If someone had started talking to me about confessions or catechism years ago I would have supposed that the person belonged to the Roman Catholic tradition. I remember a few of my Lutheran friends in high school using the word catechism. I wasn’t curious enough to ask why. Somehow a Protestant using these words seemed out of character. Had I considered the pages of history I would have found that catechisms and confessions were important to the early Protestant church.
They were seen as vital tools able to defend the truth and help people further understand and apply the Bible to their lives. These Protestant confessions were written with a proper view of authority in mind, namely, that true authority comes from God who reveals Himself through His Word.
There are many things that can be said as to why these important tools are neglected in popular American evangelicalism. Pietistic rhetoric is often used to discount the importance of these tools thereby preventing any serious discussion. For example, the statement “Jesus is my creed” exemplifies a common misconception. All I will say now is that the creeds and confessions of the Protestant reformation, with a proper view of Biblical authority, can be useful for devotionals and Bible study. I have especially found this to be the case with the Heidelberg Catechism.
This catechism was drafted by Zacharius Ursinus (1534-1583) and Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587) in 1563. It would later be translated for the Dutch Protestant church during years of significant persecution. Mark Noll writes in his Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation “the [Heidelberg] catechism was a superb statement of faith for a persecuted people. Its stress, from the very first question, on God’s desire to comfort his own, as well as its emphasis on the transcendent goodness of God’s providence, brought reassurance to those who felt that they had been abandoned by all earthly powers.” I am also fond of the catechism’s use of first person pronouns.
I will, as often as I’m able, go through the Heidleberg Catechism on this blog. I will start with the question, answer, then a personal reflection (by me) on the whole. The catechism can be divided into three overarching sections: Man’s Sin and Guilt—The Law of God, Man’s Redemption and Freedom—The Grace of God in Jesus Christ, and Man’s Gratitude and Obedience—New Life Through the Holy Spirit. I will not be posting the Scriptural proofs to each answer because of time. They are available here. Feel free to post any reflections or questions.
Here it goes:
1. Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both 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 all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.
Let me not forget my dependence on God and that I was made to depend on Him. I am often weak and distracted in life, but when I think about the sovereign care of the Father I find true comfort. The Holy Spirit gives me assurance when I need it most. When my soul is as dry as a south Texas drought, He brings rain in due time. He sovereignly and carefully applies God’s Word to my life making me look more like Jesus. Jesus has annihilated death, Satan, and sin. God, make me grateful today for this immeasurable gift! Make me willing and able to live a life of obedience today that shows my gratitude for Him and for His kingdom.