Union With Christ in the Heidelberg Catechism


Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?

No; only such as by true faith are engrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits. (Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 20)

There has been much debate in Reformed Christendom over the last few decades over the nature of our Union with Christ, especially as it relates to the ordo and historia salutis. I have no intention here to rehearse the debate, nor even to definitively pick a side, especially given the overlap and fuzziness of the multiple positions. It would appear, in brief, that the most exercised combatants in this debate are either those who style themselves defenders of Justification by Faith alone contra those who would have vital, mystical, or existential Union with Christ as the source of faith, justification, and regeneration (the supposed error of Norman Shepherd), and those on the other hand who see themselves as defending the central role of Union with Christ against those who would reduce Christianity to a religion of Justification by Faith, with multiple Christ Unions accounting for the various benefits of salvation, each following upon the other in tidy Reformed ordo fashion (the supposed “Lutheran” position).

In this post and the next, it is rather my intention to simply see where my Confessions stand on the topic of Union with Christ, especially the Heidelberg Catechism, which has the most to say about it. In particular, Q/A 20 (above) speaks to the issue in a straightforward manner. So, in this present post, I intend to break down each phrase of the answer, fleshing out the intended meaning by looking to the rest of the Catechism and consulting the writing of its author(s), Zacharias Ursinus and (possibly) Caspar Olevianus. Most attention will be payed to Ursinus’ Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (CHC), an invaluable window into the mind of the Catechism’s primary author.

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