Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 16 image

Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 16

[Two absolutely superb questions get addressed this Lord's Day. One: if Christ died for our sins, then why do we still die? And two: what on earth is the Creed going on about when it says Jesus "descended into hell"?

Heidelberg answers both with great wisdom and admirable clarity. We die, not to pay the debt of our sins, but to put an end to our sinning. And Jesus' descent into hell does not refer to the harrowing of hell or anything like that, as medieval theology would often portray it, but to his "suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul, on the cross but also earlier." So there you go.]

Q40. Why did Christ have to suffer death?

A40. Because God’s justice and truth require it:
nothing else could pay for our sins
except the death of the Son of God.

Q41. Why was he “buried”?

A41. His burial testifies
that he really died.

Q42. Since Christ has died for us,
why do we still have to die?

A42. 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.

Q43. What further benefit do we receive
from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?

A43. By Christ’s power
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 offer ourselves
as a sacrifice of gratitude to him.

Q44. Why does the creed add,
“He descended to hell”?

A44. To assure me during attacks of deepest dread and temptation
that Christ my Lord,
by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain, and terror of soul,
on the cross but also earlier,
has delivered me from hellish anguish and torment.

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