Question 1: What Is Our Only Hope in Life & Death?

This first question is clearly inspired by the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, which reads:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ, who, with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yes, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.

As you can see, the heart of both questions is the same, yet significant changes have been made to both the question and the answer. In regard to the question, the word hope has replaced the word comfort, and I believe that change was a wise one for the 21st Century. Today comfort carries almost exclusively the connotation of nurturing care for the purpose of easing someone’s sorrow or distress. Yet the word originally meant nurturing care for the purpose of strengthening someone through sorrow or distress. The shift is subtle but still significant. The biblical view of comfort is certainly the latter and original meaning. Indeed, as our Comforter, the Holy Spirit does not ease our afflictions throughout this life; instead, He strengthens us to endure them.

Because of the linguistic change of the word comfort, hope is probably a more necessary word today. Biblically, hope is faith and confidence in what is still to come. Indeed, Hebrews 11:1 entwines faith and hope together. Faith is the present assurance of hope, and hope is the future telos, or goal, of faith. Thus, while the opposite of faith is unbelief, the opposite of hope is despair, and the typical Western individual has been locked in Despair’s prison for some time, as ever-rising antidepressant prescriptions continue to indicate.

Of course, despair over the inevitability and unknown of death is nothing new to humanity, but the sheer volume of people despairing over the heaviness of living is particular only to periods of societal drifting and waywardness. And such is our day. The prevalence of suicide and less hasty forms of self-destruction, like over-eating and drug-use, indicate a distinct lack of hope. Thus, the question at hand is a timely one.

So is the answer: That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. As my friend George has reminded us repeatedly through our church’s study of the 1689 Baptist Confession, all extra-biblical writings are only helpful so long as they actually point to and faithfully explain Scripture. And I certainly believe that to be the case with this answer. Romans 14:7-8 is referenced by the catechism, and it certainly supports the statement that we are not our own but belong to God.

Of course, we could also present Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Or Philippians 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Or 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

Or we could simply present every time the apostles call themselves slaves of Christ, for they are expressing the same idea of being owned by Jesus.

Thus, the statement that we belong to Christ rather than ourselves is certainly scriptural. But how is it hopeful? Indeed, how is it our only hope both in life and in death?

The human impulse for absolute autonomy proves over and over again that we really never leave the toddler stage; we simply learn with age how to better suppress our tantrums and hedonistic impulses… hopefully. You see, every toddler longs to assert their self-will against all other forces around them (especially parents), and if left to their own devices, they will destroy themselves, whether by playing in the street, eating toxic things, or sticking sharp objects into electrical outlets.

And we are the same. Our assertion of self-sovereignty and autonomy is always followed by self-destruction. We are like sheep who wander away from the safety of the Creator’s design and are shocked to find ourselves lost and surrounded by wolves. Just as it would be folly for a toddler to live on his or her own, so too is it folly for us to presume our independence from our Creator and only Savior.

Indeed, there is nothing more comforting and more hopeful than belonging, body and soul, both in life and in death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ. We find it sometimes impossible to work ourselves into a sweat for our own health, yet Jesus sweat drops of blood as He worked eternal redemption for us. He loves us far more and far better than we love ourselves, and as our Creator, He knows what is best for us far better than we do. So why would we not submit ourselves to Him? Why would we not trust that He will shepherd us throughout this life and through death’s dark valley?

If you are indeed redeemed by Christ, read the full answer in the Heidelberg Catechism again and rejoice in the supreme comfort and hope that you have in belonging to your Savior.

For read more resources related to the New City Catechism, including children’s songs, visit or download the app.


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