2008-11-18 - Heidelberg 11.3
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 27
Ephesians 2:4-5, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us; even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
Question 11.3: 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?
What is the result of our sin? "For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die," Genesis 2:17. The result of sin is death. The punishment extends to both body and soul, as the Catechism says, and we have this passage at the start of Ephesians 2 that tells us that we "were dead in our trespasses and sins." Eph. 2:1. We are destitute of any degree of spiritual life. We have no ability or even desire after the things of God, Heaven, or holiness. The dead do not desire anything. Our condition was promised in Gen. 2:17, and it is our experience that we are dead to spiritual things. Sin is the cause of this spiritual death. But here is the wonder, that "God is certainly merciful," as the Catechism says. We are dead, but in Christ God quickens us. He makes us alive again to the things that matter. He cleanses us from sin, removes our punishment, and forgives all our transgressions. Surely God is certainly merciful.
But God is also just. He must punish sin. He has done so in Christ. Don't miss the fact that we are made alive with Christ. There is no spiritual life outside of Christ. In Christ, and by the Holy Spirit, and through the Father, we have grace infused in the place of our sin. Our sin is removed as far as the East is from the West, and Christ's righteousness is put in its place. It is only by grace that we are saved. We might think that we can purify ourselves, but these thoughts are put to rest quickly. Jeremiah 2:22, "Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me, declares the Lord." We cannot purify ourselves, but are purified by the instilling of new life into our dead spiritual state. We cannot do this ourselves; it has to be given to us. The wonder of forgiveness is that God can be just and can also be merciful. He has punished sin in Christ, and thus those who come to Christ in faith, who have sinned against God's supreme majesty, are forgiven. They are made alive spiritually. They are regenerated and given new life. And yet our sin has not gone unpunished. It was punished in Christ. God's justice is satisfied.
This is why Eph. 2:4, speaks of God being "rich in mercy." The life He gives freely is rich both in depth and effect. It is a forgiveness that forgives thoroughly, and a new life that imparts life unto eternity. Our sin deserves the punishment of both body and soul, but the richness of God's mercy in Christ gives us a way of release from what we deserve. God is certainly merciful, and this is the sunny day to the soul dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is the fountain of God's rich mercies. Being dead, we are restored to life, and this life is eternal life. It is all our blessedness to know God's mercy, because we know, all too well, our sin which has separated us from God. It is in the rich mercy of Christ that He has "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places," Eph. 2:6.
Soli Deo Gloria,