Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Q1:
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my
faithful savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to Him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
In a previous post I wrote about I Corinthians 6:19-20, and we saw from Scripture that
we are not our own, but belong, body and soul, to Jesus Christ. In this present post, we’ll be examining Titus
2:14 and digging into the subject of this faithful Savior of ours, finding out more about the how
and why we belong to Him.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
“Who Gave Himself for Us…”
The first phrase we’ll be looking at is “who gave Himself for us.” What exactly did this
look like? What does it mean for Christ, the perfect God-Man, to give Himself for us? First, this
giving is something that Christ has done, not something we do. Make no mistake, and despite
what you may have heard: We are saved, not because we give ourselves to Christ, but because
He gave Himself for us. It is something that has been done, already accomplished.
“All who dwell on the earth will worship Him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
John Gill writes concerning this phrase,
“Who gave himself for us, … Not another, or another’s, but himself; not merely his own things, but his own self; not the world, and the riches of it, not gold and silver, and such
like corruptible things, as the price of redemption; not the cattle on a thousand hills for sacrifice; not men nor angels, but himself; all that belong to him, all that is near and dear,
his name, fame, credit, and reputation; his time, strength, and service: all the comforts of
life, and life itself; his whole manhood, soul, and body, and that as in union with his
divine person; which he gave into the hands of men, and of justice, and to death itself, to
be a ransom price of his people, and for a propitiation and sacrifice for their sins, to be
paid and offered in their room and stead: not for all mankind, but for many; for us, for all
the elect of God, for the church; and who are represented when he gave himself, or died
for them, as ungodly, sinners, and enemies: this was a free and voluntary gift, and is an
unspeakable one; who can say all that is contained in this word “himself?” it is an
instance of the greatest love, of love that passeth knowledge; God, because he could
swear by no greater, swore by himself; and Christ, because he could give no greater gift,
nor any greater instance of his love, gave himself.”
Sometimes parents force their children against their will to give up their toys to a friend. This
kind of forced giving isn’t really giving at all. What’s actually happening is that the toys are
being taken from one child, and being given to another. Christ’s giving of Himself was not forced
on Him; He went willingly.
“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No
one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have
power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”
The English word “for” has two meanings: ‘on behalf of’ (for the benefit of), and ‘instead of’.
For example, when I was a kid living at home, my mom would sometimes ask me to do the
dishes. I would wash dishes on her behalf, for her benefit. The benefit was that she could now
immediately go to the cupboard and get clean dishes. Sometimes, however, it would be my
sister’s turn to do dishes, but maybe she was at a friend’s house. Then I would do the dishes
instead of my sister, taking her place. In these cases, I would be doing the dishes “for” my mom,
and “for” my sister, in slightly different senses. Christ’s giving Himself “for us” is in both of
these senses. He gave Himself as a substitute for (instead of) us, on behalf of us (for our benefit).
These benefits are explained in the rest of the verse.
“That He Might Redeem Us”
The Greek word here translated as “redeem” is lutrosetai, which carries the meaning of a release
upon receiving payment or ransom. This would be the word used for deliverance from slavery. In
this passage, Christ is said to redeem us from “all lawlessness.” The sense of the verse is that we
were owned by sin (lawlessness), but we have been ransomed – bought out of slavery – by Christ,
who paid for us with Himself. He is both Purchaser and Payment. The price of our freedom from
slavery was much too high for any of us to pay ourselves.
I Peter 1:18-19
“…knowing that that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold,
from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious
blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Redemption is Christ delivering us, not something that we do. Christ is the only source of
redemption; no other can provide it.
I Timothy 2:5-6
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the
riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence.”
“From All Lawlessness”
Different Bible translations use several different words to communicate what we have been
redeemed from. These include “iniquity,” “every lawless deed,” “wickedness,” “evil ways,” and
“sin.” The Greek word is anomias, from nomos, law, and a-, the prefix for a negative. Literally,
then, the best translation is “lawlessness.” However, any of these words make good choices. The
Westminster Shorter Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of,
the law of God.” In other words, sin is either not doing what God has commanded you to do, or
doing what God has forbidden. I John 3:4 could not be clearer:
I John 3:4
“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.”
Sin is lawlessness, and therefore brings the curse of the law: death. But there is good news for
the believer! We have been redeemed from all lawlessness! This happens in two senses. First, our
guilt is erased. Christ took upon Himself the “guilty” verdict caused by our sin, while we receive
the “righteous” verdict earned by His holy life of perfect obedience to God. This is sometimes
referred to as “the Great Exchange.” This is the doctrine of Justification – how believers are
declared righteous in the sight of our perfectly holy and just God. It is not by our own works of
obedience that God sees us as righteous! It is Christ’s work done outside of us, and applied to us
through belief in Him.
Second, our daily lives are transformed.
“Therefore we were buried with him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness
of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also
shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified
with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be
slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin.”
Stephen Charnock comments on this passage (Romans 6:4-7),
“The ends of Christ’s death cannot be separated. He is no atoner, where he is not a
refiner. … As there was a double enmity, one rooted in nature, another declared by wicked
works; or rather, one enmity in its root, and another in its exercise, so there must be an
alteration of state, and an alteration of acts.”
This alteration of acts happens as we are redeemed from a life characterized by sin to a life of
increasing purity. However, for something to be made pure, there must be a purifier. In our case,
our purifier is Christ.
“… And Purify for Himself…”
The word “purify” can also be rendered “cleanse.” Stemming from our prior once-for-all
redemption in justification, Christ continues to cleanse us of daily sin. This is the doctrine of
Sanctification. Just as we cannot redeem/justify ourselves – make ourselves “right with God” –
we are also powerless to purify (sanctify; make holy) ourselves from sin apart from God’s work
of conforming us to the image of His Son.
Now, if you take a pig out of his muddy pen, and spray him down and scrub him until he is clean
all over, then turn him loose, what will he do? He will of course do what comes naturally to him:
he will immediately return to the mud pen, and erase all your hard work by getting even filthier
than before. This filth is even more noticeable, though, because of the sharp difference of
appearance between the clean skin and the dirty patches.
We are not pigs who are washed, then return to wallow in the mud! Yet this is how we act when
we sin. Christ has redeemed us, brought us out of our muddy pen of sin, and cleansed us, not
with water from a hose, but with His own precious blood. Let’s not act like pigs.
“His Own Special People”
We have seen that Christ is Sacrifice, Purchaser, Payment, Redeemer, Justifier, Purifier, Cleanser,
Sanctifier. Who are the recipients of His redemption and cleansing? This verse identifies them as
“His own special people.” Older versions may read “His own peculiar people.” You may know
someone who fits this descriptor more so than others. Peculiar, in this case, simply means special
– different, unlike the rest.
We, that is, believers, are His own special people! After all, as we learned from I Corinthians 6:19-20, He has bought
us for His own; we belong to Him, body and soul, in life and death. In Exodus 19:5, the people
of Israel, being a type of the true church, are called special:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall
be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is mine.”
Thankfully, believers are not required to keep the law given to Moses in order to become God’s
special treasure; Christ has done this for us, in our place and for our benefit. The Lord’s
deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt serves as a picture of our own redemption from sin.
Compare what we have just been learning with what is said of the Israelites in the Old
“But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be
His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.”
“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you
to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the
I Samuel 12:22
“For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake because it has
pleased the LORD to make you His people.”
II Samuel 7:24
“For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, LORD,
have become their God.”
“For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure.”
As grand as these statements are concerning the nation of Israel, they are applied much more
fully to the elect church of believers.
Romans 9:6-8; 11:1-2a, 7
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are
of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac
your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not
the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. … I say then,
has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He
foreknew. … What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained
it, and the rest were blinded.”
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for
her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that
He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any
such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
I Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special
people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His
marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not
obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”
“Zealous for Good Works”
We have been redeemed from lawlessness to become a people “zealous” or eager for good
works. Good works are the opposite of lawlessness; they are acts of obedience to God’s
commands. Our motivation for such good works must come from our already belonging to
Christ, because of His giving Himself for us. Good works do not contribute even a tiny little bit
to our Justification, our righteous standing before God. Instead, we are to be becoming ever more
zealous to do good works in order to simply obey God, and to be a witness to Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift
of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in
Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in
Titus 2:14 highlights the great truth that salvation is all of God. One of the purposes of
Christ’s work on the cross is to purify (which is His action) for Himself, His own special people.
What a far cry from what is commonly said about the cross: that Christ merely made salvation
possible, and that He impotently waits, longing for sinners to wake themselves up and invite Him
into their hearts and lives. No, Christ accomplished what He came to accomplish: the satisfaction
of the Father’s righteous wrath against the sin of the elect – His own special people.
So, on the next Lord’s Day, when you arrive, Lord willing, at your church, prepared for worship, remember that
Christ has given Himself as our Redeemer, so that we are now His own special people. It is no
wonder that the Heidelberg Catechism refers to Him as “my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”