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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 4.



* Before you begin. Read Ps. 5:5-6

9. Does not God, then, do injustice to man by requiring of him in His Law that which he cannot perform?
No, for God so made man that he could perform it;[1] but man, through the instigation of the devil, by willful disobedience deprived himself and all his descendants of this power.[2]

[1]Eph. 4:24. [2]Rom. 5:12.

10. Will God allow such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?
Certainly not,[1] but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as He has declared: “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”[2]

[1]Heb. 9:27. [2]Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10; *Rom. 1:18; *Mt. 25:41.

11. But is not God also merciful?
God is indeed merciful,[1] but He is likewise just;[2] His justice therefore requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment both of body and soul.

[1]Ex. 34:6-7. [2]Ex. 20:5; Ps. 5:5-6; II Cor. 6:14-16; *Rev. 14:11.


The catechist gets right to the point, and demonstrates that worldly philosophy hasn’t changed from his day until ours. Question 9 is the very argument advanced by so many ungodly men who rant against God’s plan of redemption. They say, in effect, “GOD IS NOT FAIR! He has given me a set of rules which he knows I cannot keep, and then he punishes me for not keeping them. What kind of justice is that. It’s like asking me to jump over the moon, then fining me because I fall short. Any human judge, with any sense of decency and fairness would throw such a case right out of his court.”

The instructor reminds us that the fact that we cannot keep the law is not the fault of our Creator, for he made us perfectly able to fulfil the righteous statutes of his law – we ourselves are the ones responsible, for in our first parents, we wilfully disobeyed Him, and by that disobedience we destroyed our capability to keep the law. Adam was our federal head, the representative of the whole human race, and we were all IN ADAM when he sinned and fell. In Adam, we are all guilty, – we all inherited original sin, and original guilt.

Ephesians 4:24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.

Paul is reminding us here that all of us have sinned, not just in our lifetime, but IN ADAM. Hence our understanding of human sin and guilt rom the moment of conception. Our instructor reminds us that that God is ‘terribly angry’ with our sins both those we are born with and those we commit. We are guilty, and God’s justice demands punishment. God’s justice therefore demands that sin is punished. We have wronged him, and we deserve nothing more than conscious, extreme, eternal punishment for our lawbreaking. Consider carefully the extent of this punishment. The catechist insists that God’s punishment is in this life and in eternity.

Psalm 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Hebrews 9:27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

But surely God is merciful? Yes. He is! Exodus 34:6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

Paul was a good friend, back in the 1970’s. We both worked at similar jobs, and we helped each other out, and we met for coffee at break-time every Monday morning. Paul, a church goer in a mail-line denomination was high on my prayer list and was often the focus of my witnessing efforts, but he was convinced of his own righteousness, and convinced that God was loving and would overlook whatever sins he may have committed. His response to my efforts to persuade him to confess his sins and repent was, “God is a God of mercy. He loves me, and a loving God could never send a good person like me to hell.”
Marianne was the opposite. She was a professing Christian, a member in a large, lively charismatic church. She believed and had been taught that ‘God can do the impossible…’ She asked, “What if on judgement day, God looks at all the people we call ‘saved’ and admits them to heaven. But then looks at all those who have not been ‘saved’ and declares, ‘I created you and I love you and I can do the impossible, so I will bring you into heaven too…”

Both those perspectives were dangerously deluded. God is merciful, but he is also JUST and His mercy cannot contradict his justice (and his holiness). Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me. God has demonstrated his love for us at Calvary, where he gave His only begotten Son for worthless, guilty sinners. Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. When we reject his Son, we reject His love and forfeit his mercy.

Psalm 5:4-6 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Think about it.

What other excuses do people make to excuse their sin?


Is it fair that God will judge us for our sins?


Is there any sin in heaven? If not, would the presence of sin in heaven ruin heaven?


What would you think of an earthly judge who just let criminals off with their crimes?


There is hope. A second Adam has come. Just as in Adam death entered into the world, so in Christ came life. In question 10, we are taken to Deuteronomy, were we learn that as lawbreakers we are under the curse of the law. Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, for He was made a curse for us. Believe it!

Pray: Pray that God will help you to bow to the greater, perfect justice and knowledge of God – for he knows you even better than you know yourself, and that he will give you the faith you need to trust Christ everyday, and to believe in his atoning work on the cross for sinners.

© Bob McEvoy

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