The Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism, the second of our "Three Forms of Unity," (Heidelberg Catechism, Netherlands Confession, and the Canons of Dordt) received its name from the place of its origin, Heidelberg, the capital of the German Electorate of the Palatinate. There, in order that the Reformed faith might be maintained in his domain, Elector Frederick III commissioned Zacharias Ursinus, professor at Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, the court preacher, to prepare a manual for catechetical instruction. Out of this initiative came the Catechism, which was approved by the Elector himself and by the Synod of Heidelberg and first published in 1563. With its comfort motif and its warm, personal style, the Catechism soon won the love of the people of God, as is evident from the fact that more editions of the Catechism had to be printed that same year. While the first edition had 128 questions and answers, in the second and third editions, at the behest of the Elector, the eightieth question and answer, which refers to the popish mass as an accursed idolatry, was added. In the third edition the 129 questions and answers were divided into 52 "Lord's Days" with a view to the Catechism's being explained in one of the services on the Lord's Day. That salutary practice is still maintained today, in harmony with the prescription of the Church Order of Dordrecht.
A Brief Topical Index to the
Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day
Lord's Day #
|For a discussion of preaching the doctrine contained in the Word of God from the viewpoint of its summary in the Heidelberg Catechism, a distinctively Reformed practice, which has the goal of a systematic, personal, knowledgeable faith see the following in the worship section:
For a discussion of catechism as a scriptural method of instruction see:
Doctrines of Grace or the Five Points of Calvinism
The Catechism sets forth the truth of God's sovereignty over all things, Lord's Days 9 and 10. The Catechism also confesses the truth of Sovereign Grace or the five points of Calvinism. The approach of the catechism in treating the doctrines of grace is, in the order in which they are presented, experiential.
In Lord's Day 3, Q/A 8, the Catechism teaches the truth of total depravity, the bondage of the will, and the spiritual death of man through the fall. It teaches the necessity of being born again or regeneration by the Spirit of God, Q/A 8, as the answer to man's depravity.
In Lord's Day 7, contrasting Adam's headship in the fall with that of Christ, the Catechism denies that Christ saves every man. Rather, following the experiential order it emphasizes that believers only are saved, "for all men have not faith" (II Thessalonians 3:1) This faith the catechism conceives of in Q/A 20 as a work of ingrafting grace. This is further explained in Lord's Day 25, Q/A 65 where the Catechism explains that faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit. The Catechism teaches irresistible grace.
This work is rooted also in the effectual working of Christ, by His atoning death and resurrection, as the power that saves through payment and satisfaction ( Lord's Days 5, 6 and 15). This atoning death removes the curse (Q/A 39) and is also the power by which the elect die to sin and are converted (Q/A 43). Jesus' resurrection is also the power that raises us up to spiritual life Lord's Day 17. The Catechism teaches a limited, effectual atonement as a power which saves all those for whom he died. While the catechism speaks of the "sins of all mankind" in Q/A 37, it does not have in view every man, head for head, but mankind from the viewpoint of God gathering His church out of all nations and in that elect body, redeeming His church and the organism of the human race.
In harmony with this, the catechism teaches that Christ brings to eternal glory the elect, his "chosen ones" in the day of judgment, Lord's Day 19 Q/A 52. It sets forth a church, gathered out of all nations and through all time, which is "chosen to everlasting life."
That elect believer and elect body of Christ the Catechism views as kept, defended, and preserved by Christ unto everlasting glory. It sets forth the perseverance of the saints by the grace of their preservation in faith and by the grace of conversion wrought in them.
The Catechism therefore teaches: