The Heidelberg Catechism continues to track and explain the Apostle Creed. In doing so the HC is explaining to us the basics (fundamentals) of our undoubted catholic Christian faith. The HC is, by this method, at one and the same time giving us a proper understanding of the Apostles Creed and a proper understanding of Christianity 101. Remember, if we embrace the explanation of the Heidelberg Catechism then we must refuse other denominational expressions of Christianity that are in contradiction to the explanation of the HC. If we refuse to do that we shouldn’t attach ourselves to Reformed Churches as members.
In the Apostle’s Creed we confess that we believe;
“In Jesus Christ His only begotten son,” and so the HC asks,
Question 33: Why is Christ called the only begotten Son of God, since we are also the children of God?
Answer: Because Christ alone is the eternal and natural Son of God;1 but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for His sake.2
The work here is to distinguish between our sonship and the sonship of the only begotten Son of God.
First, note the brevity here. The catechizers could have spent paragraphs here explaining the eternality of the Son but instead simply states that Christ is the eternal and natural Son of God. The labor here is not to explain the second person of the trinity but rather the labor here is to build an understanding in our minds that there is a distinction between the sonship of Christ and the sonship of men and women as those in Christ.
Christ as a person of the Trinity has been from eternity God’s Son.
1John 1:1, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Heb. 1:2, (The Father) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.
Of course this understanding chases off heresies like Arianism (Jehovah Witnesses) which insisted that Christ was not from eternity God’s Son but was God’s highest and best creation. It chases off heresies like Sabellianism (one form of Modalism) which embraced that the Son was only a mode of God and not a distinct person from eternity. Oneness Pentecostalism is one modern example of those who would deny HC 33.
Christ is the eternal and natural son of God but we are sons of God in a non-eternal and non-natural manner; that is by way of adoption.
but we are children adopted of God, by grace, for His sake.2
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. (I John 3:1)
2Rom. 8:15–17, For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
Eph. 1:5–6, Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In adoption we move from the court room where we are justified to the family room where we are part of the family of God. As adopted we have access to the Father through our elder Brother the majestic and ever awesome Lord Jesus Christ.
We should understand that this adoption is also a legal category. We have been laboring throughout to demonstrate that Christianity can never be understood apart from understanding the legal categories that are intrinsic to the definition of Christianity. Adoption is a legal category. We are not merely adopted by good intent. We are legally adopted by grace for the sake of Jesus Christ. Christ as our Elder Brother gives us introduction to the Father and serves as the legal surety for our adoption. We are sons of God because of the legal relationship between the eternal and natural son of God and we the younger brethren of the Lord Jesus who are adopted by the grace of His surety.
Legal categories are a superior way to understand Biblical Christianity than purely relational categories. Relationships can wax and wane but relationships that are anchored in legal realities are firm fixture that cannot be moved by our ever shifting experiences or emotions. Adoption, while no doubt relational, is legal before it is relational. Because Adoption is anchored in the surety of Jesus Christ we know that nothing can separate us as adopted sons and daughters from the love of God.
It is a great privilege to not only be justified but also to be adopted. May God grant us grace to be full of praise for this privilege and to bank on it when troubles enter into our lives. Those troubles can never negate our legally established adoption as sons of the God most High.