Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, February 23, 2012 12:28 pm
The Messenger, February 23, 2012
By JOHN K. JONES
Special to The Messenger
We continue our series of articles on the Heidelberg Catechism. The catechism is a series of 129 questions and answers on the Christian faith. Theologians wrote the catechism in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith.
The questions are divided into 52 Lord’s Days, one for each week of the year. Today’s article covers Lord’s Day 16, Questions 40-44, as we continue our discussion of the Apostle’s Creed.
Question 40: Why did Christ have to go all the way to death? Answer: Because God’s justice and truth demand it: (Genesis 2:17) only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin. (Romans 8:3-4; Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 2:9)
How does a holy and just God forgive sinful human beings without becoming unholy or unjust? Humanly speaking, this question presented God with a problem. On the one hand, God loved His people and did not want to punish them. On the other hand, since God is just, he must punish their sin. God solved this “problem” in the person of Jesus Christ.
God became a man and came to earth as Jesus Christ. Because He was a man, He was tempted just as we are. Because He was God, He lived a perfect life in the face of that temptation.
Christ died a death he did not deserve in order to pay the full penalty for our sins. Because He was a man, He represented fallen human beings. Because He was God, He could suffer an infinite punishment, a punishment horrific enough to pay for the sins of all those who place their faith in Him. See Cur Deus Homo [literally “Why the God-Man?”] by Anselm of Canterbury.)
Question 41: Why was he “buried”? Answer: His burial testifies that he really died. (Isaiah 53:9; John 19:38-42; Acts 13:29; I Corinthians 15:3-4)
Many modernist theorists hold to the “swoon theory.” The idea behind the swoon theory is that Christ did not die on the cross; He only passed out or swooned. The cool air of the tomb revived him.
But the fact of His burial by those who loved Him most exposes this theory as untrue. Why would His closest friends and family members bury Him without knowing he was dead?
Question 42: Since Christ has died for us, why do we still have to die? Answer: Our death does not pay the debt of our sins. (Psalms 49:7) Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life. (John 5:24; Philippians 1:21-23; I Thessalonians 5:9-10)
Christ’s death has changed the very nature of death for those who repent of their sins and place their trust in Him. Death is not a punishment for sin; it is a deliverance from sin. Christ makes Christians into the kind of people they have longed to be: people who are perfect in what they think, speak and do.
Question 43: What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross? Answer: Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death and buried with him, (Romans 6:5-11; Colossians 2:11-12) so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, (Romans. 6:12-14) but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to Him. (Romans. 12:1; Ephesians 5:1-2)
Remember the three main divisions of the Heidelberg Catechism: guilt, grace and gratitude. We realize that we are guilty of sin. We become aware of all that Christ has done by His grace, and we place our faith in Him. We then live the best lives we can because we are thankful for what Christ has done for us. Christ’s sacrifice helps us to be grateful.
Question 44: Why does the (Apostle’s) creed add, “He descended to hell”? Answer: To assure me during times of personal crisis and temptation that Christ my Lord, by suffering unspeakable anguish, pain and terror of soul, especially on the cross but also earlier, has delivered me from the torment and anguish of hell (Isaiah 53; Matthew 26:36-46; 27:45-46; Luke 22:44; Hebrews 5:7-10).
Satan’s very name means “accuser.” He can bring torment on God’s people by reminding them of their sins, and we have all committed sins that Satan uses to torture us. When Satan reminds us of what we have done, we should remind him of what Christ has done. Christ’s suffering of the wrath of God frees the Christian from his or her tormented conscience.
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Editor’s note: John K. Jones is a deacon at Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy, where he attends with his wife and daughter.