Lord’s Day 16: All the Way to Death

Catechism and Psalter

As we continue our series on the Heidelberg Catechism here on URC Psalmody, we arrive today at a particularly beautiful set of questions and answers.  While Lord’s Day 15 explains the nature and details of Christ’s suffering and death, Lord’s Day 16 brings the truth of the gospel into focus for the individual believer.  What wisdom, assurance, and comfort are contained in these words!

40 Q.  Why did Christ have to go all the way to death?

A.  Because God’s justice and truth demand it:
only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.

41 Q.  Why was he “buried”?

A.  His burial testifies
that he really died.

42 Q.  Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die?

A.  Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.
Rather, it puts an end to our sinning
and is our entrance into eternal life.

43 Q.  What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A.  Through Christ’s death
our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him,
so that the evil desires of the flesh
may no longer rule us,
but that instead we may dedicate ourselves
as an offering of gratitude to him.

44 Q.  Why does the creed add: “He descended into hell”?

A.  To assure me in times of personal crisis and temptation
that Christ my Lord,
by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul,
especially on the cross but also earlier,
has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.

Suggested Songs

190, “Sing a New Song to Jehovah” (Psalm 98)

(Sung by Grace URC in Dunnville, ON)

“God’s justice and truth demand it; only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.”  God’s plan of salvation has a twofold impact: not only does it reveal his mercy to the elect, it also proclaims his justice to the nations.  Psalm 98, and particularly this versification in the blue Psalter Hymnal, calls attention to these twin results.

Sing a new song to Jehovah
For the wonders He has wrought,
His right hand and arm most holy
Triumph to His cause have brought.
In His love and tender mercy
He has made salvation known,
In the sight of every nation
He His righteousness has shown.

Truth and mercy toward His people
He has ever kept in mind,
And His full and free salvation
He has shown to all mankind.
Sing, O earth, sing to Jehovah,
Praises to Jehovah sing;
With the swelling notes of music
Shout before the Lord, the King.

Seas and all your fulness, thunder,
All earth’s peoples, now rejoice;
Floods and hills, in praise uniting,
To the Lord lift up your voice.
For, behold, Jehovah cometh,
Robed in justice and in might;
He alone will judge the nations,
And His judgment shall be right.

91, “Dust to Dust, the Mortal Dies” (Psalm 49)

(Sung in altered form by the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir)

“Our death does not pay the debt of our sins.  Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.”  Perhaps it could be added that while our death does not pay the debt of our sins, as the catechism says, death is nevertheless a continuing effect of sin, and is an inevitable event for all of us (save that the Lord returns).  Death remains an unnatural and dreadful phenomenon.  But for the believer, its power is vanquished by the assurance that it does indeed put “an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.”  Psalm 49 emphasizes the contrast between the elect and the reprobate as they face death.

Dust to dust, the mortal dies,
Both the foolish and the wise;
None forever can remain,
Each must leave his hoarded gain.
Yet within their heart they say
That their houses are for aye,
That their dwelling-places grand
Shall for generations stand.

O’er them soon shall rule the just,
All their beauty turn to dust;
God my waiting soul shall save,
He will raise me from the grave.
Let no fear disturb your peace
Though one’s house and wealth increase:
Death shall end his fleeting day,
He shall carry naught away.

293, “To God My Earnest Voice I Raise” (Psalm 142)

(Sung by the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir)

“Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to him.”  The first part of Psalm 142 comes from the depths of a soul afflicted by numerous enemies, either external or internal.  The “evil desires of the flesh” mentioned in the Catechism are just such internal enemies to us.  But the latter portion of this psalm expresses confident hope and a joyful response to God’s salvation:

O Lord, my Savior, now to Thee,
Without a hope besides, I flee,
To Thee, my shelter from the strife,
My portion in the land of life.

Be Thou my help when troubles throng,
For I am weak and foes are strong;
My captive soul from prison bring,
And thankful praises I will sing.

The righteous then shall gather round
To share the blessing I have found,
Their hearts made glad because they see
How richly God has dealt with me.

38, “The Lord’s My Shepherd” (Psalm 23)

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI, and at Synod 2012)

The creed assures me “in times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the anguish and torment of hell.”  As we read these words, it’s not hard to hear echoes of Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Not only is Christ with us to guide and uphold us, but it was he who passed through the valley of the shadow of death, even to death itself, to bring us salvation.

The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want;
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green; He leadeth me
The quiet waters by.

My soul He doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for His own Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill,
For Thou art with me, and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.

A table Thou hast furnished me
In presence of my foes;
My head Thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me,
And in God’s house forevermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

–MRK

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1 Response to “Lord’s Day 16: All the Way to Death”



  1. 1 Lord’s Day 17: He Has Overcome Death | URC Psalmody Trackback on April 24, 2013 at 9:12 am

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