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The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) was composed in the city of Heidelberg, Germany, at the request of Elector Frederick III, who ruled the province of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576. The new catechism was intended as a tool for teaching young people, a guide for preaching in the provincial churches, and a form of confessional unity among the several Protestant factions in the Palatinate. An old tradition credits Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus with being the coauthors of the catechism, but the project was actually the work of a team of ministers and university theologians under the watchful eye of Frederick himself. Ursinus probably served as the primary writer on the team, and Olevianus had a lesser role. The catechism was approved by a synod in Heidelberg in January 1563. A second and third German edition, each with small additions, as well as a Latin translation were published the same year in Heidelberg. The third edition was included in the Palatinate Church Order of November 15, 1563, at which time the catechism was divided into fifty-two sections or Lord's Days, so that one Lord's Day could be explained in an afternoon worship service each Sunday of the year.

The Synod of Dort approved the Heidelberg Catechism in 1619, and it soon became the most ecumenical of the Reformed catechisms and confessions. It has been translated into many European, Asian, and African languages and is still the most widely used and warmly praised catechism of the Reformation period.

Most of the footnoted biblical references in this translation of the catechism were included in the early German and Latin editions, but the precise selection was approved by Synod 1975 of the Christian Reformed Church.

 

Introduction

 

Lord’s Day 1

Q&A1
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own,1 but belong—body and soul, in life and in death2—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 way6 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 life9 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

Q&A2
Q. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A. 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

 
 
 
 
 
 

Part I: Misery

 

Lord’s Day 2

Q&A3
Q. How do you come to know your misery?
A. The law of God tells me.1

1 Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25

Q&A4
Q. What does God’s law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22:37-40:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’1 This is the greatest and first commandment.

“And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’2

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

1 Deut. 6:5
2 Lev. 19:18

Q&A5
Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?
A. 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

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 3

Q&A 6
Q. Did God create people so wicked and perverse?
A. No. God created them good1 and in his own image,2 that is, in true righteousness and holiness,3 so that they might truly know God their creator,4 love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.5

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

Q&A 7
Q. Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?
A. The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise.1 This fall has so poisoned our nature2 that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.3

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

Q&A 8
Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A. 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

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 4

Q&A9
Q. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A. No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.1 They, however, provoked by the devil2 in willful disobedience,3 robbed themselves and all their 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

Q&A10
Q. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A. Certainly not. God is terribly angry with the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.

As a just judge, God will punish them both now and in eternity,1 having declared: “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things 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

Q&A11
Q. But isn’t God also merciful?
A. God is certainly merciful,1 but also just.2 God’s 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

 
 
 
 
 
 

Part II: Deliverance

 

Lord’s Day 5

Q&A 12
Q. According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both now and in eternity: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?
A. God requires that his justice be satisfied.1 Therefore the claims of this justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or by another.2

1 Ex. 23:7; Rom. 2:1-11
2 Isa. 53:11; Rom. 8:3-4

Q&A 13
Q. Can we make this payment ourselves?
A. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.1

1 Matt. 6:12; Rom. 2:4-5

Q&A 14
Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?
A. No. To begin with, God will not punish any other creature for what a human is guilty of.1 Furthermore, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it.2

1 Ezek. 18:4, 20; Heb. 2:14-18
2 Ps. 49:7-9; 130:3

Q&A 15
Q. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?
A. One who is a true1 and righteous2 human, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.3

1 Rom. 1:3; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:17
2 Isa. 53:9; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26
3 Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Jer. 23:6; John 1:1

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 6

Q&A 16
Q. Why must the mediator be a true and righteous human?
A. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for sin;1 but a sinful human could never pay for others.2

1 Rom. 5:12, 15; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:14-16
2 Heb. 7:26-27; 1 Pet. 3:18

Q&A 17
Q. Why must the mediator also be true God?
A. So that the mediator, by the power of his divinity, might bear the weight of God’s wrath in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life.1

1 Isa. 53; John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21

Q&A 18
Q. Then who is this mediator—true God and at the same time a true and righteous human?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ,1 who was given to us to completely deliver us and make us right with God.2

1 Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:5
2 1 Cor. 1:30

Q&A 19
Q. How do you come to know this?
A. The holy gospel tells me. God began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise;1 later God proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs2 and prophets3 and foreshadowed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law;4 and finally God fulfilled it through his own beloved Son.5

1 Gen. 3:15
2 Gen. 22:18; 49:10
3 Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb. 1:1-2
4 Lev. 1-7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10
5 Rom. 10:4; Gal. 4:4-5; Col. 2:17

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 7

Q&A 20
Q. Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A. No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.1

1 Matt. 7:14; John 3:16, 18, 36; Rom. 11:16-21

Q&A 21
Q. What is true faith?
A. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture;1 it is also a wholehearted trust,2 which the Holy Spirit creates in me3 by the gospel,4 that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also,5 forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.6 These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.7

1 John 17:3, 17; Heb. 11:1-3; James 2:19
2 Rom. 4:18-21; 5:1; 10:10; Heb. 4:14-16
3 Matt. 16:15-17; John 3:5; Acts 16:14
4 Rom. 1:16; 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21
5 Gal. 2:20
6 Rom. 1:17; Heb. 10:10
7 Rom. 3:21-26; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10

Q&A 22
Q. What then must a Christian believe?
A. All that is promised us in the gospel,1 a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

1 Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:30-31

Q&A 23
Q. What are these articles?
A. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 8

Q&A 24
Q. How are these articles divided?
A. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Q&A 25
Q. Since there is only one divine being,1 why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word:2 these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

1 Deut. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4, 6
2 Matt. 3:16-17; 28:18-19; Luke 4:18 (Isa. 61:1); John 14:26; 15:26; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal. 4:6; Titus 3:5-6

 
 
 
 
 
 

God the Father

Lord’s Day 9

Q&A 26
Q. What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?
A. That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them,1 who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence,2 is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.3

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul,4 and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.5

God is able to do this because he is almighty God,6 and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.7

1 Gen. 1-2; Ex. 20:11; Ps. 33:6; Isa. 44:24; Acts 4:24; 14:15
2 Ps. 104; Matt. 6:30; 10:29; Eph. 1:11
3 John 1:12-13; Rom. 8:15-16; Gal. 4:4-7; Eph. 1:5
4 Ps. 55:22; Matt. 6:25-26; Luke 12:22-31
5 Rom. 8:28
6 Gen. 18:14; Rom. 8:31-39
7 Matt. 7:9-11

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 10

Q&A 27
Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. The almighty and ever present power of God1 by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures,2 and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—3all things, in fact, come to us not by chance4 but by his fatherly hand.5

1 Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-28
2 Heb. 1:3
3 Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; John 9:3; Prov. 22:2
4 Prov. 16:33
5 Matt. 10:29

Q&A 28
Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us,1 thankful when things go well,2 and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.3 For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.4

1 Job 1:21-22; James 1:3
2 Deut. 8:10; 1 Thess. 5:18
3 Ps. 55:22; Rom. 5:3-5; 8:38-39
4 Job 1:12; 2:6; Prov. 21:1; Acts 17:24-28

 
 
 
 
 
 

God the Son

Lord’s Day 11

Q&A 29
Q. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?
A. Because he saves us from our sins,1 and because salvation should not be sought and cannot be found in anyone else.2

1 Matt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25
2 Isa. 43:11; John 15:5; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 2:5

Q&A 30
Q. Do those who look for their salvation in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?
A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their actions they deny the only savior, Jesus.1

Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation.2

1 1 Cor. 1:12-13; Gal. 5:4
2 Col. 1:19-20; 2:10; 1 John 1:7

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 12

Q&A 31
Q. Why is he called “Christ,” meaning “anointed”?
A. Because he has been ordained by God the Father and has been anointed with the Holy Spirit1 to be our chief prophet and teacher2 who fully reveals to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our deliverance;3 our only high priest4 who has delivered us by the one sacrifice of his body,5 and who continually pleads our cause with the Father;6 and our eternal king7 who governs us by his Word and Spirit, and who guards us and keeps us in the freedom he has won for us.8

1 Luke 3:21-22; 4:14-19 (Isa. 61:1); Heb. 1:9 (Ps. 45:7)
2 Acts 3:22 (Deut. 18:15)
3 John 1:18; 15:15
4 Heb. 7:17 (Ps. 110:4)
5 Heb. 9:12; 10:11-14
6 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24
7 Matt. 21:5 (Zech. 9:9)
8 Matt. 28:18-20; John 10:28; Rev. 12:10-11

Q&A 32
Q. But why are you called a Christian?
A. Because by faith I am a member of Christ1 and so I share in his anointing.2 I am anointed to confess his name,3 to present myself to him as a living sacrifice of thanks,4 to strive with a free conscience against sin and the devil in this life,5 and afterward to reign with Christ over all creation for eternity.6

1 1 Cor. 12:12-27
2 Acts 2:17 (Joel 2:28); 1 John 2:27
3 Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10; Heb. 13:15
4 Rom. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9
5 Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 6:11; 1 Tim. 1:18-19
6 Matt. 25:34; 2 Tim. 2:12

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 13

Q&A 33
Q. Why is he called God’s “only begotten Son” when we also are God’s children?
A. Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God.1 We, however, are adopted children of God—adopted by grace through Christ.2

1 John 1:1-3, 14, 18; Heb. 1
2 John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-17; Eph. 1:5-6

Q&A 34
Q. Why do you call him “our Lord”?
A. Because—not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood1— he has set us free from sin and from the tyranny of the devil,2 and has bought us, body and soul, to be his very own.3

1 1 Pet. 1:18-19
2 Col. 1:13-14; Heb. 2:14-15
3 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Tim. 2:5-6

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 14

Q&A 35
Q. What does it mean that he “was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”?
A. That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God,1 took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit,2 from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary,3 a truly human nature so that he might also become David’s true descendant,4 like his brothers and sisters in every way5 except for sin.6

1 John 1:1; 10:30-36; Acts 13:33 (Ps. 2:7); Col. 1:15-17; 1 John 5:20
2 Luke 1:35
3 Matt. 1:18-23; John 1:14; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14
4 2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 132:11; Matt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3
5 Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:17
6 Heb. 4:15; 7:26-27

Q&A 36
Q. How does the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit you?
A. He is our mediator1 and, in God’s sight, he covers with his innocence and perfect holiness my sinfulness in which I was conceived.2

1 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 9:13-15
2 Rom. 8:3-4; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Pet. 1:18-19

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 15

Q&A 37
Q. What do you understand by the word “suffered”?
A. That during his whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race.1

This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice,2 he might deliver us, body and soul, from eternal condemnation,3 and gain for us God’s grace, righteousness, and eternal life.4

1 Isa. 53; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18
2 Rom. 3:25; Heb. 10:14; 1 John 2:2; 4:10
3 Rom. 8:1-4; Gal. 3:13
4 John 3:16; Rom. 3:24-26

Q&A 38
Q. Why did he suffer “under Pontius Pilate” as judge?
A. So that he, though innocent, might be condemned by an earthly judge,1 and so free us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us.2

1 Luke 23:13-24; John 19:4, 12-16
2 Isa. 53:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13

Q&A 39
Q. Is it significant that he was “crucified” instead of dying some other way?
A. Yes. By this I am convinced that he shouldered the curse which lay on me, since death by crucifixion was cursed by God.1

1 Gal. 3:10-13 (Deut. 21:23)

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 16

Q&A 40
Q. Why did Christ have to suffer death?
A. Because God’s justice and truth require it:1 nothing else could pay for our sins except the death of the Son of God.2

1 Gen. 2:17
2 Rom. 8:3-4; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 2:9

Q&A 41
Q. Why was he “buried”?
A. His burial testifies that he really died.1

1 Isa. 53:9; John 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; 1 Cor. 15:3-4

Q&A 42
Q. Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?
A. Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.1 Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.2

1 Ps. 49:7
2 John 5:24; Phil. 1:21-23; 1 Thess. 5:9-10

Q&A 43
Q. What further benefit do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?
A. By Christ’s power our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,1 so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us,2 but that instead we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice of gratitude to him.3

1 Rom. 6:5-11; Col. 2:11-12
2 Rom. 6:12-14
3 Rom. 12:1; Eph. 5:1-2

Q&A 44
Q. Why does the creed add, “He descended to hell”?
A. To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment.1

1 Isa. 53; Matt. 26:36-46; 27:45-46; Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7-10

 
 
 
 
 
 

Lord’s Day 17

Q&A 45
Q. How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death.1

Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life.2

Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.3