Friday, March 21, 2014

Commentary on Lord's Day 11










ELEVENTH LORD’S DAY


OF GOD THE SON


Question 29. Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Saviour?

Answer. Because he saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins; and likewise because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.

EXPOSITION

The second part of the Creed, which now follows, treats of the mediator. The doctrine of the mediator consists of two parts: the one has respect to the person of the mediator; the other to his office. These two articles are concerning his person; and in Jesus Christ his only begotten son, our Lord, who was conceived by the the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. The four following articles which bring us down to the article of the Holy Ghost, treat of the office of the mediator. The office of the mediator consists of two parts: his humiliation or merit; and his glorification or efficacy. Now as it respects his humiliation, Christ is meritorious; as it respects his glorification, he is efficacious. The fourth article treats of his humiliation: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell. The fifth and sixth treat of his glorification: The third day he arose from the dead; ascended into heaven; sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The seventh which refers to his coming to judge the world, respects the consummation of his glory, when God will be all in all.
It appears from what has now been said with what great wisdom the articles of the Creed were written, and how well they are arranged in reference to the question of the mediator. The humiliation which is the first part of his office, has these grades: he suffered, was crucified, dead, buried, and descended into hell. We descend gradually from one degree to another until we reach the lowest point of his humiliation, which is found in the article of his descent into hell. The other part of his office, which is his glorification, ascends gradually from the glory which is less to that which is greater until it reaches its highest point, in his exaltation at the right hand of God. The same order and wisdom appear in the first part of the Creed, and also in the third where we have enumerated in the most beautiful order and succession, the benefits which Christ purchased and applies unto us by the Holy Spirit, and which is, as it were, the fruit of the preceding articles. The office of Christ differs from his benefits as cause and effect, or as antecedent and consequent. The benefits are the things themselves which Christ has purchased for us, and which he bestows upon us, such as remission of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation. His office is the obtaining and bestowment of these things.
And in Jesus: that is, I believe in Jesus Christ. The words, I believe, are to be repeated, because as we believe in God, the Father, so we also believe in the Son of God, according to what is written: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” “I and my Father are one.” “This is the word of God that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “That all men should honor the Son as they honor the Father.” (John 14:1; 14:11; 10:30; 6:29; 3:36; 5:23.) This is a sure and well-grounded argument in support of the true Divinity of the Son; for faith under this form is worship due to God alone.
Touching the name Jesus, which we are here to consider, we must not merely enquire into the etymology of it, what it imports, but we must consider more especially the office of the mediator, which is signified therein. The word Jesus (in Greek ιησούς, and in Hebrew Jehoseuah or Jesehuah) signifies a saviour, or the author of salvation, which God himself ascribes to the mediator in the new Testament. The true etymology or import of the word was given by the angel when he said, “his name shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21.) The Son of God is, therefore, called Jesus, the Saviour in respect to his office, because he is our mediator, and saves and delivers us from the evil both of guilt and punishment; and that truly, because he is an only and perfect Saviour. The salvation which he offers is righteousness and eternal life. This is inferred from the name itself, because he has not the name without the thing, but on account of the office.
Obj. But many others have also had the name of Jesus, as Joshua, the leader of the children of Israel, &c. Therefore nothing can be inferred and argued from the name itself. Ans. Others have had this name because they were typical saviours, foreshadowing the true saviour. And if it is objected that the parents of Joshua, when they gave this name to their infant son, could not have expected that future deliverance would have been brought to Israel through him, we reply that God knew it, and directed their wills in so naming the child. The difference, however, between other saviours and this Jesus is great. 1. Others had this name given them fortuitously by the will of men, but this Jesus was so called by the angel. 2. Others were typical; this Jesus is the appointed and true saviour. 3. God merely conferred temporal blessings upon his people through other deliverers; this Jesus frees us not only from bodily and temporal evils, but also from the evils both of guilt and punishment. 4. Other deliverers were only instruments and ministers through whom God bestowed these temporal blessings; this Jesus is the author not only of all the good things which respect the body and this life, but also of those which respect the soul and the life to come.
The Son of God is, therefore, called Jesus by way of pre-eminence to indicate thereby that he is the true saviour. This is evident,
1. Because he saves us from the double evil of guilt and punishment. That he saves us from the evil of guilt is testified by the angel who said, “he shall save his people from their sins.” That he frees us from the evil of punishment may be inferred from the fact, that if sin be taker away, punishment, which is the effect of sin, must also be taken away: for if the cause be removed the effect must also be removed. The people whom Jesus saves are all those that believe, and those only. He is the saviour only of such as believe, because it is only in them that his end is obtained. He established a church in the world to gather and save men; but upon this condition, that they apprehend the benefits which he offers, and are thankful to him for them.
2. Because he is an only saviour. For as our mediator is only one, so Jesus must also be our only Saviour, according to what is declared in many places of Scripture: “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” “I, even I am the Lord, and beside me there is no saviour.” (Acts 4:12. John 3:18. 1 John 5:11. 1 Tim. 2:5. Is. 43:11.)
Obj. The Father and the Holy Spirit also save us. Therefore the Son is not an only Saviour. Ans. It is true that all the persons of the Godhead are engaged in the work of our salvation, but there is a distinction as to the manner in which they save us. The Father saves us through the Son as the fountain of salvation. The Holy Spirit saves us as being the immediate agent or accomplisher of our regeneration. The Son saves us by his merit, as being the only Saviour, paying a ransom for us, giving the Holy Spirit, regenerating and raising us up unto eternal life. The efficacy of our salvation is therefore common to the three persons of the Godhead; but the manner is peculiar to the Son. Again, the Son is called the only Saviour in opposition to all creatures. He, therefore, excludes all creatures, but not the Father, or the Holy Spirit, as it is said, “No man knoweth the things of God, but the Spirit of God;” (1 Cor. 2:11.) from which we are not to infer that the Father and the Son do not know themselves, for the Spirit is here compared with creatures, and not with the Father and the Son.
3. He is a saviour in two respects, by his merit and efficacy. He saves us by his merit or satisfaction, because by his obedience, suffering, death and intercession, he has merited for us remission of sins, reconciliation with God, the Holy Spirit, salvation and eternal life. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world,” that is, for the sins of all sorts of men, of whatever age, rank, or place they may be. “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” “Through the obedience of one, many were made righteous.” “The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” (1 John 2:2; 1:7. Rom. 3:25; 5:19. Is. 53:5.) He also saves us by his efficacy, because he has not only, by his merits, obtained for us remission of sins, righteousness and that life which we had lost, but he also grants and applies unto us the whole benefit of redemption by virtue of his Spirit through faith. For what he has merited by his death he does not retain to himself alone; but confers upon us. He did not purchase salvation and eternal life (which he had) for himself, but for us, as our mediator. Therefore he reveals unto us the will of the Father, institutes and preserves the ministry, through this he gives the Holy Spirit and converts men, collects a church, bestows all good things necessary for this life, defends his church against all her enemies, finally raises up in the last day to eternal life, all those that believe in him, and delivers them from all evils, whilst he casts all his and their enemies into everlasting punishment. To accomplish all these things is the work of the true God, who alone is almighty. In short, his efficacy regenerates us by his word and Spirit in this life, and preserves those that are renewed, lest they fall again, and at length raises them unto eternal life. These passages of scripture speak of this revelation and regeneration. “No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father, and who the Father is but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “There is another that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” “I will send the Holy Spirit unto you from the Father.” “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men—some pastors, and teachers, &c. He ascended above all heavens that he might fill all things.” “The Son of God was manifested that he might destroy the works of the Devil.” (Matt. 11:27. John 1:18. Matt. 3:11. John 15:26. Eph. 4:8, 10, 11. 1 John 3:8.) Concerning the preservation of them that believe, the following passages may be cited: “Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me,” &c. “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” “I will not leave you comfortless.” “I and the Father will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:1; 18:23. Matt. 18:20.) Of his raising us up unto eternal life, these passages of Scripture speak: “I will raise him up at the last day.” “No one shall pluck my sheep out of my hand.” “And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” When he shall have subjected all things unto himself, he shall present before God a glorious church, which he has gathered from the beginning to the end of the world. (John 6:54; 10:28, 29. 1 Cor. 15:28. Eph. 5:27.) From what has now been said we may perceive that the gift of the Holy Spirit is also a part of our salvation, and that this ought to be accomplished through the mediator; for the Holy Spirit renovates the heart by abolishing sin, which being abolished, death must also, necessarily, be abolished. It was for this destruction, or abolishing of sin and death, that Christ came into the world.
4. He saves us fully, and perfectly, by commencing salvation in us in this life, and at length consummating it in the life to come. This he does, because his merit is most perfect, and that for two reasons, as has already been explained: First, because he is God. “God purchased the church with his own blood; (Acts 20:28.) from which it appears that his satisfaction surpasses the punishment and satisfaction of all the angels; and secondly because of the greatness of the punishment which he endured for us. He also saves us in the manner just specified, because the salvation which he confers upon us is most full, and complete: “Ye are complete in him;” (Col. 2:10;) that is, ye have all things which pertain unto everlasting blessedness, and are made the complete and happy sons of God through and on account of Jesus Christ: “For it pleased the Father, that in him should all fullness dwell.” “The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God cleanseth us from all sin.” “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” “But this man, because he continueth for ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.” “Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” (Col. 1:19. 1 John 1:7. Rom. 8:1. Heb. 7:24.)
The sum of all that has been said concerning the name of Jesus, may be briefly reduced to these questions: 1. Who is he that saves us? The Son of God is our Jesus, or Saviour. 2. Whom does he save? His people, that is, all and only the elect given to him by the Father 3. From what evils does he save us? From all sins, and from the punishment of sin. 4. In what manner does he save us? In two ways; by his merit and efficacy, and in each way most perfectly.
Now, therefore, what is the meaning of this article, I believe in Jesus? It means, 1. I believe that there is a certain Saviour of the human race. 2. I believe that this person, Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary, is this Saviour, of whom the Father declared from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matt. 3:17.) God therefore will have him to be worshipped and honored: “He that honoreth not the Son, honoreth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23.) 3. I believe that this Jesus, by his merit and efficacy, delivers us from all evils, both of guilt and punishment, by commencing this salvation in us in this life, and consummating it in the life to come. 4. I believe that he is not only the Saviour of others, whom he has called into his service, but that he is also my only and perfect Saviour, working effectually in me here, and carrying on until the day of full redemption what he has commenced.


Question 30. Do such then believe in Jesus the only Saviour, who seek their salvation and happiness of saints, of themselves, or anywhere else?

Answer. They do not; for though they boast of him in words, yet in deeds they deny Jesus, the only deliverer and Saviour: for one of these two things must be true that either Jesus is not a complete Saviour, or that they, who by a true faith receive this Saviour, must find all things in him necessary to their salvation.

EXPOSITION

This question is proposed on account of those who glory in the name of Jesus, and yet, at the same time, seek their salvation, either wholly or in part in some other place without him, in the merits of the saints, in the indulgences of the Pope, in their own offerings, works, fastings, prayers, alms, &c., as do the Papists, the Jesuits, and other hypocrites of a similar cast. We must therefore enquire, whether these persons believe in Jesus as the only Saviour, or not. It is answered, that they do not believe in him, but that in very deed they deny him, however much they may boast of him in words. The substance of this answer is included in this syllogism, drawn from the description of an only and perfect Saviour: Whosoever is a perfect, and only Saviour, he does not confer salvation with others, nor in part only. Jesus is a complete and only Saviour, as we have shown in the exposition of the former question. Therefore he 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, in reality deny him to be an only and perfect Saviour. Or, we may put it in this form: Those who seek salvation elsewhere than in Christ, whether in the saints, or in themselves, &c., do not believe in Jesus as an only Saviour. The Papists and Jesuits, who look upon their works as meritorious, do this. Therefore they do not believe in Jesus as their only Saviour. The minor proposition is acknowledged by them; and as to the major, it is clearly evident from the description which we have given of a perfect Saviour.

Obj. God desires and commands us to pray for each other. Therefore to attribute a part of our salvation to the intercession of the saints, does not impeach the office and glory of an only Saviour. Ans. There is a great distinction to be made between the intercessions of Christ and those of the saints. Christ intercedes for us with the Father, by the efficacy of his own peculiar dignity and merit; and is heard on account of himself, and obtains what he asks. The saints pray and intercede mutually for each other in this life, and the good things which they ask and obtain for themselves, and others, they seek and obtain, not upon their own worthiness, but upon the ground of the dignity and merit of the mediator. Wherefore, inasmuch as the Papists imagine that the saints obtain favor with God, and certain good things for others on account of the worthiness of their own merits, they manifestly derogate from the office and glory of Jesus, and deny him to be an only Saviour.


Ursinus, Z., & Williard, G. W. (1888). The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism (pp. 164–169). Cincinnati, OH: Elm Street Printing Company.