“What is your only hope in life and in death?”
I will never forget the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism. This question, which is beautifully answered in the Catechism, birthed forth worship in my soul like few other things have. This is not because there is anything supernatural about the question, but because the answer is so obvious. Consider for a moment, if you couldn’t answer this question with “Christ and Him Crucified” what other answer would you be left with?…. I can’t think of anything either. This question is so lovely because it only has one answer. The answer set forth by the Heidelberg Catechism says, “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.“ In a recent podcast we discussed this reality and I wanted to take the time to build this concept out. It is my aim today to walk through a trinitarian understanding of how we can, with confidence, agree with and understand the answer set forth by the Heidelberg Catechism. I want to build out that question with three questions of my own.
How is it that I came to belong to Jesus?
Have you ever asked this question? The answer I most normatively hear is something along the lines of “by belief” or “by faith” and while that is most certainly the means by which we lay hold of the reality that we belong to Jesus it is not the preeminent answer. The reality is that long before the elect had done either good or bad God had, in love, given us to Jesus Christ. We read in John 6:37 that “all the Father gave me, will come to me.” It seems reasonable to follow this statement with a question. When did the Father give people to Jesus? Paul writing under the inspiration of the Spirit answers this question in Ephesians 1:3-5. He says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” There are two things I want us to see from this text. First, notice that Paul pushes the time of God’s giving the church to Christ back before the foundation of the world. So When did I start belonging to Jesus? According to God’s election before the foundation of the world. The second principle revealed in this blessed text from Ephesians is the origin of that election. It is in love that God elects and predestines unto eternal life and adoption. In love God has elected a people unto salvation and all that He elected unto salvation He has given to Jesus Christ. So how is it that the church came to belong to Jesus? Because in love the Father gave the elect to Him.
How can I belong to Jesus?
Perhaps it is that you believe that God gave the church to Christ before the foundation of the world, but your own sinfulness would convince you that Christ cannot possibly keep you. For how could Jesus, righteous and holy as He is, be found in fellowship with sinners? Dear saint, if God elected you unto salvation and adoption you must know that Jesus provided all that is necessary for that reality to come to fruition. We should never deny the chasm between Christ and those whom he has chosen to redeem. For the chasm is indeed very great. But it is a chasm that has been filled through Jesus’ substitutionary death. There is no need for argumentation here, for the scriptures are crystal clear. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we are healed.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Romans 5:8-9 says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” See here, Jesus’ work is a justifying work. All those who belong to Christ will be justified by His blood. This means that Jesus pays the debt for their sin and that Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to them. See dear saint, you can belong to Jesus because He has, by His blood, made you belong. And finally we must ask, for whom did Jesus give the benefits of His glorious work? For whom did Jesus lay down His life for their justification. John 10:14-15 records Jesus’ answer to this question, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep
How can I know that I belong to Jesus?
Here is the conclusion of our three questions, and I hope to bring this round so one glorious reality is seen. We belong to Jesus because God has elected us and given us to Him. We can belong to Jesus because of His justifying work. We can know that we belong to Jesus by the Holy Spirit’s application of Jesus’ work. This is the trinitarian work of God to place you in and keep you in Christ. Thus, we now must look at the work of the Spirit of God making Christ’s possession of us known. To do that I want to briefly examine Galatians 4:1-7,
“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”Galatians 4:1–7 (ESV)
We have already covered much of what is indicated in this passage, but I want us to see the trinitarian harmony within it. First, we see that God the Father sent God the Son to redeem those heirs who were under the Law. Contrasting this verse with Ephesians 1:3-5 gives us great insight. We know that God has predestined the elect for the adoption of sons. From this text in Galatians we also know that Jesus was sent, born of woman and under the Law, to redeem those under the Law so that we might receive adoption. To whom then does the Spirit of God give that blessed utterance of sonship? Only those whom God the Father has elected. Only those whom Jesus Christ has purchased with His blood. The proclamation of “Abba! Father!” Is a proclamation of New Birth (John 3:1-15). So how can you know that you belong to Jesus? You can know you belong to Jesus when the Spirit of God births in you repentance and faith. You can know you belong to Jesus when you receive the Spirit of adoption and cry out with all the sons and daughters of God, “Abba! Father!”