Monday, January 10, 2011

Daily Devotions from the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 2, Monday, January 10

Zacharius Ursinus, the main author
of the Heidelberg Catechism
Lord’s Day 2

Monday

Learning Your ABC’s: Law and Gospel

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

3 Q. How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

2) Scripture

Romans 3:9-26: 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Comment

Do you remember learning your ABCs? I think almost everyone remembers the song that taught us our ABCs when we were little children. Learning the alphabet is basic if you want to learn to read.

In learning to know the Bible (and the Lord!), one of the basic truths of the Christian alphabet is learning the difference between the law and the gospel. In the Bible there are two basic kinds of Scripture: law and gospel. The law is God’s way of showing us our sin and its consequences. The gospel is God’s way of showing us our salvation and its blessings.

The Heidelberg Catechism wants us to learn this contrast between the law and the gospel, which is so basic in the Bible. Notice how it contrasts the law and the gospel in Q&A 3 and Q&A 19:

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

19 Q. How do you come to know this (salvation blessings)?
     A. The holy gospel tells me.


Whenever you come across a Bible text that tells you about your sin and misery, you are reading a law passage. Whenever you come across a Bible text that tells you about salvation and its blessings, you are reading a gospel passage. So, for example, in the reading from Romans, when we read a sentence that says, “There is no one righteous, not even one”, we are reading a law passage that tells us about our sin. But when we read that “God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement”, then we are reading a gospel passage.

Learning the difference between the law and the gospel is part of our basic education as disciples of Christ, so let’s apply ourselves in the school of Christ!

Discussion: What “contrast” is basic to understanding the Bible? What does the law tell us about? What does the gospel tell us about? In the Romans passage, try to identify verses that are law and verses that are gospel.

Prayer Starter: In your prayer, thank the Lord for the law, which shows your need for Christ, and the gospel, which shows Christ and his salvation blessings promised to you.


Hymn for Lord’s Day 2

How Do You Come to Know

To the tune TRENTHAM (Breathe on Me Breath of God http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/420 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/420). Based on Lord’s Day 2 of the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 3-5 (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A’s 14, 42, 18-19). Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
How do you come to know
your sin and misery?
The holy, righteous law of God
points out my sin to me.

v. 2
What does God’s law require?
Wholehearted love for God,
with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,
while on this earth we walk.

v. 3
What does God’s law require?
Love to our neighbor too.
Love him as you do love yourself.
Love him for God’s sake too.

v. 4
Can you live up to this?
No one can perfectly.
The law condemns my lack of love,
it shows my guilt to me.

v. 5
What then can sinners do?
Flee to the God of grace.
God sent His Son to bear our guilt
and take the sinner’s place.

v. 6
What does the gospel show?
It shows God’s gracious will.
It shows how we may live with Him
bless’d on His holy hill.


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