2009-03-21 - Heidelberg 16.3
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 39
Question 16.3: "Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?"
Answer: "God's Justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin, but a sinner could never pay for another."
One sinner can never pay for another. If sin is to be paid for, it must be done by one who is not a sinner. There are groups outside of the Christian faith who think that some sinners have more goodness than they need, and that they can offer some of their extra goodness to another. This makes no sense, when we consider that everyone born since Adam and Eve is a sinner, and sin separates us, all of us, from a holy God. None of us have extra merit. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23. We need a Redeemer who is not set with our frailties. The Redeemer is Christ, who though born of a woman and fully man, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and is fully God (Matthew 1). Christ lived a sinless life, fulfilling the obligation to keep God's Law, and He died on the cross, taking the sins of all who trust in His Atonement upon Himself and paying the penalty for them. He has a human nature, but He never sinned. By faith, the sinner is given His righteousness, and receives right standing before the Father.
What shall we say of the sufferings of Christ? The book of 1 Peter in the Bible is speaks much about the suffering of Christ. Six times (1 Peter 1:11; 2:21; 3:18; 4:1, 13; 5:1) Peter references Christ's suffering in this letter. In 3:18 there are no details given. It is enough to say that Christ suffered. It is what sums up His entire life on earth. He suffered. We really don't need to know more than this: He suffered. When did He suffer? It would be better to ask when He didn't suffer. On the cross, in the garden, when He was hungry, no place to lay His head, spit upon, mocked, beaten - when did Christ not suffer? What did He suffer? What did He not suffer? In body, mind, and spirit; in pain, shame, hated, scorned, mocked, what did He not suffer? Where? Where did He not suffer? From whom did He suffer? Who didn't treat Him poorly? Even His own disciples let Him down. Consider just their sleeping while He was in agony in Gethsemane. Did not Satan assail Him? From whom did Christ not suffer? His suffering knew no bounds. It was all He knew. Peter says He suffered in 1 Peter 3:18, and we don't need commentary from Peter on that. It says it all, because we can't limit, describe, quantify, or qualify Jesus' sufferings. It is simply put that He suffered.
We would not say of a criminal that they suffer. They are punished. Not so with Christ. He was pure. Christ suffered for sins that were not His own. He suffered willingly. He didn't have to do so, but suffered because of the great love which He has for His children. He takes the sins of His people upon Himself voluntarily, stands in their place and endures the wrath of God.
Such is the Savior of sinners. Do we know/have sympathy with Christ in His sufferings? He was innocent, we are not, and He suffered in our place. Such was His love usward. Our truest response can be found in giving our hearts unto Christ, and serving Him out of love.
Soli Deo Gloria,