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Catechism Class: LD24 Q62 Original Sin


Original Sin and Total Depravity

In Lord’s Day 24, the catechist reminds us that we are NOT good people, that we have nothing to boast about, that everything we DO, even the very best things that we do, are just filthy rotten, soiled rags in the eyes of the God who is holy, and whom we have offended with our sinful thoughts and words and actions. Here’s how our instructor puts it in Q62, But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it? A. Because the righteousness which can stand before God’s judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin. So today, in this lesson, we look briefly at original sin – and our sinful depravity before God, and our total inability to polish up our lives, or become in any way acceptable to God.

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Let’s begin then by plainly stating that our good works cannot save us.  We need God, in his grace to open our eyes to our true condition, to reveal the dreadful danger we are in. Before God we are all utterly sinful, and without any hope of doing enough good to merit or deserve his forgiveness. Isaiah 64:6 We are awful sinners, morally and spiritually bankrupt, with nothing to offer God, and we have no excuse. That’s because the level of righteousness that would satisfy the holiness of God is well beyond our capabilities.  Measure yourself up against God’s standard, against the Ten Commandments, and in all honesty, ask if you’ve perfectly kept every one of them, every moment of your life. If you haven’t – and you know you haven’t, then you’ve failed.  That one sin – is enough to render us incapable of pleasing God, – our righteousness will always fall short, and we fail the test our instructor sets, that …the righteousness which can stand before God’s judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God,.

I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
,Jehovah Tsidkenu was nothing to me.

When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die;
No refuge, no safety in self could I see, –
Jehovah Tsidkenu my Saviour must be.

So, a Christian is not someone who is ‘good living’ but rather someone who has realised that they are NOT ‘good living’ – but a guilty wretched sinner, whose good works, even whose best works, whose religious works are tainted by sin, – that sin inherited from Adam, our first father.  Romans 3:10-15  Matthew 19:17  We call this  imperfection and defilement TOTAL DEPRAVITY. – Not that we are as bad as we can possibly be, we are not all murderers, rapists, child molesters, thieves and so on, – but we are all sinners, because as our catechist reminds us, even the good things that we do, even our charitable giving and our love for our neighbours, our very best works, – are all tainted with sin. Our thoughts are sinful, our words are sinful, our deeds, / works are sinful. That’s what we mean when we say that mankind is totally depraved. So – Deuteronomy 27:26  Because no-one can perfectly fulfil the law of God – we are all condesemned by it.

If our good works cannot save us, how will we ever get to heaven? There’s only one way, and that is through Jesus, whose works were perfect and fully acceptable to God, and who gave his life for me at the cross, who atoned for all my sin. Recognising that I am a sinner, I confess that fact to Him, and repent of my sins and trust him for my salvation. So we are not Christians because of what we do, but because of what Christ has done, – redeeming us and bringing us into relationship with God and with his people – his body, the church.  We need to be MADE GOOD in Christ, to have HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS imputed to us, credited to our account, so that our sins, our falling short, is forgiven.  

Now there’s three questions and answers in this Lord’s day, this first dealing with why our good works cannot save us, as we have seen, but then also wondering why God rewards the imperfect, good works of believers, as he says he will, and finally discussing the inevitability of good works in the Christian life – for a good tree will always bring forth good fruit. Or, as one commentator, summing up the teaching of this Lord’s Day expressed it, “Don’t trust in your own good works, for they are the fruit and not the root of your salvation.” We’ll continue to look at Lord’s Day 24 in our next short lesso

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