References: John 1:29-34; Rom. 8:31-39
What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.
When God’s people in the Old Testament were held captive in Babylon, they were without comfort. They were without hope; their lives held no cheer, no reason to rejoice. They were there because they had been forcibly taken by the most powerful and terrible nation on earth, and there was absolutely no possibility of returning to the promised land and reestablishing the nation of Israel. This meant they had been removed from being the people of God; they had lost their position with God. All of this happened because they had turned away from God, forsaken Him, and followed heathen gods. Their lives revealed their hearts: they lived in disdain of God; they practiced a lifestyle of disobedience against God.
The Israelites in the Old Testament are a specific example of turning away from God. Yet in reality, everyone who follows the natural inclination of their hearts, all who trust in themselves, are no different. There is truly no comfort apart from God through Jesus Christ.
This brings us once again to the most important question, What is your only comfort? I reference the children of Israel in Babylon as another way to stress that for every human being in their natural state, there is no answer to the question—with one exception. That is the answer God provided; the catechism presents it clearly.
In this context of God’s provision, the prophet Isaiah said, “Comfort, comfort My people, says your God” (Is. 40:1). The question raised by the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism foreshadows its own answer. We need comfort, and the answer is to receive comfort. Similar words include cheer, rejoice, be at peace, etc. Life is not a hopeless situation.
Along with establishing the most important question, the catechism provides the most important answer. There is comfort. God has announced it, beginning with Adam and Eve. It is given to the people of God to continue to proclaim this comfort to the lost. Most importantly, it became a reality when the Word of God became flesh in the birth of the Christ, which we celebrate. John the Baptist pointed to it when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29b).
Before we work our way through all of the aspects of comfort spelled out in the catechism, we will zero in on the reality of the announcement of comfort.
Comfort based on peace with God: An established relationship
At this point, as we examine the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, we are still considering the question simply in terms of the concept of comfort. It is the foundation of the angels’ announcement, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
When the captives in Babylon heard the words “Comfort, Comfort,” they understood it meant doing something about their captivity. For you today, it means God is or has done something about your relationship with Him.
Next week: God’s double action
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.