We’ve fallen a bit behind in our series on the Heidelberg Catechism here on URC Psalmody, but it is interesting to note that as we enter the last third of 2013 (the year that marks the document’s 450th birthday), we also enter upon the last third of the Catechism. Lord’s Days 1-4 set forth the sad truth about our sin; Lord’s Days 5-31 dealt with the glory of our salvation. The remaining 21 Lord’s Days address the Christian’s grateful life of service. With an overwhelming sense of joy, Lord’s Day 32 expounds upon the very first question and answer’s declaration that “Christ, by his Holy Spirit…makes me whole-heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”
86 Q. We have been delivered from our misery by God’s grace alone through Christ and not because we have earned it: why then must we still do good?
A. To be sure, Christ has redeemed us by his blood.
But we do good because
Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself,
so that in all our living
we may show that we are thankful to God
for all he has done for us,
and so that he may be praised through us.
And we do good
so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits,
and so that by our godly living
our neighbors may be won over to Christ.
87 Q. Can those be saved who do not turn to God from their ungrateful and impenitent ways?
A. By no means.
Scripture tells us that
no unchaste person,
no idolater, adulterer, thief,
no covetous person,
no drunkard, slanderer, robber,
or the like
is going to inherit the kingdom of God.
180, “It Is Good to Sing Thy Praises” (Psalm 92)
“Christ has redeemed us by his blood. But we do good because Christ by his Spirit is also renewing us to be like himself.” For a glorious exposition of these wonderful words, we need look no further than the paraphrase of Psalm 92 in number 180 of the blue Psalter Hymnal. The second stanza praises the works God’s hands have wrought, and the third rejoices that his boundless grace will nourish the righteous. If there is a single psalm that adequately summarizes the Christian’s response of gratitude, it may well be Psalm 92.
It is good to sing Thy praises
And to thank Thee, O Most High,
Showing forth Thy loving-kindness
When the morning lights the sky.
It is good when night is falling
Of Thy faithfulness to tell,
While with sweet, melodious praises
Songs of adoration swell.
Thou hast filled my heart with gladness
Through the works Thy hands have wrought;
Thou hast made my life victorious,
Great Thy works and deep Thy thought.
Thou, O Lord, on high exalted,
Reignest evermore in might;
All Thine enemies shall perish,
Sin be banished from Thy sight.
But the good shall live before Thee,
Planted in Thy dwelling-place,
Fruitful trees and ever verdant,
Nourished by Thy boundless grace.
In His goodness to the righteous
God His righteousness displays;
God my rock, my strength and refuge,
Just and true are all His ways.
230, “What Shall I Render to the Lord” (Psalm 116)
“[W]e do good…so that in all our living we may show that we are thankful to God for all he has done for us, and so that he may be praised through us.” Psalm 116 is a song of salvation which we’ve already connected to previous Lord’s Days of the Catechism. Here its last section points us to consider how we may rightly give thanks to God for his many blessings.
What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits to me?
How shall my soul, by grace restored,
Give worthy thanks, O Lord, to Thee?
His saints the Lord delights to save,
Their death is precious in His sight;
He has redeemed me from the grave,
And in His service I delight.
With thankful heart I offer now
My gift, and call upon God’s Name;
Before His saints I pay my vow
And here my gratitude proclaim.
Within His house, the house of prayer,
I dedicate myself to God;
Let all His saints His grace declare
And join to sound His praise abroad.
120, “Come, All Ye People, Bless Our God” (Psalm 66)
“And we do good so that we may be assured of our faith by its fruits, and so that by our godly living our neighbors may be won over to Christ.” This last sentence of question and answer 86 calls to mind the exhortation of I Peter 2:11, 12 (ESV):
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Not only do our good works assure us of the validity of our faith, the Holy Spirit also uses them to convict our unbelieving neighbors of their need for a Savior. Further, as Psalm 66 shows, our grateful response to God encourages the entire body of Christ.
Come, all ye people, bless our God
And tell His glorious praise abroad,
Who holds our souls in life,
Who never lets our feet be moved
And, though our faith He oft has proved,
Upholds us in the strife.
We come with offerings to His house,
And here we pay the solemn vows
We uttered in distress;
To Him our all we dedicate,
To Him we wholly consecrate
The lives His mercies bless.
Come, hear, all ye that fear the Lord,
While I with grateful heart record
What God has done for me;
I cried to Him in deep distress,
And now His wondrous grace I bless,
For He has set me free.
174, “O Teach Thou Us to Count Our Days” (Psalm 90)
“[N]o unchaste person, no idolater, adulterer, thief, no covetous person, no drunkard, slanderer, robber, or the like is going to inherit the kingdom of God.” Although the Catechism has already covered this ground, it backs up to emphasize unequivocally that, in the words of the apostle, “faith apart from works is dead” (Jas. 2:26). With this perspective we may well exclaim with the psalmist Moses, “O teach Thou us to count our days/And set our hearts on wisdom’s ways!”
Psalm 90 ought to make us tremble at the realization of our frailty, but it should also give us comfort. The psalm ends with a cry for God to “establish the works of our hands upon us,” a plea fulfilled in the words of I Corinthians 15:58:
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
So let there be on us bestowed
The beauty of the Lord our God;
The work accomplished by our hand
Establish Thou, and make it stand;
Yea, let our hopeful labor be
Established evermore by Thee,
Established evermore by Thee.