2009-01-14 - Heidelberg 14.1
Heidelberg Catechism Series, Part 31
1 Corinthians 15:56, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law."
Question 14.1: "Can another creature - any at all - pay this debt for us?"
Answer: "No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of. Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God's eternal anger against sin and release others from it."
The simplicity of the Catechism shines through again, with the simple answer of "No." It was man created in the image of God who sinned, and it must be man who suffers or offers redemption. There is no other option. God does not punish a Koloa for man's sin, or a Finch. Man sinned, and man alone will bear the punishment for sin. The animals, not being image bearers, cannot bear the weight of God's wrath in a meaningful way. It seems almost comical to think of a Penguin paying for my sins. And it simply drives home the point that we, and we alone, are responsible for our sin. We must bear it ourselves, or another, One like us, must bear it for us. This of course points us to our Redeemer Jesus Christ, who being God, became man, and bore God's wrath on the cross for us. There are several things to consider in thinking about this, and in looking at question 14, we will have three unfastenings of the question, in three different devotionals.
Death is the devil's masterpiece. Sin brings death. Think how Satan must have gloried when Abel, the first image bearer to taste death (and that by a homicide by his brother Cain), lay on the ground, with his blood crying out from the Earth. It must have felt like a great victory to Satan. But there were two times (Enoch and Elijah) when man escaped death. This must have pointed to the truth that death was not final. There was something more than death for those who bear the image of God, for not all have died. We see Satan's scheme thwarted mostly in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What a great seemingly-won victory for Satan was in Christ's death - but He rose. All Satan's attempts to win this final victory were lost in the resurrection of Christ. When Christ cried out on the cross, "It is finished.", it was finished not for Him, but for Satan. The resurrection proves this. The death of our Lord was not in the least a victory for Satan. It was, in fact, his end. Christ, in His death, defeated death. He rose from the dead, and the follower of Christ no longer need fear the last enemy - death.
By the death of Christ, the power of death is taken away for those who are His children. It need not be a fear for the follower of Christ, but there are some, even those who live outside of the grace of Christ, who don't fear death. I have told you why those who follow Christ need not fear death: Christ has risen from the dead and has conquered death. But why is it that so many who are not children of God do not fear death. May I suggest it is because they don't believe there is a devil. They don't believe that their sin separates them from a holy God. They don't believe that God will, after this life, judge the life that His image bearers of His have lived. Satan has pulled the wool over many eyes, and they don't have a proper fear of death while they live - even though while all live, they are but moments from death and judgment.
Most live as if death were not to be feared. They are not reconciled to God, but they don't fear coming into His presence, because they have suppressed the truth they know, that they will one day stand before Him - alone - and give an account. Those who never give a thought of God or the devil, I submit, never have the devil give a thought of them either. The man who is caught up in his possessions, or lust, or drunkenness - why would Satan bother with him or her. He already has them. They are already his. So Satan does not waste his time generating fears in those who he already owns. They don't think about death, because its horrors are never brought to their mind by the evil one. Why should he rock the boat? But if Satan finds a poor saint mourning over sin, on his/her knees, and seeking mercy for transgressions. Here he will be felt. He will give that saint doubts and fears. He will convince him/her that it is too late. Their sin is too much. God will at last put them out. Here Satan is active. He makes his presence felt. When you live near to God, then Satan will seek to destroy you, your hope, and your peace in Christ. Many never feel Satan's tugs, because they are not worth his trouble. The devil never wastes his time securing one of his children who are already his. He afflicts the saints, but he does so in a losing effort. Christ never loses those who are His. They always finish the course, because the precious blood of the Lamb has redeemed them.
Christ has paid the debt of all who come to Him in faith. It is the great comfort of the Christian. It releases him/her from the fear of death. Those who don't fear death are either secure in Christ (and some who are secure in Christ still fear death - it is the last enemy), or are under the satanic delusion that death is not the end of their chance to reconcile with the Living God, before Whom they must one day stand. The only way to have peace with God is through Christ, Who conquered death on the cross and rose from the dead. He was one of us, a man, a brother, and yet He is also God incarnate, come to Earth. It is His likeness, His being one with our nature, that means He can be a propitiation for our sin to the glory of God and the redemption of our souls.
Soli Deo Gloria,