************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 29-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 17, 2010
Q & A 29-30
"I Believe in Jesus"
"I believe in Jesus ..." Jesus. That is what the Apostles' Creed says. So, tonight I want to explore with you that name "Jesus" by asking, "What is in a name?"
Have you noticed that some businesses and corporations have moved away from the practice of using names? Instead, you are identified by your account number. I did an inventory of my account numbers this past week; I counted over 30 of them: 4 credit cards, AT&T, Verizon, Anthem Blue Cross, Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas, and so on. If anything, the Internet has made things worse because now I also have a host of usernames and passwords – so many, in fact, that I installed a program on my computer to help me keep track of them all. Have you noticed that most bills and statements have a polite little note at the bottom: "When contacting us, please quote your account number."
Numbers are becoming more and more a means of identifying ourselves. For instance, who can think of James Bond, super spy, without thinking of him as Agent 007? In Arizona, a number of years ago, a young man petitioned the State Supreme Count to be allowed to change his name to the number "380." I think we all recognize some numbers are more important than others. Identity thieves are willing to pay for Social Security Numbers. No mortgage company will give you a good interest rate unless your credit score is over 760; and, today, none will consider doing business with you unless your credit score is over 620.
Account numbers, usernames, passwords – it all seems so impersonal and unpleasant. So, smart and savvy corporations have learned the importance of using names – once you log in or give your account number and answer a security question. For instance, once I log in to my Yahoo home page a welcome banner says "Hi, Adrian." And, after confirming my home phone number, the DirecTV folks make sure they say my first name often. This is supposed to make me feel good about myself and good about Yahoo and DirecTV – because suddenly I am more than just a number; now, I am a name and a number.
In all of this, do you notice what is actually happening? Names, numbers, usernames, and passwords are used merely to identify ourselves. We have to have a designation. We can't go through life being called "hey you."
I Importance of the Name Jesus
A In the Bible, there is more to a name than just a means of identification. In the Bible, a name means something. A name is something carefully thought about before it is given.
We so often give a name to our children that honors a parent, a grandparent, or some other relative. Or, we pick a name that we like. But this is not at all the case with names in Scripture. The name "Nabal," for instance, means "fool"; and Nabal, we read in the Bible, lived up to his name – he was a fool (if you don't remember the story of Nabal, look it up in 1 Samuel 25 when you get home). "Isaac" means "laughter" and recalls the laughter and joy of Abraham and Sarah when they received a son in their old age (Gen 21:1-6). Abram was given the name "Abraham" because he was the "father of many nations" (Gen 17:5). God reveals Himself to us as "YHWH," "I am Who I am" – a name that tells us God is eternal and the source of life and all that there is.
So, in the Bible a name is more than just a means of identification. In the Bible, a name says something about the person who has that name. A name reveals something about a person.
B The name given to the Son of God is no different. It tells us something about the person.
God gave a carefully chosen name to His Son. God did not just pick any name out of a hat. Before Christ was born, God appeared to both Mary and Joseph and individually commanded them that the child's name should be Jesus (Mt 1:21; Lk 1:31).
The name Jesus is a name of significance and purpose.
The name Jesus is rooted in the Old Testament. The Hebrew equivalent is Joshua. By giving His Son this name, God was saying Jesus is the New Testament Joshua who, like the Old Testament Joshua, would lead God's people to the Promised Land. Mighty acts of salvation would be done through Jesus just as they were done through Joshua in the Old Testament. But there is more: just like Moses prepared the way for Joshua, so John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.
Another Hebrew name associated with the name of Jesus is Elisha. Jesus, like Elisha, would represent God's saving presence. Like Elisha, He had an Elijah who came before Him. Like Elisha, He would give life and healing.
All three names – Joshua, Elisha, Jesus – mean the same thing: all three mean Savior. Jesus is Savior. Jesus saves. As the angel said to Joseph, "give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21).
C In this light, consider Q29 of the Catechism: "Why is the Son of God called "Jesus," meaning "Savior"?" Why? "Because He saves us from our sins." Why? Because Jesus is exactly Who His name says He is. Jesus is His name. Jesus is Savior. Jesus saves.
The name "Jesus" reveals everything we need to know about the eternal Son of God. It summarizes His mission on this earth – to save. His name explains the incarnation, the virgin birth, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. The name "Jesus" is a constant reminder that Jesus is Savior, that His mission was to save, that He died for us upon the cross and arose for us from the grave. Jesus saves.
The early church judged the name of the Son of God to be so important that they included it in the summary of the Gospel and they specified it as the content of true faith. Which is why, with the church of all ages and all places, we confess in the Apostles' Creed, "I believe in Jesus ..." To say this is to say "I believe Jesus is the Savior." "I believe Jesus saves."
"I believe in Jesus ..." "I believe Jesus is the Savior." "I believe Jesus saves." Think of what this says about us. This means we need a Savior. This means we are sinners in need of salvation. This means we are fallen, in misery, and need help.
II Jesus is the Only and Perfect Savior
A In South and Central America many parents of Spanish descent have the practice of calling their first son "Jesus" in honor of our Savior. But, properly speaking, this name applies only to the eternal Son of God. Christ, the Son of God, is the only One Who truly lives up to the requirements of the name "Jesus." He alone is the Savior. He alone saves.
Not even Joshua and Elisha truly lived up to their names. They were not able to save people from their sins. The plain teaching of Scripture is that it is only the Son of God Who saves:
(Acts 4:12) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.Jesus, and only Jesus, saves. Jesus is our password into heaven. As the Catechism puts it, "Salvation cannot be found in anyone else; it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere."
(Is 43:11) I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.
(Jn 14:6) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
(1 Tim 2:5) ... there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus ...
B Though Jesus is the only Savior, the Catechism reminds us that there are people who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere.
By mentioning saints, the Catechism has Roman Catholicism in mind. Everyday, thousands upon millions of Roman Catholics around the world pray to saints for salvation. They hope the good deeds of St. Peter or the Virgin Mary or one of the other saints will be applied to their account. The only problem is that even the holiest of saints makes only the smallest possible beginning in living up to God's commandments. Even the holiest of saints increase their guilt and their debt every single day. Or, to put it another way, even the holiest of saints are sinners and need salvation. So, they are not even able to save themselves let alone anyone else.
I think we can extend the idea of saints to saintly parents or grandparents. There are lots of people who think they should be saved because of the faith and works of the godly family members who have come before them.
The Catechism mention those who look to themselves for salvation. This shows up in a variety of different ways. Do you know what happens in the Philippines, Central America, Mexico, and other places every Good Friday? Barefoot, over the hot stone streets in scorching sun, thousands of people drag heavy wooden crosses. They flog their bare backs bloody with glass-studded whips. And, at least a dozen people are nailed to crosses. Why? Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to such inhumane torture? They think they can save themselves through pain and suffering. They don't know that Jesus saves and Jesus alone saves.
Consider the lies that are said by many Muslim teachers in the Middle East. They tell dumb, naive, helpless, and hopeless refugees that they get 72 virgins and an automatic ticket into Paradise if they kill non-Muslims as a suicide bomber.
Let's also take a look at ourselves. In our circles everyone knows Jesus saves. Everyone knows but not everyone believes. Because some young people think they deserve to be saved because they pray, read the Bible, come to church, receive a Christian education, attend youth group, and participate in a service project. And, some adults think they have earned salvation for many of the same reasons: because they pray, read the Bible, come to church, give their children a Christian education, and put money in the offering plate.
Finally, the Catechism reminds of those who look elsewhere for salvation. At the time the Catechism was written, people were not exposed to near the number of false religions as people are today. The list today is endless: healing rocks, Scientology, Christian Science, Mormonism, Transcendental Meditation, channeling, far-eastern Mysticism, and I have not even mentioned any of the really weird cults yet. People look anywhere and everywhere for salvation.
I should also mention those who don't think they need saving. The vast majority of our neighbors are this way. They look at themselves as basically good people because: they don't get drunk, they don't smoke, they don't beat their wife or kids, they give money to the Salvation Army at Christmas, they look after their aged parents. They think they have an automatic "Get Out of Jail" card, an automatic ticket into heaven. These poor misguided people don't realize they are born with sin. These poor misguided people don't realize God demands nothing less than perfection.
Now, guess what? If you looks to saints, yourself, or elsewhere for salvation you "deny the only Savior and Deliverer, Jesus." You are saying Jesus is not a perfect Savior so we need something besides Him. You are saying Jesus is NOT the only Savior.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is the perfect Savior and we have in Him all that we need for our salvation! Period.
"I believe in Jesus ..." Meaning what? Meaning I believe Jesus saves. Jesus saves. That is what we confess in the Apostles' Creed: that Jesus saves us from our sins.
Jesus saves. Jesus saves. Now, I want you to consider what this means for Jesus. For us it means salvation. It means forgiveness. It means redemption. It means reconciliation. But what does it mean for Jesus that He is Savior?
Listen carefully to these words from Philippians 2:5-11. We know these words as the "Hymn of Christ." The first stanza is all about Jesus as Savior. It talks about His humiliation, His suffering, His obedience, His death. Listen now to the second stanza:
(Phil 2:9-11) Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Did you hear the first word of this second stanza? "Therefore." Because Jesus saves, because Jesus is Savior, because Jesus suffered and died, therefore ...
Therefore what? Therefore Jesus has the name that is above every name. Therefore at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Therefore every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Jesus saves. Jesus saves. "Therefore." Therefore what? Therefore God exalted Him. That is what salvation means to Jesus.
Now, I want you to notice how the exaltation of Jesus also includes us. We are the ones who are to bow before the exalted Jesus. We are the ones who are to confess the exalted Jesus.
Jesus saves. Jesus saves. Therefore, is He the King of your life? Jesus saves. Jesus saves. Therefore, do you confess Him before men?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page