Our Lord and Elder Brother: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 13

33. Why is He called God’s “only begotten Son,” since we also are the children of God?
Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God, but we are children of God by adoption, through grace, for His sake.
[1] Jn. 1:14, 18. [2] Rom. 8:15–17; Eph. 1:5–6; *1 Jn. 3:1.

34. Why do you call Him “our Lord”?
Because not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood, He has redeemed and purchased us, body and soul, from sin and from all the power of the devil, to be His own.
[1] 1 Pet. 1:18–19; 2:9; 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; *Acts 2:36; *Tit. 2:14; *Col. 1:14.

Our Lord and Elder Brother

Lord’s Day 13 raises a few issues regarding Jesus’ role in our lives as our Savior, arising from the phrase in the Apostles’ Creed, “only begotten Son, our Lord.” This phrase helps us understand more about who Jesus is, and who we are in relation to Him.

First, we see the utterly unique relation that Jesus has to the Father. He is the only Begotten. He is the Son from all eternity, bearing an intimate relation of love to the Father that did not originate with His humanity but by the very nature of who He is. John 5 in particular shows the unique relationship that the Father has to the Son: “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. (Joh 5:22-23 NKJ)” The idea that the Son should receive the same kind of honor as the Father is an astounding statement, especially when you remember many Old Testament passages like Isaiah 48:11 where God says, “I will not give my glory to another.”

But we are also called the sons of God. If Jesus’ relationship with the Father is so unique, then what is the meaning of this statement? Ephesians 1:5 tells us we are predestined to the adoption of sons. When people adopt a baby into their family, they commonly regard him as having the same relationship as their biological children. However, Jesus is not only human but also divine, bearing Sonship to God eternally and according to His divine nature, something we can never attain to. So it’s a different relationship. Yet, the glorious and exalted nature of Jesus’ Sonship only amplifies what it means for us to share in that same relationship, though in a lesser way. By the glorious grace of God, we are adopted into His family and share in that exalted sonship.

As question 33 says, this is all for the sake of Christ. It is the love which the Father has for the Son which is extended to all those who are united to Christ by faith. Our relationship with the Father is, therefore, not dependent on our own worth or merit. The Father’s love for us depends entirely on His love for His Son Jesus and our union with Jesus by faith. Then, our worth becomes determined by that love, just as an adopted child often needs to learn the norms and behaviors of his new family, which his new parents will lovingly teach him because he is one of their own now.

Question 34 looks at another aspect of the truth of our union with Christ, that is, that He is our Lord. Jesus purchased us for Himself at the price of His own blood, and we belong to Him now. He has total ownership of us, the power of command, the power of life and death. This is a very good thing, for He is a good master, and the master we belonged to before was Satan, who hated us and owned us only to destroy us. We are so blinded by sin that we think sin is fun and enjoyable and self-affirming, when in fact it is a miserable slavery, as Jesus says, “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) So belonging to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a very good thing, as He desires only our good.

A life of obedience will naturally flow from that. This answers the question of whether Jesus can be our Savior without being our Lord, and it answers in the negative, for it is by being our Lord that He is our Savior. He saves us by redeeming us from the horrible kingdom of Satan into the Kingdom of God, of marvelous light and peace. Our good works don’t earn us this new state or give us the right to it. Our good works are an aspect of salvation, as we begin to learn to live in ways consistent with what a human being is, in ways that are good and healthy and enable us to enjoy all of the glorious blessings of God’s kingdom.

My wife and I discovered a while back that if our children’s rooms are clean and orderly, then they play with their toys a lot more, since they can find them and have space to enjoy them. Without our guidance, they immediately trash their room, with all their toys and dirty clothes lying around in heaps. They don’t even want to be in their rooms then. But if we help them clean their rooms and teach them how to keep them clean themselves, then they enjoy all their things much more. This is what sanctification is like. In our natural state, we make great filthy heaps of all the good things God gives us. Now that we are in the household of God, by adoption, under Jesus’ Lordship we are reshaped and trained to enable us to properly enjoy all of the beautiful things of God’s creation.

Both of these questions teach us implications of who Jesus is in relation to us- our elder brother in the family of God, and our Lord, who frees us from the miserable slavery of the devil’s kingdom into the joyous blessed kingdom of God.

The Anointed: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 12


31. Why is He called “Christ,” that is, Anointed?
Because He is ordained of God the Father and anointed with the Holy Spirit1 to be our chief Prophet and Teacher,2 who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption;3 and our only High Priest,4 who by the one sacrifice of His body, has redeemed us, and ever lives to make intercession for us with the Father;5 and our eternal King, who governs us by His Word and Spirit, and defends and preserves us in the redemption obtained for us.6
[1] Heb. 1:9. [2] Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:22. [3] Jn. 1:18; 15:15. [4] Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:21. [5] Rom. 5:9–10. [6] Ps. 2:6; Lk. 1:33; Matt. 28:18; *Isa. 61:1–2; *1 Pet. 2:24; *Rev. 19:16.

32. But why are you called a Christian?
Because by faith I am a member of Christ1 and thus a partaker of His anointing,2 in order that I also may confess His Name,3 may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to Him,4 and with a free conscience may fight against sin and the devil in this life,5 and hereafter in eternity reign with Him over all creatures.6
[1] Acts 11:26; 1 Jn. 2:27; *1 Jn. 2:20. [2] Acts 2:17. [3] Mk. 8:38. [4] Rom. 12:1; Rev. 5:8, 10; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6. [5] 1 Tim. 1:18–19. [6] 2 Tim. 2:12; *Eph. 6:12; *Rev. 3:21.


The Anointed

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2Co 1:21-22 NKJ)

In the Old Testament, men were commonly anointed with oil to announce their appointment by God to the office of prophet, priest or king. The prophet was a teaching and exhorting office, calling people to repentance and providing them guidance about God’s will in their lives. The priest held a religious office. He offered sacrifices on behalf of the people and taught the people the right use of the ceremonial system of the Mosaic Law. The king had the civil function; he ran the government and the military, providing law and order and protection from the nation’s enemies.

No man could hold all three of these offices in the Mosaic Law. In particular, no man could be both a king and a priest, and when they tried, like Saul, they came under heavy condemnation. That teaches us the limited nature of the Mosaic Law—it was never supposed to be the final state of things. Moses’ Law, among other functions, pointed forward to the One who would come and hold all the offices, who would be not just anointed but The Anointed, who would possess the Spirit of God without limit and perform all the offices perfectly.

Most of the Old Testament officers performed their job badly. A few were pretty good, but they were the exceptions. Prophets got rich telling people flattering lies. Priests neglected the true ordinances of God’s law, tolerated and even promoted the worship of foreign idols, and extorted money from the people for the performance of their duties. Kings advanced their own power and wealth instead of the good of the nation and brought Israel into forbidden and disastrous alliances with foreign powers. The result was that people were not warned of the danger of their sin, were denied access to the pure and true worship of God, and often came under the attack and domination of Israel’s enemies. But God’s promise always remained. The time would come when the perfect archetype would arrive, the faithful Prophet, the righteous High Priest, and the good and true King, and the result would be Israel’s everlasting blessedness. Jesus is that One, whose title, “Christ”, is the Greek version of the word “Anointed”, which in Hebrew is “Messiah.”

Adam was created to be all these things, to speak the truth, to live with God in harmony and love, and to rule over creation on God’s behalf. Jesus, the Last Adam, comes to restore what Adam lost through his rebellion. When we are united to Christ by faith (Q. 32), then we share in His anointing and begin to become what He is in His perfect humanity (never in His deity, of course). The Catechism shows us that the Christian likewise becomes a prophet, declaring the truth of Jesus Christ and by our very lives calling those around us to repentance; a priest, offering sacrifices of obedience and thanksgiving and dwelling in fellowship with God; and a king, ejecting the Devil from his hostile occupation of our lives and bringing ourselves and everything under our influence under the righteous rule of God’s law.

Revelation frequently describes saints in their saved state as “kings and priests” before God (Rev. 5:21) This is what we are created for and what we will be, when we are united to Christ by faith, because it is what He is, and His life and power is remaking us and shaping us to be like Him (Romans 8:29). Understanding what it means that Jesus is the Christ and that we are to be Christians, that He is the Anointed One and we are anointed with Him through the Spirit, is vital to understanding how, and to what, we are saved.


Seeking All My Good Only in Christ: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 11

29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” that is, Savior?
Because He saves us from all our sins,1 and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.2
[1] Matt. 1:21; Heb. 7:25. [2] Acts 4:12; *Lk. 2:10–11.

30. Do those also believe in the only Savior Jesus, who seek their salvation and welfare from “saints,” themselves, or anywhere else?
No; although they make their boast of Him, yet in their deeds they deny the only Savior Jesus;1 for either Jesus is not a complete Savior, or they who by true faith receive this Savior, must have in Him all that is necessary to their salvation.2
[1] 1 Cor. 1:13, 30–31; Gal. 5:4. [2] Isa. 9:7; Col. 1:20; 2:10; Jn. 1:16; *Matt. 23:28.


The Christian’s hope is not in the present age or the present world, but in the age to come. We recognize, however, that everything that happens to us in this life is preparatory to that which is coming; thus Paul can say that “all things work together for good”; not the good of my happiness and comfort in this life, but that I would be “conformed to the image of Jesus Christ” in order to ultimately be glorified with Him forever. (Romans 8:28-29) But that means that I must not separate my hope in Jesus from my welfare and wellbeing in this current life, since this life is preparation for the next.

Some may say that they trust in Jesus for the fate of their eternal souls, but in this life it is clear that they think money will bring them the satisfaction they crave. It is clear because that is what they spend their life pursuing. Or it might be entertainment, or their families, or their physical health, or any number of other things. But we ought not separate these things- our hope for eternity and our pursuit of our welfare now- for they are intimately tied together. Thus, question 30 asks whether we truly can claim to believe in Jesus as our savior when we look somewhere else for the source of our wellbeing and happiness. We all have mixed loyalties and impure motivations for what we do; we all remain sinners in this life, so nobody will be perfect in this regard. But if I think that someone or something else, other than Christ, can really make me happy, keep me safe or give me a significant satisfying life, then to the degree I do that I am failing to trust Christ as my savior. This is true beyond the question of what will happen to me when I die, but also to the question of what will give me a good life in the here and now.

We know that God has not promised us comfort, wealth, and ease in this life. Sometimes our response to that truth unfortunately is to conclude we must seek those things for ourselves. But if we trust Christ as our Savior in the fullest sense, then we will trust what God sends us in this life as well, knowing that His faithfulness as a savior will give me a truly good life, not one of all the comforts and earthly joys I might want, but one in which God fulfills His present purposes through me and prepares me for eternity with Him. If I trust Jesus and look to Him for all my hope in eternity, then I must trust Him with my welfare in the present age as well.

The Bible teaches us that all blessings come from God, and are His alone to give. Whether in this life or the one to come, that is the truth. The ancient sin of mankind is to think he can seize them for himself, through his own hard work, cleverness, good character or whatever else. But they all come from God. All the gold and silver are His, the cattle on a thousand hills are His, He makes the sun shine and the rain fall and my heart beat and my mind work. I cannot do the least thing without Him. And without Christ, we would know nothing but wrath from God. Therefore every good thing I enjoy, in this life or in eternity, comes to me by Christ, and the sooner I stop thinking I can do it myself, whether it’s to put food on my table or to inherit eternal life, the better. We should not compartmentalize this truth by saying I trust Christ for what happens after we die, but trust myself and my works for what happens now. For what comes now and in the future, in both life and death, my only comfort is that I belong to Him, and everything that happens works toward bringing me to Him in His eternal kingdom. That’s what it means to seek all my salvation and welfare only in Christ.


Comfort in Sovereignty: Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 10

27. What do you understand by the providence of God?
The almighty, everywhere-present power of God,1 whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures,2 and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink,3 health and sickness,4 riches and poverty,5 indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.
[1] Acts 17:25–26. [2] Heb. 1:3. [3] Jer. 5:24; *Acts 14:17. [4] Jn. 9:3. [5] Prov. 22:2; *Ps. 103:19; Rom. 5:3–5a.

28. What does it profit us to know that God created, and by His providence upholds, all things?
That we may be patient in adversity,1 thankful in prosperity,2 and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love,3 since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.4
[1] Rom. 5:3; Jas. 1:3; Job 1:21. [2] Deut. 8:10; 1 Thess. 5:18. [3] Rom. 8:35, 38–39. [4] Job 1:12; Acts 17:25–28; Prov. 21:1; *Ps. 71:7; *2 Cor. 1:10.

Comfort in Sovereignty
To the degree that we affirm God’s absolute and minute control of every single thing that happens, to that same degree we can be confident, courageous and hopeful in the future, and patient in the midst of suffering.

To the degree that we limit, place conditions on or deny God’s absolute control over all the events of history and of our lives, to that same degree we should be anxious and fearful about the future, and resentful and depressed about the past.

The Bible teaches that all of God’s children, all those who put their trust in Jesus Christ, can have absolute confidence that every single event in their lives is moving toward a predetermined end. The future determines the past and present for God’s elect, and the future is set in stone, and we know what that future is. We can therefore know that all of the things that happen in this life are moving us toward that goal, even if we don’t know exactly how any given event contributes. We are told by God that this is the case, perhaps most famously in Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” That passage tells us that God is using every event that occurs to accomplish this goal, of making His people like Jesus Christ. We know that once that goal is accomplished (in the world to come), every good blessing imaginable will flow from that.

Therefore we can be patient and hopeful no matter what comes. We can know that any event that happens, no matter how painful or inexplicable, comes to us from the hand of our loving heavenly Father. That completely changes the way we look at everything. If, for example, you are woken up at 2 AM to run around in circles until you drop from exhaustion, the way you will feel about that event will change completely if it’s being done by a prison system punishing you for holding illegal political views, or a boot camp drill instructor preparing you for war. The first is vindictive and hateful, and will probably be viewed with bitterness and resentment. The second has a purpose, and a good one—to keep you alive in battle. So even if something is very painful and unpleasant, if you can have confidence that there is a good motive behind it, even if you don’t understand it, you can be patient.

Love for our fellow man is enabled by that confidence and hope. Love happens when we can have the courage to make ourselves vulnerable, to stop worrying about our own welfare and start thinking about what we can do for other people. Living in fear of the future or bitterness about the past makes love impossible. But thankfulness for all the good things I have received, and confident trust in what is coming, gives me the resources to share that thankfulness and joy with those around me. If I could reduce the question simply to money, for purposes of illustration, if I am worried about being able to pay my own rent, I’m not too likely to help someone else in need. But if I believe I have a great abundance of material things, then I will give freely. Extend that thinking to all my resources—time, emotions, intellect, circumstance—if I recognize that God has showered good things on me and will continue to do so, then that sense of gratitude and confidence will enable me to do good to those around me. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

But what about the evil in the world? Is God in control of that too? And if so, does that make God evil? The short answer to this question is that God is indeed in control of everything that happens, even those things that from our perspective are evil. And while a particular person’s actions may be taken by that person for evil purposes, thus incurring the wrath of God, at the very same time in a way that is mysterious to us, God also ordained the same events, but not for evil purposes. He does everything He does for good purposes- for the revelation of His own glory and the fulfillment of His good plan for His people. Thus, Joseph can say in Genesis 50 that his brothers acted very wrongly in selling him into slavery, but God ordained the very same act for good. “You meant evil unto me, but God meant it for good.” Or as Peter can say in Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” The crucifixion of Jesus was a wicked act from the moral perspective of those that committed the act, and thus they are guilty of sin. But God also ordained it, and did so for very good and loving reasons. So God is in control, but not guilty of sin. God’s sovereign ordination overarches all our choices, and all God’s actions are good. Thus the responsibility of people for their own actions is maintained, and yet God’s total sovereignty over everything in the world is also maintained.

With this truth firmly in mind at all times, God’s people are equipped to be patient, to be thankful, to be obedient, and to trust God’s Word and God’s goodness regardless of circumstance. If those circumstances are not all under God’s control, then we might have cause to say that His Word did not anticipate the situation we find ourselves in. But the circumstances of our lives are all under His control, and thus we never have any reason to think that His Word does not apply to our lives. We can put away all worry and fear, knowing that everything that comes our way in life comes ultimately not from chance or from the will of evil men or the malice of the devil, but from the loving hand of our perfectly good and kind Father, who loves us as His own children.