ESSENTIALS OF REFORMED DOCTRINE
A Guide in Catechetical Instruction
by Rev. H. Hoeksema (revised by Prof. H. Hanko)
Lesson 1: The Knowledge of God
What is above all things precious?
The knowledge of the true God through Jesus Christ Whom He has sent.
Why is this knowledge so important?
To know God through Jesus Christ is to have eternal life.
How can we know God?
Only through His own revelation to us in all creation and
in His written word. Belgic Confession, Article 2.
Does God make Himself known to the wicked?
Yes, God shows through creation, that He is god and that He
must be served, so that the wicked may be without excuse.
Is there anything else which God makes known to the wicked?
God testifies in the conscience of each man concerning what is right and wrong.
Can this testimony of God lead to salvation?
No, for through this the wrath of God is revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
How does God reveal Himself to His people?
Through the Holy Scriptures which reveal to us Christ in Whom alone is salvation.
II Timothy 3:16-17.
Does then God reveal Himself to His people through creation?
Yes, for in the light of Scripture we see that the heavens
declare the glory of God and the firmament His handiwork.
How else does God make Himself known in time?
God makes Himself known through history.
Can we acquire this knowledge of God by our own efforts?
No, the Holy Spirit must make these truths known to us through the work in our hearts.
I Corinthians 2:10.
Look up the following passages and list what creation reveals concerning God:
Look up the following passages and explain how creation reveals Christ:
Song of Solomon 2:1;
Read carefully the Belgic Confession, Article 2 and write what
this article says about God's revelation.
- Read carefully
Romans 1:18-25 and answer the following questions:
Does God show His favor to all men by His revelation in creation
as common grace teaches?
What do the wicked do with God's revelation in creation?
How does God punish this wickedness?
- Look up
Psalm 14:1. Does this text teach that some men are
Atheists? Explain your answer.
- What is the Bible?
The Bible is the divinely inspired and infallibly written
Word of God.
- How do we know that the Bible is the Word of God?
First, from the testimony of the Bible itself; secondly, from the testimony of the Spirit in our hearts.
I John 5:6.
- Are there then two separate testimonies of God concerning the
No, the testimony of the Holy Spirit in our hearts always
seals the testimony of the Scriptures.
- What is meant by inspiration?
It is that act of God whereby He moved, illumined, and infallibly
directed men to write the Word of God.
- How did God perform the work of inspiration?
"Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
II Peter 1:21.
- What are the attributes of Holy Scripture?
Infallibility, unity, perspicuity, authority, and trustworthiness.
- What is meant by the infallibility of Scripture?
That Scripture is word for word the Word of God and is, therefore, without error.
II Timothy 3:16;
II Peter 1:20-21.
- What is meant by the unity of Scripture?
That all Scripture is the one revelation of God in Jesus Christ as the God of our salvation.
- What is meant by the perspicuity of Scripture?
That through the operation of the Spirit, Scripture can be
easily understood by God's people unto their salvation.
- What is meant by the authority of Scripture?
That Scripture is the only rule for our faith and our life.
II Timothy 3:16-17.
- Look up
II Peter 1:20-21 and
II Timothy 3:16 and answer the
question: Is Scripture the product of both God and man? Prove
your answer from these texts.
- Read the Belgic Confession, Article 5 and answer the question:
Why do we believe all things contained in the Scriptures?
- What is the purpose of the Bible? See
II Timothy 3:16-17.
- If the Scriptures are easy to understand, how do you explain
II Peter 3:16?
- Find other proof in Scripture that Scripture is without error.
- What is the meaning of the following terms:
- Organic inspiration?
- Verbal inspiration?
- Plenary inspiration?
Lesson 3: God's Essence and Names
- Wherein ought we to know God?
In His essence, names, attributes, Persons, and works.
- What does Scripture reveal of God's being or essence?
That He is a Spirit of infinite attributes subsisting in three Persons.
- Does Scripture tell us anything more of God's essence?
Yes, Scripture tells us that God is both immanent and transcendent.
- What is meant by God's transcendence?
That God is infinitely exalted above all His creation and
that there is none like unto Him.
- What is meant by God's immanence?
That God is present with His whole being in every part of
- Does Scripture tell us that God has names?
Yes, although His names are not like our names, for there
is no Being like God.
- What is the importance of God's names?
They are the revelations of some of God's attributes to us.
- What are the most important names of God?
The names God and Jehovah.
- What does the name "Jehovah" mean?
That God is the eternally unchangeable God of His covenant.
- Why does God give Himself names?
That we may speak to Him and about Him with reverence.
- Look up the following passages and give the names of God found in them:
- Look up the following passages and indicate what they teach concerning God:
Isaiah 40:18, 25;
- How do the following passages teach God's transcendence?
- How does
Acts 17:27, 28 prove God's immanence?
- What does
Exodus 3:13-15 teach concerning the name, "I
Lesson 4: God's Incommunicable Attributes
- What are the attributes of God?
They are the infinite perfections of His divine Being which
reveal to us how and what God is.
- How are God's attributes generally distinguished?
They are distinguished as communicable and incommunicable
- What is meant by that distinction?
Since we are created in the image of God, some attributes
are reflected in us. These are called communicable attributes.
- Which are God's incommunicable attributes?
His oneness, simplicity, independency, infinity, and immutability.
- What is meant by God's oneness?
That there is only one divine essence and that there is no God besides Him.
- What is meant by God's simplicity?
That God is indivisible and not composed and that His attributes
are one in Him.
- What is meant by God's independency?
That He is self-sufficient and is dependent upon no other for His existence.
- What is meant by God's infinity?
That God is a God of endless perfection, and that He is eternal and everywhere present.
I Timothy 1:17.
- What is meant by God's immutability?
That God never changes in His own being and in all His works and ways.
- Why does God reveal His incommunicable attributes to us?
That we may know that He is highly exalted above all and that
He alone ought to be praised.
- Which incommunicable attributes of God are mentioned in Article
1 of the Belgic Confession?
- What attributes of God are mentioned in the following texts:
I John 5:4-8;
I Corinthians 8:6;
I Kings 8:27;
Genesis 6:6 we read that God repents. How do you explain
this in the light of God's immutability?
- What does
Deuteronomy 6:5-6 say is our calling because God
Lesson 5: God's Communicable Attributes
- How can God's communicable attributes be divided?
Into those that belong to God's knowledge, His will, and His
- Which attributes belong to His knowledge?
His omniscience, according to which God perfectly and continuously
knows all things, and His wisdom.
- Which attributes belong to God's will?
His goodness, holiness, truth, and righteousness.
- Which attributes belong to God's goodness?
His love, grace, mercy, and longsuffering.
- Whom does God love?
God loves Himself as the highest good and all His creatures
for His own name's sake.
- How then can God love the reprobate wicked?
He cannot, for the Scriptures teach that the curse of God is in the house of the wicked.
- How then can God love His people who are also sinners?
He loves them not as sinners, but as those whom He chose in Christ and justified through Him.
- What is God's grace?
It is His attitude of undeserved favor towards His people in Christ and the power whereby He saves them.
- What is God's mercy?
It is His attitude of pity towards His people in their misery and His power to deliver them from it.
- What is God's power?
It is His omnipotence, whereby He is able to accomplish all that He has determined to do in His counsel.
- Look up the first point of common grace and explain
what this point teaches.
- Prove that this teaching is wrong according to Scripture by explaining the following texts:
- What does
Romans 9:15 teach concerning the mercy of God?
- What does
II Peter 3:9 teach concerning the longsuffering of
- Look up the following passages and explain why it is wrong to teach that God loves all men:
I John 4:9.
- Which attributes of God are spoken of in the following passages:
I Peter 1:16.
Lesson 6: The Holy Trinity
- What is meant by the truth of the trinity?
That God is one in being and three in Persons.
- How is God both one in being and three in Persons?
There are three divine individuals, each subsisting in His
own personally distinct manner in the one divine being.
- Who are these three Persons?
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- Where is this doctrine of three Persons taught in Scripture?
There are many texts that speak of a plurality of persons, as:
Psalm 110:l. The
three Persons are often distinctly mentioned in the New Testament
as in the Baptism Formula and the Apostolic benediction.
- Does Scripture teach also that these three Persons are one
Yes, all Scripture testifies that God is one, and some texts specifically state this, as
I John 5:7.
- Why are these Persons called the Father, the Son and the Holy
Because in these three names their distinct personal properties
- What is the distinct personal property of each of these divine
Of the Father that He generates the Son; of the Son that He
is generated by the Father; of the Holy Ghost that He proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
John 14:26; 15:26;
- Of what significance is this doctrine of the trinity?
That God triune dwells in perfect covenant fellowship with
Himself and establishes a covenant relationship with us.
- Does each Person have His own work in creation and salvation?
No, the Triune God creates, redeems, and sanctifies.
- Prove from the following texts the divinity of Christ:
- Prove from the following texts the Personality of the spirit:
I Corinthians 2:10;
I Corinthians 12:11.
- Prove from
John 15:26 that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the
Father and the Son.
- Read Question and Answer 24 of the Heidelberg Catechism
and explain this in the light of question 9 above.
- How does the doctrine of the trinity teach that God is a covenant
Lesson 7: God's Work in Eternity
- How are God's works which He performs outside Himself divided?
Between His works which He performs in time and which He performs
- What are His works in eternity?
His eternal decrees.
- What are God's decrees?
His eternal counsel, according to which He works all things.
- Does Scripture use other words to refer to God's decrees?
Yes, His counsel, will, purpose, and good pleasure.
Ephesians 1:9, 11.
- What attributes does Scripture give to God's counsel?
Scripture teaches that God's counsel is eternal, sovereignly
free, independent, unchangeable, efficacious, all-comprehensive, wise, and good.
- What does it mean that God's counsel is eternal?
That God determined all things in His counsel before the world began.
- What does it mean that God's counsel is all-comprehensive?
That God in His counsel determines all things which come to pass.
I Samuel 23:11,12.
- What is the decree of predestination?
God's eternal counsel with regard to the eternal state of
His rational creatures, including election and reprobation.
- What is the decree of election?
The eternal, sovereign, and gracious good-pleasure of God
to save to eternal glory some men through the means of faith in Christ.
II Thessalonians 2:13;
- What is the decree of reprobation?
The eternal, sovereign, and righteous good-pleasure of God
to condemn others to eternal damnation on account of their sin.
I Peter 2:8;
Romans 9:17, 18;
- Look up
Romans 9:11-18 and
Ephesians 1:4,5 and answer these
- Does God elect people because they believe on Him?
- Does God reprobate people because they refuse to believe?
- What does
John 10:25, 26 teach concerning the relation between
reprobation and unbelief?
- What do Canons I.6;
John 6:40; and
Acts 13:48 teach concerning
the relation between faith and the decree of election?
- Look up
II Peter 1:10 and explain how we can make our election
- How does the First Point of common grace militate against
the doctrine of predestination?
- Look up
Romans 9:22-23 and explain what according to this passage
is God's purpose in election and reprobation.
- Look up the proof texts in answers 9 and 10 and show how they
prove election and reprobation.
- What is the first work of God in time?
The creation of the heavens and the earth.
- What does it mean to create?
To create is that act of God whereby God, by the word of His
power, called into existence the things that were not as though they were.
- What did God create?
All things: the heaven, the firmament, the earth, and all creatures in heaven and on earth.
- In how long a period did God create all things?
In six days, limited by evening and morning.
- What did God create on the first three days?
Light, the firmament, the seas, the dry land, and the whole
world of plants and trees.
- What did God create on the last three days?
The heavenly bodies, fish and birds, animals and man.
- What does it mean that God rested on the seventh day?
First, that He ceased from the work of creation; and secondly,
that He rejoiced in all the work which He had done.
- What does it mean that God saw all that He had made, and it
was very good?
That all creation was perfectly adapted to the purpose for
which He had created it.
- What is God's purpose in creation?
The glory of His Name through the manifestation of His wonderful praises.
- How are we able to understand this work?
By faith, for: "Through faith we understand that the
worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear."
- What does the theory of evolution teach?
- Prove from Scripture that this theory is wrong. Cf.
- What does the text in
Hebrews 11:3 mean when it states that
by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word
- How do you explain the word, "day" in the following passages:
II Peter 3:8?
Lesson 9: God's Providence
- Does the creation continue to exist by itself?
By no means, but all things continue to exist only by the providence of God.
- What is the providence of God?
The almighty and omnipresent power of God whereby He upholds
all things and governs them according to His own counsel.
- What is included in the providence of God?
All things great and small, good and evil; all things in heaven,
on earth, and in hell; all the acts of men and angels.
Matthew 10:20, 29;
- What distinctions may be made in the truth of providence?
Preservation, cooperation, government.
- What is preservation?
It is that act of God whereby He continues to give existence to all the creatures He created.
- What is cooperation?
It is that act of God whereby He governs all the acts of men, angels, and devils.
- What is government?
It is that act of God whereby He leads all things to the end which He has determined for them.
- If God governs men's actions, are they passive instruments
in His hands?
No, but man remains a thinking, willing, and active agent and is responsible for all he does.
- What is the comfort of providence for the believer?
That all things come to us by the hand of our heavenly Father and that He makes all things serve our salvation.
- Are miracles "violations" (suspensions) of the laws
of nature? Explain your answer.
- Scripture speaks of miracles as signs. (Cf.
Isaiah 7:14). What is a sign? Of what are miracles signs?
- What does
Psalm 73 teach concerning the prosperity of the wicked
and the suffering of the righteous?
- Explain how the following passages teach that God's control is also over sin:
II Samuel 16:10;
II Samuel 24:23;
- Explain what the following passages teach concerning the comfort of providence for God's people:
- In the light of question and answer 6 above, does the word
"cooperation" imply that God is co-responsible for the
sins of rational-moral creatures?
Lesson 10: Man in the State of Original Righteousness
- What does Scripture teach us concerning the creation of man?
- That God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground and
breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
- That God created him body and soul.
- That God created him after His own image.
- What is meant by the image of God in man?
That there is a reflection of some of God's perfections in
man's nature, so that in a creaturely way he resembles God.
- What elements belong to this image of God in man?
True knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness.
- Can you prove from Scripture that these elements belong to
the image of God in man?
Ephesians 4:23-24 teaches: "And be renewed in the
spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man which after
God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
- What was Adam's relation to God?
Adam lived in a covenant relation, in which he was God's friend-servant.
- What does this mean?
That Adam was at the same time both friend and servant of
God in God's creation.
- What was his relation to the creation?
Adam had dominion over all creatures on the earth as their
- What was his relation to the human race?
He was its first father and its representative head.
- Did Adam have a free will?
Yes, Adam was created good so that he was able to serve God
perfectly; but he could also, by an act of his own will, turn against God into sin.
Genesis 2:4-15 describe the garden in which God placed
Genesis 2:9, 16, 17 and answer the following questions:
- What two trees did God put in the garden?
- What was God's command concerning these trees?
- Why did God put these trees in the garden and give specific
commands concerning them?
Genesis 1:28-30 and
Genesis 2:15, 19, 20 state what is
meant that Adam had dominion over the whole earthly creation.
- Describe from
Genesis 2:18, 21-25 how God created Eve and what
this meant for Adam.
- What is the importance of the tree of life as it is mentioned in
- If Adam had remained obedient, would he and the human race
have been brought to the eternal state of heavenly glory? Cf.
I Corinthians 15:50.
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Last modified, 12-Jan-1997