Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 34 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 92-95.
This week, we will be answering the question, “What is the law of God?” Last week, in question 91 Heidelberg asked,
Question 91: What do we do that is good?
Answer: Only that which arises out of true faith, conforms to God’s law, and is done for His glory; and not that which is based on what we think is right or on established human tradition.
The good that we do as faithful Christians is not based on our own ideas about what is good or even our established cultural traditions. The good we are called by God to walk in has been outlined for us in God’s Word, more specifically, in the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai after He delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, form the basis for our understanding of all Biblical moral law. But it might seem a bit odd that Heidelberg brings up the Law in the section that expresses our gratitude. The way many of us have been taught the law of God, it might seem more accurate to put the Ten Commandments in the guilt section of the Catechism.
This is where chronology becomes very important. You’ll remember that Yahweh didn’t give the law of God (10 Commandments) to Israel before He saved them from Egypt. He gave it to them after He had saved them from Egypt and He did so by passing over them because of the blood of the lamb.
Like those ancient Israelites, the law of God doesn’t function in order to make us the people of God. We become the children of God when we are born again and received Christ by faith. We are saved from our bondage when the blood of the Lamb covers our sin. Now, as newly freed children of God we need the law to guide us in the world so that we can obey our Father and serve Him with our lives.
The law wasn’t given in order to make us the people of God, it was given in order to guide us as the people of God. Therefore, to address the 10 Commandments in the gratitude section makes perfect sense.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 92: What is the law of God
Answer: Deuteronomy 20:1 God spoke all these words saying,
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”
The Ten Commandments (lit. 10 words) are central to Biblical morality in the Old and the New Testaments. They are an important piece to the whole story of Scripture. They matter because they give us a specific understanding of what God requires of those in relationship with Him. These commandments teach us a lot about God and quite a bit about ourselves as well.
However, these 10 commandments are not the only laws that God has given His people. The Biblical authors use the term law to refer to several different things. Law of Moses is used in reference to all the writings of Moses, the first five books of the OT, but more specifically it refers to the law of God that was given through Moses. This is a reference to the 10 Commandments and theologians refer to the 10 commandments as the Moral law. They represent a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
But God gave other laws, like the Judicial law which refers to the specific laws that governed Israel as a nation. God also gave to Israel a Ceremonial law that governed the sacrifices and rituals of Israel’s worship. So, when we think about the law of God from a big picture perspective it can be helpful to understand that God gave a ceremonial law, a judicial law and a moral law. But when it comes to our understanding of basic Christian morality, the 10 commandments are what we focus on.
But why do we as Christians still concern ourselves with the 10 Commandments? Didn’t Jesus fulfill the law on our behalf? Within the reformed tradition we think of the law as functioning in 3 ways. First, the law has a civil function within society in that it serves to limit and restrain evil (Roman 13:3-4). Second, the law has an evangelical function in that it shows us our sin and drives us to Christ (Gal 3:10). Third, the law functions to guide us as believers to know the will of God and to live a faithful Christian life.
Yes, Jesus came to fulfill the law on our behalf but that doesn’t mean the law no longer matters to us. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount,
Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Jesus wants us to understand that the moral law of God is a permanent fixture because it reflects the unchanging nature of God and the foundation for how believers should live and relate to God. We are saved by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus, which includes His perfect keeping of the law, but as we serve God in this life the moral law guides us to know what is good.
Question 93: How are the commandments divided?
Answer: Into two tables. The first four commandments, teaching us what our relationship to God should be. The second has six commandments, teaching us what we owe our neighbor.
This is pretty straight-forward. The commandments on one side reflect the vertical relationship to God while the commandments on the other side reflect the horizontal relationships to other people. This division is supported and summarized by Jesus when He answered a Pharisees question,
Matt 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Question 94: What does the Lord require in the first commandment?
Answer: That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayers to saints or other creatures. That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, trust Him alone, look to Him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all my heart. In short, that I give up anything rather than go against His will in any way.
In a recent sermon on persecution I talked about the fact that we aren’t persecuted as Christians simply because we worship Jesus, we are persecuted because we only worship Jesus. If we worshipped and celebrated the sexual revolution alongside Jesus, then the culture wouldn’t have as much of a problem with us. If we caved to opposing pressures to add a couple of secular principles and standards to our Christianity, then we wouldn’t face so much opposition.
The temptation and tendency to try and serve two masters is within each of us, but God will not share His glory. He calls for complete devotion, not shared devotion. In fact, anything less is idolatry.
Question 95: What is idolatry?
Answer: 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 His Word.
Idolatry was a recurring problem for Israel in the Old Testament. They were constantly tempted to give their devotion to some pagan deity that promised health, wealth, prosperity, victory in battle, etc. When they came into the Promised Land they were commanded to rid that land of all the previous gods and idols. They were to take down the temples where false gods were worshipped.
God’s people were unsuccessful in ridding their lives of idols, and in many cases so are we. We may not bow down and worship those idols, we may not pray to some false deity, but give our devotion to things that take God’s place in our hearts. To be clear, idolatry still exists in this world in every form and it is still a temptation for us as well.
I think I John 2:15-17 is a fair summary of the type of idolatry that we face today.
1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
When John uses the term love here and then pits our love for the world against our love for God, we have to understand that he’s talking about something much deeper than our emotions. He’s talking about a type of affection that motivates our worship, which means that loving the world here is akin to idolatry.
John isn’t saying that we should not love the people of the world, nor is he saying that we shouldn’t care for the earth itself. He is not commanding us to reject the economic and social structures of society. What He is saying is that we should not love the worldly attitudes and values that are opposed to God.
John is talking about the world that does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God and its Savior. He is talking about the world that rejects the testimony of the Bible, the world where God does not rule. It is the world set against God and His purposes in Christ and this world is still contending for our love today.
Not much has changed, the thoughts, attitudes, and morals of our world are still trying to gain our deepest love. John doesn’t say that we should hate the world, but that we should withhold our love from it. There are two things vying for our affection, our total devotion, our worship: God and the World. Only God deserves that type of love from us because we will worship what we love.
Over the next several weeks we are going to walk through each of these 10 Commandments to learn how they still apply to our lives today. So, I hope that you will join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 35 and questions 96-98.
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Thanks for listening.