Heidelberg Catechism Sermons: Lord's Day 23

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Presented Feb. 11/01 by Dr. J. Faber
Canadian Reformed Church of Smithville, Ontario

Scripture Reading:
2 Cor 5: 1- 6: 2

Our Justification

1. The Meaning of Justification
2.The Manner of Justification
3. The Means of Justification

Dr. Jelle Faber


59.   Q.  But what does it help you now that you believe all this?
A.  In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.1

1 Hab 2:4; Jn 3:36; Rom 1:17; 5:1, 2.

60.   Q.  How are you righteous before God?
A.  Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.1 Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept any of them,2 and am still inclined to all evil,3 yet God, without any merit of my own,4 out of mere grace,5 imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.6 He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me,7 if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.8

1 Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 3:8-11. 2 Rom 3:9, 10. 3 Rom 7:23. 4 Deut 9:6; Ezek 36:22; Tit 3:4, 5. 5 Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8. 6 Rom 4:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1, 2. 7 Rom 4:24, 25; 2 Cor 5:21. 8 Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30, 31; Rom 3:22.

61.   Q.  Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?
A.  Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God.1 I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.2

1 1 Cor 1:30, 31; 2:2. 2 Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12.

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, ruler of the most influential German province, the Palatinate, from 1559 to 1576. This pious Christian prince commissioned Zacharius Ursinus, twenty-eight years of age and professor of theology at the Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, twenty-six years old and Frederick's court preacher, to prepare a catechism for instructing the youth and for guiding pastors and teachers.

Frederick obtained the advice and cooperation of the entire theological faculty in the preparation of the Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was adopted by a Synod in Heidelberg and published in German with a preface by Frederick III, dated January 19, 1563. A second and third German edition, each with some small additions, as well as a Latin translation were published in Heidelberg in the same year. The Catechism was soon divided into fifty-two sections, so that a section of the Catechism could be explained to the churches each Sunday of the year.

In the Netherlands this Heidelberg Catechism became generally and favourably known almost as soon as it came from the press, mainly through the efforts of Petrus Dathenus, who translated it into the Dutch language and added this translation to his Dutch rendering of the Genevan Psalter, which was published in 1566. In the same year Peter Gabriel set the example of explaining this catechism to his congregation at Amsterdam in his Sunday afternoon sermons.

The National Synods of the sixteenth century adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, requiring office-bearers to subscribe to it and ministers to explain it to the churches. These requirements were strongly emphasized by the great Synod of Dort in 1618-19. The Heidelberg Catechism has been translated into many languages and is the most influential and the most generally accepted of the several catechisms of Reformation times.

The Heidelberg Catechism