Question 1: What is your only comfort in life and in death?
Answer: That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed 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; indeed, 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 from now on to live unto Him.
Both the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism set forth their purposes in their first question. The Heidelberg sets out to explain the Christian’s “comfort” (assurance of salvation in Christ) and the Westminster Shorter, how God is to be glorified in mankind. These goals are intimately related.
The difference in their first question may be partially explained by their differing historic contexts. The Heidelberg was written in the midst of both persecution and confusion about the true gospel message, as many priests in the Late-Medieval Church had stripped Christians of their assurance of salvation in Christ and replaced it with works and ceremonies. It was intended to function as a tool of pastoral care for these sick sheep. The Westminster Shorter was written in the midst of theological debate. It met their need for doctrinal clarity and consensus. The two goals are entirely compatible; for, when someone knows gospel comfort, that person will respond by bringing glory to God.
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