Heidelberg Catechism

The Third Part: Gratitude 


Question 86: We have been delivered from our misery by God’s grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?

Answer: To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood. But we do good because Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself, so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all he has done for us,[1] and so that he may be praised through us.[2] And we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,[3] and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.[4]

[1] Rom. 6:13; 12:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:5-10 [2] Matt. 5:16; 1 Cor. 6:19-20 [3] Matt. 7:17-18; Gal. 5:22-24; 2 Pet. 1:10-11 [4] Matt. 5:14-16; Rom. 14:17-19; 1 Pet. 2:12; 3:1-2

Question 87: Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent ways?

Answer: By no means. Scripture tells us that no unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like is going to inherit the kingdom of God.[1]

[1] 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:1-20; 1 John 3:14


Question 88: What is involved in genuine repentance or conversion?

Answer: Two things: the dying-away of the old self, and the coming-to-life of the new.[1]

[1] Rom. 6:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:5-10

Question 89: What is the dying-away of the old self?

Answer: It is to be genuinely sorry for sin, to hate it more and more, and to run away from it.[1]

[1] Ps. 51:3-4, 17; Joel 2:12-13; Rom. 8:12-13; 2 Cor. 7:10

Question 90: What is the coming-to-life of the new self?

Answer: It is wholehearted joy in God through Christ[1] and a delight to do every kind of good as God wants us to.[2]

[1] Ps. 51:8, 12; Isa.57:15; Rom. 5:1; 14:17 [2] Rom. 6:10-11; Gal. 2:20

Question 91: What do we do that is good?

Answer: Only that which arises out of true faith,[1] conforms to God’s law,[2] and is done for his glory;[3] and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.[4]

[1] John 15:5; Heb. 11:6 [2] Lev. 18:4; 1 Sam. 15:22; Eph. 2:10 [3]1 Cor. 10:31 [4] Deut. 12:32; Isa. 29:13; Ezek. 20:18-19; Matt. 15:7-9


Question 92: What does the Lord say in his law?

Answer: God spoke all these words:

First Commandment – I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
Second Commandment – You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Third Commandment – You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Fourth Commandment – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Fifth Commandment – Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
Sixth Commandment – You shall not murder.
Seventh Commandment – You shall not commit adultery.
Eighth Commandment – You shall not steal.
Ninth Commandment – You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
Tenth Commandment – You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.[1]

[1] Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21

Question 93: How are these commandments divided?

Answer: 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.[1]

[1] Matt. 22:37-39

Question 94: What does the Lord require in the first commandment?

Answer: That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry,[1] magic, superstitious rites,[2] and prayer to saints or to other creatures.[3] That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God,[4] trust him alone,[5] look to him for every good thing[6] humbly[7] and patiently,[8] love him,[9] fear him,[10] and honor him[11] with all my heart. In short, that I give up anything rather than go against his will in any way.[12]

[1] 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 10:5-14; 1 John 5:21 [2] Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:9-12 [3] Matt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9 [4] John 17:3 [5] Jer. 17:5, 7 [6] Ps. 104:27-28; James 1:17 [7] 1 Pet. 5:5-6 [8] Col. 1:11; Heb. 10:36 [9] Matt. 22:37 (Deut. 6:5) [10] Prov. 9:10; 1 Pet. 1:17 [11] Matt. 4:10 (Deut. 6:13) [12] Matt. 5:29-30; 10:37-39

Question 95: What is idolatry?

Answer: Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.[1]

[1] 1 Chron. 16:26; Gal. 4:8-9; Eph. 5:5; Phil. 3:19


Question 96: What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

Answer: That we in no way make any image of God[1] nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word.[2]

[1] Deut. 4:15-19; Isa. 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:22-23 [2] Lev. 10:1-7; 1 Sam. 15:22-23; John 4:23-24

Question 97: May we then not make any image at all?

Answer: God can not and may not be visibly 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.[1]

[1] Ex. 34:13-14, 17; 2 Kings 18:4-5

Question 98: But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?

Answer: No, we shouldn’t try to be wiser than God. He wants his people instructed by the living preaching of his Word-[1] not by idols that cannot even talk.[2]

[1] Rom. 10:14-15, 17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19 [2] Jer. 10:8; Hab. 2:18-20


Question 99: What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?

Answer: That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing,[1] perjury,[2] or unnecessary oaths,[3] nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.[4] In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe,[5] so that we may properly confess him,[6] pray to him,[7] and praise him in everything we do and say.[8]

[1] Lev. 24:10-17 [2] Lev. 19:12 [3] Matt. 5:37; James 5:12 [4] Lev. 5:1; Prov. 29:24 [5] Ps. 99:1-5; Jer. 4:2 [6] Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10 [7] Ps. 50:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8 [8] Col. 3:17

Question 100: Is blasphemy of God’s 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 it and forbid it?

Answer: Yes, indeed.[1] No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming his name. That is why he commanded the death penalty for it.[2]

[1] Lev. 5:1 [2] Lev. 24:10-17


Question 101: But may we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently?

Answer: 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[1] and were rightly used by Old and New Testament believers.[2]

[1] Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Jer. 4:1-2; Heb. 6:16 [2] Gen. 21:24; Josh. 9:15; 1 Kings 1:29-30; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23

Question 102: May we swear by saints or other creatures?

Answer: No. A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely.[1] No creature is worthy of such honor.[2]

[1] Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:23 [2] Matt. 5:34-37; 23:16-22; James 5:12


Question 103: What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment?

Answer: First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,[1] and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I regularly attend the assembly of God’s people[2] to learn what God’s Word teaches,[3] to participate in the sacraments,[4] to pray to God publicly,[5] and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.[6] Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin already in this life the eternal Sabbath.[7]

[1] Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor. 9:13-14; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:13-17; Tit. 1:5 [2] Deut. 12:5-12; Ps. 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:23-25 [3] Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 14:31-32; 1 Tim. 4:13 [4] 1 Cor. 11:23-25 [5] Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:1 [6] Ps. 50:14; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8 & 9 [7] Isa. 66:23; Heb. 4:9-11


Question 104: What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment?

Answer: That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I obey and submit to them, as is proper, when they correct and punish me;[1] and also that I be patient with their failings-[2] for through them God chooses to rule us.[3]

[1] Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-4:1 [2] Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18 [3] Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21


Question 105: What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment?

Answer: 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;[1] rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.[2] I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.[3] Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.[4]

[1] Gen. 9:6; Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 5:21-22; 26:52 [2] Prov. 25:21-22; Matt. 18:35; Rom. 12:19; Eph. 4:26 [3] Matt. 4:7; 26:52; Rom. 13:11-14 [4] Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:14; Rom. 13:4

Question 106: Does this commandment refer only to killing?

Answer: By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.[1] In God’s sight all such are murder.[2]

[1] Prov. 14:30; Rom. 1:29; 12:19; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 2:9-11 [2] 1 John 3:15

Question 107: Is it enough then that we do not kill our neighbor in any such way?

Answer: No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves,[1] to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly to them,[2] to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.[3]

[1] Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Rom. 12:10 [2] Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:36; Rom. 12:10, 18; Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:8 [3] Ex. 23:4-5; Matt. 5:44-45; Rom. 12:20-21 (Prov. 25:21-22)


Question 108: What is God’s will for us in the seventh commandment?

Answer: God condemns all unchastity.[1] We should therefore thoroughly detest it[2] and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.[3]

[1] Lev. 18:30; Eph. 5:3-5 [2] Jude 22-23 [3] 1 Cor. 7:1-9; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Heb. 13:4

Question 109: Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

Answer: We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity,[1] whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.[2]

[1] 1 Cor. 15:33; Eph. 5:18 [2] Matt. 5:27-29; 1 Cor. 6:18-20; Eph. 5:3-4


Question 110: What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?

Answer: He forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law.[1] But in God’s sight theft also includes cheating and swindling our neighbor by schemes made to appear legitimate,[2] such as: inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God.[3] In addition he forbids all greed[4] and pointless squandering of his gifts.[5]

[1] Ex. 22:1; 1 Cor. 5:9-10; 6:9-10 [2] Mic. 6:9-11; Luke 3:14; James 5:1-6 [3] Deut. 25:13-16; Ps. 15:5; Prov. 11:1; 12:22; Ezek. 45:9-12; Luke 6:35 [4]Luke 12:15; Eph. 5:5 [5] Prov. 21:20; 23:20-21; Luke 16:10-13

Question 111: What does God require of you in this commandment?

Answer: That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat him as I would like others to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.[1]

[1] Isa. 58:5-10; Matt. 7:12; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 4:28


Question 112: What is God’s will for you in the ninth commandment?

Answer: God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause.[1] Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense anger.[2] I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.[3] And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.[4]

[1] Ps. 15; Prov. 19:5; Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37; Rom. 1:28-32 [2] Lev. 19:11-12; Prov. 12:22; 13:5; John 8:44; Rev. 21:8 [3] 1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:25 [4] 1 Pet. 3:8-9; 4:8


Question 113: What is God’s will for you in the tenth commandment?

Answer: That not even the slightest thought or desire contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in my heart. Rather, with all my heart I should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.[1]

[1] Ps. 19:7-14; 139:23-24; Rom. 7:7-8

Question 114: But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly?

Answer: No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.[1] Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.[2]

[1] Eccles. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-15; 1 Cor. 13:9; 1 John 1:8-10 [2]Ps. 1:1-2; Rom. 7:22-25; Phil. 3:12-16

Question 115: No one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly: why then does God want them preached so pointedly?

Answer: First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.[1] 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: perfection.[2]

[1] Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9 [2] 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3


Question 116: Why do Christians need to pray?

Answer: Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us.[1] And also because God gives his grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking him for them.[2]

[1] Ps. 50:14-15; 116:12-19; 1 Thess. 5:16-18 [2] Matt. 7:7-8; Luke 11:9-13

Question 117: How does God want us to pray so that he will listen to us?

Answer: First, we must pray from the heart to no other than the one true God, who has revealed himself in his Word, asking for everything he has commanded us to ask for.[1] Second, we must acknowledge our need and misery, hiding nothing, and humble ourselves in his majestic presence.[2]Third, we must rest on this unshakable foundation: even though we do not deserve it, God will surely listen to our prayer because of Christ our Lord. That is what he promised us in his Word.[3]

[1] Ps. 145:18-20; John 4:22-24; Rom. 8:26-27; James 1:5; 1 John 5:14-15 [2] 2 Chron. 7:14; Ps. 2:11; 34:18; 62:8; Isa. 66:2; Rev. 4 [3] Dan. 9:17-19; Matt. 7:8; John 14:13-14; 16:23; Rom. 10:13; James 1:6

Question 118: What did God command us to pray for?

Answer: Everything we need, spiritually and physically,[1] as embraced in the prayer Christ our Lord himself taught us.

[1] James 1:17; Matt. 6:33

Question 119: What is this prayer?

Answer: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy 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 lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.[1]

[1] Matt. 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4 


Question 120: Why did Christ command us to call God “our Father”?

Answer: At the very beginning of our prayer Christ wants to kindle in us what is basic to our prayer-the childlike awe and trust that God through Christ has become our Father. Our fathers do not refuse us the things of this life; God our Father will even less refuse to give us what we ask in faith.[1]

[1] Matt. 7:9-11; Luke 11:11-13

Question 121: Why the words “in heaven”?

Answer: These words teach us not to think of God’s heavenly majesty as something earthly,[1] and to expect everything for body and soul from his almighty power.[2]

[1] Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-25 [2] Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 8:31-32


Question 122: What does the first request mean?

Answer: “Hallowed be your name” means, Help us to really know you,[1] to bless, worship, and praise you for all your works and for all that shines forth from them: your almighty power, wisdom, kindness, justice, mercy, and truth.[2] 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.[3]

[1] Jer. 9:23-24; 31:33-34; Matt. 16:17; John 17:3 [2] Ex. 34:5-8; Ps. 145; Jer. 32:16-20; Luke 1:46-55, 68-75; Rom. 11:33-36 [3] Ps. 115:1; Matt. 5:16


Question 123: What does the second request mean?

Answer: “Your kingdom come” means, Rule us by your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you.[1] Keep your church strong, and add to it.[2] Destroy the devil’s work; destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your Word.[3] Do this until your kingdom is so complete and perfect that in it you are all in all.[4]

[1] Ps. 119:5, 105; 143:10; Matt. 6:33 [2] Ps. 122:6-9; Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:42-47 [3] Rom. 16:20; 1 John 3:8 [4] Rom. 8:22-23; 1 Cor. 15:28; Rev. 22:17, 20


Question 124: What does the third request mean?

Answer: “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.[1] Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to,[2] as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.[3]

[1] Matt. 7:21; 16:24-26; Luke 22:42; Rom. 12:1-2; Tit. 2:11-12 [2] 1 Cor. 7:17-24; Eph. 6:5-9 [3] Ps. 103:20-21


Question 125: What does the fourth request mean?

Answer: “Give us today our daily bread” means, Do take care of all our physical needs[1] so that we come to know that you are the only source of everything good,[2] and that neither our work and worry nor your gifts can do us any good without your blessing.[3] And so help us to give up our trust in creatures and to put trust in you alone.[4]

[1] Ps. 104:27-30; 145:15-16; Matt. 6:25-34 [2] Acts 14:17; 17:25; James 1:17 [3] Deut. 8:3; Ps. 37:16; 127:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:58 [4] Ps. 55:22; 62; 146; Jer. 17:5-8; Heb. 13:5-6


Question 126: What does the fifth request mean?

Answer: “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.[1] Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors.[2]

[1] Ps. 51:1-7; 143:2; Rom. 8:1; 1 John 2:1-2 [2] Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35


Question 127: What does the sixth request mean?

Answer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” means, By ourselves we are too weak to hold our own even for a moment.[1] And our sworn enemies-the devil,[2] the world,[3] and our own flesh[4]- 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,[5] but may firmly resist our enemies until we finally win the complete victory.[6]

[1] Ps. 103:14-16; John 15:1-5 [2] 2 Cor. 11:14; Eph. 6:10-13; 1 Pet. 5:8 [3] John 15:18-21 [4] Rom. 7:23; Gal. 5:17 [5] Matt. 10:19-20; 26:41; Mark 13:33; Rom. 5:3-5 [6] 1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Thess. 3:13; 5:23

Question 128: What does your conclusion to this prayer mean?

Answer: “For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever” means, We have made all these requests of you because, as our all-powerful king, you not only want to, but are able to give us all that is good;[1] and because your holy name, and not we ourselves, should receive all the praise, forever.[2]

[1] Rom. 10:11-13; 2 Pet. 2:9 [2] Ps. 115:1; John 14:13

Question 129: What does that little word “Amen” express?

Answer: “Amen” means, This is sure to be! It is even more sure that God listens to my prayer, than that I really desire what I pray for.[1]

[1] Isa. 65:24; 2 Cor. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:13

<-The Second Part: Grace – Lord’s Days 5-31