Q1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A1. 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.
Q2. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
A2. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.
Question and answer #1 of the Heidelberg Catechism is easily the most well-known of all catechism questions, perhaps rivaled only by the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s beginning: “What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It is appropriate and perfect for us to start here because we, like Paul says in Ephesians, “the Christian life does not begin with a big ‘Do’ but rather an eternal ‘Done.'” (Watchman Nee. Sit, Walk, Stand) We begin with grace, which is what both of these two questions speak to.
The author purposefully writes in the question what is my “only” comfort. This isn’t just one amongst many comforts, this is the only solace that we have in life. In fact, you could also translate this word to mean “trust.” What is my only trust in life? Sure, you trust your spouse, maybe your pastor, and perhaps your parents and kids, but you have most likely also experienced reasons in those relationships to question that trust from time to time. With Jesus, that is never the case. No matter what comes around in life, we are assured that our salvation is both complete and eternal; nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 8).
All of this was done for us, accomplished by Christ on the cross. We don’t have to work for it or earn it. Rather, we can bask in God’s loving adoption of us and live freely in that eternal state. This, I think, frees up our heart from worry and fear that we are somehow “not in,” and allows us to fully enthrone Christ at the center of our lives and, as the second question and answer point to, live in thankful response to this wonderful reality of grace.