Review: The Heidelberg Catechism

I always like to have some sort of ‘old’ writing on the go. It’s usually the Valley of Vision or Olney Hymns. This year I decided to start reading the Heidelberg Catechism. Written in the German Province , the Palatinate, under the commission of Elector Frederick III in 1562, tt was completed a year later with the aim to help Pastors instruct their church members.

Now, a catechism sounds boring. And I guess some are. They can end up being a mathematical journey of reducing the glorious truths of the gospel to bite sized and memorable sentences. However, the Heidelberg is different. Very different.

The Heidelberg is warm, encouraging, grace fuelled and stretching.

It covers the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Baptism and Communion, the 10 Commandments and the Lord’s prayer. It opens up each and applies them wonderfully.

Not convinced?

Let me give you my top 5 Heidelberg questions:

1. A better question that the Westminster…honest!

Q 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,

but belong-

body and soul,

in life and in death-

to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood

….

2. The best pastoral understanding of Providence in a single answer.

Q 26: What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

A: That the eternal Father….created…upholds…

I trust him so much that I do not doubt

he will provide

whatever I need

for body and soul,

and he will turn to my good

whatever adversity he sends me

in this sad world.

He is able to do this because he is almighty God;

He desires to do this because he is a faithful God.


3. The most encouraging explanation of Communion

Q 81: Who are to come to the Lord’s table?

A: Those who are displeased with themselves

because of their sins,

but who nevertheless trust

that their sins are pardoned

and that their continuing weakness is covered

by the sufferings and death of Christ


4. A lovely understanding of the ‘forgive others’ part of the Lord’s prayer.

Q 125: What does the fifth request mean?

A: Forgive us just as we fully determined,

as evidence of your grace in us,

to forgive our neighbours.


5. A great confidence in prayer…the last question.

Q 12: What does that little word ‘Amen’ express?

A: 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.

______________________________________________________________

I have not quoted the entire answers….you’ll need to look them up.

As you can see, this is a really gospel focused, pastoral set of questions. It is well worth reading a question a day.

You can read it for free online here.  However, the translation is not the easiest to follow.

The translation I used is from the Christian Reformed Church (1986). You can buy it here for £3.36. Bargain!

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