Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
29. Why is the Son of God called JESUS, that is, Savior?
Because He saves us from our sins, and because salvation is not to be sought or found in any other.
Question 29 begins to explain the biblical basis of article two of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, our Lord.” We begin with the name Jesus, which is the NT form of the OT name, Joshua. Both Joshua and Jesus mean “the Lord saves,” or “Savior.” Through Joshua, God merely saved His people from external enemies. So, Joshua was a type and foreshadowing of the true Savior Jesus, the Son of God in human flesh. The angel told Joseph, “Do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:20-21). “Whom does He save? His people, that is, all and only the elect given to Him by the Father [John 17:1-2, 9]” (Ursinus). He purchased His Church “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). And by His Spirit He grants faith to His elect so they believe in Him and receive all the benefits of His death (Phil. 1:29). He said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:37). Jesus does not save us partway, and leave the rest up to us. He saves “to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). Jesus said, “I give My sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28; cf. 5:24).
Jesus is the only Savior, for He is the only Mediator between God and man. He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). “Nor is there salvation is any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
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; 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.
If we truly believe Jesus is the only Savior, we will not seek salvation anywhere else. He is a complete Savior; and we are “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10). Jesus “does not confer salvation in connection with others, nor in part only; but He alone confers it entire, and in the most perfect manner. Hence, we justly conclude that all those who seek their salvation wholly or in part somewhere else [whether in the saints or in themselves], in reality deny Him to be an only and perfect Savior [Titus 1:16]” (Ursinus). “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” (1 Cor. 1:13).
But is it not the case that we are helped by the prayers of the saints and not by Christ alone? When the saints (all believers) pray for each other they do not appeal to their own worthiness but to the worthiness of Christ alone. Furthermore, the prayers that we pray for each other do not save us, as if we could not be saved without them. Rather, the Lord (who does not need our prayers) is pleased to use our prayers to contribute to each other’s spiritual welfare (2 Cor. 1:11).