Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 6
Lord's Day 6
Why must He be a true and righteous man?
He must be a true man
because the justice of God requires
that the same human nature which has sinned
should pay for sin.
He must be a righteous man
because one who himself is a sinner
cannot pay for others.
Why must He at the same time be true God?
He must be true God
so that by the power of His divine nature
He might bear in His human nature
the burden of God's wrath,
and might obtain for us
and restore to us
righteousness and life.
But who is that Mediator
who at the same time is true God
and a true and righteous man?
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
whom God made our wisdom,
our righteousness and sanctification
and redemption (I Corinthians 1:30).
From where do you know this?
From the holy gospel,
which God Himself first revealed in Paradise.
Later, He had it proclaimed
by the patriarchs and prophets,
by the sacrifices and other ceremonies
of the law.
Finally, He had it fulfilled
through His only Son.
Q. & A. 16 and 17 God and Man
- The Catechism now explains why the Mediator has to satisfy the requirements listed previously. He must be True Man because, as 1 Cor 15:21 says: "For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."
God demands justice demands it (see LD 5, Q&A 12, Note 5; and Q&A 13 and 14, Note 4).
He must also be a Righteous Man. Heb 7:26 states: ''For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.''
A person who is a sinner himself increases his debt daily (see LD 5, Q&A 13 and 14, Note 1). Such a person is therefore not able to pay his own debt, let alone the debt of any other person.
- Further, the Mediator must be True God, “in order to conquer death by his power” (BC, art. 19). His divine nature had to give him the power to sustain him so that, in his human nature, he could suffer the wrath of God fully, so that he could complete his task. If you place a man at the sea side to empty the sea, he will never finish the job. Neither would a creature ever finish the job of emptying the cup of God's wrath. But God picks up that sea in one go in his eternal power in order to cast it where he wishes! The Mediator can empty the cup of God's wrath and finish it. In addition, the Mediator must obtain, i.e., earn, our deliverance. A mere man cannot earn it. Even if he completes everything demanded of him, man has merely done what it was his duty to do. In order to earn deliverance, the Mediator must be God (Heb 5:8, 9). And he must be God in order to be able to give us what he obtained. No man can change another man's heart. Only God can do that.
- Why must the Mediator be true man? Why must he be righteous man?
- Why must he be true God? (Give three reasons!)
Q. & A. 18 Our Lord Jesus Christ
- “But who is. . . .” It seems as though the Catechism asks this question with a certain amount of embarrassment: “Who is that Mediator . . . ?” For it has become very clear from the requirements he must satisfy that we cannot produce such a Mediator. We on our part, therefore, have no prospect whatsoever of deliverance. But the Answer may be joyful, for God has given him!
- Our Lord Jesus Christ is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and true and righteous man.
He is true God. Thus, 1 Jn 5:20 says: "This [i.e., Jesus Christ] is the true God and eternal life."
And Rom 9:5 (NIV) says:". . . Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!"
He is also true Man. Thus, Lk 2:7 says: ''And she gave birth to her first-born son. . . .''
Further, 1 Tim 2:5 states: ''For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.''
Moreover, he is Righteous man. He was not included in Adam when he fell away from God and is, therefore, not subject to original sin. Neither did he have actual sin. 1 Pet 2:22 says: ''He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips.'' (See also Jn 8:46).
- In the Answer the Catechism quotes 1 Cor 1:30, to make it very clear that this Mediator is a free gift of the grace of our God.
He is given to us for wisdom. We are foolish in sin. Even the wise of this world cannot find true wisdom (1 Cor 2:20). But Christ is given us for wisdom. We become wise again when we know and accept him in faith.
He is also given to us for righteousness. We cannot produce righteousness before God; we cannot pay the demand of the law. But when we accept Christ in faith as the sacrifice for our sins we are again (as we were in Paradise) righteous before God.Further, he was given to us for our sanctification. We lack it. But when we accept Christ in faith, we are sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
What we had in Paradise – righteousness and holiness – but which we lost through sin (forever!), we received again in Christ and we are made partakers of it by faith in him. Thus, he is, indeed, our redemption. Now we still sigh with much sorrow and imperfection. But when Christ returns he will redeem us completely.
- What do the requirements of the Mediator make clear?
- Who is our Mediator? Demonstrate from Scripture that he is: (a) true man; (b) righteous man; and (c) true God.
- Which text does Answer 18 quote? What does this text clearly demonstrate?
- Why was Christ given to us? What have we, therefore, received again in him? How do we become partakers thereof?
Q. & A. 19 The Holy Gospel
- In this Answer the Catechism discloses the source from which it derived what it has said to this point. What was said in LD 5 and 6 is not some ingenious discovery of our own. It was drawn together in faith out of, and confessed in accordance with the holy gospel. We confess in this Answer that the Word of God itself says this.
- The word “gospel” means: good news, glad tidings. We should not immediately suppose that this word refers to one of the four first books of the NT. For there is but one gospel. The first four books of the NT give us a (not the only!) fourfold description of the gospel. The gospel is the always continuing proclamation of salvation of God. Thus, it is a work, not a book.
- This proclamation began in Paradise, immediately after the fall, in the so-called Protogospel (Gen 3:15). All subsequent promises are comprehended in it and arise out of it. The prefix “proto-” means “giving rise to.” All the subsequent promises are further, clearer and more detailed explanations of what the Lord promised already in Paradise when he said: “I will put enmity [i.e., destroy the intended friendship] between you [i.e., the serpent, the devil] and the woman, and between your seed [the seed of the serpent, i.e., haters of God] and her seed [i.e., Christ and those who are his]; he [i.e., Christ] shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel [the victory will be won only in a bloody conflict; and that is how it happened on the cross on Golgotha].”
- Thus, God himself revealed the gospel in Paradise. To reveal means to bring out into the open, to make known what was hidden.
- Thereafter, God had this gospel proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets. Patriarchs are men regarded as fathers, not just of a family, but of a whole nation. Prophets are persons who speak the Word of God. Thus, the revelation of the gospel followed its course of history.
- God also gave visible instruction to Israel of what he thus made known by his prophets. He did this by “the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law.” Thus, the paschal lamb, the sin offering, and all of Israel's temple service with its high priest, priests, etc., pointed to Christ (see LD 2, Q&A 3, Note 6).
- Finally, the gospel was fulfilled in Christ. Jn 1:17 says: "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
In him, all of God's promises were proved true and faithful.
B. Cross References
- God continues to spread the gospel that has been fulfilled. The CD I, 3 says: ". . . God mercifully sends heralds of this most joyful message to whom He will and when He wills."
- What is the source of our knowledge about what has been said about the Mediator thus far?
- What does the word “gospel” mean? What does it denote?
- Who revealed it at first? What does Gen 3:15 say?
- What are patriarchs? What are prophets? What else did God do in the OT in addition to having the gospel preached?
- In whom is the gospel fulfilled?
Addendum to Q. & A. 19 Revelation
- The BC speaks more extensively about revelation, the way in which God makes himself known to us, which is also his gospel, in arts. 2-7. Article 2 says that we know God by two means, i.e., in two ways. We can only have such knowledge of God as he himself gives us, and he gives us this knowledge in two ways.
- The First Means by which God makes himself known to us is “the creation, preservation, and government of the universe.” In this work of God we recognize the Worker. God's works display his qualities (Ps 19:1), and the course of history shows his power and government (Ps 33:10, 11a).
- This revelation is directed to All people. Hence, it is called the general revelation.
The church may not neglect this source of the knowledge of God, as happens too often. The renewed creation will provide material to praise God for ever (Rev 4:11).
- This general revelation is not sufficient for salvation. For, although it teaches us that God exists, and also in part what he is (great, almighty, wise and good), it does not tell us what God means for us, nor about his will. It does not teach us about his grace in Jesus Christ.
In addition, our understanding has been obscured. We see only partly and cannot read the book of the general revelation except through the glasses of the special revelation.
- Yet, this general revelation is not without significance. Article 2 says that it is “sufficient to convict men and to leave them without excuse.” No one will be able to say in the final judgment that he did not know of God's existence. Rom 1:20-21 states:''So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.''
- The Second Means whereby God makes himself more clearly and fully known to us is his divine Word.
We sometimes call this revelation by the Word special revelation, because of (a) its means, (b) its content, and (c) its destination.
- The Means of this clearer and fuller revelation are special. For we do not receive the clearer and fuller knowledge from what was already given in creation, but from what God has said many times and in many ways to the fathers (Heb 1:1). In so speaking, God did sometimes make use of the powers which already existed in creation. He spoke to the fathers by:
a. Appearances: column of smoke, the Angel of the Lord, etc.;
b. Prophesy: lot (urim and thummim), internal and external address, dream, vision;
c. Wonders: God's intervention in the “ordinary course of events”: passage through the Red Sea, healings, etc.
- The Content of the special revelation is special. It is the counsel of God for the deliverance of sinners: simply put, that is Jesus Christ. No one could or was entitled to expect that God wants to save sinners, people who hate him.
The Lord did not present us with the full content all at once. The special revelation was presented over the course of time and reached its zenith in Jesus Christ (see LD 6, Ans. 19).
He is God's clearest appearance (Jn 14:9; Heb 1:3a).
He completes the prophesy (Heb 1:1; Jn 17:6a).
He is The wonder (1 Tim 3:16).
- The Destination is also special. For this revelation is not directed to all people, but to those peoples and men to whom God, in his good pleasure, sends his gospel (CD II, 5; and III/IV, 7). What a privilege that we received it also! We can only give proper thanks for that by preserving the gospel and propagating it.
- So far as we know, the preservation and propagation of God's spoken Word until Moses' time, took place orally. This was possible originally. But when man multiplied on the earth and his life span was cut short, the danger of corruption of the gospel increased. That is why, as art. 3 of the BC states: ". . . in His special care for us and our salvation, Gog commanded His servants, the prophets and apostles, to commit His revealed Word to writing." In this process of recording, not everything was written down (Jn 21:25), only that which the Lord deemed necessary for all times and all peoples, for his praise and our salvation.
- Agnosticism (the idea that God is unknowable).
- Proofs for the existence of God.
- Atheism (denial of God).
- In which articles does the BC speak about revelation and the Holy Scriptures? By which means do we know God? Can we, of ourselves, know God? What is the first “means” by which we know God?
- What do Ps 19:2 and Ps 33:10-11a, respectively, say?
- How many forms of revelation do we recognise? Is the general revelation sufficient for salvation? Why not? What do we learn from it about God?
- What is the significance of the general revelation?
- Why do we call God's revelation in his Word “special”?
- By what means did God speak to man?
- What is the content of the special revelation? To whom is it directed?
- How was the special revelation propagated originally? Why could this not continue? What did the Lord do then? Is everything God said written down?
- The Bible (the word derives from the Greek, biblia, i.e., books, viz., of the OT and NT) is, therefore, the record (notation) of the revelation. But the record itself is also revelation. For, although the Bible was written by men, the product of their work is not a human and, therefore, imperfect, but a divine book. For the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Bible to write what they did. The Bible clearly teaches this inspiration. Thus, 2 Pet 1:21 says: "Because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."
Similarly, 2 Tim 3:16 says: "All scripture is inspired by God. . . ."
This inspiration is further confirmed by the following:
a. The prophets were aware that they did not speak and write their own words, but the Word of God (Ex 17:14; Jer 13:16; Hos 1:1).
b. Christ accepted the OT as the Word of God (Mt 5:17-18; Lk 24:27; Jn 5:39).
c. Before they became active in their office, Christ gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles. For it was he who was to remind them of all that Christ had told them, guide them in all truth, and declare to them the things that were to come (Jn 20:22; 14:26; 16:13). Consequently, the apostles demand acceptance of their word as the Word of God (1 Thess 2:13).
- The inspiration did not destroy the individuality of the writers (that is what the mechanistic view of inspiration holds). On the contrary, they worked in accordance with their own capacities and according as they had received talents (see Lk 1:3).
In this connection, the difference in language and style among the different writers is remarkable. That is why we adopt the organic view of inspiration and maintain that inspiration is that work of God's Spirit whereby he: made the writers of the Bible by means of upbringing, education, experience, etc., into the kinds of persons that he required (Preparation); urged them irresistibly to write, sometimes by direct command, at other times by guidance of circumstances (Instigation); led them in their investigations infallibly to the truth (Direction); and prompted them with those words and thoughts which most accurately reflected God's intention (Evocation).
- Thus, the Bible is a book which God has given to us. We receive its books, says the BC, art. 5: . . . as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith.“Canonical” derives from “canon,” which means “rule of conduct.”
- Therefore, we believe without any doubt all that is contained in Scripture. We do that, not so much because the church teaches it, but, as the BC, art. 5 states: . . . especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they [i.e., the books of the Bible] are from God, and also because they contain the evidence thereof in themselves. Only God can convince a person that his Word is truth. We cannot prove it to anyone. We can only direct a person to the Word itself. The Holy Spirit testifies in it. And we are joined to Scripture by this testimony, which he causes to resound in our hearts by faith. This testimony does not, therefore, have its own content, separate from Scripture, but the Holy Spirit uses it to make us submit ourselves to the content of Scripture.
- The attributes of Scripture are:
a. Divine Authority. See Note 3. It is the end of all dispute.
b. Perspicuity. Although some parts of it are difficult to understand (2 Pet 3:16), that which is necessary for our salvation and for the service of God is made clear (Ps 119:105). The Church of Rome teaches wrongly that only the clergy can explain Scripture. Thereby it places life in bondage to the “church.”
c. Sufficiency. Art. 7 of the BC states: “We believe that this Holy Scripture fully contains the will of God and that all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein.” Contrary to what Rome teaches, no tradition of the church is necessary to complement it (Rev 22:18, 19).
d. Necessity. Jn 5:39 states that no one can know the Lord Jesus Christ outside of Scripture.
It behooves us to give Holy Scripture the honour to which it is entitled in accordance with these attributes!
- The Bible is divided into two parts:
a. The Old Testament, consisting of 39 books, which belong to the old dispensation of the covenant. It is written in Hebrew, the language of the people of the Old Covenant.
b. The New Testament, consisting of 27 books, which belong to the new dispensation. It is written in Greek, the international language at the time.
Article 4 of the BC lists the books.
We no longer have any of these books in original manuscript. We only have copies. Sometimes there are differences, usually minor, between these copies. It is the purpose of text criticism to discover the correct rendering of the text.
That is something different from Scripture criticism. The latter does not, in reverence to Scripture, seek the correct rendering of the text, but seeks to subject it to human reason. That is the work of unbelief.
- We use the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. It was prepared by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. The first edition of the New Testament was published in 1946; the Old Testament was published in 1952, and the second edition of the New Testament was published in 1971. The Revised Standard Version is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version which was published in 1901 and which in turn was a revision of the Authorized or King James Version. The latter was prepared in 1611 by special command of His Majesty, King James I. Another modern version is the New International Version, published by the International Bible Society in 1985. It is desirable to use a sound modern translation, since our knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is better today than it was when earlier translations were prepared, and also because the English language has changed over time and in the process the meaning of some words and expressions has changed.1
- We distinguish the canonical from the apocryphal (i.e., concealed) books. The latter were present in the synagogue, but remained hidden (hence, their name), and were not read in public (see BC, art. 6).
- The Bible also contains the words of sinners and even of the devil. We must, therefore, determine whether a particular passage from Scripture tells us of an historical event, or whether it states a commandment that must be followed. Further, we must constantly ascertain what a particular passage meant originally and what its meaning is for today (cf., e.g., the fourth commandment).
- The view that Holy Scripture is merely a human record of revelation.
- The Anabaptist idea of the internal light.
- Barthianism, which states that the Word only becomes the Word of God when it intervenes subjectively in our lives.
- Undervaluing the OT.
- The belief that the OT and the NT are opposed to each other.
- What is the Bible? Is it a human book? Why not? What do 2 Pet 1:21 and 2 Tim 3:16, respectively, say? Give three proofs of the inspiration of Scripture.
- How can you show that inspiration did not destroy the individuality of the writers? List the four aspects which we distinguish in speaking of the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and describe each of them.
- What does it mean that we call books of the Bible canonical? Why do we receive the books of the Bible as canonical? In what does the work of the Holy Spirit testify?
- List the attributes of Scripture and state what each of them means.
- How many parts does Holy Scripture have? In what language was each written? What is text criticism? What is Scripture criticism?
- Which Bible translation do we use? Which others do you know about? How did each of them originate? Why do we use a sound modern translation?