2007-11-26 - Heidelburg 1.1
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 1
Site Editor's Note: This devotion was originally presented to the mailing list on November 5th of this year but not posted to the website. Part 2 (Heidelburg 1.2) was presented on November 23rd to both the mailing list and the website. I appologize to the reader and to the author for this editorial error and hope this clears up any confusion. There are powerful truths in these articles. I hope this in no way detracts from them.
Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong - body and soul, in life and in death - to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me whole heartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
I would like to introduce you to the Heidelberg Catechism if you have never experienced it. The catechism is old. Elector Frederick III commissioned it in 1562. It has a long history in Protestantism, and it has some distinctives that make its use often very helpful. It is warmer and friendlier than many catechisms that simply state propositional truth. The advantage of Heidelberg is that it takes these truths home to the heart and makes them personal.
Catechisms are generally associated with the instruction of children, and they are useful in that manner. They should not be limited to it however. We are all the spiritual children of our Heavenly Father, and the form of question and answer, as we find in a catechism can be very useful to both adults and children. I do not wish to offend in saying this, but I do believe it to be true, that many, if not most, are less conversant with their faith than the children were of earlier days. To some extent this because the practice of catechizing has become dormant. It does not change, however, the reality that we all live in the midst of the world and are called upon to witness to the truth. We must seek to become more and more competent in the truth of God's Holy Word in order to speak with clarity and power to world entertaining themselves to death in spiritual darkness. Succinct expositions of our common beliefs and heritage are useful in helping us express our faith to believer and unbeliever alike.
If you have read the first question of the catechism you will note the depth and personal nature that it exudes. We will spend a while on this first question as it covers so much territory. I encourage anyone reading this to try to memorize the catechism questions as we go. Besides catechizing, committing things to memory, whether Scripture, or creedal formulations is also a lost practice for many. The version of Heidelberg I am using is the revision approved by the 1988 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church.
I would like to take the question itself, (What is your only comfort in life and death?) and the first part of the answer (That I am not my own).
In looking at the question let us first consider Psalm 73:25, 26, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." The question is personal. What is your only comfort? It reminds us that sin and the misery that sin brings has personal consequences. We are not talking about taking two cookies, as a kid, when we were told we could have one. Let's be real here. We have all experienced the sad, and often painful consequences of sin. The question asks, knowing this, as we all do, what is your comfort? What is your only comfort when you experience the pain, sorrow, distress, and grief that sin brings? What is your comfort? What sustains you? What cheers you? How do you cope?
What is your only comfort does not ask us what we hope our comfort will be, but rather it asks us what our comfort is. What is it now? Presently, when you sin, what is your comfort? When you experience the grief and sadness that sin brings into your life, what is your comfort? What is it now!?! The question asks something else of us. What is your only comfort? What is that one comfort, that when you compare it to all other comforts, it shines and takes center stage? What is that one comfort that makes all other comforts to be no comfort?
Lastly, we have the prepositional phrase, in life and death. In other words the question asks what comfort is there for you that reaches as far as sin reaches? Sin reaches into our lives, we know, but sin reaches beyond our lives. The comfort we need is one that traverses beyond our lives. For a comfort to be our true comfort it must still be our comfort when we experience the loss of our earthly lives.
We have space for the first phrase in the answer: That I am not my own. 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body."
I will only touch on this briefly and will simply submit to you that you are not your own. Contrary to everything you might wish to think, or have been told; you are not your own. I will give you three ways this is true:
It might run contrary to everything you wish to think about yourself, but if you pause for a moment and consider: you did not create yourself, you do not preserve yourself, and you cannot redeem yourself. In all three respects none of us are our own.
Whose are you then? I will give the only two possible answers. You are either Christ's by redemption, or you are Satan's by sin. There is no middle ground. There is only comfort for those who find themselves re-created, persevered, and redeemed in Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria,