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Afternoon Sermon: What Duty Does God Require Of Man? Along With An Overview Of The Baptist Catechism, 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)

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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 our catechism to consider where we have been and where we are going. There is a structure to our catechism, and recognizing this structure can be very helpful. Now, it’s not as if the compilers of our catechism placed the 114 questions into these categories for us, but if you pay careful attention to the themes and their development, categories do clearly emerge. I’d like to share my outline of the catechism with you this afternoon. I think this broad overview will help us to better appreciate the individual questions and answers as we come to them.

I will admit that others might outline the catechism a little differently. And it is possible that their outline is better than mine. If I find that to be the case, I’ll alter my view. But as of right now, here is how I see it. 

Our catechism is most obviously divided into three major parts.

Questions 1 through 6 of our catechism make up the first part, and we may give it the heading, “First Things” or “Foundational Truths”.   Here in questions 1 through 6 foundational truths are established. Q. 1. Who is the first and chiefest being? Q. 2. Ought everyone to believe there is a God? Q. 3. How may we know there is a God? Q. 4. What is the Word of God? Q. 5. May all men make use of the Holy Scriptures? Q. 6. What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures? These questions are addressed first because it would be impossible to say anything meaningful or sure about God, his ways with man, and what he requires of us, without these foundational truths being established. 

Question 6 of our catechism is very important. Not only does it wrap up the “First Principles” section, but it also introduces parts two and three when it asks, “What things are chiefly contained in the Holy Scriptures?”, and then answers: “The Holy Scriptures chiefly contain what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man.” The rest of the catechism teaches us about these two things: “what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man.”

The second major part of the catechism is found in questions 7 through 43. Here we will find a  summary of what the Holy Scriptures teach concerning God, his nature, works, and dealings with man. 

And finally, in questions 44 through 114  we find the third major part, which is a summary of what the Holy Scriptures teach concerning mans duty or responsibility before God. Notice, we are considering question 44 this afternoon. It asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?” So then, you can see that we are now entering into the third and final section of the catechism. 

Clearly then, the catechism is divided into three major parts. Questions 1-6 establish “first principles”. Questions 7-43 tell us what man ought to believe concerning God, according to the Scriptures. And questions 44-114 tell us what duty God requires of man, according to the Scriptures. 

I would like to break the catechism down just a little bit more for you before briefly considering question 44. I think this will be helpful. 

Part one need not be broken down any further. It stands as a single unit. But part two can be divided into four sections. Remember, this entire section is telling us what we ought to believe concerning God. First, in questions 7 through 15 we are told about God, his nature, decrees, creation, providence, and covenant. Second, in questions 16-22 we are told about man’s alienation from God by his fall into sin. Now, some may object, saying, I thought this section was about God, but this is a section about man. Well, yes. It is about man. But more specifically, it is about man in relation to God. Third, in questions 23-31 we are told about the redemption accomplished by God through Christ. There in that section, Christ is identified as the redeemer of God’s elect. There, we are told about the incarnation, and the threefold offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. And there were are told about his humiliation and exaltation. Finally, in questions 32-43 we are told about how the redemption earned by Christ is applied by God to his elect through the Spirit. There we are told about effectual calling, the gift of faith, and the benefits that come to all who believe in Christ in this life, at death, and at the resurrection. At the end of that section, we are told about what Christ has saved us from, namely eternal condemnation. 

Notice two things about this second major section of our catechism running from questions 7 through 43. 

One, it is profoundly Trinitarian. After being taught about God as Trinity in questions 7-9, and after being told about man’s alienation from God in questions 16-22, then we are told about the accomplishment of our redemption by the Son of God incarnate, and the application of it in time to the elect of God by the Spirit.  Section two of our catechism is profoundly Trinitarian. 

Two, in questions 7 through 43 the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented in a redemptive-historical way. There in that section, we are told about God, creation, covenant, man’s fall into sin, the accomplishment of our redemption by Christ in time, and the application of the redemption that Christ has earned to sinners in time. And “how doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?” Answer 33 says, “The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.” Finally, the benefits that come to all who have faith are described – the benefits that come in this life, at death, and the resurrection. This is the good news of salvation through faith in Christ presented in a historical way. 

Question 44 then asks, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?” Answer: “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.”

Notice three things about Baptist Catechism 44: 

One, this question marks the beginning of the third major section of the catechism. Back in question 6 we were told that the Scriptures mainly teach “what man ought to believe concerning God, and what duty God requireth of man.” We have considered the first theme, now we are considering the second. 

Two, this question is the only reasonable question to ask after hearing about God, creation, covenant, man’s fall into sin, and the redemption that God has so graciously accomplished for us by Christ and applied by his Spirit. Having considered all that Christ has done for us, and having considered the wonderful benefits that come to those who have faith in Christ, the reasonable question to ask is, “What is the duty which God requireth of man?”  In other words, how should I respond to this salvation that has been freely given to me? Answer: we ought to obey God’s revealed will, that is to say, his law. 

This reminds me of what Jesus says in John 14:15: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And listen to Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15:9-11: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Those who have been redeemed by Christ and effectually called by his Spirit so that they have faith, have had the love of Christ graciously set upon them. And how are they to respond to this love? With love! And what does it look like to abide in the love of Christ? Those who have been loved by Christ and who love him will strive to keep his commandments. 

So then, I hope you agree that question 44 is most appropriate. After considering the love that has been lavished upon by God through Christ and by the Spirit to redeem us from the curse of sin and to bless us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, our impulse should be to ask, what does God require of us? Having been redeemed by him, justified, and adopted, I want to serve him, for I am grateful. What does he require? Again the answer: “The duty which God requireth of man, is obedience to His revealed will.”

The third thing I want you to recognize about question 44 is that it does not only state the appropriate response to the redemption that has been graciously earned and applied to us, but it does also set us up for yet another presentation of the gospel, l but in another way, namely, through a consideration of the law and the gospel

 Please allow me to very briefly break down this third major section of the catechism into two parts. Questions 44 through 114 are about the duty that God requires of man. 

First, in questions 45 through 89 we are taught about God’s moral law. Here we learn that God’s moral law was first written on Adam’s heart at creation. And here we also learn that this moral law is summarized for us in the Ten Commandments, the sum of those Ten Commandments being “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” (Baptist Catechism 47). Here in this section the meaning of the Ten Commandments is carefully and clearly explained. With each one of them our catechism asks, what is this commandment? And after that it asks, what does this commandment require and what does it forbid? So then, here in questions 45 through 89, we find very helpful teaching on God’s moral law. 

But at the end of this section, a very important question is asked. Question 87: “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” The answer is bad news. “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 then  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, which is the last question in this section that we are beginning to consider today, then asks. “What doth every sin deserve?” More bad news: “Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is to come.”

So then, this entire section on God’s law which runs from questions 45-89 does two things. One, it tells us what duty God requires of man. And two, it condemns us. And this is exactly what the Scriptures say about God’s law. One, it does function as a light to our feet. It reveals to us how we ought to live and the way we should go. But the is also like a schoolmaster or a strict disciplinarian. It magnifies our sin and proves that we are guilty and in need of a Savior. 

That brings us to the second part of the third section of our catechism, where the gospel is proclaimed yet again. I think questions 90 through 92 are my favorite. Here is the gospel again: Question 90: “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.” Question 91: “What is faith in Jesus Christ?

Answer: “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the Gospel.” Question 92: “What is repentance unto life?”

Answer: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

Finally, our catechism concludes with a wonderful presentation of the outward and ordinary means of grace that God uses to give his people the benefits of the redemption that Christ has earned for us. These outward and ordinary means of grace are the Word of God (94-95), baptism (96-101), the Lord’s Supper (102-104), and prayer (105-114).

So, I hope you can see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented twice in our catechism. First, in a redemptive-historical way, and then a second time in a law-gospel way. Twice, our catechism presents “faith in Christ” alone as the way to salvation. First in question 33, and then again in question 90. 

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Why have I taken the time to provide you with this sweeping overview of the structure and teaching of our catechism?

I hope that by seeing the structure, and especially by seeing the way in which the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented, not once, but twice, and in two different ways, you will be further motivated to use this great catechism in your own life, with your family, and to appreciate and support the preaching and teaching of these great doctrines within the church year after year and for decades to come.   

As you can see, these are not a random collection of 114 questions and answers intended to merely fill your mind with cold, hard, facts. No, here we have a succinct and beautifully warm presentation of the teaching of Holy Scripture concerning our great God, our miserable condition before him because of sin, and the marvelous grace that he has shown to us in providing a Redeemer, Christ the Lord.  This document urges the very thing that the Scriptures urge, namely, reconciliation with God the Father, through faith in the incarnate Son, by the working of the Holy Spirit. May we be faithful to proclaim the crucified and risen Christ in the years to come. May we be found mature in him when Christ returns or calls us home (Colossians 1:28). 

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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