Guide for family devotions using Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day Week 2

For the Week of Lord’s Day 2


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

A. The law of God tells me.[1]


4 Q. What does God’s law require of us?

A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22– Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.[2]* This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.[3] All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

*Earlier and better manuscripts of Matthew 22 omit the words “and with all your strength.” They are found in Mark 12:30.

5 Q. Can you live up to all this perfectly?

A. No.[4] I have a natural tendency to hate God and my neighbor.[5]

Scripture Memory

For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20 ESV)

Daily Scripture Reading

 Sunday           Read the passage your pastor preached on this week.

Monday          Romans 7:7-25

Tuesday          Galatians 3:15-21

Wednesday    Deuteronomy 6:1-9

Thursday        Luke 10:25-37

Friday              1 John 1:5-10

Saturday         Eph. 2:1-10

Daily Prayer Requests

Sunday           Pray that the Lord would be glorified through you in the upcoming week.

Monday          Pray for the college students in your church.

Tuesday          Pray for the leaders of our state.

Wednesday    Pray for those who are homebound and for their caregivers.

Thursday        Pray for missionaries spreading the message of Christ throughout the world.

Friday              Pray for the marriages in your church.

Saturday         Pray that God would be glorified in tomorrow’s worship gathering.

Overview and Helps

Beginning with Monday’s Scripture reading each of the three Catechism questions for this week are focused on for two days. While each question should be reviewed every day, special attention should be given to #3 on Monday and Tuesday; #4 on Wednesday and Thursday; and #5 on Friday and Saturday.


While there is disagreement about the latter portion of this passage (is Paul referring to himself before or after salvation), its teaching on the Law is clear. The Law cannot save anyone because it was never meant to do so. The Law can never save because the Law does not eliminate sin, it incites and reveals sin. To illustrate the truth of these verses you can try to coax your children into giving an honest answer to the question, “What is the first thing you want to do when Mommy or Daddy says, ‘No Cookies!’?” Or you can simply ask yourself what your immediate reaction is when someone places restrictions on you, e.g. a speed limit.


This passage is in the larger context of answering the question of how a man is made right before God. Can man be made right before God by keeping the Law? What then, is the purpose of the Law?


This passage of Scripture remains central within Judaism to this day. It should be more important to the church as well. The Jews take the words literally and put portions of the Law in small containers to hang around their heads, or nail to their door rather than allowing the Word to grow in their hearts. Having a regular time of family worship is one way in which Christians can follow the commands of this chapter. But what are some of the ordinary activities and surroundings of your everyday life that could be more explicitly tied to God’s Word?


In what ways or on what occasions have you been a part of this story? When were times you have needed help and seen others pass you by? When have you helped someone forsaken by others? What made this story so jarring to Jesus’ audience was the racial aspect of a Samaritan helping a Jew. How can race or social status effect the way you see the people around you?

You should not miss the opportunity to use this passage to point to Christ. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who gave from his riches to aid us in our poverty (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). In love, Jesus reached out to save us when we were lost and without hope.


The death spiral of self-deception should be noted. The passage can be divided into three separate false claims. There is a remedy for claiming to walk with God while sinning (1:5-7). There is a remedy for claiming that one is not a sinner (1:8-9). John offers no remedy for the person who says they have never sinned (1:10). Everyone sins: that is bad news. Jesus came to save sinners: that is good news. If you are not a sinner, Jesus cannot save you.


Special attention should be given to the “nature” language of verses 1-3. At his core, what is man? He is spiritually dead; he follows the sinful world and Satan; he does whatever his sinful nature tells him to do; he is a child of wrath.

“But God!” You cannot stop with the discussion of man’s nature though; you must go on to magnify the merciful, gracious, saving, powerful, kind, and creative nature of God.


Catechism Comments & Quotes

            This week is the first of three weeks on the subject of the Sin and Misery of man. Vis summarizes these three questions as: the Mystery, the Measure, and the Misunderstanding of our misery.

            Concerning the fact there follows 27 weeks on Deliverance, and 21 weeks on gratitude commentators note:

Its brevity shows that the Reformation, though deeply impressed by our guilt and condemnation, is not a pessimistic type of faith and has no independent interest in the doctrine of sin. We have to know the depth of sin in order to know the heights of God’s grace. (Berkhof, 97)

We notice first of all quite generally how much shorter this part is than the two following parts. That is not accidental or immaterial. “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime” (Ps. 30:5). (Barth, 35)

Question 3

The trouble with most people is that they don’t know the trouble we are in. Therefore their proposed solutions make no sense. One cannot prescribe a cure before on has diagnosed the illness. . . . Our problems are so deep that nobody can plumb the depth of the pit. Of course, we can describe our misery. . . . But nobody knows what our misery is unless God has told him or her. (Kuyvenhoven, 17)

A man may, in a general way, realize that his condition is abnormal, that there is something wrong with him, but only when he applies the proper criterion and gauges his condition with it can he know the character and seriousness of the abnormality. (Hoeksema, 62).

The law is “normal.” Whatever is in agreement with the law is “normal.” And whatever departs or is in conflict with the law of God is “abnormal,” and therefore, miserable! (Hoeksema, 64)

Question 4

It is a summary because it is the sum total of God’s requirements: the law and the prophets. (Kuyvenhoven, 18)

So at the very beginning of our knowledge sin there is mention of the name of him who in the first question was introduced as our Savior and Protector. His law says: you shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor. And this love is shown nowhere in Scripture as a spontaneous act of our own initiative, but an answer, a reflection, a reaction of the love God in Christ toward us: “We love because he first loved us.” (Berkhof, 97)

Sin, in the biblical sense of the word, is not transgression of separate commandments, of natural law, or of general standards. It is a personal act, the distortion of our personal relation with God and our neighbor. (Berkhof, 97)

The Measure of our Misery in indicated by God’s commandments. Voluminous like a lawyer’s library? Complicated like our Federal statutes? No, just two: Love God and love thy neighbor. (Vis, 15)

To the fish God says: “You must live in the water. That’s your environment. That’s your life.” And when a fish comes on dry ground, it is absolutely miserable and is going to die. To us God says, “You must love, because that’s my will for your life.” And when we don’t, we become absolutely miserable. We are going to die. (Kuyvenhoven, 18)

God, who requires love, has given love. That love was flesh and blood in Jesus Christ. And since Christ is still living, those who look to him will now receive the same quality of love by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). (Kuyvenhoven, 21)

“Love God” means that you love Him for His own sake with your whole being, with all your thinking and willing, with all your strength, every moment of your existence, in every relationship of your life, with all that you possess. Love of God is all-inclusive. It is either that or nothing, or rather: it is either love God or hate Him! Here you cannot divide or compromise. (Hoeksema, 70)

Question 5

The law of love says that God has to stand uppermost in our judgments and decisions, and that he is immediately followed by our neighbor; we ourselves have to have third place. In our sinful reality this order is basically and continuously reversed. As “love” in its biblical sense does not mean primarily a sentiment but an act of will, a decision in favor of anyone (whom we may like or may not like); so “hate” means not to acknowledge anyone’s legitimate place in our decisions and actions, to neglect or misuse him. That is exactly what we do with God and our neighbor. (Berkhof, 97-98)

We may think that the person who loves for here and now is just too careless to be religious. But the Bible interprets the “mind that is set on the flesh” as a case of “hostility,” of “enmity.” Such a person hates God! He does not and cannot submit to God’s law (Rom. 8:7). The person who thinks he or she does not need the Creator to live life or to teach philosophy is, by biblical standards, not merely politely indifferent but a “fool” who hates the One who sustains his or her breathing (Ps. 14:1, etc.). And when biblical light falls over gossip circles in taverns and beauty salons, these people are spitting out the poison of vipers (Rom. 3:13-14) and spreading a fire that was lit in hell (James 3:6). (Kuyvenhoven, 20)

…God’s standard is perfection and nothing less. Every attempt on the part of sinful men to compromise or to deny this is a hopeless delusion. When we begin to see this, we begin to understand what God intended us to learn through the law. And when we begin to grasp the unpleasant truth about our own position and condition, we also begin to realize our need for Jesus Christ as our only comfort. (Williamson, 15)

Do you really love God with every fiber of your being, never putting any person or dream or possession before Him? And do you really love your neighbor as yourself, always aiming for the advancement of others, always putting the needs of others ahead of your own, and always treating others just as you wish to be treated? (DeYoung, 27)

It is true, that in a very wide sense all men are my neighbors. But if I would feel the force of this answer of the Heidelberger, I must not think in general of “all men,” nor of the poor Chinese whom I never see, and whom to love seems rather easy; but I must bring before mind the man with whom I come into contact daily, and because of whose existence I am limited in my place in the world. Well, my nature is such, that I am prone to hate God; and, therefore, also to hate my neighbor. As my neighbor who crosses my path and who limits my place, I dislike him, and like to destroy him. If that neighbor is my employer, I simply try to get my wages out of him; if he is my employee, I try to keep those wages down as far as possible; if he is in the same business I am in, I try to force him out of business; if he is my competitor for a certain job or office, I do all in my power to disqualify him and spoil his reputation. If he is in authority over me, I rebel against him; if he is subject to me, I lord it over him. These and many other things are daily manifestations of this hatred of my neighbor. (Hoeksema, 81)

For this adverb “perfectly” is not added in order to suggest that it is possible that you keep all these things imperfectly; but on the contrary, to emphasize the fact, that you must either keep them perfectly or cannot keep them at all. (Hoeksema, 79)

[1] Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25

[2] Deut. 6:5

[3] Lev. 19:18

[4] Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10

[5] Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3



Here is the .pdf file

Heidelberg Family Week 2

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