On Faith and Being Grafted Into Christ

Heidelberg Catechism 20

Q. Are all people then saved through Christ
just as they were lost through Adam?

A. No.
Only those are saved
who through true faith
   are grafted into Christ
   and receive all his benefits.

One of the interesting subtleties of the catechism is how it describes salvation. It is not actually faith that saves; faith is the mechanism by which salvation comes, but does not save in itself. Salvation comes from being grafted into Christ. Union with Christ is the essence of salvation and the fundamental distinguishing feature of the Christian.

To be lost in Adam is to be separated from God. To be saved in Jesus is greater than being found my him – it is to be joined to him. This sets the trajectory for how both soteriology and the Christian life are understood. Salvation is not about my decision for Jesus, but about my being joined to him. Nor is salvation about an order of changes in my status, but about my union and communion with Christ. If you are grafted into Jesus, all that he is and has is yours, and you are his. There is no increase or change in intensity in that possession.

The Christian life is then about receiving the benefits of Christ (justification, sanctification, adoption, and all that flows from them) since we have been grafted into him. This simultaneously frees the Christian from the fear that they are not doing enough to be Christ’s (we have been grafted into him!), and obligates the Christian to live as one of Christ’s people, in obedience to the one with whom we have been united.