You or Another

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Devotional Word for Monday, September 28, 2020

Last Friday we reflected on how we might escape the wrath of God in judgment for sin.  We concluded that apart from a gracious work of Him, we could not.  There is no distance we could run, nor good deed to perform, that would either separate us from His presence or atone for the bad things that we have done.  Hebrews 2:3 asks a rhetorical question describing this phenomenon.  The author reveals that if the Scriptures are unchangeable (and they are) and every sin deserves the wrath of God (and it does), then the only means of escape is God’s gracious salvation.  

You might be thinking that this seems to contradict what we have already said.  After all, last week we asserted that God has to punish sin in order to be righteous.  Now it sounds like I am saying that He can save us.  Which is it?  Question 12 of the Heidelberg Catechism helps us sort out this very idea.  It says, “Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God we have deserved temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment, come again to grace, and be reconciled to God?”  The answer states, “God wills that His righteousness be satisfied; therefore, payment in full must be made to His righteousness, either by ourselves or by another.”  God is righteous.  He has always been and will always be righteous.  His righteousness must be satisfied.  Either we will have to bear the wrath of God for our sins or someone else will.

Question 13 makes the next logical step explicit.  It states, “Can we make this payment ourselves?”  The answer is, “By no means.  On the contrary, we increase our debt each day.”  To be clear, gold will not satisfy my debt of righteousness to the Lord.  Even if I tried to do good deeds to repay my debt, my old sins are not blotted out and I add new ones to their number.  I cannot repay my debt of righteousness to God.

Question 14 helps us focus situation even more.  It says, “Can any mere creature make the payment for us?”  The answer is “No one, First of all, God does not want to punish any other creature for man’s debt.  Moreover, no mere creature can bear the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.”  Questions 12-14 help us understand our situation.  God wills that His righteousness be satisfied either by each sinner or something else.  We cannot bear our own sin.  The only way to escape the wrath of God is for our sin to be placed upon another.  However, our sin cannot be placed upon mere creature (either on an animal or another man).  While an animal might be innocent, it has no capacity for sin.  While other people are made in the image of God, they are not innocent.  

In short, unless the Lord provides a substitute to bear His wrath, I am in trouble.  Thanks be to God that He has provided just such a savior in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus, God’s eternal Son, is truly God and truly man.  That means that He has the power to forgive sin and the ability to redeem His people, but I am getting ahead of myself.  We will begin to look more closely at the Lord Jesus our great mediator later in the week.  Let us pray.