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Six Good Features of the Heidelberg Catechism

April 8, 2013

Published in 1563 (exactly 450 years ago), the Heidelberg Catechism is:

1. Personal in its tone. Notice for example the personal pronouns I, my, & me in Lord’s Day 1, Question & Answer 1:

What is your only comfort in life and death?

That I am not my own, but belong body and soul, in life and in death to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny 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 whole heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

2. Precise in its question and answer. Take Lord’s Day 1, Question & Answer 2 for instance:

What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort [the comfort mentioned in Question & Answer 1]?

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 deliverance.

3. Practical or experiential in its nature. Observe how it draws some practical implications from the doctrine of Christ’s ascension in Lord’s Day 17.

How does Christ ascension into heaven benefit us?

First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

4. Packed with scriptural references. Lord’s Day 1 has already more than thirty scriptural references. Thus, to call the Heidelberg Catechism “an echo of the Bible” is not an exaggeration. In fact, sometimes it answers with a direct quotation from the Bible:

Lord’s Day 2 asks: What does God’s law require of us? It answers: Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

5. Pastoral in its purpose. It is designed to be used for God’s people’s comfort which is the overall theme of the catechism. Countless Christians have found comfort in this document.

6. Pedagogical in its use. It is an excellent tool for bible study or Sunday school. Indeed, it is a helpful manual for catechizing our children.

I am thankful to God for this catechism. What else do you think are some of the good features of this document?

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