Is God really just when man can’t keep His Law?

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Devotional Word for Thursday, September 24, 2020

Last week as we looked at the sinfulness and corruption of man, we determined that it was complete.  This does not mean that man is absolutely as bad as he could be.  It does mean that every aspect of man (his thoughts and beliefs as well as his actions) is affected by his sinful estate.  This raises an interesting question.  Is it okay for God that I am held responsible to keep His law when I am unable because of the corruption of Adam and my own sin?  Heidelberg Catechism question 9 states it this way, “Is not God unjust in requiring of man in His Law what he cannot do?”

The thinking is easy to understand.  Without Adam in the picture, God holding us accountable for keeping the Law when we are not able to is like an older sibling holding a favorite toy just out of reach.  As he or she demands we reach, though we try with all of our might, we are just not able to grasp the toy.  When God holds us accountable for our sins, it sounds almost like the older sibling taunting us for our inability.  As Christians, we would disagree with this picture between the siblings.  We also feel in our souls that we ought not suggest that God is unjust.  How then can we understand God’s justice and our own inability to keep the Law?

The answer to question 9 says, “No, for God so created man that he could do it.  But man, upon the instigation of the devil, by deliberate disobedience, has cheated himself and all his descendants out of these gifts.”  When we are tempted to think that God is unjust for demanding that people keep the Law when they are unable, they need to remember that it was not always so.  Adam was created with the ability to keep the law.  He was not made with a corrupt and sinful soul.  He was created with a good and righteous soul which was able to follow the commands of God.  Though he was enticed by the evil one, Adam made the deliberate decision to follow the commands of creation (i.e. the serpent) and not follow the Word of God.  

It is important to keep this in mind.  In the original created order, God, as God, was in control of everything.  He created man in His image and set him to rule over the rest of creation.  That means that created order went God, man, the rest of creation.  Yet, Adam saw fit to turn that on its head. By listening to the serpent, he made the serpent his authority.  By not listening to the Lord, he sought to reject his authority.  Through all of this, Adam’s sin and its corruption is passed to his offspring.

God is not unjust because we are born with an inability to keep His Law.  God made us righteous with the ability to follow His commands.  Adam, our greatest grandfather, by his own deliberate disobedience, brought sin and death not only to himself but to all of us.

Tomorrow we are going to look at the extent of Adam’s sin and evaluate the character of the Lord’s mercy toward His people.  All of this is going to direct us to the Lord Jesus who takes away the sins of His people.  Let us pray.