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Heidelberg Catechism – Lord’s Day 5.




* Before you begin. Read Romans 8:2-4, I Corinthians15:21-22, 25-26.

12. Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment and be again received into favour?
God wills that His justice be satisfied;[1] therefore, we must make full satisfaction to that justice, either by ourselves or by another.[2]

[1]Ex. 20:5; 23:7. [2]Rom. 8:3-4.

13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction?
Certainly not; on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.[1]

[1]Job 9:2-3; 15:15-16; Mt. 6:12; *16:26.

14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us?
None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed;[1] and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin[2] and redeem others from it.

[1]Heb. 2:14-18. [2]Ps. 130:3.

5. What kind of mediator and redeemer, then, must we seek?
One who is a true[1] and righteous man,[2] and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.[3]

[1]I Cor. 15:21-22, 25-26. [2]Jer. 13:16; Isa. 53:11; II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:15-16. [3]Isa. 7:14; Heb.


* Why must God’s justice be satisfied? Why can he not just overlook our sins? Is God not tolerant? Since this is one of the most pressing objections raised by modern man, with his self sufficient and rebellious attitude to authority I will deal with this using the elements of God’s necessary judgement and condemnation of sin, as outlined by George Bethune in his lectures in New York in the 1860’s. Bethune gives five reasons and I’ve paraphrased and summarised them below:

God’s TRUTH demands it. God has stated that ‘the soul that sinneth it shall die.’ That is a definite statement, and if God is to be the source of all truth, then that statement must attest to his truthfulness. He cannot lie, and to do otherwise would make him out a liar. We may attempt, by human wisdom to defy God, and to seek to avoid his inevitable justice, but we cannot succeed. Paul writes in Romans 3:3-5 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?  Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.” But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.)
God’s HOLINESS demands it. God is pure. He is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5) Beside that radiant, unspotted purity our sinfulness condemns us. God’s holiness is his infinite blessedness, and so such blackness and darkness as the unforgiven self-righteous sinner would be destroyed in his presence. The result of our sin would be to be shut out from God’s presence for all eternity.
God’s SOVEREIGNTY demands it. He is the Creator and supreme ruler of the universe and as such has the authority to fix the laws and rules by which the universe is governed. If one of his creatures breaks that law, he flies in the face of the Creator,, who, should He not execute the penalty demanded, would allow the transgressor to triumph, and give both encouragement and immunity to sin.
God’s COMPASSION demands it. God has given his law for the benefit of creation and in particular for mankind. It is to guard the happiness and welfare of each one from the injury of sin on the part of another, so tolerance of sin would be to allow injury towards others who should, as God’s creatures be under his protection.
God’s LAW demands it. He reveals his moral will to mankind in his law, what way we must live in order to please him. He shows us what is right and what is wrong, so giving us moral instruction. If sin is allowed to go unpunished then right and wrong become confused.
Bethune (Banner of Truth, 2001, p163) concludes:

Thus we see that the escape of a single sinner from punishment, though he may have committed but a single sin, would cause a fatal doubt of the divine truth, of the divine holiness, of the divine authority, of the diving goodness and of the divine will.

ASK: In the Bible, who speaks most about eternal punishment? __________________________________

Is it any wonder then that our instructor reminds us that God will have his justice satisfied. The very immutability of God demands that the unjustified sinner must suffer eternal death. WE, OR SOMEONE ELSE ON OUR BEHALF MUST MAKE FULL SATISFACTION OF GOD’S JUSTICE.

* So, then, must we DO SOMETHING to pay the debt for the sins we have committed against God? How? Will it be enough for us to do good works, to even out the balance? Can we perform enough works of piety or charity to tip the scales of God’s justice in our favour and out weigh all the sins that we have done? The catechist says:
13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction? Certainly not; on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.
Our debt to God is not just the penalty we have already occurred, but the necessary on-going obedience required to maintain that state of fellowship with God. Not only can we not do enough good works to expunge what guilt we have already amassed (and how would we know that we had ever done enough?) but we could not maintain that constant obedience to the law necessary to fulfil it perfectly. We are sinners, and our sinful nature will drag us down. Our burden of guilt is not just large, but it is browning larger every day.

* Well, then, can we not lay our sins upon some other creature, whether man, or angel or beast? Again the catechist declines our request.

14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us? None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed;[1] and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin[2] and redeem others from it.

It’s worth making a careful examination of the scriptures given for our consideration:-

Hebrews 2:14-18 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. 17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 10:4 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

ASK: Why could God not send an angel to take away our sins? __________________________________

* Then, if we can’t rid ourselves of sin and condemnation by our own works, and we can’t get another creature to do so for us, what kind of mediator will satisfy God’s justice, and take away our sin?
Our instructor is taking us right to Jesus! We need someone who is fully human and fully divine, One who can take our place, who is human, for God will only punish a human being for humanity’s wrongs. He is fair. He will not punish another for our sins. But no human could bear the full burden of divine wrath for all mankind, and no human could perfectly keep the law. God could, – only He could be powerful enough to do so – and He did, in the person of His Son, Jesus. Job wrote of the need for such a one in his day: Job 9:33 Nor is there any mediator between us, Who may lay his hand on us both. That mediator has come!

ASK: Why did Jesus have to die for sinners? _________________________________________________

* PRAY: Consider the attributes of God, and his justice. Thank him, that His justice is more perfect than the justice in this world.

© Bob McEvoy

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