Catechism Insight – Doctrinal Standard WSC #49 & 50

Doctrinal Standard #49 & 50

  • Q. What is the second commandment?
  • A. The second commandment is: You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
  • Q. What does the second commandment require?
  • A. The second commandment requires us to receive, respectfully perform, and preserve completely and purely all the regulations for religion and worship that God has established in His word.

Memory Verses

  • “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, ESV).


  • Study Passage: Deuteronomy 12:1-32
  • Support Passages: Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:15-16; Malachi 3:8-9; Acts 15:21; II Timothy 4:2; Deuteronomy 17:18-20
  • Bible Story: John 4:1-30


  • Below are a few excerpts from C.I. Williamson’s book, The Westminster Shorter Catechism regarding doctrinal standards 49 and 50.
  • “This is the great principal contained in the second commandment: the duty to worship God as He himself commands. This means that God may not be worshipped properly in any way invented by men. In order to bring out clearly what we mean, let us study figure 37.1 9 (Worshiping God – Views).

    It will be clear from side A that true worship (according to the Reformed view) will contain only such elements as can be proved from Scripture to be the will of God. Thus there will be the reading and preaching of the Scriptures, singing of psalms, administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and prayer. Here we see the simplicity and spiritual nature of Reformed worship. But in such as the Roman Catholic, or Lutheran, for example, there will be the other view (side B). In this view, the things commanded by God constitute only a part (often only a small part) of what is considered to be true worship. The Roman Church therefore has seven sacraments, only two of which are actually commanded in Scripture. The Roman Church also finds a place for special garments for clergymen, crosses, candles, statues, and so on. And there is even room to add more of these things in the future. For (according to this view) the only thing that is wrong in the worship of God is what God has specifically forbidden in His word. It is wrong, for example, to use an image of Baal because the Bible expressly condemns any image of Baal. But it is not wrong to use an image of the Virgin Mary, according to this view, because God has not said (in so many words) that it is wrong to use an image of Mary. In answer to this, a Reformed Christian would say: ‘No, God has not given us a long list of every possible thing that He would forbid in His worship. If God had done that, the Bible would be so big no one could read it all. What God has done is to give us a simple principle. And by this principle we know that what He commands is sufficient, and that what He does not command is therefore forbidden.” [1]

  • It is important to note that no church is perfect in following this view. While perfection is unattainable in how we worship God this side of heaven, it is important for individuals and churches to struggle with and to strive to worship God in the way that he prescribes.

Discussion Questions

  • Read the second of the Ten Commandments and then explain or summarize it in your own words(Deuteronomy 5, Exodus 20, or the Catechism).
  • Can man worship God however they want to? Explain.
  • Why do you think God has commanded man how He wants to be worshiped?
  • What are some of the ways God wants to be worshiped?
  • According to the second commandment ,who suffers from not worshiping God correctly? Why do you think this is?

[1] Williamson, C.I. (2003). The Westminster Shorter Catechism – 2nd Edition. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, USA; P&R Publishing Company.

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