Saturday, April 23, 2011

Singing through the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 51

Heidelberg Germany and the
Church of the Holy Spirit
Lord's Day 51

Q & A 126

Q. What does the fifth request mean?

A. "Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors" means,
Because of Christ's blood,
do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are,
any of the sins we do
or the evil that constantly clings to us.

Forgive us just as we are fully determined,
as evidence of your grace in us,
to forgive our neighbors.


How much have we been forgiven in Christ? How great is the debt of sin we owe to God?

In 2010 a British Petroleum oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. For three months crude oil spewed into the ocean. The problem with the cleanup was that the well could not be capped and so the oil continued to flow into the ocean destroying wildlife and beaches for three months.

This gives us a bit of the picture of the debt of our sin. The problem is not just “the sins we do,” but also that these sins continually flow from “the evil that constantly clings to us.” We sin because we are sinners, and as the Belgic Confession reminds us, original sin in us “is not abolished or wholly uprooted even by baptism, seeing that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring.” Even our conversion to Jesus Christ does not cap the well of our original sin! Not just for three months, but for a lifetime, sins flow from the original sin within us, or as Q&A 126 puts it, “the evil that constantly clings to us.”

In Matthew 18, we learn something of the size of our debt of sin against God our Father. Jesus tells a parable designed to teach us about forgiveness. In the parable, a king (who stands for God) is settling accounts with his servants, and one is brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents, which was an incalculable, unpayable amount. In our day the amount would be about six billion dollars, a debt that even the richest man could not pay! In the parable the servant is forgiven his debt---all six billion dollars of it, and he and his family are saved from the slavery that was the punishment for debtors in the ancient world.

But then a man comes to this forgiven servant, who owes him a hundred denarii, which translates to 12,000 dollars in today’s economy. But instead of forgiving this man his debt, this wicked servant had his debtor thrown into prison.

What should we learn from this parable? The main point of this parable is to teach Peter, and us, about our need to forgive others. The idea seems to be that if we have been forgiven so much by our heavenly Father, how can we do anything but forgive those who sin against us! Our forgiveness of others should go beyond Peter’s seven times (Mat. 18:21) to a forgiveness that doesn’t keep count, for nothing can compare to the great debt we have been forgiven by the Father through the atoning death of his Son. If God has so forgiven us, how can we not graciously forgive our debtors? Forgiveness of others is really about this question: How much have you been forgiven in Christ?


Deepest Need of Ev’ry Person

To the tune: REGENT SQUARE “Angels from the Realms of Glory” ( Based on Lord’s Day 51 of the Heidelberg Catechism (related Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 105). Words: William Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Deepest need of ev’ry person,
born in Adam’s sinful race.
Guilt of many sins committed,
how we need God’s pard’ning grace!
Speak, O Christ, a word of pardon,
“Son, your sins are all forgiv’n!”

v. 2
What could be a greater problem
than the judgment of the Lord?
Sin a great offense against Him,
men have not their God adored.
Speak, O Christ, a word of pardon,
“Son, your sins are all forgiv’n!”

v. 3
Not just sins we have committed,
evil also clings to us.
Adam’s independent nature
won’t let go, adheres to us.
Speak, O Christ, a word of pardon,
“Son, your sins are all forgiv’n!”

v. 4
We deserve not grace but justice
from the hand of God the King.
Do not hold our sins against us,
nor the sin that to us clings.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,
through the blood that You have shed.

v. 5
O how desp’rate our condition
is before the Holy One.
In our sin we stand before Him,
in His glory we’re undone.
Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy,
through the blood that You have shed.

v. 6
Father, we can never grasp it,
love that sent Your Son to us.
Taking on our mortal nature,
so that He might die for us.
Praise to You for love astounding
in Your Son’s atoning death.

v. 7
You forgive us in your mercy,
through the blood of Your dear Son.
Father, we forgive our neighbor,
for the wrongs against us done.
Thanks to You for Your great mercy,
help us show it to the world.

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