We have come to next four questions in the Heidelberg Catechism, “According to God’s righteous judgement we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after: How then can we escape punishment and return to God’s favour? Can we pay the debt ourselves?, Can another creature-any at all-pay this debt for us? and What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?”. Therefore, we should remember the ground we have already covered. Some may be convinced that mankind’s greatest problem is sin, this is a problem but to say it’s the greatest is to overlook the judgement of God that we will face because of our sin. The problem can be restated in this way, if i am not able not to sin (non posse non peccare) and God’s judgement is on those who have sinned and continue to do so, how can I escape the judgement of God if I cannot escape my sinful condition? The problem is much deeper than many believe and the way of escape is much greater than any of us can fully grasp.
God requires that his justice be satisfied
Since the judgement of God is to be paid in full and since the standards of God are not reduced in order to accommodate sinful man, the relationship between the standards of God and his judgement must be understood. If people could sin without the penalty of judgement, sin would still be a problem because it would prevent us from being holy, righteous and full of the knowledge of God. Therefore, we must not think that sin is only a problem because of the judgement that comes upon sinners. Whatever we are dealing with in life, we are always dealing with God and a person does not get away with sinning against God even when God hands them over to their sinful ways. Being handed over to our sinful desires and ways is to be presently under the wrath of God (Romans 1) and while this may not be understood it is because sinfulness and foolishness go hand in hand.
How can we escape the judgements of God?
When the first man sinned and all after him did the same, we are not just debtors but we have been changed by our sinful condition. God made man upright and sinning against God made us crooked. The debt we incurred we cannot pay back and because we have been changed by sin, we move deeper and deeper into debt each day. In order for us to escape the judgement of God the debt has to be paid and then God’s justice will be satisfied. Can we take and present another creature that God has made to face the judgement for us and take away our sin? Can we take a bull, goat, lamb or any other creature? No, we cannot, an animal cannot be held accountable for the wilful sin of a human. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin or satisfy the judgement of God (Heb 10:4). How then do we escape if we cannot look to ourselves or any other created thing to save us from the judgement of God?
There is no salvation without representation
Adam was our representative and because of our union with Adam, when he sinned, he took us with him into sin. How then are we to be saved from the judgement to come? How is the justice of God to be satisfied if there is no substitute found in all of creation to pay the debt? How are we to escape our sinful condition? The mediator who is able to deliverer us from the judgement of God must be truly human and truly righteous, “therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom 5:18). There is no salvation without representation, we need a mediator, one who will deliverer us from our sinful condition and the judgement of God. How does God justly satisfy his justice and save sinners? He does so by providing the only mediator who can provide for us a way of escape. That person is Christ Jesus, who is truly human, truly righteous and truly God.