Devotional Word for Monday, December 1, 2020
As we work our way through the Heidelberg Catechism, today we are coming to question and answer 35. The question asks, “What is the meaning of: “Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary”? The answer says, “That the eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, took upon Himself our true manhood from the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary through the action of the Holy Spirit, so that He might also be the true seed of David, like His fellow men in all things, except for sin.” Basically, the catechism highlights that the Lord Jesus was truly God and truly man. If you have been following through the catechism you may stop and wonder why we are repeating ourselves. After all, the catechism discussed these ideas about 20 questions ago.
In order to understand this, we need to pause and reflect upon where we are in the catechism. The Heidelberg Catechism begins by talking about our sin and how it is forgiven in relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ. The catechism goes on engage with the Apostles’ Creed, the 10 Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. Right now we are in the midst of the section on the Apostles’ Creed. First, we need to recognize the catechism puts this idea in the beginning because it is impossible to have forgiveness of sins without a Mediator between God and man who is truly God and truly man. This idea is also in the Apostles’ Creed for the very same reason.
The Apostles’ Creed is much older than the Heidelberg Catechism. While we do not have a precise date for its final form, we see versions of the Apostles’ Creed which precede Nicaea (325 A.D.). As we think about summaries of the essential parts of the gospel, I believe it is instructive to see two documents separated by more than a 1000 years which emphasis the same points. The Lord Jesus was truly God and truly man. The best way to summarize that point is to affirm the scriptural declaration that the Lord Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
In the early church, these two affirmations guarded against errant notions that Jesus was some sort of Divine being inside of a people suit. He did not just appear to be human or appear to have a few human characteristics. He was truly human. He got tired, He was hungry and thirsty, and He was tempted to sin. With respect to His humanity, Jesus was like every one of us but He was without sin.
Understanding this reality is just as important for us today as it has been throughout the history of the Church. Today we live in an era which dismisses or downplays supernatural phenomena. Instead we tend to think in finite and quantifiably experiential terms. Affirming the Biblical witness that Jesus is truly God and truly man guards our hearts and minds against thinking that Jesus was merely a good teacher, moral example, or civic leader. While His teaching is excellent and His moral example is without blemish, He is not merely those things. He is also our Savior who at the cost of His own life redeems His people. In this Christmas time, when we celebrate most widely that Jesus came, may we remember His two natures. He is truly God and truly man. That makes Him Immanuel which is God with us. Let us pray.