2008-03-08 - Heidelberg 8
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 18
Question 8: But are we so corrupt, that we are totally unable to do any good, and inclined toward all evil?
Answer: Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.
This is that question that asks, "How bad are we?" and the answer is that we are really bad. In fact, we are worse than that. We are totally unable to do any good. Even more, our inclination is to do evil. I can hear the protests, "I am not that bad. I never killed anyone. I am a nice person. People like me. How can you say that I can't do any good? How can you say that my only inclination is toward evil?" In response, we might delve into the motive that we have for being not such bad persons (For example, staying out of jail or success in this world). But let us not become distracted by becoming fixated on the question. Let us, rather, center our attention on the answer. Our conscience is enough to remind us how bad we really are.
We are prone to give ourselves much more credit than we deserve. We are mortal. Death is but a breath away for everyone of us, and yet we would make it seem that we are somehow immune to mortality. We are created by God. We have great worth and dignity because we are created in the image of God, but we have offended our creator by sin. We need to remind ourselves of the Creator/creature distinction. We are not God, and we have foolishly sinned against God, Who is all holiness. We cannot earn His favor by doing good things, because we cannot change what we have done already. God turns His face from wickedness, and we have wickedness, seemingly, as our very blood type. Left to ourselves, our situation is hopeless. However, God by His Spirit, does save some - and as another catechism states it, He does so "out of his mere good pleasure." It is His pleasure to save those who have wickedly gone astray in wickedness. He regenerates us. He, by His Spirit, makes us new - born again.
This is the wonder of God's grace. It is not as if He needs us. He is self-sufficient in Himself and always has been, but it is His pleasure to have us as His children. This is a great honor to us. God brings us out of our position of being in sin and misery, and gives us new life in Him. Lest we begin to think too highly of ourselves, we must remember that this regeneration or new life, is all a gift of God. We don't earn His favor, but we do receive it. Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3:3, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." There is no doubt that He says the same to us today. It is common for many to trust more in their goodness than in Christ for goodness. We must know that if we would have any real good flowing in our veins, it must first come from God, by His Holy Spirit. This only can occur by faith, when we turn from all our goodness and all our badness, and trust fully in Christ for every goodness. It is when we have come to Christ by faith, that we can "be rich in good works," 1 Timothy 6:18.
Soli Deo Gloria,