Caleb’s Baptist — Behold The Deliverer (HC Q. 18)

Question 18. Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, (a) and a real (b) righteous man? (c)

Answer: Our Lord Jesus Christ: (d) “who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” (e)

Questions 16 and 17 taught us that if we are going to be delivered from our sins then certain quality characteristics must be found in the person who rescues us from our sin. Those character qualities are repeated in question 18 with the inquiry asking who fits that description.

Note that in question 18 that the our deliverer and rescuer is spoken of as a Mediator. We have mentioned the mediatorial aspect before but reviewing briefly we underscore that a Mediator is one who represents both parties in a dispute. In the Old Testament the Priests filled the role as the Mediator. The Old Testament Priest represented the people to God in his sacrificial responsibilities and he represented God to the people in his very person. So, we learn from this language that whoever is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man, is also the person who God has set aside to be a Mediator.

One aspect that is interesting about the Lord Christ having the two natures of God and real righteous man is that in being both God and Man the person of Christ has the properties which belong to both natures. This is only to say that the human and divine natures belong to the person of the Lord Christ and so are ascribed to Him in his person. The impact of this means that properties that belong uniquely to both divine and human natures are attributed to the one person of Jesus. For example, the person Jesus can be spoken of in his human nature (Jesus wept, Jesus grows in wisdom and stature, Jesus was tired) but the person Jesus can also be spoken of in his divine nature (omnipresence, all knowing, etc.) However, as we learned in our last session, this does not mean that any of his human nature was divinized, nor was any of his divine nature mixed with the human nature.

Let me clarify with a couple examples Caleb. In John’s Gospel Jesus says,

17:5, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”

The person of Jesus here is claiming something that could only be true of divinity. Jesus is claiming pre-existence and eternality. We might ask how it is that Jesus, who was born of a virgin, and so had a beginning of days, could claim pre-existence with the eternal God. The answer to that is that second person of the Trinity took to himself a human nature, as that was added in the incarnation, and so the person Jesus of Nazareth can speak John 17:5 as one who has a divine nature belonging to His person. The language of Scripture often ascribes to the person of Jesus attributes that could only belong to God.

Another example of this that works in the other direction is found in Acts 28:20

“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Of course it is Jesus who purchased the church of God with His own blood. Paul, in Acts, is speaking of the attributes of humanity (blood) as being ascribed to God. As the person Jesus has a divine nature, and as a man he has blood, it can be said that God purchased the church with His own blood even though the divine nature can not bleed.

So, we see that the Scripture teaches that Jesus has two natures. We see that Scripture affirms that Jesus was one person. But we also see Scripture speaking in such a way that “the properties of both, the human and the divine natures, are now the properties of the person, and are therefore ascribed to the person,” and yet without confusing or mixing, nor separating or changing the Divine and Human natures. The fancy theological term for this is communicatio idiomatum.

The reason this is important to keep in mind is that there is a tendency to forget one or the other of these natures. In the early Church, the temptation was to forget the humanity of Jesus. The heresy called gnosticism was constantly denying that Jesus was human. In our era the tendency is to forget that Jesus is divine. We treat the Lord Christ so casually. This is evidenced, I would suggest, by people talking incessantly about having a “relationship with Jesus,” forgetting that this person we talk so casually about having a relationship with is the one whom the Apostle John fell before as dead because of the intense divine glory of His divine presence.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus is God. Here are but three,

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.

Rom.9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Jer.23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus is Man. Here are but three,

Luke 2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. Luke 2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Philip.2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

Heb.2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; Heb.2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Heb.2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Question 18 gives a number of Scriptures to support the fact that Jesus was without sin. Here are but four,

Heb.4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Heb.7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

1 Pet.1:19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

1 Pet.2:22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

Remember, this all started by looking for someone qualified to bring us rescue from our sins. That all of this is, in Scripture, seen predominantly in that light is proven by a few texts from Scripture,

1 Tim.2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Heb.2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Luke 2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

There are other philosophical reasons why the divine and the human meeting in Jesus is monumentally important but the Catechism is only concerned with the soteriological (pertaining to salvation) reasons as to why the Lord Christ Christ is both human and divine. In short, unless the Lord Jesus Christ was and is human and divine we could not have been delivered from our sins and would be without God and without hope.

Question 18 ends by quoting 1 Cor.1:30,

But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

The importance of this text is found in the reality that as we as Christians are placed in Christ as our representative before the Father, we now wear before the Father the wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption of our representative the Lord Jesus Christ so that when we are considered by the Father we are considered as belonging to the one the Father delights in and so the Father delights in us.

This is why there is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved.

Caleb’s Baptism … Very God of Very God (HC Q. # 17)

Question 17. Why must he in one person be also very God?

Answer: That he might, by the power of his Godhead (a) sustain in his human nature, (b) the burden of God’s wrath; (c) and might obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life. (d)

In the previous question and answer Caleb we examined why it was that Christ must be very man of very man (100% man) in order to qualify as someone who could rescue the descendants of Adam from their sins. In this question the Catechizers (principally Zacharius Ursinus, and secondarily Caspar Olevianus) explain why it is that Christ must be very God of very God in order to successfully become our deliverer.

Before we get to the issue of Christ’s divinity in relation to accomplishing our deliverance we should say a brief word about the the combination of Heidelberg questions 16 and 17. In these two question and answers we have taught what is known as the doctrine of Christ’s Hypostatic Union. This is the doctrine that affirms that the Lord Jesus Christ was one person with two natures. We could get lost in all of the implications of this Caleb but suffice it to say that this is an important doctrine to embrace even if we will not understand it completely in this life. The doctrine is so important that the Church has an ancient creed that teaches on it (creed of Chalcedon) and is so important that one cannot be a Christian without embracing Scripture’s teaching on Christ’s hypostatic union.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches that at one and the same time the Lord Jesus Christ has both a human and divine nature and yet within one person. The early church argued about this for centuries before affirming that Christ was perfect in Godhead while at the same time being perfect in manhood. Teasing out the Scriptures, the Church went on to affirm, as against a party in the Church called “the Eutychians” that these two natures of Christ were not co-mingled so that the Lord Christ was a kind of a being with a hybrid single nature that was partly God and partly man. Continuing to embrace Scripture, the Church, at the same time, had to correct another party that was on the other extreme from the Eutychians, and who, instead of giving us a Christ whose natures were blended into a hybrid, gave us a Christ who was two persons as well as two natures. What the Scriptures affirm and what the Heidelberg catechism teaches is that Christ is one person with two natures.

That Christ has both natures can seen with a simple glance at Scripture,

Very God of Very God

He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33)
He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8)
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59).
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15)
He knows all things (John 21:17)
He gives eternal life (John 10:28)
All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9)

Very Man of Very Man

He worshiped the Father (John 17).
He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5)
He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)
He prayed to the Father (John 17)
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1)
He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)
He died (Rom. 5:8)
He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)

This doctrine of the Hypostatic Union also insists, as against yet a different heretical school of thought (Apollonarians) that the Lord Christ is human as to both body and soul. Some of the errant teaching yet today, following the errant teaching from centuries ago, insist that Jesus Christ has a human body but that His Spirit was the divine spirit logos.

The denial of this important doctrine continues with us today. The same errors are taught today that were taught thousands of years ago. This is true, not only of the example mentioned in the paragraph above but it is also true of Jehovah Witnesses and Christian Scientists for example. The Jehovah Witnesses deny Christ’s divinity while affirming His humanity. The Christian Scientists deny Christ’s humanity while affirming His deity. All of these sects will marshal Scripture to prove their heresy, conveniently leaving out other Scripture that is against them.

I can’t stress enough how important this teaching of the Heidelberg Catechism is. If a person denies this Hypostatic Union of Christ they have no reason to be considered a Christian. A great deal more could be said here, but I don’t want to bog you down. For our purposes here it is important to remember that, in the words of the Chalcedon Confession that is confessed by all Christians everywhere,

(Christ is) to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;

Now, as the Catechism deals with this issue it wants to emphasize that Christ had to be God in order to able to provide deliverance for His people. If Christ was merely human he could not have successfully undergone the intense wrath of the Father against sin. Scriptures teaches the character of God’s just wrath against sin that the Lord Christ bore for His Father’s glory,

Deut.4:24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.

Nah.1:6 Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.

Ps.130:3 If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

This was the wrath of God against our sins that the Lord Christ suffered in our place. That just wrath of God against sin would have consumed a merely human Jesus before the penalty against sin had been fully recompensed. So, the catechism teaches that Christ had to likewise be very God of very God in order to receive in His person the just penalty against sin.

Note a matter important here though Caleb. Note the way the catechism carefully phrases the truth,

“by the power of his Godhead sustain in his human nature the burden of God’s wrath”

Reformed theology, following Scripture, has always taught that God can not suffer, nor can God die. If God dies all the lights in the universe go out. Since this is true, Biblical theology affirms that it was Christ’s divine nature (HC — “by the power of His Godhead”) that sustained Christ’s human nature so that the person of Christ could pay for the sins of His people. Some people will say, in a sloppy manner, that “God died on the cross,” but it is more accurate to say that the person of the Lord Christ, as the lamb of God, died on the cross, if only because by definition the God of the Bible can’t die.

Clearly, what HC #17 is concerned about is the fact that the death of the Lord Christ, who is very God of very God, is a substitutionary death (a death in our place) and is so successfully, in part, because as sustained by His divine nature the person of Christ could bear our penalty in full, and win for us the life and acceptability before God that had been forfeited by Adam. That Christ was there dying in our place (in our stead, on our behalf) is clearly taught by Scripture,

Isa.53:4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted….

Isa.53:11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

And that the consequence of that death in our place (in our stead, on our behalf) is acceptability again before God and a restoration of life is likewise taught in Scripture,

Our healing is in His wounding

Isa.53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Acceptability before God dependent upon Christ’s Death

1 Pet.3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Restored brought to the elect because of Christ’s Death

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

John 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

So, Heidelberg Catechism question and answer #17 teaches us that if were to be saved, then He who would serve as our deliverer must be very God of very God.

Caleb’s Baptism — Q. 15 — Heidelberg Catechism

Question 15. What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for?

Answer: For one who is very man, and perfectly righteous; and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is also very God.

Last time we left off Caleb we had seen that the Catechism had closed all doors against our being able to be our own deliverer. If we are going to be delivered from God’s just wrath against our sin nature and our sins, we need to start looking outside ourselves for that deliverance.

You will notice here the use of the word “mediator.” This is a word that is incredibly important in the Christian faith Caleb. A mediator is one who is a relational conduit between two parties who are at loggerheads. The role of the mediator is to represent each of the warring parties and their interests to the other party. A mediator is to be a honest broker in terms of the issues between the two parties and his purpose is to resolve the conflict between the two parties in such a way where the interest of each party is upheld.

So, we need a mediator to represent us before God in terms of His just case against us. We need somebody who will represent our position to God and who at the same time will represent God’s position to us. From our end, in order to find a mediator who can be our representative (i.e. — Federal Head) we need someone who is very man of very man (100% man), and yet a man who is without sin (perfectly righteous), and one who is God.

The next question will examine why this is so, but it is important to establish at this point that if we are going to be delivered from our sin and misery and delivered to our peace with God it is going to have to come to us by means outside ourselves. This reinforces the idea that our salvation must come to us as a matter of God’s work and not our own. Question 15 insists that if we are to be rescued from God’s just wrath we must “seek” a mediator.

However, the mediator we must seek must not only represent us between the two warring parties (God and man), the mediator must also represent God’s part. The important emphasis here is that man can not come to God without a intermediary and God can not look upon man without a intermediary. Secondarily, it is important to emphasize that the if the intermediary is sufficient for both parties then no other intermediary is necessary. I bring this out because many other expressions of Christianity will offer a multitude of mediators. If the mediator that we must seek for is sufficient then no other mediator is necessary.

Now, let us close this question by looking at just a few of the Scriptures that are offered to support the fact that our mediator must be (1) man, (2) man without sin, and (3) God.

The fact that the mediator we must seek to satisfy God’s just wrath against our sin must be man is seen by the fact that as it is man who has sinned it must be man who atones (makes the payment) for sin. I Cor.15:21 teaches us this clearly,

“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”

It is man (Adam) who cast man into sin, and so if anyone is to deliver man from sin that deliverer must likewise be man.

Romans 5:19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

Christianity is a religion that demands that man restores what man destroyed, and if we are to be saved our savior must be a man.

However, this man must be different than all men since Adam, inasmuch as this man must be without a sin nature or sins of His own. If he is to be a mediator for God to us, one requirement is that He must be without sin. God will not deal with a mediator man who has sin and so the human mediator we are seeking must be perfect and without sin or flaw.

Scripture offers us this kind of human mediator,

2 Cor.5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Heb.7:26 “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;

If the mediator had his own sin Caleb, he would have to pay for His own sin and so would be of no help to us as He becomes the one who bears our sins. No, if fallen man is to have a mediator that God will accept as a representative of fallen man then that man must be man without being sinful.

Finally the catechism insists that the mediator must not only be man, and man without sin, he must also be very God of very God. In the demand that the mediator we need is both 100% Man and 100% we find the Christian doctrine called the “Hypostatic Union.” This merely teaches that our mediator must be both man and God at the same time. That the mediator we need must be God is taught in the following passages,

(c) Isa.7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God with us).

Isa.9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Rom.9:5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Jer.23:5 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. Jer.23:6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

So …

1.) God is opposed to man because of man’s sin
2.) Man himself is not able to appease God’s just wrath against sin
3.) Man must look for a mediator who can stand in the gap for sinful man
4.) This mediator will do for sinful man what he can not do for himself
5.) This mediator, in order to do what needs to be done for sinful man must be

a.) Man
b.) Man without sin
c.) God

“God’s 8th Word — Thou Shalt Be Charitable

I hope you have noticed something as we have made our way through this series of God’s law. I hope you have noticed why it can be said that we are “post-Christian,” in our Culture. Our social order is no longer governed by God’s law. Our cultural Institutions and framework are structured by a law that is other than God’s law.

As a people group and culture, instead of having no other God’s before us, we believe as a people, whatever we might believe contrary-wise individually, that “in the State we live and move and have our being.”

Today, the graven images that we have is too often a love of country that outstrips love for God.

As a culture God’s name is regularly taken in vain. In a conversation w/ a Judge I learned that in court perjury is a regular occurrence.

As a people our culture no longer take the Sabbath seriously … as I witnessed 30 years ago when public commerce ceased on the Lord’s Day.

By any fair calculation the family (Honor thy Father & Mother) is disintegrating.

And who can argue that as a culture we take seriously the prohibitions against Murder, Adultery, and Theft?

This is not to suggest there are not Christians … In this very place and other places who don’t esteem God’s Law. It is merely to point out that as a culture we are “post-Christian.”

God’s law is intended to shape God’s people and structure them, as that Law comes to them as Redeemed in Christ, and yet we who are shaped by God’s law find, at every turn, another law structure next to us, cheek by jowl, that likewise seeks to shape and inform us according to the god who is the lawgiver of that law system.

And so Biblical Christians, in this post-Christian setting, invariably are the counter-culture. It should be said of us, as it was said of the early Christians when the pagan culture was threatened by their presence,

“These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, (Acts 17:6)

As wicked Ahab accused righteous Elijah of being a “Troubler of Israel” because of Elijah’s stand for God, so we should be accused by our wicked culture as being “Troublers of our country,” because of our stand for the Lord Christ.

God’s law is health and vitality for those who are in Christ but those who are outside of Christ find God’s law to be accursed.

We are those who have been made righteous by Christ alone. The Scripture teaches that we were created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). It is God’s law that defines for us what good works are for us to walk in.

Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14). Our zealousness for good deeds can only successfully be demonstrated if we have a standard to define the “good” about our deeds. That “standard,” is God’s law that we have been examining week by week in this series.

Last Week we talked about

I.) Stealing From God (Vertical)

A.) All abuse and waste of His gifts

II.) Stealing From Others (Horizontal)

This commandment demands just price and just wages.

III.) Stealing In The Public Square

Inflation, Usury, Ponzi Schemes

We examined how those are what the Heidelberg Catechism calls, “Wicked tricks or Devices.”

We could have also talked about

Price and wage controls, minimum wage laws, Corporate Welfare, Entitlement programs, public debt that we incur which the income of our children and grandchildren after us must pay, and other assorted wicked trick and devices whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour.

The passage that is cited to support the necessity to avoid these wicked tricks and devices as theft is,

1 Thess.4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

They might have also cited Ephesians 4:28

Eph.4:28 Let him that stole steal no more …

There is another category of wicked tricks and devices whereby we we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor that I would like to brush up against briefly.

Scripture in Romans 13:6-7 requires us

6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

And so clearly there is a proper due that is owed to those who rule. Because of Scriptures like this Christians can pay proper taxes as a devotion unto God.

C.) Confiscatory Taxation

Here I want to just offer some of what Calvin said on this subject,

Calvin argued for prudent limits, writing that taxes should only support public necessity; for “to impose them (taxes) upon the common folk without cause is tyrannical extortion.”

Calvin offered that obedience was a Christian duty in this area; however, he cautioned Princes not in indulge in “waste and expensive luxury,” lest they earn God’s displeasure. Again he would write on this subject, “Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largess.”

Has our tax system become confiscatory? Well, at least one area small businessman that I know of has just this past week written on this very subject,

A few years ago I computed how much of the profits that our companies have generated that I got to keep. Since every dollar in taxes starts as a dollar of profit, I figured out all the taxes we had paid corporately and personally. This included income taxes, social security taxes, sales & use taxes, franchise taxes, real estate taxes, license fees, etc. etc. I was stunned that we had paid a whopping 96% of all the profits we had generated to various governmental entities in taxes, keeping a miserable 4% for reinvestment in the business and as a reward for my work.

This small businessman then goes on to talk about what I consider to be hidden taxes,

And it has not only been the tax burden that successful entrepreneurs have to overcome, it is the regulatory ones as well. We have been forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and machinery that was totally unnecessary and has went unused for almost two decades merely because the Ruling Elites knew better than us what was good for us. We’ve been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in compliance costs to just make sure that we haven’t missed jumping through one hoop or another of the over 13,000 pages of rules and regulations that we are supposed to obey, and on and on.

Calvin certainly would have understood that this kind of confiscatory taxation is a wicked trick and devices whereby what is designed is the appropriation by violators of the 8th commandment to themselves the goods which belong to their and our neighbor. If we are to take the 8th commandment seriously and our own Catechism seriously, we will not be supporters of those who do not advocate the repealing of this kind of confiscatory taxation root, branch and twig.

However the Catechism has a “Thou Shalt” for us that corresponds to the “Thou Shalt Not.”

Question 111. But what does God require in this commandment?

Answer: That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: (a) further also that I faithfully labour, so that I may be able to relieve the needy. (b)

(a) Matt.7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (b) Eph.4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

A.) Works of Charity

Here the Golden Rule is cited. In order to esteem the 8th commandment we should be a people who look not only to our needs but also to the needs of others.

In Reformed Church History this includes not only our personal giving to others as we see need but also our support for the Deacon’s fund in the Church.

Emperor Julian of Rome is quoted,

“Nothing has contributed more to the progress of the superstition of the Christians as their charity to strangers . . . . The impious Galileans provide not only for their own poor, but for ours as well.”

They fed the poor, nursed the sick, housed the homeless, and rescued those abandoned to die.

Calvin, envisioned the Church having this mercy ministry as well,

“When I first came to this Church,” he says, “there was as good as nothing here . . . . There was preaching, and that was all.” He would have found much the same state of things everywhere else in the Protestant world. The Church in the early Protestant conception was constituted by the preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments: the correction of morals was the concern not of the Church but of the civil power…. Calvin could not take this view of the matter. “Whatever others may hold,” he observed, “we cannot think so narrowly of our office that when preaching is done our task is fulfilled, and we may take our rest.” In his view the mark of a true Church is not merely that the gospel is preached in it, but that it is “followed.” For him the Church is the “communion of saints,” and it is incumbent upon it to see to it that it is what it professes to be. From the first he therefore set himself strenuously to attain this end .

And so works of charity — mercy ministries — were hallmarks of the early Reformed Church in Geneva. Calvin himself died comparatively impoverished. Perhaps this was, in part, due to the fact that instead of soaking up the funds in his salary the funds were going to the Deacon’s fund?

B.) Protestant Work Ethic

In order to fulfill the 8th commandment we are required to labor (work) as we can. Many scholars have attributed this strong work ethic as being a major contributor to the success of Biblical Christianity. Christians understood that they were to work and give to the needy. We see here the clear call to be a blessing to others because of our work ethic. Of course that blessing is first to our family in providing for them but as God grants us abundance we are to be a blessing to others.

Let us close by asking what can be done in order to avoid stealing

What is to be done to avoid stealing?

(1) Live in a calling. ‘Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands.’ Eph 4:28, &c. The devil hires such as stand idle, and puts them to the pilfering trade. An idle person tempts the devil to tempt him.

(2) Be content with the estate that God has given you. ‘Be content with such things as ye have.’ Heb 13:5. Theft is the offspring of avarice and envy. Study contentment. Believe that condition best which God has carved out to you. He can bless the little meal in the barrel. We shall not need these things long: we shall carry nothing out of the world with us but our winding sheet. If we have but enough to bear out our charges to heaven, it is sufficient.

(3) Stay out of debt. In Proverbs 22 Scripture teaches that the borrower is the slave of the lender. There is a natural tendency of those in slavery to get out of slavery at all costs, even if it means stealing to do so. Our whole economic system drives us towards debt. The temptation to theft will be far less upon those who are not in debt.

(4) Find ways to stewardship of what God is given you so that you can save against the day of need. When I lived in South Carolina a reasonably well to do Farmer told me that if “I took care of my pennies, my dollars would take care of themselves.”

(5) Entrust yourself to God’s providence. While it is true that we should

Go to the ant, O sluggard,
Observe her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no chief,
Officer or ruler,
8 Prepares her food in the summer
And gathers her provision in the harvest.
9 How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?
10 “ A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest”—
11 Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
And your need like an armed man.

It is also true that we are

31 not to worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But [s]seek first [t]His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be [u]added to you.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will [v]care for itself. [w]Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If we are a hard working people, and wise with our stewardship of God’s resources to us, then we must entrust ourselves to God’s providence, especially at those times when thieving, in one form or another, to relieve our distress might be tempting.

Heidelberg Catechism — Q. 110

Question 110. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?

Answer: God forbids not only those thefts, (a) and robberies, (b) which are punishable by the magistrate; but he comprehends under the name of theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbour: (c) whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, ells, measures, fraudulent merchandise, (d) false coins, usury, (e) or by any other way forbidden by God; as also all covetousness, (f) all abuse and waste of his gifts. (g)

(a) 1 Cor.6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (b) 1 Cor.5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. Isa.33:1 Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee. (c) Luke 3:14 And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. 1 Thess.4:6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. (d) Prov.11:1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight. Prov.16:11 A just weight and balance are the LORD’S: all the weights of the bag are his work. Ezek.45:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice, take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD. Ezek.45:10 Ye shall have just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath. Ezek.45:11 The ephah and the bath shall be of one measure, that the bath may contain the tenth part of an homer, and the ephah the tenth part of an homer: the measure thereof shall be after the homer. Ezek.45:12 And the shekel shall be twenty gerahs: twenty shekels, five and twenty shekels, fifteen shekels, shall be your maneh. Deut.25:13 Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small. Deut.25:14 Thou shalt not have in thine house divers measures, a great and a small. Deut.25:15 But thou shalt have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure shalt thou have: that thy days may be lengthened in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Deut.25:16 For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an abomination unto the LORD thy God. (e) Ps.15:5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. Luke 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (f) 1 Cor.6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (g) Prov.23:20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: Prov.23:21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags. Prov.21:20 There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up.

Question 111. But what does God require in this commandment?

Answer: That I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may; and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others: (a) further also that I faithfully labour, so that I may be able to relieve the needy. (b)

(a) Matt.7:12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets. (b) Eph.4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

I.) Stealing From God (Vertical)

A.) All abuse and waste of His gifts

God has entrusted each one of us with talents and giftedness. If we allow these gifts to go undeveloped or unused we are guilty of stealing from God. (Matthew 25:13-30).

Similarly, when we use God given gifts and abilities for our own glory and advance instead of with the purpose of glorifying and advancing God’s cause we are guilty of stealing from God.

When we are not obedient to God we are stealing from God. When we seek to dismiss His claims against us in terms of His law counsel we are stealing from God.

When we violate the first table

Worshiping false gods
Worshiping the true god in false ways
Taking God’s name in vain
Violating the Sabbath

We violate the 8th commandment for we steal from God’ reputation and steal His glory.

II.) Stealing From Others

This commandment demands just price and just wages.

When we seek to charge more than a product is worth we are stealing. When we do not give what a worker deserves OR if as a worker we demand more in wages than we are giving out in production we are stealing. When we are lazy at the workplace we are stealing. When we require too much from a worker in comparison to what we pay them we are stealing.

False coins — Counterfeiting

Usury

Zacharias Ursi­nus in his Com­men­tary on the Catechism wrote, ‘Usury is the gain which is received in view of that which has been bor­rowed or loaned’

“Usury originally signified what is now called interest, or simply a compensation for the use of money. The Jews were not permitted to take interest from their brethren for the use of money loaned; and when the Levitical law forbids the taking of usury, the prohibition intended is that of any gain or compensation for the use of money or goods. Hence, usury in the scriptures is what we call interest. The change of signification in the word usury, which now denotes unlawful interest, renders it proper to substitute interest for usury.”

In the ancient world interest on loans (usury) was seen as violation of the 8th commandment. The Church would from time to time speak as if there were exceptions but on the whole it spoke with one voice against Usury.

“Once upon a time, certainly from at least 1150 to 1550, seeking, receiving, or hoping for anything beyond one’s principal – in other words, looking for profit – on a loan constituted the mortal sin of usury. The doctrine was enunciated by popes, expressed by three ecumenical councils, proclaimed by bishops, and taught unanimously by theologians. The doctrine was not some obscure, hole-in-the-corner affection, but stood astride the European credit markets, at least as much as the parallel Islamic ban of usury governs Muslim countries today…The great central moral fact was that usury, understood as profit on a loan, was forbidden as contrary to the natural law, as contrary to the law of the church, and as contrary to the law of the gospel.”

(John T. Noonan, Jr., “Development in Moral Doctrine’ in James F. Keenan S.J. & Thomas A. Shannon (eds), The Context of Casuistry (Georgetown University Press, 1995), p.188.)

Harold Berman in his book “Law & Revolution” insists that there were times that the Church would allow usury.

With the Reformation there was a slight alteration in the matter of usury was normed as Business interests came to the fore.

Calvin expressed himself on usury in a 1545 letter to a friend, Claude de Sachin,

“For if we should totally prohibit the practice of usury, we would restrain consciences more rigidly than God himself” Calvin went on to argue that “we ought not to judge usury according to a few passages of scripture, but in accordance with the principle of equity.”

He qualified his view, however, by saying that money should be lent to people in dire need without hope of interest, while a modest interest rate of 5% should be permitted in relation to other borrowers.

Some have read the Heidelberg as pronouncing a complete ban on interest. Some have read this as a ban on excessive interest thus begging the question of how we determine when interest becomes excessive. One thing is certain is that usury has become a means by which people are enslaved to their debt. Creditors understand this and so often it is the case that when they lend money they know well that in doing so they are creating debt slaves. This doesn’t remove the responsibility of people to avoid debt and usury, rather it merely acknowledges that those who purposely create money systems where the citizenry, in order to function, must become debt slaves will themselves likewise be held responsible for violation of the 8th commandment.

III.) Stealing As A Public Square Good

A.) Inflation

Inflation is when the Government artificially increases either the money supply or the availability of cheap credit. As money or credit increase producers can and do raise the prices for their goods because there is more money in circulation with which to purchase those goods. The theft in all of this is in the fact that when new money is injected into the economy, an increase in prices result. This increase in price does not hurt those who first spend the newly created money as the prices they pay for goods is based on the old money supply quotient. However, for those who are on fixed or stable incomes their dollars now have less purchasing power value as prices have increased in response to a greater amount of money being available. The increase of the money supply has stolen from these people real value. Thou Shalt not steal.

Inflation also is theft from the creditor in favor of the borrower. Inflation makes for cheap money. Creditors paid off with cheap money suddenly find that whatever it is they sold, they sold at less value then they thought they had. If I sell a good for $50.00 when a dollar was worth a dollar but because of inflation I am paid back $50.00 in dollars that are only worth .93 cents on the dollar due to purposeful inflationary practices I have had .07 cents on the dollar stolen from me. Thou Shalt not Steal.

Inflation also is theft from those who save in favor of those who spend. In point of fact Inflation discourages saving in favor of spending. If I place 50.00 in my savings account at 6 percent interest while the rate of inflation is 13% the 50.00 I saved will not be worth as much when I finally take the money out because inflation has done its thieving work.

So, this kind of theft not only does the damage that all theft does but it also does the damage of changing the mindset of a people so that they go from being thrifty to being wasteful. We go from “a penny saved is a penny earned,” to “a penny saved is half a penny lost.”

So, Inflation is what the Heidelberg Catechism calls a wicked trick and device, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor. We are guilty of this kind of theft and of violating the 8th commandment when we vote for people who support inflationary economics. ”

B.) Ponzi Schemes

Though Charles Ponzi wasn’t the first to practice theft via Ponzi schemes his name because associated with these kind of wicked tricks and devices.

Ponzi convinced people to allow him to invest their money. Once given the money Ponzi simply took the money he was given by later investors and gave it to his early investors, providing those early investors with a handsome profit. Along the way Ponzi feathered his own nest with the stolen monies. Ponzi then used these satisfied early investors as advertisements to get more investors. Unfortunately, in order to keep paying previous investors, Ponzi had to continue finding more and more new investors. Eventually, he couldn’t expand the number of new investors fast enough, to cover the expected return of his old investors and the scheme collapsed. Ponzi was convicted of fraud and sent to prison.

Ponzi was practicing a wicked trick and device designed to appropriate to himself the goods of his neighbor.

Interestingly enough the vast majority of the money you pay in Social Security taxes, like the money that Ponzi took in from his investors, is not invested in anything. Instead, the money you pay into the system is used to pay benefits to those “early investors” who are retired today. When you retire, you will have to rely on the next generation of workers behind you to pay the taxes that will finance your benefits.

This is a classic Ponzi scheme and it remains a wicked trick and device designed to appropriate to those who established it the goods which belonged to their neighbor. The fact that it has become legal does not make it moral or in keeping with the 8th commandment.

Of course, Social Security and Ponzi schemes are not perfectly analogous.

Ponzi could only shake down willing volunteer investors. Once he failed in gaining new investors his scheme collapsed.

Social Security, on the other hand, can rely on governmental force to keep the scheme afloat. As the shrinking number of workers paying into the system makes it harder to continue to sustain benefits, the government can just force young people to pay even more into the system.

In fact, Social Security taxes have been raised some 40 times since the program began. The initial Social Security tax was 2 percent (split between the employer and employee), capped at $3,000 of earnings. That made for a maximum tax of $60. Today, the tax is 12.4 percent, capped at $106,800, for a maximum tax of $13,234. Even adjusting for inflation, that represents more than an 800 percent increase. That increase as well as the program itself violates God’s word of “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”

C.) Confiscatory Taxation

Here I want to just offer some of what Calvin said on this subject,

Calvin argued for prudent limits, writing that taxes should only support public necessity; for “to impose them (taxes) upon the common folk without cause is tyrannical extortion.”

Calvin offered that obedience was a Christian duty in this area; however, he cautioned Princes not in indulge in “waste and expensive luxury,” lest they earn God’s displeasure. Again he would write on this subject, “Others drain the common people of their money, and afterward lavish it on insane largess.”

Calvin certainly would have understood that confiscatory taxation is a wicked trick and device

Conclusion

In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels stated that the Communist theory could be expressed in one single phrase-“abolition of private property.”

To the contrary God’s word supports and protects the reality of private property.