Question 1: What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I with body and soul, both in life and death,1 am not my own,2 but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ;3 who, with His precious blood,4 hath fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and delivered me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head;8 yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation,9 and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.11
Biblical Christianity recognizes and affirms along with St. Paul in I Corinthians 6 that we, both individually and collectively are not your own. We understand, confess and affirm that we have been bought with a price – that price being the precious blood of Jesus Christ which paid for our sin. There are several implications to that, the most immediate one being that we are to glorify God as the Apostle writes. And that is why we are here. We are to glorify God even when adversity, trials, and heartaches by His providence cross our paths. In doing so we are acknowledging and bowing before He who is the creator of life and death and the creator of eternal life. In gathering here we are glorifying God by acknowledging and affirming that the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, blessed be the name of the Lord.
However, the idea that we are not our own also has the implication that as the God of the Bible owns us He therefore owns everything that we have. We are never owners in the full sense of that word but only stewards operating under God’s ownership. This means that the children God gives His covenant people are God’s children before they are our children. We are not our own, as the Scripture teaches, and because we are not our own it is the assertion and affirmation of Biblical Christianity through the centuries that our children belong to Christ just as we, the parents belong to Christ. So, before any child bears the family’s surname, that child first bears the name “Christian.”
There is no middle ground on this. Children, like adults, either are of their Father the Devil or they belong to Christ. The Christian faith affirms that the Children of believers have God’s claim of ownership upon them.
This means we understand, affirm, and confess that as the children of Christians belong to God should they die while under our covenant headship the conviction is that those children have been gathered into the arms of their savior, who while on earth went out of His way to command His disciples, to “forbid not the children to come unto me for such is the Kingdom of heaven.” If it is not the children of covenant parents who are gathered unto Jesus upon an untimely death then there are no children who are gathered unto the Kingdom of God and His Christ.
Our Father King David expressed this conviction when, following the death of his newborn child could say;
“I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” II Sam 12:23
In the midst of the great grief surrounding his son’s death our Father David affirmed that His child was not His own and that His child had been gathered to his Fathers by God the Father. This is the mindset of all Biblical Christians who mourn over the untimely death of their babies, toddlers, and children.
From this we embrace the truth of Scripture when it teaches that our times are in God’s hand (Ps. 31:15). God owns His people and the children of His people and it is the case for all of us that
“whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.” (Romans 14:7-9)
As God of the Bible own us and our children it is for Him to sovereignly administer our time and times. Scripture explicitly affirms this when the Psalmist speaks.
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Our times are in God’s hands and for His elect those times may be counted long so that we are graybeards when we die, or those times may be counted short but long or brief all the days ordained for any of us … all the days ordained by God for Stephen Elliot Cave were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.
Now this ownership that God claims upon His people and their seed is an ownership that is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ dying on the cross in order to pay the penalty of our rebellion against His character and His gracious Law-Word. God owns His people because in and with the death of Jesus Christ the just and perfect wrath of God against sin and sinners was turned away that we who trust in Jesus Christ may have peace with God and entry into the family of God.
Of course you have to know and understand that God’s people were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain lifestyle received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
This was the basis of Stephen’s being owned by God. Stephen’s being owned by God was not based on his innocence as a Baby. Scripture teaches that even newborns have a sin nature. Stephen’s being owned by God was and is anchored to the reality that He was conceived by covenant parents who themselves are owned by God and all of them together Stephen and His parents owned because of the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
This is the hope of the Gospel. This is the comfort for those of us who grieve with Jared and Kathryn in the covenant community. These are the truths upon which the anchor of our faith must hold should we be able to navigate such depths of sorrow.
If God be for us, who can be against us?
To Jared and Kathryn and the rest of the family, allow me to remind you that your heavenly Father has not forgotten you. Allow me as the minister of Christ to remind you again of how much our heavenly Father loves you for the sake of Jesus Christ. And while I would never presume to tell you or anybody going through adversity the whys of your trials I do have the authority as the minister of Christ to tell you that nothing can separate you from the love of God. I do have the authority to tell you that He will never leave you nor forsake you. I do have the authority to remind you that as weary and heavy laden you are invited to come unto Christ for His burden is easy and His yoke is light.
In times and events like these we must say with the disciples; “Where else would we go save to you for you alone have the words of eternal life.”
Allow me to round off here with a more personal word to those who are feeling like all this has sucked their lungs right out from them. The Scripture teaches in Hosea 6
“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.
From many of our Christian fore-fathers have drawn out the principle that teaches that whom God would heal He first wounds. God has wounded you … has wounded us, but He will heal us and we will be all the more pliable in His hands for His wounding and consequent healing. We will be all the more fit for the master’s use having endured this and then been healed from it.
This is what scripture is getting at when it teaches;
11 Now no discipline seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
And so you and we have been wounded by the hand of God. It is painful. It is not easy. Being pruned never is comfortable. But shall we not, by faith, long to find some balm that this wounding has been from the Father’s hand – a Father who loves us for the sake Jesus Christ, and that these wounds – these afflictions which we bear now will yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness not to mention they are also working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?
How else can I understand all this heartache if I am to believe Lord’s Day #1 which teaches “that all things must be subservient to my salvation?”
With all that in mind let us as God’s people stand and together make the good confession;
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried.
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints;
The forgiveness of sin;
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.