2008-11-12 - Heidelberg 11.1
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 25
Psalm 103:8, "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness."
Question 11.1: But isn't God also merciful?
Answer: God is certainly merciful, but he also just. His justice demands that sin, committed against his supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty - eternal punishment of body and soul.
We have reached Question 11 of the often-used and loved Heidelberg Catechism. We are in a section that deals with our misery because of sin. This section started at Question 3, and it ends here at 11. From here, we move onto a section on our deliverance. We all have soul-sickness, and anyone who doesn't think they do has it even worse. We are all sinners, and sin brings us misery. Many view sin as fashionable, but don't like its consequences. The guy on cocaine enjoys the high, but doesn't like the reality that his life is being destroyed while he gratifies his lusts. Some see sin as youthful foolishness. There are many ways to explain away sin, but everyone will admit they are a sinner. It is, however, one thing to admit being a sinner and quite another to feel like a sinner. To feel like a sinner, we need grace. Sin so deceives us that, while we will admit to its reality in our lives, we don't, without divine grace, feel its full power over our souls. One of the great miseries of sin is that it is so deceitful that we don't feel its destructive nature, and tend to pass over our sins as a normal course in a day. There is nothing normal about sin, as our question here clearly says; it is committed against the supreme majesty of God, and will be punished accordingly.
In our first look at this question, let us start with screaming, as loud as can be done in print, that God is merciful. He is ever-merciful, kind, and full of compassion. He created our first parents in innocence. Adam and Eve were created holy, and we do know the story. They rebelled, went their own way, and sin entered the picture. God's mercy is seen in His not destroying our first parents when they rebelled against His majesty. They walked with God in the garden. They knew His presence in a way no one has ever known since. They knew the God, with a view of His splendor and glory, and yet they sinned against Him. God's Covenant mercy is seen in Genesis 3:15, where our Deliverer is promised, and sin is guaranteed to be conquered through the Deliverer.
What is the one thing needful for sinners, for God to be merciful to them? It is certainly to forsake their sin and turn to the One, Jesus, who can forgive sin. God may be merciful, but if He be not merciful to you, it is of little comfort. His justice demands that sin be punished, and it has been in Christ's Atonement. It is in Christ that we "have redemption, the forgiveness of sins," Colossians 1:14. God's mercy is found nowhere else but in Christ. Our rebellion must be punished, and it has been paid for in full for all those who come to Christ in faith. All those who do not come to faith in Christ have before them the promise of impending eternal punishment of body and soul. "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life," Matthew 25:46.
Soli Deo Gloria,