2008-01-12 - Heidelberg 4.2
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 8
Question: What does the law require of us?
Answer: Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22 -
Love the Lord your God
In John 13:34 Jesus says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." The first and obvious observation is that there are not ten commandments given us in God's Word, but at least eleven. For here, Jesus says rather plainly that He is giving us a "new commandment." This passage in John reminds us that love is not simply an action, but a state of mind. Surely we are to love one another, and behave accordingly, but it is more than the outward show of doing. There is an internal aspect of love that becomes part of us. We go as far in our loving one another, that we strive to love our neighbor, even as we love ourselves.
In this passage of Scripture (Mathew 22:37-40) rendered here in the catechism in Question 4, we see that Christ reduces the Law of God to love. It seems rather an oversimplification, but does this not strike at the heart of the matter? He is saying that we fulfill the Law of God, when we properly love God and our neighbor. Many have noted that the ten commandments given in Exodus 20 seem to be divided into two categories. The first four seem concerned with our relationship with God, and the six remaining concern our relations one to another. This does seem to be the obvious division, and what Christ does here (also in Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25-28), is to give us a recap of the information given to us in the Law of God, and the teachings of the Prophets.
God is love, and without falling into an unhelpful neo-orthodox understanding of love as the chief end of Christ's life, we still know by experience and faith that God is a God of love. His love was such that He gave up His glory and was made (incarnate) in the likeness of sinful man. His love is so great, that He gave up His life to atone for our sin. It is this love, it is this love that shatters all comprehension, with which we are loved by God. It is only when we have experienced personally this love in our lives, that we can in turn love our neighbor. We love because He first loved us. Our love to God, our love to our neighbor are but reflex responses to the love of God usward. Do you love your neighbor? My friend, if you do, you only do because of the matchless love you have known and experienced in Christ. You cannot love meaningfully, unless you know the God of love.
Soli Deo Gloria,