Delivered from deep debt

Heidelberg Catechism 12-15
Q.According to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve punishment
both now and in eternity:
how then can we escape this punishment
and return to God’s favor?
A.God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore the claims of this justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or by another.

Q.Can we make this payment ourselves?
A.Certainly not. Actually, we increase our debt every day.

Q.Can another creature—any at all— pay this debt for us?
A.No. To begin with, God will not punish any other creature
for what a human is guilty of. Furthermore, no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it.

Q.What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?
A.One who is a true and righteous human, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.

Our sin and misery is great. We have rebelled against God and are condemned in our very nature from birth. How can we return to God’s favor?

First, sin must be paid for and punished, or God is not good. So who can pay this great debt? Not ourselves. We load 16 tons, and whaddaya get? Another day older and deeper in debt. That’s not just a song, that’s spiritual truth. We think we work our way out of debt to God, but we keep sinning every day.

Who can pay this great debt? No other creature. Ps 49 says no one can by any means redeem his brother, for the redemption of their souls is costly. Every creature has his own sin to pay for.

So we need a human to pay humanity’s debt, but not one saddled with Adam’s corruption. We need a deliverer who can receive and withstand God’s punishment, which no mere human could do. We need the God-man Jesus Christ.

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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