Good morning po sa ating lahat! Same series pa rin po tayo in our Vesper Service—the Heidelberg Catechism—and we’re back to Lord’s Day 1.
I think it will also benefit all of us if we refresh ourselves with the reason why we do it this way.
First and foremost, we must keep in mind that the Heidelberg Catechism is not something we add to the Bible or consider equal to the Bible or worse—replace the Bible. God forbid! Rather, we use it as a short, systematic, and practical summary of the doctrine of salvation as revealed in the Bible. So hindi po natin sinasabi na LAHAT ng ipinapahayag ng Salita ng Diyos eh makikita natin sa Heidelberg Catechism, or kahit pa sa Belgic Confession or Canons of Dort. Pero yung mga pangunahing doktrina patungkol sa kaligtasan at buhay Kristiyano ay isin-ummarize ng Catechism para mas maintindihan natin ‘to.
Ngayon, bakit kailangan ‘to i-preach during Vesper? I remember nung bago pa lang din ako sa Reformed faith, napa-isip din ako bakit nga ba ganun. Bakit hindi na lang yan sa Bible Study?
Obviously, hindi po required ng Diyos na mag-preach on Heidelberg Catechism during the Lord’s Day. But as a Reformed church, we believe there are valid and good reasons why the Reformed churches until today agreed—as a matter of church order—that the Catechism should be preached ordinarily on the Lord’s Day (morning or afternoon).
Maraming reasons, but the major one is to make sure that we receive the whole truth of God. Paul himself said to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” “Whole counsel” doesn’t mean the first word in Genesis up to the last word in Revelation. But it means all the aspects of God’s will of redemption.
Lalo na sa panahon natin ngayon na maraming influence around us, malaki yung tendency na mapasukan tayo ng heresy. And the Catechism helps keep our teachings biblical rather than worldly.
Sa kabilang banda, malaki rin yung tendency na maging one-sided lang ang church. Pwedeng hindi naman heresy yung tinuturo natin, pero kulang. For example:
- We may emphasize that God is good and loving, but fail to emphasize God’s holiness and justice
- We may emphasize na ginawa na ni Cristo ang lahat para tayo’y maging matuwid sa mata ng Diyos, yet fail to emphasize Christian living—that we believers are called to live holy lives by obeying all of God’s moral laws.
So the Catechism trains us, ministers, to teach the whole counsel of God. And it benefits the congregation to receive nothing less than the whole truth.
For that reason, Catechetical sermons will help all of us mature and be strong in the Christian faith. And given na may 52 divisions sa Catechism, the design and goal is to complete it throughout the year—helping us grow mature every single year.
Ngayon, just one more clarification po bago tayo dumako sa mismong sermon, pag sinabi nating Catechetical sermon—we’re not preaching just the words of men who wrote the Catechism. We preach the Word of God. We still read, meditate, and apply the Scriptures. Ginagamit lang po natin yung Catechism bilang tulong at gabay na magbibigay linaw sa kung ano yung dapat nating maunawaan at paniwalaan mula sa iba’t ibang mga passages and verses ng Salita ng Diyos.
Now, in Lord’s Day 1, the first question asks, “What is your only comfort in life and in death?”
Yung word po na “comfort” dito ay hindi tumutukoy sa “comfortable life”—yung tipong magaan yung pakiramdam mo at maginhawa yung buhay. Sa original language, the word basically means “to make strong, to fortify.” Related siya sa word na fort or fortress.
Kung nakapunta na po kayo sa Intramuros, Manila, nandun yung Fort Santiago. Yung structures na may matataas at malalapad na pader. “Fortified” yung place nayun. It is strong. At lalo na sa ibang bansa, yung mga fortress, mas matataas at makakapal talaga yung walls. Now imagine, kapag nandun ka sa loob ng fortress, it gives you strength, it gives you protection. Kung usapang giyera, malakas ka dahil sa protection na meron sa paligid mo.
That’s the idea of the word “comfort” here. It means a “certainty or security-outside-of-ourselves.” It gives strength and protection from all kinds of danger, resulting in security, hope, and even happiness.
How do we find this only comfort? What is this true comfort?
In sum, the Catechism basically answers that this comfort is not in ourselves but in Christ.
Now, if you look at the Catechism, the truths are based on multiple passages and texts. But another passage that proclaims this “comfort” to us is Psalm 62. Let’s go there.
It is written by David, but it is not clear what is the specific background of this Psalm. Whatever the case, David expresses a sense of danger (cf. verses 3-4). At the same time, it is a Psalm of trust where David makes his own confession of trust in God while also exhorting others to trust in God alone as the “rock,” “salvation,” “fortress,” and “refuge.”
If we look at the whole structure of the Psalm, it is divided into 3 major stanzas or divisions. (vv. 1-4, 5-10, & 11-12)
At sa 3 divisions na ‘to, may mga bagay na paulit-ulit na binabanggit si David. Tingnan natin yung structure.
- In verses 1-2, David makes a “confession of trust in God.” (For God alone I wait… he’s my rock, my salvation, my fortress)
- Sa verses 3-4 naman, he makes a “negative reference to man” (They attack… they take pleasure in falsehood… they curse)
- Then, in verses 5-8, meron ulit siyang confession of trust in God. It is a renewed confession, saying the same things (“God is my rock, my salvation, my refuge”)
- Tapos sa verses 9-10 naman, he makes another “negative reference to man,” including riches. (“Men are mere breath… do not hope in riches”)
- And finally, in verses 11-12, he makes a “final confession of trust in God.” (“Power and steadfast love belongs to God.”)
Given this structure, the overall message is this: Trust God alone—not man, nor the riches of men. God alone is your salvation, your fortress, your comfort.
How could David say so?
Merong at least 2 highlights po na makikita natin sa Psalm 62:
1. David speaks of the “Vanity of man”
Verse 3 reads: “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?”
- Most likely, yung “man” na tinutukoy ni David eh yung sarili niya.
- Yung “leaning wall or tottering fence” ay yung pader na naka-slant na, anytime pwedeng magiba o matumba
- And this speaks of the vulnerability and weakness of man.
Verse 4: “They only plan to thrust him (the man) down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.”
- These show the sinfulness of man, and all men are vulnerable to the effects of sin whether inside or outside. Apektado ka ng kasalanan mo, apektado ka rin ng kasalanan ni iba.
Then jump to verse 9, it reads: “Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion (or a lie); in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath”
- Yung traditional weighing scale na ginagamit po noon, may 2 sides yun. Kapag naglagay ka ng mabigat sa kaliwa, bababa yun at aangat yung sa kanan. Pero pag naglagay ka sa kanan, at bumaba yun at umangat yung sa kanan—ibig sabihin, mas matimbang yung nasa kanan.
- But the imagery here is this: Lahat ng tao—“low estate” man o “high estate”, mayaman man o mahirap—ay mas magaan pa sa singaw o hininga ng tao. Imagine, lalabas na mas matimbang pa daw yung hininga ng tao.
Verse 10: “Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hope on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them.”
- So hindi lang sinasabi ni David, “Don’t trust in man.” He’s also saying, “Don’t trust in the work of man, the riches of men.”
Mga magulang ko’t kapatid, all of these verses tell us that there is nothing we can trust in man (including ourselves) because man is vain and futile.
Just to clarify, it doesn’t mean that we human beings are utterly worthless and insignificant. Kasi kung ganun, eh di dapat hindi na lang tayo nilikha ng Diyos. God created us in his image. Imago Dei. Compared with animals and plants, and even angels, we are bearers of God’s image. Yun yung dignity natin as human beings…
But compared with God, when we stand next to God—we become nothing.
- Next to God’s almighty power, we’re weak
- Compared with God’s being eternal, we’re nothing but breath
- Compared with God’s holiness and faithfulness, we’re nothing but liars and sinners worthy of hell.
Kaya nga yung answer ng ating Catechism, “What is your only comfort?—That I am not my own.” Yun yung aking “comfort:” Hindi ko na pagmamay-ari sarili ko. Hindi nakasalalay sa sarili ko ang kalakasan, pag-asa at seguridad ng aking buong pag-katao at kaligtasan—sa katawan at kaluluwa, sa buhay at kamatayan.
Kung sa sarili lang po tayo aasa, how can we find security?
- Given your sinfulness, how can you be sure that you are righteous by yourself in the sight of God? Eh everyday nagkakasala ka, in your thoughts, your hearts, speech and actions.
- Given your mistakes and foolish decisions, how can you be sure that you will remain and persevere in the faith until the end?
So, there is no hope and security in ourselves or in our works. It must be outside-of-ourselves. It must be in God alone.
[And that’s the 2nd highlight na makikita natin dito sa Psalm 62]
2. David speaks of “Salvation and security from God alone”
Verse 1 reads, “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.”
Yung expression na “my soul waits in silence” means kalmado si David in his heart. HIndi siya nagpa-panic. Bakit? Kasi may security siya eh. And he finds his security in God.
At paulit-ulit niyang sinasabi, “God is my rock,” “God is my salvation,” “God is my fortress,” “God is my refuge.” Kahit sa verses 5-8, same thing. May mga intensified language lang, for instance, in verse 7, God is not just a rock, but a “mighty rock.”
Related po yung mga words na ‘to. At lalo na sa book of Psalms, the word “rock” is often associated with “salvation.” Pag “rock,” pwedeng tinutukoy nito ay isang malaking bato, parang maliit na bundok pero solid na bato. At lalo na noon, yung ganitong “rock” ay nagsisilbing refuge para sa mga tao. Pag may bagyo o mainit panahon, dun sila sumisilong at nagtatago sa “rock.”
Kung nakita niyo na yung pictures ng Petra sa Jordan or yung caves kung saan nakuha yung Dead Sea scrolls, sa mismong mga bato tumitira yung mga tao.
Another thing na tinutukoy pag sinabing “rock” sa Bible ay isang malaking area na mabato. Lalo na sa desert, puro buhangin. So kapag magtatayo ng fortress or fortified city, dun gagawin sa rocky place. Mahalaga yung rock bilang matibay na pundasyon nung fortress.
Either way, it shows that people see a “rock” as an image of strength, protection, and security. And in this Psalm, David is saying that God is his “mighty rock,” giving him salvation, refuge, and security.
Malamang nasabi ni David ‘to dahil sa kung sino ang Diyos and kung ano ang ginawa Niya para kay David. In 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and in many Psalms written by David, God is the one who gives mercy and protects David from different kinds of danger—physically and spiritually. That’s why David could boldly say, “From God alone comes my salvation. He is my refuge.”
And David is sure of it! In verse 11, he says: “Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this…” Yung expression na ‘to, makikita rin natin sa Job 40:5. (*You can review it later on). But basically, the expression means it is a “definite statement.” It is definite, “Power belongs to God, steadfast love belongs to God.” David has the assurance that as a believer, as a child of God, he is safe in God’s hand.
In all of this, David is saying, “Salvation and security comes from God alone.”
At mga magulang ko’t kapatid, yun po ang katotohanan na ipinahayag ng buong Salita ng Diyos. And as the Catechism summarized it for us, our salvation is from God in Jesus Christ. Our hope, our security rests not in ourselves but in Christ and in what he has done.
Ang ganda ng pagkaka-sabi dun:
[I] belong—both body and soul, in life and death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free 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.
In short, Christ saves us and protects us from ALL our greatest enemies:
- Sin and God’s wrath
- The tyranny of the devil
- The persisting dangers, worries, and corruption of this fallen world.
Against these enemies, we are hopeless and helpless by ourselves. But Christ rescues us, saves us, and continues to protect us. Ginawa na Niya lahat para maging kumpleto at ganap ang ating kaligtasan, at patuloy Siyang kumikilos making sure na tayo’y ligtas hanggang sa huli.
Kasama po dito yung pagbigay Niya satin ng katiyakan ng kaligtasan at grasya na mamuhay para sa Kanya.
As the Catechism says: “By his Spirit, Christ assures us of eternal life, making us whole-heartedly willing and ready to live for him.”
Listen to God’s Word for the assurance of this salvation in Christ:
- John 10:28-29, Christ says:
- “I give them [his people] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
- Romans 8:31-34, Paul says:
- 31 “If God is for us, who can be against us?… 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? [Si Satanas? O ang Diyos mismo? No…] It is God [himself] who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? [Bilang mga mananampalataya, nandun pa rin yung mga kahinaan natin. Nagkakasala pa rin tayo. Paparusahan pa ba tayo? No…] Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
- Kaya nga sa end ng chapter 8, in verses 38-39, Paul adds:
- “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Napakaraming texts pa po ang pwede nating basahin. But these are enough to affirm what we confess in our Catechism, that in Christ—salvation is complete, is absolute and secure.
Therefore, using the language of Psalm 62, Christ alone is our “salvation,” “our mighty rock,” “our refuge,” “our fortress”—we shall never be moved.
Conclusion and Final Application
Lord’s Day 1, Q. 2 ends with what we need to know in order to have this comfort of belonging to Christ. At yung po yung mas idi-discuss natin in the next Lord’s Days.
But let it suffice for now to end with this: Psalm 62:8 exhorts us: “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”
Christ is the rock of salvation—trust in him only, trust him always. In life and in death, in this life and beyond—Christ alone is our comfort and security.
Kahit po tuwing bagong taon, many people are saying, “Happy New Year! Better things to come! Bright future ahead!”
Well, friends, God’s Word is clear: Unless you are in Christ, there’s no bright future ahead. No better things to come. Marahil yumaman ka ngayong taon na ‘to, lumago business mo, dumami friends mo, lumaki pamilya mo, etc., but UNLESS you are in Christ you have nothing in the end. Marahil sa panlabas, you look good, you look happy. But deep inside, pag wala na yung mga panlabas na bagay, pag wala na yung mga friends mo—you have no lasting peace, no deeper joy, no security, no assurance for the life to come. Your heart is still filled with guilt, with shame, with fear. Unless you are in Christ, each day, each year only gets you closer to the wrath of God.
But there is HOPE in Christ. Salvation comes from Christ! He already secured salvation for us. Repent of your sins and trust him. Gaano man kalaki yung kasalanan mo—even if you have doubts if God could still forgive your sins—pour out your heart before him. Pray to him in your heart. Cry out to him, asking that you will find this “only comfort, everlasting comfort.”
And to all who trust in him, he is our strong refuge. Ano man ang mangyari sa buhay natin—hindi man loobin ng Diyos na yumaman tayo this year, hindi man tayo magka-love-life, hindi man natin ma-achieve lahat ng goals natin—we still have peace, joy, and satisfaction in Christ! These are things that no earthly thing and circumstance can change! In Christ, we are now forgiven, there’s no more condemnation, and Christ’s Spirit himself will strengthen us to finish the race.
However this year unfolds, sa lahat ng tukso, paghihirap, at anumang pagsubok na dadanasin po natin, panghawakan po natin ang pangako ni Cristo: “he will watch over us, guide us, provide for us, and cause all things to work together for our good and for our salvation.” He alone is worthy of our trust at all times.
So beloved in ZCRC, may we find our strength, our security, our comfort in Christ and Christ alone. Amen.
Reuel Dawal is the Minister of the Word and Sacraments at ZCRC. He was an intern prior to being ordained and installed as the church's new pastor. He is currently finishing his Biblical and Theological Studies at the Miami International Seminary (MINTS) online. He and his wife Yeng are married since 2017 and lives in Imus, Cavite.