2009-01-03 - Heidelberg 12.1
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 28
Isaiah 53:11, "As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge, the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities."
Question 12.1: According to God's righteous judgment, we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: how then can we escape this punishment and return to God's favor?
Answer: God requires that his justice be satisfied. Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another.
Let us quickly admit that we are sinners, and we cannot satisfy God's perfect standard or His justice, because our sin precludes any ability on our part to gain God's favor. God is holy, and nothing that is impure can come before Him. We are all impurity in ourselves. We must look outside of ourselves for our help. Our help comes from the Lord. In Christ, there is no sin, and there never was sin. The sins of His people were laid upon (imputed) Him on the cross. This is how we understand the phrase in our verse, "He will bear their iniquities." Christ bore our sin on the cross and made Atonement. He "paid in full" the claims of God's justice.
We do not say that Christ suffered exactly the same thing that the sinner suffers because of their sin - if it had remained un-Atoned for. Christ was God/man, two natures in one person, unmixed, complete, and being so, He committed no sin. Our sins were laid upon Him, and we escape the punishment due to us for our sin, by His paying the penalty for us. He takes our place and is our substitute. Here is the amazing thing: Christ's Atonement fully pays the debt of sin for all who come to Him in faith. However, not all come to faith in Christ. Some will be cast into Hell, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They will be there forever, and here is why. It doesn't matter how long they suffer for their sins. They cannot atone for them by suffering and being punished. They can cry and weep with the devil and the fallen angels for a million years, and their debt is no closer to being paid. It cannot be paid. Christ must pay the penalty for sin, or the justice of God will be executed forever - on the sinner.
There are many views of the Atonement of Jesus Christ for sin. There is only one found in the Bible, and thus there is only one that is true. Putting it personally: Christ died on the cross for my sins. My sins were actually laid upon Christ. His righteousness was actually given to me. It is only when we believe/trust in this blessed exchange of our sin for Christ's righteousness, and come to Him in faith, believing that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have eternal life," John 3:16 It is only when we believe this that we are blood-bought, and blood-redeemed, and our sins are removed from us, as far as the East is from the West (Ps. 103:12). This is the only way to escape God's punishment, and to return to God's favor.
Soli Deo Gloria,