Westmister Shorter Catechism
The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a catechism written in 1646 and 1647 by the Westminster Assembly.
The purpose of the Shorter Catechism is to educate children and others in the Reformed faith. It is based on the Larger Catechism, which was intended for use by ministers as they taught the faith to their congregations in preaching.
The Catechism is in a question and answer format, which had been popularised by Martin Luther as a way to help children learn the meaning of the material, rather than simply memorising the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments, and Apostles’ Creed as had been the practice prior to the Reformation.
Find here the Shorter Catechisms as published by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
The catechism is composed of 107 questions and answers.
– Q1-12 God as Creator
– Q13-20 original sin and the fallen state of man’s nature
– Q21-38 Christ the Redeemer and the benefits that flow from redemption
– Q39-84 the Ten Commandments
– Q85-97 the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion
– Q98-107 the Lord’s prayer.
Find below a reproduction created from Roland S Ward’s book – Learning the Christian Faith : The Shorter Catechism for Today (ISBN 0 9586241 1 9). Permission to use Ward’s text, is covered by the below statement found on page 2 of his book.
This modernised edition of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms may be freely quoted in books, and written or electronically transmitted material for non-commercial purposes, so long as it is quoted exactly and the source identified.
Learning the Christian Faith : The Shorter Catechism for Today is available through the Reformers Bookshop here.
There is also an excellent resource here (and linked below) for explanation comments and scripture proofs of each question.
Q1-12 God as Creator
The chief purpose for which man is made is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.
The Word of God, which consists of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how to glorify and enjoy him.
The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.
God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
There is only one God, the living and true God.
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.
The decrees of God are his eternal plan, according to the purpose of his will, by which, for his own glory, he has foreordained whatever comes to pass; /yet in such a manner as to be in no way the author of sin./
God carries out his decrees in the works of creation and providence.
The work of creation is the making by God of all things from nothing, by his powerful word, in the space of six days, and all very good.
God created man, male and female, in his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with rule over the creatures.
God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preservation and control of all his creatures, and all their actions.
When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, on condition of perfect obedience, forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on penalty of death.
Q13-20 Original sin and the fallen state of man's nature
Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the state in which they were created by sinning against God.
Sin is any failure to measure up to what God requires, or any disobedience to his commands.
The sin by which our first parents fell from the state in which they were created, was their eating the fruit that God had forbidden.
Since the covenant of life was made with Adam for his descendants as well as for himself, all mankind descending from him in the ordinary manner, sinned in him, and fell with him in his first transgression.
The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.
The sinfulness of the state into which man fell includes the guilt of Adam’s first sin, the lack of the righteousness which he had at first, and the corruption of every part of his nature, which is commonly called Original Sin; together with all actual sins which flow from it.
The fall brought upon mankind loss of communion with God, and his wrath and curse, so that we are justly liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to punishment in hell for ever.
God, solely out of his love and mercy, from all eternity elected some to everlasting life, and entered into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the state of sin and misery, and to bring them into a state of salvation by a Redeemer.
Q21-38 Christ the Redeemer and the benefits that flow from redemption
The only Redeemer of God’s elect 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.
Christ, the Son of God, became man by taking to himself a body and a soul like ours, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.
Christ as our Redeemer fills the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, in his states both of humiliation and exaltation.
Christ fills the office of a prophet in revealing to us by his Word and Spirit the will of God for our complete salvation.
Christ fills the office of a priest in his once offering up of himself to God as a sacrifice, to satisfy divine justice and reconcile us to God; and in making constant intercession for us.
Christ fills the office of a king in making us his willing subjects, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.
Christ’s humiliation consisted in being born, and that in a poor circumstance; in being subject to God’s law; in undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God and the curse of death on the cross; in being buried; and in continuing under the power of death for a time.
Christ’s exaltation consists in his rising again from the dead on the third day; in ascending into heaven; in sitting at the right hand of God the Father; and in coming to judge the world at the last day.
We are made to share in the redemption purchased by Christ by the effective application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
The Spirit applies to us the redemption purchased by Christ by producing faith in us, and by this uniting us to Christ in our effective calling.
Effective calling is the work of God’s Spirit, by which he convinces us of our sin and misery, enlightens our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renews our wills, and so persuades and enables us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
In this life those who are effectively called share in justification, adoption and sanctification, and the further benefits in this life which accompany or flow from them.
Justification is an act of God’s free grace in which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight for the sake of the righteousness of Christ alone, which is credited to us and received by faith alone.
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.
Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed throughout in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.
The benefits in this life which accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification are: assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, progress in holiness, and perseverance in it to this life’s end.
The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, rest in their graves until the resurrection.
At the resurrection Christ will immediately raise up in glory all believers; he will openly acknowledge and acquit them in the day of judgement, /graciously rewarding them according to their works of faith,/ and they will enter into the full enjoyment of God for all eternity.
Q39-84 the Ten Commandments
The duty which God requires of man is obedience to his revealed will.
The rule which God at first revealed to man for his obedience was the moral law.
The moral law is set out briefly in the Ten Commandments.
The sum of the Ten Commandments is to love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.
The preface to the Ten Commandments is: I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
The preface to the Ten Commandments teaches us that because God is the LORD and our God and Redeemer, therefore we are bound to keep all his commandments.
The first commandment is: You shall have no other gods before me.
The first commandment requires us to know and acknowledge God to be the only true God and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly.
The first commandment forbids the denial of, or failure to worship and glorify, the true God as God and our God; and it forbids giving that worship and glory to any other which is due to God alone.
These words “before me” in the first commandment teach us that God, who sees all things, takes notice of and is much displeased with the sin of having any other God.
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 thousands who love me and keep my commandments.
The second commandment requires us to receive, observe, and keep pure and entire all such religious worship and ordinances as God has appointed in his Word.
The second commandment forbids the worship of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his Word.
The reasons attached to the second commandment are God’s authority as our lawgiver, the fact that we belong to him, and the zeal he has for his own worship.
The third commandment is: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s name, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
The third commandment forbids all unworthy use of anything by which God makes himself known.
The reason attached to the third commandment is that though the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the LORD your God will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgement.
The fourth commandment is: Remember the sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien/stranger within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the seventh day and made it holy.
The fourth commandment requires the keeping holy to God such set times as he has appointed in his Word, in particular, one whole day in seven.
From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ God appointed the seventh day of the week to be the weekly sabbath, but thereafter he appointed the first day of the week, to continue to the end of the world, which is the Christian sabbath /or Lord’s Day/.
The sabbath /or Lord’s Day, which is given for man’s good and as a pointer to his eternal destiny,/ is to be kept holy by resting all that day from our work and recreations, and spending the whole time in the public and private worship, except the time spent in works of necessity and mercy.
The fourth commandment forbids the omission or careless performance of the duties required, and the misuse of the day by idleness, sinful acts, or unnecessary thoughts, words or works about our worldly affairs and recreations.
The reasons attached to the fourth commandment are God’s allowance of six days for worldly tasks, his claim to special ownership of the seventh, his own example, and his blessing of the sabbath day.
The fifth commandment is: Honour your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
The fifth commandment requires us to preserve the honour and perform the duties belonging to everyone in their different positions and relationships in life.
The fifth commandment forbids us to neglect or to do anything against the honour and duty which belongs to everyone in their various positions and relationships in life.
The reason attached to the fifth commandment is a promise of long life and prosperity (so far as it shall serve for God’s glory and their own good) to all those who keep this commandment.
The sixth commandment is: You shall not murder.
The sixth commandment requires all lawful endeavours to preserve our own life and the life of others.
The sixth commandment forbids us to take our own life or to take unjustly the life of our neighbour, or anything tending to these ends.
The seventh commandment is: You shall not commit adultery.
The seventh commandment requires us to preserve our own and our neighbour’s chastity in heart, speech, and behaviour.
The seventh commandment forbids all impure thoughts, words, and actions.
The eighth commandment is: You shall not steal.
The eighth commandment requires us to obtain lawfully, and to further, the wealth and material well-being of ourselves and others.
The eighth commandment forbids whatever does or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth and material well-being.
The ninth commandment is: You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
The ninth commandment requires us to maintain and promote truth between men, and our own and our neighbour’s good name, especially when called upon to bear witness.
The ninth commandment forbids whatever misrepresents truth, or is injurious to our own or our neighbour’s good name.
The tenth commandment is: You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or his donkey, or anything which belongs to your neighbour.
The tenth commandment requires full contentment with our own condition, and a right and charitable attitude toward our neighbour and all that is his.
The tenth commandment forbids all discontent with our own state; envying and grieving at the good of our neighbour, together with all ungoverned longings and desires for things that belong to him.
No mere human person, since the fall, is able to keep the commandments of God perfectly in this life, but breaks them daily in thought, word, and deed.
Some sins, because of their nature and the circumstances, are more sinful in the sight of God than others.
/Although some sins will be more severely punished than others,/ yet every sin deserves God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and the life that is to come.
Q85-97 the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion
To escape the wrath and curse due to us for sin, God requires of us faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and repentance leading to life together with the diligent use of all the outward means by which Christ gives to us the benefits of redemption.
Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace by which we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is freely offered to us in the gospel.
Repentance leading to life is a saving grace, by which a sinner having truly realised his sin and grasped the mercy of God in Christ, turns from his sin with grief and hatred and turns to God with full resolve and effort after new obedience.
The outward and ordinary means by which Christ gives to us the benefits of redemption are his ordinances, especially the word, sacraments, and prayer, and all these are made effective in the salvation of the elect.[a]
The Spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the Word, an effective means of convincing and converting sinners, and building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, to salvation.
We must attend to the Word with diligence, preparation and prayer, receive it with faith and love, lay it up in our hearts, and practise it in our lives, so that it may become effective to salvation.
The sacraments become effective means of salvation not because of any power in them or in him who administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of his Spirit in those who receive them in faith.
A sacrament is a holy ordinance appointed by Christ, by which, by visible signs, Christ, and the benefits of the new covenant, are represented, sealed and applied to believers.
The sacraments of the New Testament are, two only, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, /and these take the place of Circumcision and the Passover in the Old Testament./
Baptism is the sacrament /of solemn admission into the church on earth/ in which the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, signifies and seals our being grafted into Christ, and having a share in the benefits of the covenant of grace, and our pledge to be the Lord’s.
Baptism is not to be administered to any outside membership of the church on earth, until they profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him; but infants descending from parents (one or both) professing faith in Christ and obedience to him, /are, for that reason, within the covenant and/ are to be baptised.
The Lord’s Supper is a sacrament in which, by giving and receiving bread and wine according to Christ’s appointment, his death is proclaimed, and those who receive rightly are by faith (and not by the mouth in a physical manner) made partakers of his body and blood, with all his benefits, to their spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.
It is required of those who would receive rightly the Lord’s Supper, that they examine themselves as to their knowledge of the meaning and object of this sacrament, their faith to feed upon Christ, and their repentance, love and new obedience; for coming in an unworthy manner would bring judgement on themselves.
Q98-107 the Lord's prayer
Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God, for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.
The whole Word of God is of use to direct us in prayer, but the special rule of direction is that form of prayer which Christ taught his disciples, commonly called the Lord’s Prayer.
The preface of the Lord’s Prayer (which is, Our Father in heaven) teaches us firstly to draw near to God with all holy reverence and confidence as children to a father able and ready to help us; and secondly, that we should pray with and for others.
In the first request (which is, Hallowed be your name) we pray that God may enable us and others to glorify him in all in which he makes himself known; and that he would overrule all things for his own glory.
In the second request (which is, Your kingdom come) we pray that Satan’s kingdom may be destroyed, that the kingdom of grace may be advanced and ourselves and others brought into it and kept in it; and that /Christ’s return and/ the kingdom of glory may come quickly.
In the third request (which is, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven) we pray that God, by his grace, would make us able and willing to know, obey and submit to his will in all things, as the angels do in heaven.
In the fourth request (which is, Give us today our daily bread) we pray that by God’s free gift we may receive a sufficient share of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.
In the fifth request (which is, Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors) we pray that God, for Christ’s sake, would freely pardon all our sins; and we are encouraged to ask this because, by his grace, we are enabled from the heart to forgive others.
In the sixth request (which is, And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one) we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.
The conclusion attached to the Lord’s Prayer (which is, For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever, Amen) teaches us to take our encouragement in prayer from God only, and in our prayers to praise him, ascribing kingdom, power and glory to him. And in testimony of our desire and assurance to be heard, we say, Amen.