Question 29: Why is the Son of God called Jesus, that is, a Savior?
Answer: Because He saveth us, and delivereth us from our sins;1 and likewise, because we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.2
Remember the Heidelberg Catechism (HC) is in Section II (our Deliverance) as a significant portion explaining the meaning of Apostle’s Creed (AC). We have looked at the first strophe of the AC and now we turn to the second strophe that confesses the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep in mind before we press on that the meaning of the AC that we have confessed as mere Christianity has already left much of the Christian Church in the West as strangers to the true meaning of Biblical Christianity. The high view of God’s Sovereignty set forth already in the HC has separated us from Arminians (All Pentecostals, Wesleyans, Nazarenes, Church of God, Methodists, Free Methodists, etc.) and Roman Catholics. We may all mouth the same words when confessing the AC but we are each clearly filling those words with different meaning. Nobody, among the various expressions of Christianity has the high view of God that the Reformed have as has been set forth in the HC. This means that the Reformed vis-a-vis the other expressions of Christianity have a very different feel about them. The upshot of that is that we Reformed are not only strangers to the world but we don’t exactly fit in with the non-Reformed crowd either.
As we come to HC Q. 29 the catechizers turn to consider the magnificent Lord Jesus Christ as the bringer and provider of our salvation. The Catechizers point out here the essence of the name and title of our Deliverer.
Jesus has the name He has because He saves us from our sins.
1Matt. 1:21, And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.
The name “Jesus” literally means “Jehovah is Salvation.” Jesus’ name in English comes from the Latin Isus, which is a transliteration of the Greek Iesous, which is a transliteration of the Aramaic name Yeshua, which comes from the Hebrew Yehoshua, or Joshua. The name comes from the Hebrew verb yasha, which means “he saves,” and the proper name “Ya,” which is short for the name Yahweh.
Paying close attention here we understand that the Joshua of the OT in his work then is a prefiguring of the Jesus which was to come. Just as Joshua was faithful in bringing God’s people into the Promised land so Jesus brings God’s people into God’s Kingdom. Joshua as God’s warrior for God’s people is a preview of Jesus being God’s warrior for God’s people. Joshua fights the enemies of God and Jesus does the same, triumphing over them as Joshua did. Jesus is thus the greater Joshua in the deliverance/salvation He provides. Joshua provided only a temporal deliverance. Jesus provides an eternal deliverance from our sins.
The sins which Jesus saves us from are those acts whereby we seek to de-God, God while seeking to en-God ourselves as God. The sins which Jesus saves us from are our acts of treason and rebellion against the rightful ruler of the cosmos. The sins which Jesus saves us from includes our sin nature as from our Father Adam, our own lack of conformity to God’s law standard and any violation of the same. Jesus as savior saves us from sin, self, and Satan’s hegemony over us as his vassals, and most importantly from the just wrath of God. When we think of Jesus the first reality that we should think of is that Jesus is our salvation.
All men who refuse this salvation live their whole lives seeking to find some kind of salvation precisely because they refuse to be saved with the only salvation that can save them. It is only in the Christ of the Bible wherein men can cease their pursuits of pseudo-salvations and know the peace that deliverance from danger brings. The people you know or meet who are not saved by this Jesus are people who are twisted by their rebellion, and their instinctual understanding that God’s wrath remains upon them. That twistedness that comes from a lack of being saved will demonstrate itself in a host of possible permutations.
The unsaved refuse to learn that we ought not to seek, neither can find salvation in any other.2
This teaches the hard exclusivity that is characteristic of Biblical Christianity. Christianity teaches that there is no way to salvation (to be right and so have peace with God by our sins being extinguished) except through He who was provided by God the Father Almighty as the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.
2Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
If we will not be saved from our sins by He who is named “Jehovah is salvation,” then we will not be saved. This of course means that all those who put their hope in religions other than Biblical Christianity remain dead in their sins and so remain unsaved. Our compassion on unsaved men compels us to tell Muslims, Mormons, Jews, Hindus, Roman Catholics (see HC Q. & A. 30) Eastern Orthodox, etc. that it is only the Jesus of the Bible that can save.
Out of love for God and for those unsaved we placard and herald Jesus Christ as the only way for lost, wearied, and sad men to have salvation and so find peace with God.