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What is you Only Comfort?

Before we get started with this, the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism, I thought it would be worthwhile to give a short explanation of catechisms in general. Catechism, in its simplest form, is simply a method of teaching truth. We get the English word catechism from the greek word katēkhizein which means to "teach orally, instruct by word of mouth" and the Latin catechismus which means "book of instruction." As we use the word today, it refers to a series of questions and answers designed to teach and reaffirm the basic principles of the Christian faith. In the history of the New Testament Church, there have been several influential catechisms that have helped people come to a more profound knowledge of the truth of scripture. The oldest catechism that we know of is the Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, dating to sometime in the first century. The catechism that we are going to start going through as a devotional is known as the Heidelberg Catechism. It was originally written at the request of Frederick III, also known as Frederick the Wise, who was the famous protector of Martin Luther during the start of the Reformation. The truths that are recorded in this catechism have stood the test of time because they point back to scripture as the final authority on all matters of faith and practice.

Question One

The first question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks "What is your only comfort in life and death?" What a way to start. The writers of the catechism go straight to the point. What is it that gives Christians hope? In the particular context that the catechism was originally written, it is even more to the point because it is asking why is all of this worth it? What is it about Biblical Christianity that makes all this persecution at the hands of Rome worth it? The answer is:

A. That I am not my own,[1] but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death,[2] to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.[3] He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.[4,5] He also preserves me in such a way[6] that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head;[7] indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.[8] Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life[9] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.[10]

[1] I Cor. 6:19, 20 [2] Rom. 14:7-9. [3] I Cor. 3:23; Tit. 2:14. [4] I Pet. 1:18, 19; I John 1:7; 2:2. [5] John 8:34-36; Heb. 2:14, 15; I John 3:8. [6] John 6:39, 40; 10:27-30; II Thess. 3:3; I Pet. 1:5. [7] Matt. 10:29-31; Luke 21:16-18. [8] Rom. 8:28. [9] Rom. 8:15, 16; II Cor. 1:21, 22; 5:5; Eph. 1:13, 14. [10] Rom. 8:14.

Contained in this answer is so much truth, so very much to hold onto in times of hardship and in times of plenty. We are not our own, we have been purchased with the most valuable payment possible, the very blood of Christ. For those that are in Christ, we were once slaves to the power of sin and darkness, slaves to the prince of the world, that is the devil, but now we have been purchased that we might with Paul call ourselves rightly the slaves of Christ.

Eternal Life

One of the more important ideas that are covered in this question and answer is the idea of providence and perseverance. God's providence is his governance of all things to work according to his will. There is no such thing as chance or luck, there is only the providence of God that points ever toward his glory. Not a hair of your head falls to the ground without the will of God. Think about that for a second, how often do hairs fall from your head? If you are like my wife it seems to be all the time. And yet scripture teaches us that not one of those hairs falls apart from the will of God. It is God that preserves his own and brings them to redemption. You may have once heard this talked about as once saved always saved. The scripture is clear that those who are genuine children of God, genuine believers, persevere to the end. They finish the race, not because of their own power but because God who has started in you a good work will bring it to completion.

A Good Place to Start

There is enough in this first question and answer to spend several weeks on, and the catechism does just that by going into more detail on each point and implication. This first question serves as a thesis statement, and as an introduction to the whole rest of the catechism. I hope that you will meditate on these words and the related scriptures this week. Take a couple of points a day and really dig into the scripture. What does it mean to be not your own, to be purchased at a great price? To me it is indeed the only comfort I need, to know that I have been purchased, body and soul, by my faithful savior and Lord Jesus Christ, so that I might be called a child of God. There is nothing else that is needed. God is faithful and will finish what he started. While I do not understand the whole of the plan or most of the steps involved, I do know that God is working for the good of those who are called according to his purpose, that he might be glorified. Does this bring you comfort?

Soli Deo Gloria

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