Heidelberg Catechism Q92-93

Q.92. What does the Lord say in his law?

A. God spoke all these words:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.

You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Q.93. How are these commandments divided?

A. Into two tables. The first has four commandments, teaching us what our relation to God should be.  The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbors.


We live in a nation governed by laws.  There are laws relating to driving, commerce, privacy and many other things.  In fact we have thousands of laws on the books.  But what exactly is a law?  According to Ursinus, a law is any “rule commanding things honest and just.” (CHC, Q92, p.490)  So who gets the privilege of determining what is honest and just?  The 92nd question makes the assumption that God is the lawgiver.  He determines what is proper and acceptable for humanity.  Read Exodus 24:12


Since God is the supreme lawgiver, how did humanity come to know the words of the Lord?  Read Nehemiah 10:29. God presented his rules  for an honest and just life to Moses, who gave them to the people of Israel.  There were hundreds of rules.  In fact, according the Jewish scholars, there are 632 distinct laws given in the Old Testament. These laws cover everything from ceremonial and moral to political and judicial instructions for living as individuals and in community.


Ceremonial laws are all those things related to the public worship of God: feasts, sacrifices, priests and their attire, etc.  Each of these items rules were given in order to serve as ‘signs, symbols, types and shadows of the spiritual things to be fulfilled in the New Testament by Christ’ (CHC, p. 491).  The judicial laws were related to civil order and government: laws on punishments, mildew, rendering justice, etc.  Again these laws served to keep the Jews intact and separate until the coming of Christ but no longer matter.  But the moral law is related to right and wrong relationships between God and humanity and between people and people.  These laws transcend culture and time and are not specific applications of the law, but the general principles of right and wrong.  That is why they are summarized as the laws of love.  Read Matthew 22:37-39.


But didn’t Jesus abolish the law and do away with the need to perform  any part of them?  Some would like to believe that argument, but it isn’t true.  Jesus’ own words declare that he had no intention of abolishing the law.  Read Matthew 5:17-18.  What Jesus did accomplish was the removal of the curse of the Law for all who believe.  Read Galatians 3:13.  However, removing the curse is not the same as removing the standards of truth and justice.  These laws still exist for all humanity to obey.


As new creatures in Christ, the requirements of the law are written on our hearts and seared into our minds.  As redeemed people we are called to live in holiness and conformity to the life of Jesus who fulfilled the law in every way.  Read Jeremiah 31:33.


The Ten Commandments given to Moses by God are the foundation for proper relationships.  In them we will learn about worship, rest, and community relations with others, but we must also recognize that in each commandment is a position and negative.  When a negative action is prohibited, the opposite positive thing is commended and vice versa, but even such a simple reading of the moral law would be insufficient.  For even a strict reading of do’s and don’ts would fail to get to the heart issues the Law of God is establishing.  This is why Jesus was able to equate lust with adultery and anger with murder.  Let s strive to understand that at the root of the 10 commandments is a desire to see people live holy and righteous lives. That is why Jesus finishes his explication of the broadening of the commandments with a call to be perfect.  Read Matthew 5:21-48.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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