, conform to God's
law, and are done for God's glory, and not those based on our own opinion
or human tradition.
Of the Ten Commandments...
Lord's Day 34
What does the Lord say in his law?
A. 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 fourth generation of those who reject me, but
showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my
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 [the divine] 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 the 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 you 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 you neighbor."
The Tenth Commandment...
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; You shall not covet you
neighbor's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything
that belongs to you neighbor."
93. How are these
A. Into two tables: the first has four commandments, teaching us
what our relation to God should be. The second has six commandments,
teaching us what we owe our neighbor
94. What does the
Lord require in the first commandment?
A. 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 sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust God
alone, 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.
95. What is
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in
place of, or alongside of, the only true God who is self-revealed in the
Lord's Day 35
96. What is God's
will for us in the second commandment?
A. That we should not represent or worship God in any other manner
than God has commanded in the Word.
97. May we not then
make any image at all?
A. God cannot and may not be visible portrayed in any way. Although
creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images
if one's intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.
98. May not images
be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?
A. No. We should not try to be wiser than God. God wants us to be
instructed by the living preaching of the Word not by idols that cannot
Lord's Day 36
99. What is God's
will for us in the third commandment?
A. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing,
perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being
silent bystanders. In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God
only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess God, pray to
God, and glorify God in all our words and works.
100. Is blasphemy of
God's holy name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God
is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent and
A. Yes, indeed; for no sin is greater or provokes God's wrath more
then the profaning of the divine name. That is why God commanded it to be
punished with death.
Lord's Day 37
101. May we swear an
oath in God's name if we do it reverently?
A. Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires
it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God's
glory and our neighbor's good. Such oaths are approved in God's Word and
were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.
102. May we also
swear by saints or other creatures?
A. No. A legitimate oath is calling upon God, as the only one who
knows my heart, to witness my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear
falsely. No creature deserves such honor.
Lord's Day 38
103. What is God's
will for us in the fourth commandment?
A. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be
maintained, and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly
attend the assembly of God's people to learn what God's Word teaches, to
participate in the sacraments, to pray to God publicly, and to bring
Christian offerings for the poor. Second, that every day of my life I rest
from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through the Spirit, and so
begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.
Lord's Day 39
104. What is God's
will for us in the fifth commandment?
A. That I show honor, love, and loyalty 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 correction; and also that I be patient with
their failings, for through them God chooses to rule us.
Lord's Day 40
105. What is God's
will for us in the sixth commandment?
A. I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor not by
my thoughts, my words, my look, or gesture and certainly not by actual
deeds and I am not to be party to this in others; rather, I am to put away
all desire for revenge. I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself
either. Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the
106. Does this
commandment refer only to murder?
A. God's prohibition of murder teaches us that God hates the root
of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness. In God's sight all such
are hidden murder.
107. Is it enough
then that we not murder our neighbor in any such way?
A. No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God wants us to love
our neighbors as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy,
and friendliness towards them, to protect them from harm as much as we
can, and to do good even to our enemies.
Lord's Day 41
108. What is God's
will for us in the seventh commandment?
A. God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly
detest it and, married or single, live chaste and decent lives.
109. Does God, in
this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?
A. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants
both to be kept clean and holy. That is why God forbids everything which
incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talks, thoughts, or
Lord's Day 42
110. What does God
forbid in the eighth commandment?
A. God forbids not only the theft and robbery which civil
authorities punish, but God also labels as theft all wicked tricks and
schemes by which we seek to get for ourselves our neighbor's goods,
whether by force or under the pretext of right, such as false weights and
measures, deceptive advertising or merchandising, counterfeit money,
exorbitant interest, or any other means forbidden by God. In addition God
forbids all greed and pointless squandering of his gifts.
111. What does God
require of us in this commandment?
A. That I do whatever I can for my neighbor's good, that I treat
others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so
that I may share with those in need.
Lord's Day 43
112. What is God's
will for us in the ninth commandment?
A. That I do not give false testimony against anyone, twist
anyone's words, or gossip or slander, or join in condemning anyone without
a hearing or without just cause. Rather, in court and everywhere else, I
should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil
uses, and they would call down on me God's intense wrath. I should love
the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do
what I can to defend and advance my neighbor's good name.
Lord's Day 44
113. What is God's
will for us in the tenth commandment?
A. That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any
one of God's commandments should ever arise in our hearts. Rather, with
all our heart we should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is
114. Can those
converted to God obey these commandments perfectly?
A. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of
this obedience. Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do
begin to live according to all, not only some, of God's commandments.
115. Why, then, does
God have the Ten Commandments preached so strictly since no one can keep
them in this life?
A. First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know
our sinfulness and the more we may eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness
of sins and righteousness. Second, so that, while praying to God for the
grace of the Holy Spirit, we may never stop striving to be renewed more
and more after God's image, until after this life we reach our goal:
116. Why do
Christians need to pray?
A. Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness
God requires of us. And also because God gives divine grace and the Holy
Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God
for these gifts and thanking God for them.
117. What is in a
prayer which pleases and is heard by God?
A. First, that we sincerely call upon the one true God, who is
self-revealed to us in the Word, for all that we are commanded to ask of
God. Second, that we truly acknowledge our need and misery, and humble
ourselves in God's majestic presence. Third, that we rest assured that,
even though we don't deserve it, God will certainly hear our prayer
because of Christ our Lord, as God has promised in the Word.
118. What has God
commanded us to request?
A. All things necessary for soul and body which Christ the Lord has
included in the prayer which he himself taught us.
119. What is this prayer?
A. "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your
name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also
have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but
rescue us from the evil one." ["For the kingdom and the power and the
glory are yours forever. Amen."]
Lord's Day 46
120. Why has Christ
commanded us to address God: "Our Father"?
A. That at the very beginning of our prayer he may awaken in us the
childlike reverence and trust toward God which should be basic to our
prayer, which is that God has become our Father through Christ and will
much less deny us what we ask in faith than our human fathers and mothers
will refuse us earthly things.
121. Why the words
A. These words teach us not to think of God's heavenly majesty as
something earthly, and to expect everything for body and soul from God's
Lord's Day 47
122. What is the
A. "Hallowed be your name" means: Help us first of all really to
know you, to bless, glorify, and praise you for all your works and for all
that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness,
justice, mercy, and truth. And it means: Help us to direct all our living
what we think, say, and do so that your name will never be blasphemed
because of us but always honored and praised.
Lord's Day 48
123. What is the
A. "Your kingdom come" means: Rule us by your Word and Spirit in
such a way that more and more we submit to you. Keep your church strong,
and add to it. Destroy the devil's work; destroy every force which revolts
against you and every conspiracy against your Word. Do this until your
kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.
Lord's Day 49
124. What is the
A. "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" means: Help us
and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any
back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the
work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in
Lord's Day 50
125. What is the
A. "Give us this day our daily bread" means: Do take care of all
our physical needs so that we come to acknowledge you as the only source
of everything good, and that without your blessing neither our work and
worry nor your gifts can do us any good.
Lord's Day 51
126. What is the
A. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors"
means: Because of Christ's blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners
that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to
us. Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace
in us, to forgive our neighbors.
Lord's Day 52
127. What is the
A. "And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from
the evil one" means: By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for
a moment. And our sworn enemies the devil, the world, and our own flesh
never stop attacking us. And so, Lord, uphold us and make us strong with
the strength of your Holy Spirit, so that we may not go down to defeat in
this spiritual struggle, but may firmly resist our enemies until we
finally win the complete victory.
128. What does your
conclusion to this prayer mean?
A. "For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours forever"
means: We ask all this of you because, as our ruler, you are willing and
able to give us all that is good since you have power over everything, and
because, not we ourselves, but your holy name should be glorified forever.
129. What is the
meaning of the little word "Amen"?
A. "Amen" means: This shall truly and surely be. It is even more
sure that God heard my prayer than that I really desire what I pray for.