What is Your Only Comfort in Life and Death

 

The first 23 Questions and Answers of the Heidelberg Catechism

 


 

1 Q. 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.

 

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 wholeheartedly willing and ready

from now on to live for him.

 

2 Q. 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 deliverance.

 

Part I: Human Misery

 

3 Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

 

4 Q. What does God's law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:

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 first and greatest commandment.

 

And the second is like it:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

All the Law and the Prophets hang

on these two commandments.

 

5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No.

I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.

 

6 Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?

A. No.

God created them good and in his own image,

that is, in true righteousness and holiness,

so that they might

truly know God their creator,

love him with all their heart,

and live with him in eternal happiness

for his praise and glory.

 

7 Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?

A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents,

Adam and Eve, in Paradise.

This fall has so poisoned our nature

that we are born sinners

corrupt from conception on.

 

8 Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are born again,

by the Spirit of God.

 

9 Q. But doesn't God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

A. No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law.

They, however, tempted by the devil,

in reckless disobedience

robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.

 

10 Q. Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

A. Certainly not.

He is terribly angry

about the sin we are born with

as well as the sins we personally commit.

 

As a just judge

he punishes them now and in eternity.

 

He has declared:

"Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do

everything written in the Book of the Law. "

 

11 Q. But isn't God also merciful?

A. God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. His justice demands

that sin, committed against his supreme majesty,

be punished with the supreme penalty–

eternal punishment of body and soul.

 

Part II Deliverance

 

12 Q. 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 favor?

A. God requires that his justice be satisfied.

Therefore the claims of his justice

must be paid in full,

either by ourselves or another.

 

13 Q. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

A. Certainly not.

Actually, we increase our guilt every day.

 

14 Q. Can another creature-any at all pay this debt for us?

A. No.

To begin with,

God will not punish another creature

for what a human is guilty of.

Besides,

no mere creature can bear the weight

of God's eternal anger against sin

and release others from it.

 

15 Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

A. One who is truly human and truly righteous,

yet more powerful than all creatures,

that is, one who is also true God.

 

16 Q. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

A. God's justice demands

that human nature, which has sinned,

must pay for its sin;

but a sinner could never pay for others.

 

17 Q. Why must he also be true God?

A. So that,

by the power of his divinity,

he might bear the weight of God's anger in his humanity

and earn for us

and restore to us

righteousness and life.

 

18 Q. And who is this mediator––true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

A. Our Lord Jesus Christ,

who was given us

to set us completely free

and to make us right with God.

 

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me.

God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;

later, he proclaimed it

by the holy patriarchs and prophets,

and portrayed it

by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;

finally, he fulfilled it

through his own dear Son.

 

20 Q. Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?

A. No.

Only those are saved

who by true faith

are grafted into Christ

and accept all his blessings.

 

21 Q. What is true faith?

A. True faith is

not only a knowledge and conviction

that everything God reveals in his Word is true

it is also a deep-rooted assurance,

created in me by the Holy Spirit through the gospel,

that, out of sheer grace earned for us by Christ,

not only others, but I too,

have had my sins forgiven,

have been made forever right with God,

and have been granted salvation.

 

22 Q. What then must a Christian believe?

A. Everything God promises us in the gospel.

That gospel is summarized for us

in the articles of our Christian faith

a creed beyond doubt,

and confessed throughout the world.

 

23 Q. What are these articles?

A. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

 

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit

and born of the virgin Mary.

He suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to hell.

The third day he rose again from the dead.

He ascended to heaven

and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.

From there he will 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.

 


These are the first 21 questions and answers of the Heidelberg Catechism

A Complete Edition of the Heidelberg Catechism is at http://www.prca.org/hc_index.html.

Many other Catechisms & Reformed Confessions are at http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html