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| The Heidelberg Catechism|
Part 1 – Sin and Misery: Lord’s Day 4
By: G.I. Williamson
Many people look at God as being unfair for He asks of us to live in accordance with His commands, in the previous chapter we learned that this is impossible to do. God’s demand for perfection is a tall task; just imagine being sin free? Being able to obey all commands in a perfect world where everyone else does the same. How could God ask of this?
Question 9: Does not God, then, wrong man by requiring of him in His law that which he cannot perform?
Answer: Not at all; for God made man capable of performing it; but man, through the instigation of the devil, by his own willful disobedience, deprived himself and all his posterity of these gifts.
Question 10: Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?
will punish them by a just judgment temporally and eternally, as He has declared, Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them.
Question 11: Is, then, God not also merciful?
Answer: God is indeed merciful, but He is also just; therefore His justice requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul.
Is it fair for God to demand such perfection? After all were created in His image, and before the fall of man we were capable of upholding all of His commands. Is God unfair to expect perfection? Williamson writes: “Suppose for instance, that God punished a fish for not walking—or a cow for not flying!” The author then goes on to write: “So why can’t we say the same thing about man, since he is not able to keep God’s commandments perfectly?”
Williamson uses an analogy involving a wealthy father who gave his children a large inheritance that included a mansion along with enough money to live off of its interest. Now of course with all of this being given to his children they were expected to maintain what was given to them. Suppose if one of the children had squandered the wealth foolishly leaving them in debt; what would be the proper response? Of course the father would say, as the author writes: “Don’t ask me for any more money! I gave you all you could ever need, and it is entirely your own fault that you are now destitute”. The father had given his children the inheritance in good faith. Instead of doing what was expected from the father that child decided to do as he pleased leaving him in a “desperate state”.
Mankind was once able to do what God expected of us. Because of selfish desire all of humanity has fallen leaving us in this state of desperation. It is only God’s mercy that will allow us to regain this inheritance. There are two specific verses that the author mentions from the Bible and both speaks of God’s mercy. The two are from Exodus 34:6-7 and Psalms 103:8-9.
In Exodus 34:6-7 Moses prayed “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” Though God is merciful, he still executes justice rightfully to those who are deemed as wicked. 2 Timothy 2:13 describes how “God cannot deny himself” and as Williamson writes “His sense of justice must be satisfied no less than his sense of mercy.”
Sinning against an infinite God means eternal damnation, which is rightfully so. The same concept applies when it comes to His mercy. Those who believe in Jesus Christ will be shown God’s mercy and for those who lack faith in Christ, God will judge accordingly. God is more than just fair; He is truly merciful, therefore making His decisions righteous.
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