Many Christians are raised to know the answers of their catechism questions. But the following reminder from Rev. Brian Cochran – minister of Redeemer Reformed Church in Canada – points out that our catechism questions are not merely for head knowledge. They are to inform our emotions and affections, leading us to biblical joy in Christ! Read his thoughts on joy in the Heidelberg Catechism below:
The Heidelberg Catechism is known as “The Catechism of Comfort.” And rightly so! The word “comfort” appears 6 times in the catechism and it’s part of the memorable first question, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” But the word “joy” appears 5 times in the catechism and is in the second question of the catechism, closely connected with our comfort: “How many things must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?”
Here are the places that the word “joy” appears in the catechism. It helps us understand what true Christian joy is:
First, Christian joy is rooted in Christ and the good news of His first and second advent:
Q& A 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has delivered me from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, also assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
Q&A 2: How many things must you know to live and die in the JOY of this comfort?
A. Three: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.
Q&A 52: How does Christ’s return “to judge the living and the dead” comfort you?
A. In all distress and persecution, with uplifted head, I confidently await the very judge who has already offered himself to the judgment of God in my place and removed the whole curse from me. Christ will cast all his enemies and mine into everlasting condemnation, but will take me and all his chosen ones to himself into the JOY and glory of heaven.
Q&A 58 How does the article concerning “life everlasting” comfort you?
A. Even as I already now experience in my heart the beginning of eternal JOY, so after this life I will have perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has ever imagined: a blessedness in which to praise God eternally.
Second, Christian joy is evidenced as a fruit of the Spirit in serving the communion of saints (the body of Christ) with our gifts:
Q&A 55: Q. What do you understand by “the communion of saints”?
A. First, that believers one and all, as members of Christ the Lord, have communion with him and share in all his treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and joyfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.
Third, Christian joy is evidenced as a fruit of the Spirit in obeying the moral will of God, revealed in His Word:
Q&A 90: What is the rising-to-life of the new self?
A. Wholehearted JOY in God through Christ and a love and delight [joy] to live according to the will of God by doing every kind of good work.
I’m sure more could be added to what true Christian joy looks like. This is not meant to be exhaustive. But it is helpful to see how the catechism describes true Christian joy. Why did Christ come? One of the many reasons Christ came is to bring great joy to all who trust in Him alone for salvation. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).
So what about you? Do you know the true joy of Jesus, or merely information about it? May this season close to our celebration of Jesus’ birth cause us to overflow in genuine, Spirit-wrought joy!