Thursday, December 10, 2015

Heidelberg Catechism Q1

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

The first thing noteworthy about the question itself is that what is asked about is the ONLY comfort in both life and death.  We have many comforts in life, and many think death itself is a comfort, but there is only one comfort that transcends this existence on this earth.  We have many creature comforts for our body, like beds and couches, family and friends, entertainment and carnal love, but there is only one comfort for both body and soul, something that gives us spiritual comfort, and that is peace of mind about our final destination.

I'm not merely talking about going to heaven after we die.  That is a superficial reading of this comfort, but Paul himself says in Philippians 3:11 that his goal is "that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."  This goes beyond "going to heaven after we die," and enters into the realm of everlasting life in resurrection bodies after the end.  This is bigger than just our personal relationship with Christ.  This moves into what is happening world-wide with everyone who ever lived and died.

John 5 gives us a big clue.  Starting at verse 28, Jesus says, "Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment."  Notice that the opposite of life is not death but judgment.  Those who are resurrected to life do not have to undergo any judgment, because they have already been judged: Christ was judged in their place on the cross.  We get to bypass the judgment on judgment day and go straight to everlasting life, because Christ already underwent the judgment on our behalf.  This is true comfort.

Here is the comfort in total: 1) we are not our own, 2) we belong to Christ, 3) he bought us with his blood. When has slavery ever been comforting? That's why Christianity doesn't make sense to many people, because we want it to be empowering, but it's really the anti-American prospect of submission of ourselves as slaves. We fought wars to free people from slavery.  We still fight internationally to rid the world of human trafficking.  But Christianity is all about becoming slaves to Christ. We were on the auction block, and Jesus actually paid for us with his blood. Why is this comforting?

The rest of the answer tells us why: 4) Slavery to Christ actually sets us free: free from the devil (and temptations) and free from destruction (and everlasting ruin in hell), free from that very judgment we discussed above.  In Ephesians 2, Paul tells us, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."  Yes, we were already slaves before Christ bought us, but we were slaves of the devil, which involved a) being dead in our trespasses and sins, b) following the ways of the world, c) following the ways of the devil himself, d) following the ways of our own flesh and sinful thoughts, and finally e) being on the receiving end of God's wrath, the judgment at the end of the age we discussed above.  Remember, we by-pass the judgment now.  Slavery to Christ frees us from that.

Not only does slavery to Christ free me from the devil but it 5) protects
me eternally so that my life, both body and soul, not only is 6) saved by God from destruction, but that 7) in this very life I am put on a course that God decides for me.  This path contains both trials and blessings, but they are all for my good, my sanctification, incomplete but progressing forward nonetheless.  This is also comforting, because we tend to look to our sanctification for the assurance of our salvation.  Indeed we should, but we should not expect some radical transformation into the most godly of saints.  Question 114 of the Heidelberg Catechism reads:

Q. But can those converted to God keep these commandments perfectly?
A. No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience. Nevertheless, with earnest purpose they do begin to live not only according to some but to all the commandments of God.

Although saved Christians do earnestly try to keep the commandments of God, we only move forward in small increments.  R.C. Sproul wrote that although we don't love Jesus perfectly or as we ought, we can know we are saved if we love Jesus AT ALL, because those who are not saved hate Christ.  Now, there is a caveat: the Jesus we love at all must be the Jesus described in the pages of Scripture.  There are many who claim to love someone called Jesus Christ, but he is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Of course, our perception is that we feel assured, but this perception is instilled in us by God objectively.  It feels like we have subjectively embraced the truths of scripture, but what God has done has regenerated us of his own will and has given to us his 8) Holy Spirit who assures us of eternal life.  If it were up to us to receive Christ, we would surely fail, but God gives us his spirit, and, as the Catechism states, 9) MAKES us willing to live for Him.
This is a far cry from us having the responsibility for our own salvation.  Christ has objectively done a work on the cross, spilling his blood for our salvation, and the only condition for us receiving this salvation is faith, our believing that Christ died for the forgiveness of OUR sins--not just sins in general, or the sins of mankind--our personal sins.  It seems like an easy thing to do, to BE forgiven, but it takes faith in Christ alone, and most of the world refuses to believe the truth that God came to earth as a man and shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins, so that we may live eternally in the Lord's presence after the resurrection.  This does not make sense to many, and yet is is the only thing that can give us comfort in both life and death, both body and soul.  It is the only truth that matters.