Heidelberg Catechism Devotional Q20

Q.20. Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?

A. No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings.


This question has caused many debates and disagreements in Christian history.  For that reason some Christians would rather avoid the question all together. But to avoid the question is to ignore the elephant in the room.  Knowing the answer sets one free to share the good news with others so that they too may hear and believe and also be saved. Read Romans 10:9-14.

In the town of Lalibela, Ethiopia, there are a number of beautifully carved rock churches.  Passageways, some above ground and others below connect these churches to each other.  While walking among the churches my wife and I came upon one of these passages that was extremely narrow and looked like the eye of a needle.  In fact, that is what the guide told us the passage was called.  Walking through that passage I was struck by the imagery of how small the path to eternal life is.  Without faith, there is no salvation, there are no alternate roads to heaven; there is only one, and that one takes us through faith.  Read Matthew 7:13-14 and 19:24-26.


How can we say that not everyone is saved?  Doesn’t John 3:16-17 teach that everyone is saved?  Upon first glance, many people assume that to be the case.  But read John 3:18, 36.  Without reading everything in context we miss out on the caveat for salvation – belief in Christ.  Failing to believe that Jesus is the Son of the God, the spotless lamb, and the one atoning sacrifice for our sins leaves us under the judgment of God for our sin.  Only by believing are we saved.
So what does it mean, “God so loved the world…?” It means that any creature within the bounds of creation that believes the gospel message of Christ crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended will be saved if they believe that happened for the their sins.  No one and nothing is excluded, but faith is the key to enter in.


Last fall I visited the farm of one of my friends.  He has a number of apple trees on his property.  There are red apple trees, yellow apple trees and then some very curious trees that produce both red and yellow apples.  Half the tree is bright read and the other half is brilliant yellow.  How can this be?” I asked my wife.  To which she explained the process of grafting branches onto trees.  By cutting a notch into a tree and tying the branch from another into the notch, the tree will heal and pass on its life-giving sap to the new branch.  This is what happens in faith. 
We know that Christ alone was sinless, perfect and able to fulfill God’s law, but by faith, he cuts himself open and sticks us onto himself.  When this happens we begin to draw life from him and he nourishes us.  This is essentially what it means to be justified by faith, or to gain Christ’s righteousness.  Amazing isn’t it?  Read Romans 11:16-20.


Genesis 40 contains a story about two men who had different dreams.  One is the cupbearer to Pharaoh, the other the baker; Joseph interprets these two dreams for them.  One is cut off from his position; the other is exalted.  This story illustrates our question.  All of us have offended God, like these men offended Pharaoh.  But depending on what or whom we trust in, ourselves or someone outside ourselves, determines our fate.  For the baker who trusted in himself, notice that all that is good for him rests on his own head (Genesis 40:16) death and judgment stood.  But for the cupbearer who reached out to the vine, there was life.  Jesus is the vine we are to hold onto and grasp.  Read John 15:1-5.


Read Luke 8:5-15.  In the Parable of the Sower, we find that salvation while broadcast like see upon the ground is not received and accepted by all.  Some loose it by external forces, others by internal forces but the seed is lost nevertheless.  But the passage does say that “those who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop” will be saved.  This is what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God.  Be assured you faith is sufficient to save you.  

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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