Evening Sermon: What duty does God require of man?, Baptist Catechism 44, Ecclesiastes 12:13

Baptist Catechism 44

Q. 44. What is the duty which God requireth of man?

A. The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.

Scripture Reading: Ecclesiastes 12:13

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV)


Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.


From time to time I like to take a step back from the catechism to consider where we have been and where we are going to gain a better appreciation for the doctrine that is being taught in a particular question and answer. 

Let us not forget that the catechism is seeking to teach the faith through the use of a series of questions and answers. The catechism does not teach everything the Bible teaches. Instead, it provides a summary of the core teachings of Holy Scripture. To say it differently, our catechism proclaims the gospel. 

We are considering question 44 this evening. In the previous questions we have learned about God and his holy word. We have considered the decrees of God, and the execution of his decrees in the works of creation and providence. We have learned about man, man’s fall into sin, and the miseries of man’s sin. We have also learned about God’s grace. He did not leave mankind to perish in their sin, but has provided a Redeemer, Christ the Lord. A number of questions taught us about Christ. We considered his person, his finished work, and how it is that his finished work is applied to sinners to this present day. 

Most recently we have been considering the benefits that those who have faith in Christ enjoy. In this life believers enjoy justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the many benefits that accompany or flow from these. At death believers are made perfect in soul and immediately enjoy the blessed presence of God. And at the resurrection the bodies of believers will be reunited to their souls. They will then be openly acquitted and will enter into glory, the new heavens and earth which Christ has earned. All of that is positive. But in the last two questions the benefits belonging to those in Christ are considered negatively as we ponder what shall be done to the wicked at death and at the resurrection. Both answers spoke of the torments of hell. I say that the benefits of those who are in Christ are in questions 42 and 43  negatively considered because these questions and answers remind us, not of what we have been saved to, but of what we have been saved from. I think you would agree that it is important for us to consider both things.

And so you can see that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been presented in questions 1 through 43 of our catechism. The gospel is presented there in a historical way. The catechism has moved us to consider what the bible teaches concerning God, his creation, the fall of man, salvation in Jesus Christ, and the consummation of all things at the resurrection. Questions 1 through 43 has certainly convinced us of our need for a savior and has held forth Jesus the Christ as that savior. 

Question 44 marks the beginning of a new section in our catechism. It is a large section which teaches us about the law of God. 

Question 44 asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?”

Answer: “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.”

Question 45 asks, “What did God at first reveal to man for the rule of his obedience?”

Answer. “The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience, was the moral law.” 

Question 46 then asks, “Where is the moral law summarily comprehended?”

Answer: “The moral law is summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments.” 

Question 47 presents us with that famous and helpful summary of the Ten Commandments, “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 neighbor as ourselves.” 

And then questions 48 through 86 provide us with a kind of exposition of the Ten Commandments. Each of the ten commandments are considered. And for each of the commandments at least three questions are asked: 1) “which is the ______ commandment?”; 2) “What is required in the ______ commandment?”; and 3) “what is forbidden in the ______ commandment?” And so by the time we come to question 87 we should have a very good understanding of what it is that God requires of us. 

So over a third of our catechism is devoted to understanding God’s moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments? Why such an emphasis upon the Ten Commandments? I will mention two reasons for it. 

One, so that believers might know how God expects them to live. The moral Law of God is a light to our feet. God’s law reveals how we should walk in this world. And I do pray that we would grow in our understanding of the law as we consider each commandment, what it requires, and what it forbids.  May the prayer of Psalm 119 be ours: “Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared” (Psalm 119:33–38, ESV).

Our confession speak to the benefits of the law for believers in 19.6, saying,  “Although true believers be not under the law as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified or condemned, yet it is of great use to them as well as to others, in that as a rule of life, informing them of the will of God and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their natures, hearts, and lives, so as examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against, sin; together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ and the perfection of his obedience; it is likewise of use to the regenerate to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin; and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve, and what afflictions in this life they may expect for them, although freed from the curse and unalloyed rigour thereof. The promises of it likewise show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof, though not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works; so as man’s doing good and refraining from evil, for the law encourageth to the one and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law and not under grace.” 

That is a truly beautiful statement, I think. How important it is for believers to know God’s law, not to be saved by the keeping of it — for we are saved only by grace through faith — but so we might walk in a way that is pleasing to the Lord and gain an even greater appreciation for Christ, who keep the law on our behalf, and has saved us from the curse of the law which is owed to us because of our sin.

But there is another reason why our catechism spends so much time teaching God’s law. And that is so that the law might prepare the hearts of sinners to hear and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ. So you see, the law is not only useful to the believer, it is also useful when evangelizing those who do not yet believe. In evangelism the law and the gospel work together, friends. The law reveals that we are guilty sinners, and the gospel is the good news that a savior has been provided — Christ Jesus our Lord has kept the law on our behalf, suffered and died in our place as if he were guilty, and rose from the dead in victory.

You will notice that this is where our catechism goes after teaching about the Ten Commandments.

Question 87 will ask, “ Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?”

Answer: “No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but daily break them in thought, word, or deed.”

Question 88 asks, “Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous?”

Answer: “Some sins in themselves and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.” 

Question 89 asks, “What doth every sin deserve?”

Answer: “Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come.”

This is all bad news, friends. But the bad news that the law brings is essential if we are to comprehend the good news that Jesus brings. 

Question 90 brings good news: “What doth God require of us, that we may escape His wrath and curse, due to us for sin?”

Answer: “To escape the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, God requireth of us faith in Jesus Christ, repentance unto life, with the diligent use of all the outward means whereby Christ communicateth to us the benefits of redemption.”

So, through faith in Christ we have redemption. This is the gospel. 

I cannot take any more time to flesh this out, but it is interesting how the gospel is presented in our catichim twice, but in two different ways. Questions 1 through 43 take a history of redemption approaching, telling about the creation, fall, and redemption in Christ Jesus. And questions 44 through 90 take a law/gospel. The law reveals our sin and our need, and the gospel holds forth the savior. The two sections complement one another beautifully. 

So why have I taken this big picture view of the catechism today? In part, to prepare you for a rather long consideration of the moral law of God as summarized in the Ten Commandments. 

The law of God is good, brothers and sisters. This is what Paul taught, saying, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12, ESV). And in another place he says, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8, ESV). It is imperative that we know God’s law, understand it, and use it lawfully in Christ Jesus. 

The law is good.

It is useful to restrain evil in this world.

It is useful to the believer in many ways, one of them being to show them how they are to walk worthy.

And it is useful to those who do not yet believe as it shows men their sin and the punishment they deserve, preparing them to hear, understand, and receive the gospel, should the Lord give them his grace.  


Catechism Explained

This large section which teaches about the law of God begins with a very simple but important question. “What is the duty which God requireth of man?”

Think about that question. It assumes a lot. But what it assumes has been established earlier in the catechism. This question assumes that there is God. It is assumed that God has authority over man, and that man owes God something.   

Indeed, this is all true! Man is indebted to God because God is man’s creator and sustainer. 

Think of how arrogant we are to live in God’s world and to fail to give God the honor that is due to him. This is a terrible sin. We live only because God has given us life. And we continue to live only because God sustains our life in this world that he has made. He is our Creator, and we are his creatures. We live in his world. And yet so many live enjoying the good things of this life without giving a thought to their Maker, let alone the glory that is due to him.  

“What is the duty which God requireth of man?”

This question assumes a lot. This question is simple. But this question is also profound. 

Answer: “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.”

As God’s creatures we owe him obedience. 

And God has not left us to wonder what it is that we are to do, or not do. To the contrary, he has revealed his will to us. 

God, the creator of heaven and earth, has revealed himself to us. He is a God who speaks. He has revealed who he is, something of his plans and purposes, and he has revealed his will — that is to say, he has given us his law. 

Now, there is a secret or hidden will of God. What is God’s will for tomorrow? Well, we do not know for sure. It is a mystery to us, for God has not revealed the specifics of his plans for tomorrow. We come to know his secret will after it is accomplished. God’s secret will is not something that we can obey. It is simply what will come to experience.

But there is also a revealed will of God. This is what God desires of us. This is what God has commanded us to do. And we are to live in obedience to it. 

“What is the duty which God requireth of man?” Answer: “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.”


Ecclesiastes 12:13

The passage that we read from the end of Ecclesiastes speaks of God’s revealed will: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV).

In other words, what should be the focus of our life? What will be most rewarding and of lasting significance? Everything that we do in this life is meaningless and vain if we do not “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” 

Brothers and sisters, do you honor God with reverential and loving fear, and are you striving to keep his commandments? This is what you are called to in Christ Jesus.

And if you are not in Christ Jesus — if you have not been washed in his blood and pardoned by him — I do pray that you begin to see the problem even now. The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commandments, and this we do not. We have failed to give God the glory that is due his name. And we have indeed violated his law in thought, word, and deed. We have come short of his will for us. We are found wanting. We stand guilty before him, and in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ is that Savior. Christ did perfectly “fear God and keep his commandments.”  He was guiltless, therefore. But he died the death of a guilty sinner. This he did so that all who believe in him will not perish but have life everlasting. 



Q. 43. What shall be done to the wicked, at the Day of Judgment?

A. At the Day of Judgment, the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves, shall be sentenced, together with their souls, to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever. (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29; 2 Thess. 1:9; Matt. 25:41)

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