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The Heidelberg Catechism

The First Part: Sin and Misery


Question 3: How do you come to know your misery?

Answer: The law of God tells me.[1]

[1] Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25

Question 4: What does God's law require of us?

Answer: Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 - You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.[1] This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.[2] On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

[1] Deut. 6:5 / [2] Lev. 19:18

Question 5: Can you live up to all this perfectly?

Answer: No.[1] I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.[2]

[1] Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10 / [2] Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3


Question 6: Did God create man so wicked and perverse?

Answer: No. God created man good[1] and in his own image,[2] that is, in true righteousness and holiness,[3] so that he might truly know God his creator,[4] love him with all his heart, and live with him in eternal happiness for his praise and glory.[5]

[1] Gen. 1:31 / [2] Gen. 1:26-27 / [3] Eph. 4:24 / [4] Col. 3:10 / [5] Ps. 8

Question 7: Then where does man's corrupt nature come from?

Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.[1] This fall has so poisoned our nature[2] that we are born sinners-corrupt from conception on.[3]

[1] Gen. 3 / [2] Rom. 5:12, 18-19 / [3] Ps. 51:5

Question 8: But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?

Answer: Yes,[1] unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.[2]

[1] Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 14:4; Isa. 53:6 / [2] John 3:3-5


Question 9: But doesn't God do man an injustice by requiring in his law what man is unable to do?

Answer: No, God created man with the ability to keep the law.[1] Man, however, tempted by the devil,[2] in reckless disobedience,[3] robbed himselves and all his descendants of these gifts.[4]

[1] Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24 / [2] Gen. 3:13; John 8:44 / [3] Gen. 3:6 / [4] Rom. 5:12, 18, 19

Question 10: Will God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?

Answer: Certainly not. He is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. As a just judge he punishes them now and in eternity.[1] He has declared: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.[2]

[1] Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27 / [2] Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26

Question 11: But isn't God also merciful?

Answer: God is certainly merciful,[1] but he is also just.[2] His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty-eternal punishment of body and soul.[3]

[1] Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9 / [2] Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31 / [3] Matt. 25:35-46