Believers and unbelievers alike are certainly familiar with the name “Jesus Christ.” Indeed, our culture is saturated with references both reverent and profane to this appellation. But do the words “Jesus” and “Christ” carry any deeper meaning of which Christians should be aware? In Lord’s Days 11 and 12, the Heidelberg Catechism helpfully expounds the Scriptural truths behind these two names of God’s Son, while drawing out key points of application for the believer. Today, as we return to our ongoing series connecting the Catechism with the Psalter Hymnal, we turn to the two questions and answers of Lord’s Day 11.
29 Q. Why is the Son of God called “Jesus” meaning “Savior”?
A. Because he saves us from our sins.
Salvation cannot be found in anyone else;
it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere.
30 Q. Do those who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere really believe in the only Savior Jesus?
Although they boast of being his,
by their deeds they deny
the only savior and deliverer, Jesus.
Either Jesus is not a perfect savior,
or those who in true faith accept this savior
have in him all they need for their salvation.
Since the number of hymns that focus on Jesus as Savior is overwhelming, it’s a relief to be able to limit this discussion to the psalm settings in the blue Psalter Hymnal. In particular, I found four songs based on Psalms 98, 62, 95, and 115, all of which powerfully confirm the theses of this Lord’s Day.
192, “Unto God our Savior” (Psalm 98)
The Son of God is “called ‘Jesus’ meaning ‘Savior’…because he saves us from our sins.” For this part of Q&A 29 I’ve selected another versification of Psalm 98, which was first mentioned in association with Lord’s Day 6. “Unto God our Savior” is more concise than “Sing, Sing a New Song to Jehovah,” but it nicely captures the wonder of salvation and our joyful response:
Unto God our Savior
Sing a joyful song;
Wondrous are His doings,
For His arm is strong.
He has wrought salvation,
He has made it known,
And before the nations
Is His justice shown.
110, “My Soul in Silence Waits for God” (Psalm 62)
“Salvation cannot be found in anyone else; it is futile to look for any salvation elsewhere.” While Psalm 62 primarily focuses on God’s help in opposition to a crafty foe, much of its text displays the exclusive confidence known only to the believer.
My soul in silence waits for God,
My Savior He has proved;
He only is my rock and tower;
I never shall be moved.
My honor is secure with God,
My Savior He is known;
My refuge and my rock of strength
Are found in God alone.
For God has spoken o’er and o’er,
And unto me has shown,
That saving power and lasting strength
Belong to Him alone.
Yea, lovingkindness evermore
Belongs to Thee, O Lord;
And Thou according to his work
Dost every man reward.
184, “Now with Joyful Exultation” (Psalm 95)
“[T]hose who look for their salvation and security in saints, in themselves, or elsewhere…boast of being his, [but] by their deeds they deny the only savior and deliverer, Jesus.” Psalter Hymnal 184 might initially strike the ear as an exuberant psalm of praise, which of course it is. But Psalm 95 concludes with a stern warning. The Lord alone is “the rock of our salvation,” our Maker and our shepherd, yet he is also “over idol-gods victorious” and will condemn hardened and insincere hearts. The third and fourth stanzas put it thus:
To the Lord, such might revealing,
Let us come with reverence meet,
And, before our Maker kneeling,
Let us worship at His feet.
He is our own God and leads us,
We the people of His care;
With a shepherd’s hand He feeds us
As His flock in pastures fair.
While He proffers peace and pardon
Let us hear His voice today,
Lest, if we our hearts should harden,
We should perish in the way;
Lest to us, so unbelieving,
He in judgment shall declare:
Ye, so long My Spirit grieving,
Never in My rest can share.
226, “Not unto Us, O Lord of Heaven” (Psalm 115)
“Either Jesus is not a perfect savior, or those who in true faith accept this savior have in him all they need for their salvation.” In powerful antithetical language, Psalm 115 offsets the idols of the nations with the God of heaven, much as this part of the Catechism contrasts the weak Christ of the false church with the power of the true Savior. Furthermore, this psalm exhorts and encourages each faithful believer to place his wholehearted trust in the Lord. Here is the entirety of the Psalter Hymnal’s version:
Not unto us, O Lord of heaven,
But unto Thee be glory given;
In love and truth Thou dost fulfill
The counsels of Thy sovereign will;
Though nations fail Thy power to own,
Yet Thou dost reign, and Thou alone.
The idol gods of heathen lands
Are but the work of human hands:
They cannot see, they cannot speak,
Their ears are deaf, their hands are weak;
Like them shall be all those who hold
To gods of silver and of gold.
Let Israel trust in God alone,
The Lord whose grace and power are known;
To Him your full allegiance yield,
And He will be your help and shield;
All those who fear Him God will bless,
His saints have proved His faithfulness.
All ye that fear Him and adore,
The Lord increase you more and more;
Both great and small who Him confess,
You and your children He will bless;
Yea, blest are ye of Him who made
The heavens, and earth’s foundations laid.
The heavens are God’s since time began,
But He has given the earth to man;
The dead praise not the living God,
But we will sound His praise abroad.
Yea, we will ever bless His Name;
Praise ye the Lord, His praise proclaim.
What comfort is ours as we realize that our savior Jesus Christ has fully paid for all our sins with His precious blood! How good it is to be His own!