Caleb’s Baptism — Heidelberg Catechism Q. 12

Question 12. Since then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, is there no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favour?

Answer: God will have his justice satisfied: and therefore we must make this full satisfaction, either by ourselves, or by another.

As we come to question 12 we begin to consider the 2nd division of the Heidelberg Catechism which deals with the issue of God’s Redemption of man and so man’s deliverance. The 1st division dealt with man’s sin and misery. It’s intent was twofold. First, to convince us how majestic, holy, and transcendent God is. Second, to convince us that we can have no concourse with this God because of our sin and misery. The 2nd part of the catechism is committed to revealing that we may have concourse with this God because of God’s initiative in man’s redemption.

Question 12 serves as a basic summary of the 1st part of the Catechism. The question serves to remind us that all ways are blocked unto being in God’s favor. The effect of the first part of the catechism, psychologically speaking, is to leave the one instructed with both a sense of God’s opposition and a understanding of our peril.

As we consider the answer a glimmer of hope begins to shine through the prison of our sin and misery in the last three words, “or by another.” The Catechism has effectively shut off all other avenues for finding favor with God and with those three words begins to hint to God’s gospel deliverance for those who are convinced of their sin and misery.

Note the theme again in the answer. The theme is legal and personal. God’s honor has been injured (personal) and so the justice that justly rises up against the injured honor of a personal God must be satisfied (legal). This reminds us that God is a personal God and it reminds us that Christianity is a faith that concentrates heavily on legal (forensic) categories. This is important for us to remember Caleb as we continue to move through the Catechism. Contemporary Christianity heavily emphasizes the personal – relational aspect of the Christian faith (though this most commonly is the personal – relational as we envision that and not as Scripture portrays) but often forgets the legal aspect of the Christian faith which sets before us a God who is offended because His law has been violated and who, before He can have a favored relationship with lawbreakers again, must have His law (which is the embodiment of His character) satisfied.

Answer 12 reinforces once again that God’s offended justice will be satisfied. Now keep in mind here that God is not being petulant with this demand for satisfaction. God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and has said, “the soul that sinneth, shall surely die (Gen. 2:17).” Either God’s justice is done and someone makes satisfaction or God dies. The catechism gives a flurry of Scriptures that underscoring that God’s justice will be done,

Exod.20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exod.23:7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

Ezek.18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Matt.5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

2 Thess.1:6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

Luke 16:2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.

God will not be mocked and so will have His justice uphold His slighted honor.

The catechism teaches we must satisfy God’s justice either by ourselves or by another. Notice the beginning strains of good news here. First, clearly what is being hinted at here is that another can make our satisfaction. This begins to hint at Gospel truths we will look at later such as atonement, justification, reconciliation, substitution, imputation, reconciliation, propitiation, expiation, redemption, and others. Second, the point that we want to scream here is that the catechism, following Scripture, is opening up a window that we might escape the dungeon of our sin and misery. Someone else might bear the lashings of God’s justice in our place.

In the holding out of this possible substitute God’s law is still satisfied, (the soul that sinneth does die in His substitute) and so the legal requirements that we mentioned earlier are upheld, and we enter into a personal knowing of God who is for us at every turn.

The Scripture that the Catechism offers really should be memorized by all believers.

Romans 8:1 — There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Again Caleb, notice the legal themes here

1.) No condemnation (i.e. — no penalty after judgment)

The threat we were under was a legal threat (condemnation). Because of our substitute was condemned in our place the legal requirement for condemnation has been met in Christ Jesus.

2.) What the law could not do — The law, following God’s holy character, required moral perfection but because of man’s sin the moral law could not give what it required.

3.) Condemned sin in the flesh — Once again, legal categories. Breaking of the law occurred. Satisfaction of the law must be had.

4.) Righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us — The law requires moral perfection and because of Christ’s moral perfection in the life He lived that righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us.

More on this later but I wanted to end by emphasizing again that the Christian faith is not the Christian faith unless we understand that it moves in these legal – forensic terms.

Yes, Christianity is relational / personal but it is only relational personal if it is also legal / forensic. Many many modern Christians have forgotten this and their faith languishes because of their forgetfulness.

Caleb’s Baptism — Heidelberg Catechism, Q.) 11

Dear Caleb,

Question 11 is the last question in the 1st section of the Catechism that explicitly deals with Man’s sin and misery. Starting with question 12 of the Catechism the instruction works towards providing the only solution to Man’s sin and Misery.

Question 11. Is not God then also merciful?

Question 11 opens this way because question and answer 10 was so exacting as to the truth of God’s justice. It seems as if what is happening here is that God’s justice has been so clearly put forth that there might be some doubt as to whether or not God is merciful and so the question is asked.

And the answer is given,

God is indeed merciful, (a) but also just; (b) 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.

In answer #10 the Heidelberg confirms God as merciful but it immediately returns to the reality of God’s justice. It is as if the Catechizers are saying, “Yes, God is merciful, but you better be sure that you reckon with His justice before you end up nullifying the reality of His justice by a slovenly appeal to a sloppy mercy that ignores God’s justice.”

Clearly, God is indeed merciful. Mercy is God’s attribute wherein He does not give to people that which they deserve. All of Adam’s descendants deserve God’s condemnation and yet not all of Adam’s descendants are condemned by God. This is the proof of God’s mercy.

Exod.34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Exod.34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Yet, in question 11 immediately upon affirming God’s merciful character the Catechizers, following the testimony of Scriptures, return to the fact that God is just.

Exod.23:7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.

Ps.5:5 The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. 6 Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.

Nah.1:2 God is jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and is furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. Nah.1:3 The LORD is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked: the LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.

It is tempting to spend a great deal of time here because our current generation has made an idol out of God as love as that idea has been torn from its Biblical context. It is true that God is merciful and loving but not in a way that denies His justice and not in the way that most of your peers think about God.

If you have some time Caleb, give the link below a read,

http://ironink.org/2008/07/god_loves_you_and_has_a_wonderful_plan_f/

At that link I spend some time developing the problem with Evangelism that doesn’t follow the approach the Heidelberg is taking by first establishing clearly God’s justice.

With regard to answer 11, notice

1.) God’s justice requires that God punish sin.

God’s word teaches, “the soul that sinneth shall surely die.” If God does not follow through on that promise then God’s justice is called into question. The character of God requires that God punish sin. If God didn’t punish sin then God wouldn’t be God because at that point of failure to punish sin God’s justice, holiness, and truthfulness, as well as His love and mercy would be called into question. If God didn’t punish sin God would un-god Himself. God can not let even one sin go unpunished because if He did He would be a worthless bum.

2.) Sin is committed against the Most High Majesty of God

We don’t talk or think like this much anymore Caleb. What is being communicated here is an older understanding of justice that includes the idea that the seriousness of sin was calculated in terms of the one who the sinner sinned against. For example, once upon a time, if one were to commit sin against Royalty that would be taken far more seriously then if one had committed the same sin against a commoner or a vassal. A person’s degree of majesty increased the degree of seriousness of the sin. Well, our sin is against a royalty no greater of whom can be named. As such, since we have committed sins against the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords the punishment that is equal to that can only be everlasting punishment of body and soul. Any other lesser penalty would be a slight and a dishonoring against the majesty and royalty of the King.

It is difficult for us to think this way since, in our Democratic mind frame, we no longer see people carrying different degrees of majesty, and as such we have a hard time understanding that to sin against a higher majesty requires a greater punishment.

3.) Everlasting punishment of body and soul

Note that the Catechism here clearly teaches the doctrine of Hell. Now the doctrine of Hell has fallen on hard times. Many people don’t want to talk about it. More and more Evangelicals are writing books insisting that Hell does not exist.

Let us posit here that as the doctrine of Hell goes into eclipse so does the idea of the majesty of God go into eclipse, so does the sinfulness of sin go into eclipse and so does the idea of the necessity for commensurate justice go into eclipse. Since the doctrine of Hell is the doctrine that bespeaks God’s majesty and is the consequence of violating God’s majesty, when we eviscerate the doctrine of Hell we also communicate that God isn’t so majestic. Since the doctrine of Hell is the doctrine that bespeaks of the end of all sinners and all sinfulness, when we eviscerate the doctrine of Hell we also communicate that the sinfulness of sin isn’t so bad after all. Since the doctrine of Hell is the doctrine that establishes the concept of justice that “the punishment should fit the crime,” when we eviscerate the doctrine of Hell we also communicate the non-importance of justice.

All this to say that the doctrine of Hell is extremely important for Christian theology as well as for a Christian World and life view. Wrong views on Hell have sweeping implications.

4.) Body and Soul

Note the affirmation here in the Catechism that the reprobate are raised to life and in their earthly bodies they will suffer everlasting punishment. The whole person –Body and Soul — will be punished everlastingly. No soul sleep. No disembodied misery. It is man, body and soul, who will suffer.

Finally, I would note here that this everlasting punishment against sin begins in the present. Those who are warring against God are already partaking in God’s everlasting punishment, and unless they repent and flee to Christ for safety, they will live a life that goes from everlasting punishment unto everlasting punishment in ever greater degrees until they spend eternity with no hope of relief.

All of this is why it is so important to warn people of God’s justice. We do people no favors when we try to soft pedal this attribute of God. I hope for better days when the Church will once again find its voice on this truth because the lovely dulcimer tones of God’s love for sinners only makes sense when that love is heard against the backdrop of the reality of God’s justice.