The Shorter Catechism (Part 1)

At the time of the Reformation Luther used "the Catechism" - a form of "question" and "answer" - for teaching the elements of Christian theology. The other Reformers followed his example. One of the most famous of the Catechisms is the English "Shorter Catechism". Completed in 1647 and approved by Parliament on 15 September 1648, it is Presbyterian rather than Anglican. But in this period of "post-denominationalism" we all can learn from it. The following is a modernized and edited version of this famous Catechism. Part 2 is to follow in a subsequent Coloured Supplment.

Q1: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.(1)

Q2: What rule has God given to show us how we may glorify and enjoy him?

A: The Word of God which is contained in the Bible (the Old and New Testaments) is the only rule to show us how we may glorify and enjoy him.(2)

Q3: What does the Bible especially teach?

A: The Bible especially teaches what we are to believe about God and what duty God requires of us(3).

Q4: How are we to describe God?

A: God is a Spirit - infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.(4)

Q5: Are there more Gods than one?

A: No! There is only one - the living and true God.(5)

Q6: How many persons are there in the Godhead?

A: There are three persons in the Godhead - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.(6)

Q7: What is the mission of God?

A: The mission of God is his eternal plan in conformity with the purpose of his will. He has fore-ordained everything that happens for his glory.(7)

Q8: How does God achieve his mission?

A: God achieves his mission through his works in creation and providence.(8)

Q9: What is his work of creation?

A: The work of creation is God's making all things from nothing by the word of his power when time began and all very good.(9)

Q10: How did God create man?

A: God created man male and female after his own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with rule over the animals.(10)

Q11: What are God's works of providence?

A: God's works of providence are his most loving, wise and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions.(11)

Q12: What special act of God's providence was there regarding man's state in which he was created?

A: When God had created man he entered into a covenant of life with him on condition of his perfect obedience. He forbade him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil upon pain of death.(12)

Q13: Did our first parents continue in the state in which they were created?

A: Our first parents were allowed freedom for their own wills and fell from the state in which they were created by sinning against God.(13)

Q14: What is sin?

A: Sin is any not conforming to, or breaking of, the law of God.(14)

Q15: What was the sin by which our first parents fell from the state in which they were created?

A: The sin by which our first parents fell from the state in which they were created was their eating the forbidden fruit.(15)

Q16: Did everyone fall in Adam's first trespass?

A: As the covenant with Adam was made not only for himself but for his descendants, all human beings descending from him by ordinary birth sinned in him and fell with him in his first trespass.(16)

Q17: Into what state did the fall bring everyone?

A: The fall brought everyone into a state of sin and misery.(17)

Q18: In what does the sinfulness of that state consist into which man fell?

A: The sinfulness of that state into which man fell consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin, the absence of original righteousness and the decay of his whole nature. This is commonly called "original sin". In addition there are all the actual sins that proceed from it.(18)

Q19: What is the misery of that state into which man fell?

A: Everyone by the fall lost communion with God. They are under his wrath and curse. And so they are made liable to every kind of misery in this life, to death itself and to the pains of hell for ever.(19)

Q20: Did God leave everyone to perish in this state of sin and misery?

A: From his love and will alone God entered into a covenant of grace to deliver out of this state of sin and misery and to bring into a state of salvation, by a Redeemer, those he chose to be holy and blameless from before the creation of the world.(20)

Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God's chosen?

A: The only Redeemer of God's chosen is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man and so was, and continues to be, God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever.(21)

Q22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

A: Christ, the Son of God, became man by taking to himself a real body and a rational soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was born by her, but without sin.(22)

Q23: What offices does Christ fulfil as our Redeemer?

A: Christ as our Redeemer fulfils the offices of a prophet, a priest and a king, both in his state of humiliation and exaltation.(23)

Q24: How does Christ fulfil the office of a prophet?

A: Christ fulfils the office of a prophet in revealing to us the will of God for our salvation by his Word and Spirit.(24)

Q25: How does Christ fulfil the office of a priest?

A: Christ fulfils the office of a priest in his offering up of himself, once, a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice and to reconcile us to God; and in making continual intercession for us.(25)

Q26: How does Christ fulfil the office of a king?blockquote>A: Christ fulfils the office of a king in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.(26)

Q27: In what did Christ's humiliation consist?

A: Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and born in a lowly condition and under law; suffering life's miseries, the wrath of God and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried and continuing under the power of death for a time?(27)

Q28: In what does Christ's exaltation consist?

A: Christ's exaltation consists in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father and in coming to judge the world at the last day.(28)

Q29: How do we share in the redemption purchased by Christ?

A: We share in the redemption purchased by Christ by the Holy Spirit effectively applying it to us.(29)

Q30; How does the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?

A: The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ by working faith in us and in this way uniting us to Christ in our effective calling.(30)

Q31: What is effective calling?

A: The calling that has effect is the work of God's Spirit where, convincing us of our sins and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ and renewing our wills, he persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to us in the gospel.(31)

Q32: What benefits do those who are effectively called enjoy in this life?

A: Those who are effectively called enjoy in this life justification. adoption and sanctification and the various benefits that in this life either accompany or flow from them.(32)

Q33: What is justification?

A: Justification is an act of God's free grace, in which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight only because of the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to us, and is received by faith alone.(33)

Q34: What is adoption?

A: Adoption is an act of God's free grace, by which we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges, of the sons of God.(34)

Q35: What is sanctification?

A: Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, by which we are renewed in every part to be more like God and are able to die to sin and live for righteousness more and more.(35)

Q36: What are the benefits that in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification?

A: The benefits that in this life accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification are assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace and perseverance in this to the end.(36)

Q37: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?

A: The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and immediately pass to glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, rest in their graves until the resurrection.(37)

Q38: What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection?

A: At the resurrection believers being raised up in glory will be openly acknowledged and acquitted on the day of judgment and made perfectly blessed in the full enjoyment of God for all eternity.(38)

To be continued


(1) 1 Cor 10.31; Ps 73.25-6.

(2) Eph 2.20; 2 Tim 3.16; 1 Jn 1.3.

(3) 2 Tim 1.13.

(4) Jn 4.24; Job 11.7; Ps 90.2; Jas 1.17; Ex 3.14; Ps 147.5; Rev 4.8; 15.4; Ex 34.6-7.

(5) Dt 6.4; Jer 10.10.

(6) Mat 28.19; 1 Jn 5.7.

(7) Eph 1.11-12.

(8) Rev 4.11; Dan 4.35.

(9) Gen 1.1; Heb 11.3; Gen 1.31.

(10) Gen 1.27; Col 3.10; Eph 4.24; Gen 1.28.

(11) Ps 145.17; Is 28.29; Heb 1.3; Ps 103.19; Mt 10.29.

(12) Gal 3.12; Gen 2.17.

(13) Eccl 7.29.

(14) 1 Jn 3.4.

(15) Gen 3.6-8.

(16) Gen 1.28; 2.16-17; Rom 5.18.

(17) Rom 5.12.

(18) Rom 5.19; 3.10; Eph 2.1; Ps 51.5; Mat 15.19.

(19) Gen 3.8; Eph 2.3; Gal 3.10; Rom 6.23; Mat 25.41.

(20) Eph 1.4; Rom 3.21-22.

(21) 1 Tim 2.5; Jn 1.14; Rom 9.5; Heb 7.24.

(22) Heb 2.14; Mat 26.38; Lk 1.31,35; Heb 7.26.

(23) Acts 3.22; Heb 5.6; Ps 2.6.

(24) Jn 1.18; 20.31; 14.26.

(25) Heb 9.28; 2.17; 7.25.

(26) Ps 110.3; Is 33.22; 1 Cor 15.25.

(27) Lk 2.7; Gal 4.4; Is 53.3; Mat 27.46; Phil 2.8; Mat 12.40.

(28) 1 Cor 15.4; Mk 16.19; Acts 17.31.

(29) Jn 1.12; Tit 3.5-6.

(30) Eph 2.8; 3.17; 1 Cor 1.9.

(31) 2 Tim 1.9; Acts 2.37; 26.18; Ezek 36.26; Jn 6.44-45.

(32) Rom 8.30; Eph 1.5; 1 Cor 1.30.

(33) Eph 1.7; 2 Cor 5.21; Rom 5.19; Gal 2.16.

(34) 1 Jn 3.1; Jn 1.12.

(35) 2 Thess 2.13; Eph 4.24; Rom 8.1.

(36) Rom 5.1-2,5; Prov 4.18; 1 Jn 5.13.

(37) Heb 12.23; Phil 1.23; 1 Thess 4.14; Is 57.2; Job 19.26.

(38) 1 Cor 15.43; Mat 10.32; 1 Jn 3.2; 1 Thess 4.17.

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