Heidelberg Catechism: The Ten Commandments

Lord’s Day 34

Q&A 92
Q. What is God’s law? 
A. God spoke all these words:

THE FIRST COMMANDMENT
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

THE THIRD COMMANDMENT
“You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.”

THE FOURTH COMMANDMENT
“Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.”

THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT
“Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.”

THE SIXTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not murder.”

THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not commit adultery.”

THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not steal.”

THE NINTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

THE TENTH COMMANDMENT
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”1

1 Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21

Q&A 93
Q. How are these commandments divided? 
A. Into two tables. The first has four commandments, teaching us how we ought to live in relation to God. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.1

1 Matt. 22:37-39

Q&A 94
Q. What does the Lord require in the first commandment? 
A. That I, not wanting to endanger my own salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry,1sorcery, superstitious rites,2 and prayer to saints or to other creatures.3

That I rightly know the only true God,4 trust him alone,5 and look to God for every good thing6 humbly7 and patiently,8 and love,9 fear,10 and honor11 God with all my heart.

In short, that I give up anything rather than go against God’s will in any way.12

1 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 10:5-14; 1 John 5:21
2 Lev. 19:31; Deut. 18:9-12
3 Matt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9
4 John 17:3
5 Jer. 17:5, 7
6 Ps. 104:27-28; James 1:17
7 1 Pet. 5:5-6
8 Col. 1:11; Heb. 10:36
9 Matt. 22:37 (Deut. 6:5)
10 Prov. 9:10; 1 Pet. 1:17
11 Matt. 4:10 (Deut. 6:13)
12 Matt. 5:29-30; 10:37-39

Q&A 95
Q. What is idolatry? 
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word.1

1 1 Chron. 16:26; Gal. 4:8-9; Eph. 5:5; Phil. 3:19

Lord’s Day 35

Q&A 96
Q. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment? 
A. That we in no way make any image of God1 nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s Word.2

1 Deut. 4:15-19; Isa. 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:22-23
2 Lev. 10:1-7; 1 Sam. 15:22-23; John 4:23-24

Q&A 97
Q. May we then not make any image at all? 
A. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.

Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.1

1 Ex. 34:13-14, 17; 2 Kings 18:4-5

Q&A 98
Q. But may not images be permitted in churches in place of books for the unlearned? 
A. No, we should not try to be wiser than God. God wants the Christian community instructed by the living preaching of his Word1—not by idols that cannot even talk.2

1 Rom. 10:14-15, 17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19
2 Jer. 10:8; Hab. 2:18-20

Lord’s Day 36

Q&A 99
Q. What is the aim of the third commandment? 
A. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing,1 perjury,2or unnecessary oaths,3 nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.4

In summary, we should use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe,5so that we may properly confess God,6 pray to God,7 and glorify God in all our words and works.8

1 Lev. 24:10-17
2 Lev. 19:12
3 Matt. 5:37; James 5:12
4 Lev. 5:1; Prov. 29:24
5 Ps. 99:1-5; Jer. 4:2
6 Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10
7 Ps. 50:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:8
8 Col. 3:17

Q&A 100
Q. Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent and forbid it? 
A. Yes, indeed;1 No sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than blaspheming his name. That is why God commanded it to be punished with death.2

1 Lev. 5:1
2 Lev. 24:10-17

Lord’s Day 37

Q&A 101
Q. But may we swear an oath in God’s name if we do it reverently? 
A. Yes, when the government demands it, or when necessity requires it, in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good.

Such oaths are grounded in God’s Word1 and were rightly used by the people of God in the Old and New Testaments.2

1 Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Jer. 4:1-2; Heb. 6:16
2 Gen. 21:24; Josh. 9:15; 1 Kings 1:29-30; Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:23

Q&A 102
Q. May we also swear by saints or other creatures? 
A. No. A legitimate oath means calling upon God as the only one who knows my heart to witness to my truthfulness and to punish me if I swear falsely.1 No creature is worthy of such honor.2

1 Rom. 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:23
2 Matt. 5:34-37; 23:16-22; James 5:12

Lord’s Day 38

Q&A 103
Q. What is God’s will for you in the fourth commandment? 
A. First, that the gospel ministry and education for it be maintained,1 and that, especially on the festive day of rest, I diligently attend the assembly of God’s people2 to learn what God’s Word teaches,3 to participate in the sacraments,4 to pray to God publicly,5 and to bring Christian offerings for the poor.6

Second, that every day of my life I rest from my evil ways, let the Lord work in me through his Spirit, and so begin in this life the eternal Sabbath.7

1 Deut. 6:4-9, 20-25; 1 Cor. 9:13-14; 2 Tim. 2:2; 3:13-17; Titus 1:5
2 Deut. 12:5-12; Ps. 40:9-10; 68:26; Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:23-25
3 Rom. 10:14-17; 1 Cor. 14:31-32; 1 Tim. 4:13
4 1 Cor. 11:23-25
5 Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:1
6 Ps. 50:14; 1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8-9
7 Isa. 66:23; Heb. 4:9-11

Lord’s Day 39

Q&A 104
Q. What is God’s will for you in the fifth commandment? 
A. That I honor, love, and be loyal to my father and mother and all those in authority over me; that I submit myself with proper obedience to all their good teaching and discipline;1 and also that I be patient with their failings2—for through them God chooses to rule us.3

1 Ex. 21:17; Prov. 1:8; 4:1; Rom. 13:1-2; Eph. 5:21-22; 6:1-9; Col. 3:18–4:1
2 Prov. 20:20; 23:22; 1 Pet. 2:18
3 Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1-8; Eph. 6:1-9; Col. 3:18-21

Lord’s Day 40

Q&A 105
Q. What is God’s will for you in the sixth commandment? 
A. I am not to belittle, hate, insult, or kill my neighbor—not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds—and I am not to be party to this in others;1 rather, I am to put away all desire for revenge.2

I am not to harm or recklessly endanger myself either.3

Prevention of murder is also why government is armed with the sword.4

1 Gen. 9:6; Lev. 19:17-18; Matt. 5:21-22; 26:52
2 Prov. 25:21-22; Matt. 18:35; Rom. 12:19; Eph. 4:26
3 Matt. 4:7; 26:52; Rom. 13:11-14
4 Gen. 9:6; Ex. 21:14; Rom. 13:4

Q&A 106
Q. Does this commandment refer only to murder? 
A. By forbidding murder God teaches us that he hates the root of murder: envy, hatred, anger, vindictiveness.1

In God’s sight all such are disguised forms of murder.2

1 Prov. 14:30; Rom. 1:29; 12:19; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 2:9-11
2 1 John 3:15

Q&A 107
Q. Is it enough then that we do not murder our neighbor in any such way? 
A. No. By condemning envy, hatred, and anger God wants us to love our neighbors as ourselves,1 to be patient, peace-loving, gentle, merciful, and friendly toward them,2 to protect them from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.3

1 Matt. 7:12; 22:39; Rom. 12:10
2 Matt. 5:3-12; Luke 6:36; Rom. 12:10, 18; Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Pet. 3:8
3 Ex. 23:4-5; Matt. 5:44-45; Rom. 12:20-21 (Prov. 25:21-22)

Lord’s Day 41

Q&A 108
Q. What does the seventh commandment teach us? 
A. That God condemns all unchastity,1 and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it2 and live decent and chaste lives,3 within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

1 Lev. 18:30; Eph. 5:3-5
2 Jude 22-23
3 1 Cor. 7:1-9; 1 Thess. 4:3-8; Heb. 13:4

Q&A 109
Q. Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery? 
A. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why God forbids all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires,1 and whatever may incite someone to them.2

1 Matt. 5:27-29; 1 Cor. 6:18-20; Eph. 5:3-4
2 1 Cor. 15:33; Eph. 5:18

Lord’s Day 42

Q&A 110
Q. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment? 
A. God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law.1

But in God’s sight theft also includes all scheming and swindling in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves, whether by force or means that appear legitimate,2 such as inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God.3

In addition God forbids all greed4 and pointless squandering of his gifts.5

1 Ex. 22:1; 1 Cor. 5:9-10; 6:9-10
2 Mic. 6:9-11; Luke 3:14; James 5:1-6
3 Deut. 25:13-16; Ps. 15:5; Prov. 11:1; 12:22; Ezek. 45:9-12; Luke 6:35
4 Luke 12:15; Eph. 5:5
5 Prov. 21:20; 23:20-21; Luke 16:10-13

Q&A 111
Q. What does God require of you in this commandment? 
A. That I do whatever I can for my neighbor’s good, that I treat others as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in need.1

1 Isa. 58:5-10; Matt. 7:12; Gal. 6:9-10; Eph. 4:28

Lord’s Day 43

Q&A 112
Q. What is the aim of the ninth commandment? 
A. That I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.1

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.2 I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it.3 And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.4

1 Ps. 15; Prov. 19:5; Matt. 7:1; Luke 6:37; Rom. 1:28-32
2 Lev. 19:11-12; Prov. 12:22; 13:5; John 8:44; Rev. 21:8
3 1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:25
4 1 Pet. 3:8-9; 4:8

Lord’s Day 44

Q&A 113
Q. What is the aim of the tenth commandment? 
A. That not even the slightest desire or thought contrary to any one of God’s commandments should ever arise in our hearts.

Rather, with all our hearts we should always hate sin and take pleasure in whatever is right.1

1 Ps. 19:7-14; 139:23-24; Rom. 7:7-8

Q&A 114
Q. But can those converted to God obey these commandments perfectly? 
A. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.1

Nevertheless, with all seriousness of purpose, they do begin to live according to all, not only some, of God’s commandments.2

1 Eccles. 7:20; Rom. 7:14-15; 1 Cor. 13:9; 1 John 1:8-10
2 Ps. 1:1-2; Rom. 7:22-25; Phil. 3:12-16

Q&A 115
Q. Since no one in this life can obey the Ten Commandments perfectly, why does God want them preached so pointedly? 
A. First, so that the longer we live the more we may come to know our sinfulness and the more eagerly look to Christ for forgiveness of sins and righteousness.1

Second, so that we may never stop striving, and never stop praying to God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, to be renewed more and more after God’s image, until after this life we reach our goal: perfection.2

1 Ps. 32:5; Rom. 3:19-26; 7:7, 24-25; 1 John 1:9
2 1 Cor. 9:24; Phil. 3:12-14; 1 John 3:1-3

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