The Shorter Catechism, 13
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Q39: What is the duty which God requireth of man?
A: The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to his revealed will.
A man is not at liberty to do whatever he wills, but he has the duty to do the will of God. God has revealed to us in the Scriptures what is His will. And it is that will, that we have to obey. So, what is our duty, that God requires of us? God requires of us that we obey His revealed will. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6:8. How do we know the will of God? It is revealed in Scripture. The law says what we have to do. If one, therefore, were to say that we no longer need the law after we believe, then he is wrong. For, the law reveals us Godís will. It is, for example, the will of God that we should not steal, a thing expressed in the law. It is the will of God that everybody honours his father and mother, a thing expressed in the law. "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Deut. 10:12.
Q40: What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?
A: The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.
The question is what rule of obedience the first men had. Adam, for example, the first man, had not some written law as we now have in the Ten Commandments, given from Mount Sinai. But what was his rule for obedience? We answer that the rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law. This is not a guess, but it is true. Scripture is clear enough, when it says, through the mouth of Paul, that the people without law have the same law written in their hearts. He writes: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves. Which show the work of the law written in their hearts." Rom. 2: 14,15. He says that the Gentiles have no law. And we know that it is true. The Gentiles, as opposed to the Jews, have received no law from God. But Paul says that "the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law". So, by nature they do the things of the law. Yet, they have not heard any law from God. But they "show the work of the law written in their hearts". God has not given them the law in words, but He has written it in their hearts. It is sure then that this moral law was first revealed unto men.
Q41: Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?
A: The moral law is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments.
The moral law, the revealed will of God for our obedience, is summarily comprehended in the ten commandments. Moses says that God "wrote on the tables, according to the first writing, the ten commandments, which the LORD spake unto you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly: and the LORD gave them unto me." Deut. 10:4. And Jesus says, "But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Matt. 19:17-19.
Q42: What is the sum of the ten commandments?
A: The sum of the ten commandments is, To love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbour as ourselves.
The sum of the ten commandments is love. To love God and our neighbour. As Jesus said: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets", Matth. 22:37-40. So, the whole law, together with the prophets, hang on these two commandments: love God and thy neighbour. Love does of course not replace the commandments, so as to state that all is allowed in the name of love. That is not the truth, but love is the keeping of the commandments. Steal not, but in love. Honour your father and your mother, but in love. Keep the Sabbath in love. And so on. The sum of the ten commandments is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and to love our neighbour as ourselves. These are the two main points of the law.