Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, December 8, 2011 5:30 pm
The Messenger, December 8, 2011
By RB TOLAR
Special to The Messenger
Last week’s column ended with a cliffhanger: we deserve punishment but desire mercy. In the words of those convicted by Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Today we begin to look at the deliverance God has provided as we continue through the Heidelberg Catechism.
Question 12 asks: According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape punishment and return to God’s favor?
Answer: God requires that His justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of His justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.
Question 13 continues: Can we pay this debt ourselves?
Answer: Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day.
Question 14 asks: Can another creature — any at all— pay this debt for us?
Answer: No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it.
Finally, Question 15 asks: What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?
Answer: One who is truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.
Here is our dilemma: since the Bible plainly states that God “will not at all acquit the wicked” (Nahum 1:3b, NKJV), and also that “there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10, NIV), it is clear we are all liable under God’s just and perfect law (or do you think it unreasonable of God to require you to love Him, and to love your neighbor as yourself?). The answer, as stated in the response to question 12 above, is simple: pay the penalty.
But we see at once another complication: since “our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached to the heavens” (Ezra 9:6, NLT), we cannot begin to pay for our crimes against the One who created us. In fact, every day our debt of sin grows greater (Romans 2:5, ESV).
Furthermore, Q&A 14 informs us that no creature can make atonement for us. In other words, the sacrifices made by the Old Testament saints did not clear their guilt before God. David understood this and expressed it in Psalm 51:16-17. Belief in the One symbolized by these sacrifices and repentance of sins were required then, as they are today. This is the mediator and deliverer spoken of in Q&A 15.
In the classic story of Damon and Pythias, Damon offers to take his friend’s place on the executioner’s block. The problem you and I have is that even if such a righteous and willing man could be found, he could only die for one person, not many. We need not only a righteous man, but an infinite one as well. Since only God is infinite, our redeemer must be divine as well as human. Only Jesus Christ fits that description (John 1:1).
Next week, we will see how Scripture reveals Christ as our divine-human mediator and deliverer.
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: RB Tolar is a member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy. He strongly urges readers to consult the scripture references used in this article “to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11b).