Q 29. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus,” meaning “savior”?
A 29. Because he saves us from our sins, and because salvation should not be sought and cannot be found in anyone else.
Q. Do those who look for their salvation in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only savior Jesus?
A. No. Although they boast of being his, by their actions they deny the only savior, Jesus.
The Apostles’ Creed is divided up into three parts: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Within those divisions, the lion’s share of the Heidelberg Catechism’s emphasis and work is placed on Jesus. Two Lord’s days are given to God the Father, one is given specifically to the Holy Spirit, though it’s actually three if you count the whole ending section, eight are given to Jesus, the first three of which will be spent simply unpacking what His name means and why it is important.
First, we will look specifically at the name “Jesus” which means, when translated from its Hebrew form, “savior,” or “God saves.” In the time of the New Testament, when Jesus was born, lived, and died, there is much evidence that points to the fact that the name “Jesus” was a rather popular name. It was, perhaps, the 4th most popular name for boys at that time. Everyone probably knew a “Jesus” of some sort; it would have been the name where you had one or two in every classroom.
So why did God pick such a common name for His incarnate Son? When I think back to how we came to choose the name we did for our daughter, the impact of the name was not necessarily found in its popularity, though we wanted something unique, but in the meaning that was behind the name. Her name means “God has answered” and her middle name means “hope.” Our prayer is that she will always know that God not only answers us when we call, but He has given us the ultimate answer in Jesus Christ, in whom all our hope is found.
As I said a moment ago, the name Jesus comes from the Hebrew name Yeshua (or Joshua) which means “Yahweh saves.” In fact, Moses renamed Hoshea (which means “salvation”) to Joshua; this was the man that would lead the Israelite campaign to conquer Canaan. It was an important distinction to make at that time that it was not Joshua, aka. Hoshea, who brought about the fulfillment of God’s covenant, but God Himself working through Joshua.
“Although Jesus,” writes Kevin Deyoung, “was a common name, with Jesus of Nazareth the name took on added significance. It didn’t just mean that His God saves; it meant that He was the God who saves. Jesus of Nazareth is the only one who can save us from our sins.” Salvation can be found nowhere else.
There are a couple of important points that are made here, some explicitly and others implicitly:
First, Jesus saves us from our sins. The Bible doesn’t cast Jesus as a self-help guru who comes to make us feel better about ourselves, make it possible to find a mate through His supernatural online dating site, or get us the dream job we want but won’t work for. The work of Jesus Christ, through His life, death, and resurrection, does all that we cannot do ourselves in wiping away our sins and making us right with God once again. Understanding our identity in Christ can lead to such things as a better self-image and confidence in who we are, yes, but it is not the sole purpose of His work.
Second, this is work that He alone can do and His continued work as the mediator between us and God is also solely His. We do not pray to saints or other spiritual figureheads. The Bible does not affirm religious greats that have come before us as those who are able to dispense spiritual brownie points for God if we remember them, give money toward them, or light a candle in their honor.
Finally, the Heidelberg Catechism also uses a rather convicting phrase in its talk about Jesus as the sole source of salvation stating that we should not look for our salvation in ourselves either. I often hear very well-intentioned people tell others they just need to “push through” or “buck up” when the going gets tough. Christians give the impression to others that you have to “look within” or “summon the strength inside” to not only get through hard times but also when it come to deal with addiction, pain, abuse, disease, and any number of maladies in this life. We do not look to ourselves for our salvation and, while the premise of encouragement may indeed be well-intentioned, it may also accidentally be suggesting that the “strength within” is greater than that of the loving, providing, sustaining, creator God who never leaves us or forsakes us.
When it all comes down to it, we need to think back to the beginning of this journey. What is our only comfort in life and in death? “That I belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” This Lord’s Day is a direct application of this and it, once again, involves trust. It is hard to say that we trust someone because it means that we are no longer trusting ourselves with that thing. The reality, though, for salvation, is that there is no “both-and,” it is an “either-or.” As Kevin DeYoung concludes, “Either Jesus is the only Savior, the perfect Savior, and your only comfort in life and in death, or Jesus is, for you,” just another feel good religious item in your life.
Thanks be to God that He is patient with us, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Though we are often untrusting and unfaithful, He is always faithful to us.