Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 13
Lord's Day 13
Why is He called God's only begotten Son,
since we also are children of God?
Because Christ alone
is the eternal, natural Son of God.
We, however, are children of God by adoption,
through grace, for Christ's sake.
Why do you call Him our Lord?
Because He has ransomed us,
body and soul,
from all our sins,
not with silver or gold
but with His precious blood,
and has freed us
from all the power of the devil
to make us His own possession.
Q. & A. 33 God's Son
God's only-begotten Son. This name denotes the relationship between the Mediator and God the Father (the word “Lord” describes his relationship to us), and thereby contrasts it with our relationship to the Father. We confess, therefore, the difference between the Mediator's position of Son and the believers' position as children.
Only-begotten. This signifies two things: (a) that there is only one Son; and (b) that he was born of God. The latter means that just as the Father has life in himself, so also he gave the Son power to have life in himself (Jn 5:26). Further, the Word (i.e., the Son) was “with God,” i.e., enjoys personal communion with the Father, from eternity (Jn 1:1). Moreover, as only-begotten Son, he is the object of the Father's highest, fullest and undivided love.
Eternal. Jn 1:1 speaks of what already “was,” i.e., existed, “in the beginning.” He “was” already God's Son before the beginning of creation. He is thus uncreated.
Natural. He is “of one substance with” the Father. Jn 1:1 says: ". . . the Word was God."
Note that Christ is not “similar” to, but equal with the Father. He is God, just like the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Alone. Christ alone is the divine Son of the Father. He is the reflection of the Father's glory and the copy of his being. Heb 1:3 says: He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.
We are also God's children. The angels are sometimes also called “children of God” (Job 38:7, “sons”), as are the judges of the earth (Ps 82:6). But in his covenant, God adopted man to be his children in a very unique sense. Scripture does, nonetheless, draw distinctions. First, all who embrace God's covenant in faith are entitled to bear the name “children of God” (Gal 3:26). But, second, Scripture also uses this name to refer to all who were born under the covenant, even though they broke the covenant by rejecting the blessing of the covenant, i.e., Christ (Rom 9:4). Calvin says that God made his covenant with all of Abraham's children and that, therefore, all are children of God, although we must distinguish between children according to the flesh and children according to the spirit. The NT uses two expressions to refer to the children (or “sons”) of God. The one, translated as “adoption as children” refers to a legal status; the other refers to a living communion through spiritual renewal by the Holy Spirit.
- The believers and their descendants are not by nature children of God, but are his children by adoption, through grace, for Christ's sake. By nature they are also children of wrath, who are not able to enter the kingdom of heaven unless they are born anew, that is, unless, by means of a miracle of God, their lives are radically renewed.
- The fruit of this adoption, accepted in faith, is that we are also heirs: heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. This means that, with God in Christ, they will receive all things (Rom 8:17ff).
B. Cross References
- Art. 10 of the BC states: "We believe that Jesus Christ according to His divine nature is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten from eternity, not made, nor created – for then He would be a creature – but of the same essence with the Father, equally eternal, who reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, and is equal to Him in all things."
- See also the Athanasian and Nicene creeds.
- What is the difference between the third and fourth names of the Mediator?
- What does “only-begotten” mean?
- Why is Christ called the Eternal Son of God? Why is he called the Natural Son of God? Why is he alone called these things?
- Who are called children (or, sons) of God in the Bible?
- How do we distinguish between the two kinds of children of God?
- Are we God's children “by nature”? How, then, are we his children?
- What is the fruit of the adoption as children?
Q. & A. 34 Our Lord
A. Notes (Cf. LD 1, Q&A 1)
- Lord: This name designates the relationship between the Mediator and those who are his. He became our Lord, because he acquired ownership in us and made us his possession. He did that by purchasing us with his blood and so delivering us from the bonds of the devil and death. He did not pay this costly price to the evil one, but to God. We had come under the power of the evil one, since God had given us over to him because of our sins. Satan was like the keeper of our prison. Further, by his temptation he led us to the point where God gave us up to him. The ransom must, therefore, be paid, not to the unrighteous jailer, but to the righteous judge.
- To be Christ's possession means to belong to him, to be his responsibility. It includes our duty to serve him with all the love of our heart.
- We confess the certainty of our redemption in the names, “Son of God” and “our Lord.” For, since the Mediator is the “Son of God,” sent by God himself, it is beyond any doubt that God will not reject him; and, since he is “our Lord,” we are unable to reject him: he rules over us!
- How did Christ become our Lord?
- To whom did he pay the ransom? Why?
- What does it mean that we are Christ's possession? What does that include?
- What do we confess in the names “Son of God” and “our Lord”?