Sermons / AudioWhat is Reformed?Events / OutreachAbout the ORCContact Us

Listen to the White Horse Inn

Listen to the White Horse Inn on 930 CJCA AM radio each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. or listen online

The Heidelberg Catechism

Introduction

The Heidelberg Catechism was written in Heidelberg at the request of Elector Frederick III, ruler of the most influential German province, the Palatinate, from 1559 to 1576. This pious Christian prince commissioned Zacharius Ursinus, 28 years of age and professor of theology at the Heidelberg University, and Caspar Olevianus, 26 years old and Frederick's court preacher, to prepare a catechism for instructing the youth and for guiding pastors and teachers.

Frederick obtained the advice and cooperation of the entire theological faculty in the preparation of the Catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism was adopted by a Synod in Heidelberg and published in German with a preface by Frederick III, dated January 19, 1563. A second and third German edition, each with some small additions, as well as a Latin translation, were published in Heidelberg in the same year. The Catechism was soon divided into fifty-two sections, so that a section of the Catechism could be explained to the churches each Sunday of the year.

In The Netherlands, this Heidelberg Catechism became generally and favorably known almost as soon as it came from the press, mainly through the efforts of Petrus Dathenus, who translated it into the Dutch language and added this translation to his Dutch rendering of the Genevan Psalter, which was published in 1566. In the same year, Peter Gabriel set the example of explaining this catechism to his congregation at Amsterdam in his Sunday afternoon sermons. The National Synods of the sixteenth century adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, requiring office-bearers to subscribe to it and ministers to explain it to the churches. These requirements were strongly emphasized by the great Synod of Dort in 1618-19.

The Heidelberg Catechism has been translated into many languages and is the most influential and the most generally accepted of the several catechisms of Reformation times.

The Catechism is broken into three main themes or parts: Man's Misery, Man's Deliverance, and Man's Gratitude. Other ways of describing these themes are: "Grief, Grace, Gratitude" or "Sin, Salvation, Service."

The Heidelberg Catechism

LORD'S DAY 1

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

Answer: That I am not my own,[1] but belong body and soul, in life and in death[2] - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.[3] He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,[4] and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.[5] He also watches over me in such a way[6] that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven:[7] in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.[8] Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life[9] and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.[10]

[1] 1 Cor. 6:19-20 / [2] Rom. 14:7-9 / [3] 1 Cor. 3:23; Titus 2:14 / [4] 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 1 John 1:7-9; 2:2 / [5] John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:1-11 / [6] John 6:39-40; 10:27-30; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:5 / [7] Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18 / [8] Rom. 8:28 / [9] Rom. 8:15-16; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13-14 / [10] Rom. 8:1-17

Question 2: What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?

Answer: Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; [1] second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery;[2] third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.[3]

[1] Rom. 3:9-10; 1 John 1:10 /2 John 17:3; Acts 4:12; 10:43 /3 Matt. 5:16; Rom. 6:13; Eph. 5:8-10; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet. 2:9-10


Three Themes