Saturday, January 9, 2016

Heidelberg Catechism: Q6-8

6. Q. Did God, then, create man so wicked and perverse?

A. No, on the contrary, God created man good and in His image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might rightly know God His Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness to praise and glorify Him.

7. Q. From where, then, did man's depraved nature come?

A. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, for there our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.

8. Q. But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined to all evil?

A. Yes, unless we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.

Not only did God create man good, but he created man in his image.  Do we understand what this means?  It means that the qualities of God were forged in us, and those qualities are spelled out in the Ten Commandments.  God is good, he is pure in heart, and he is righteous.  He is pure justice and he is also pure mercy.  When Adam was created, he had these qualities, too, but God also gave him free will, the ability to love God freely, but also to choose evil.  We think we have free will today, but our wills are actually in bondage.  When Adam sinned, his corruption became a genetic disorder that has been passed down through the generations.  We actually are incapable of choosing the good without regeneration by the Holy Spirit.  We aren't puppets, controlled by God, but sin is like a prison, where we are unable to do good.  By doing good, I mean doing good for God's sake, for his glory.  Unregenerated people do things we call "good" all the time, but never are these things done for God's glory but for their own.  Good done for one's own glory is still sin, is still considered evil in the eyes of God.

God had a solution for Adam's fall--and subsequently our own fall--into sin and death.  Paul unpacks this solution in Romans 5:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:12-19)

Paul acknowledges the genetic effect of sin to all people through the bloodline of Adam. Yet, we can't blame Adam for our own sin.  We sin because we are sinners.  We have to take full responsibility for our actions, and when we hold our lives up against God's original, intended image, we realize that we don't have that image anymore.  We are now by nature children of wrath, deserving of death and hell.  We must believe that with our whole hearts, if we are to be rescued.

There's a philosophical puzzle that atheists have posed to Christians for a long time.  The puzzle involves God's relationship to the moral law.  Is he above the moral law or under it?  If he is above it, then he should be able to do away with it.  Since he does not do away with it, he must be evil.  If God is beneath the moral law, then he is subject to it, and something more powerful than he exists.  God them becomes impotent.  There seem to be only these two options, but there is a third.  God IS the moral law--it is his very nature itself.  He can't do away with it, and he is not imprisoned by it.  He is the moral law, and when we break it, which we do every day, we are, in effect, breaking God himself.  We are hating him, we are hurting him.

Since God is pure justice AND pure mercy, he provides a gift, a rescue from this prison of the moral law, from God himself, from his wrath.  The gift is Jesus Christ, who was born under the law, and he kept the law perfectly, so that all who believe in him will suffer no condemnation under the law.  Whereas sin is a genetic defect passed down through birth, the new life is through adoption as sons and daughters based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Adoption into the family comes from our putting our faith in the first born of that new family.

For as by Adam's disobedience all humanity were made sinners, so by Christ's obedience to the moral law, all of those adopted into his family by faith will be made righteous.  We are unable to make others righteous, even if we perfectly obeyed the law, which we cannot.  Only Christ's obedience to the law does this.  We must never take these verses to mean that we now need to be obedient in order to add family members.  We are obedient only out of gratitude, which is a reflection of the faith we have in Christ.  Without obedience, there is no faith, but obedience does not produce faith.  Faith is a gift from God.