2009-01-21 - Heidelberg 14.3
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 33
Jeremiah 50:20, "'In those days and at that time,' declares the Lord, 'search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I shall pardon those whom I leave as a remnant."
Question 14.3: Can another creature - any at all - pay this debt for us?
Answer: "No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God's eternal anger against sin, and release others from it."
In our third look at this question, I would like to consider the fullness of the forgiveness that we have in Christ. There is forgiveness in Christ. Let us shout it from the rooftops. But what does this mean? What does it mean in the answer to the question, this phrase, "God's eternal anger against sins?" One thing it means, for certain, is that God sees our sin. It is one thing when someone we know notices that our tone has changed, and we have the masked fruits of anger welling up inside of us. It is one thing when we get caught in a lie. It is quite another thing when we admit that God sees our sin, all our sin, and every sin. His Omniscient (all-knowing) eye has seen every sin. And let us not stop here. Let the full weight of God's knowledge of our sin be stated plainly here. God not only sees the action, but the motive behind it. He not only knows our deeds, but our intentions. He knows what we are thinking. He knows our hearts.
Such thoughts will lead us all to ponder with the Psalmist in 130:3, "Oh, Lord, who can stand?" Can any of us, apart from Christ, stand before the Living God? No one who understands their sin would think they could stand before a holy God and give an account. Thus it is, and must be, that there is only One who can clothe us in His righteousness, so that we can come into God's presence. Christ Jesus, who took on our nature and lived a sinless life, gives us His righteousness that we can stand in clothes other than those of our own sin and iniquity. We stand perfect, because He is perfect, and we - having come to Him in faith - are granted His righteousness. We stand upon Christ's merits and not our own. This is salvation by grace, through faith. It is only because of Christ, who took on our nature and bore our punishment.
We know that God delights in mercy. He loves to forgive. The history of Israel in the Old Testament is one of them walking away from God, returning, and God forgiving them when they return. It is something He delights to do: Forgive. What else, we might remember, did Jesus Christ come to do? He came to be a Savior. He came to offer forgiveness of sins, and peace with God to all who come to Him in faith. He came to, as our question says, "pay this debt for us." We see it many times with Israel in the Old Testament, but it is no less true today for us. Think of the verse we started with today. The sins will be looked for, but they will not be found. It is a glorious thought. Our Lord is more willing to forgive, than we are to be forgiven. May our hearts leap for joy with the thought of it. The more we are found resting in Christ's Atonement and merits, and the less in our demerits, the more joy and peace we will know, as we take our eyes off ourselves - and focus on Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria,