Know the problem, to know Gospel comfort

Heidelberg Catechsim questions 9-11
Q9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?
A.No, God created human beings with the ability to keep the law.1
They, however, provoked by the devil,2
in willful disobedience,3
robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.4
1 Gen. 1:31; Eph. 4:24
2 Gen. 3:13; John 8:44
3 Gen. 3:6
4 Rom. 5:12, 18, 19

Q10. Does God permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished?
A.Certainly not. God is terribly angry with the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit.
As a just judge, God will punish them both now and in eternity,1
having declared:
“Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey
all the things written in the book of the law.”2
1 Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nah. 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27
2 Gal. 3:10; Deut. 27:26

Q11. But isn’t God also merciful?
A.God is certainly merciful,1
but also just.2
God’s justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty — eternal punishment of body and soul.3
1 Ex. 34:6-7; Ps. 103:8-9
2 Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31
3 Matt. 25:35-46

So far in the Heidelberg catechism, we’ve learned that our only comfort is belonging to Jesus who pays for our sin and frees us from it. To be fully comforted in this, we must first understand how great our sin and misery are. The law of God teaches us that we have not lived up to His will perfectly, that we are prone to sin. God did not make us this way, He made us without sin, but we sinned ourselves, becoming so corrupt that we can no longer do any good even if we try, until we are born again by the Spirit.

But if we are born unable to do good, how can God find fault with us? Adam and Eve robbed all their descendants of the ability to keep the law. We fell as a race, together, at the beginning. And if any of us were in their place, we would have fallen, too. God’s mercy does not violate His justice. He is angry with sin and punishes every last sinner, either in the sinner himself, which lands them in eternal hell, or He punishes redeemed sinners in Christ on the cross. It is to that Christ that we turn to confess our sins now.


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