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Heidelberg Catechism LD 5: The Deliverance of Man (Psalm 49:7-9; 130:3 and Hebrews 2:14-18)

Last time we talked about the misery of man which basically consist of our sin and death. We also discussed that we became aware of this misery through the law as we understand its demands and the fact that we cannot fulfill them.

We also clarified that we are not originally created wicked and without the ability to obey the law. In fact, we know that we were actually created good and according to the image of God, but the fall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden resulted to the corruption of our nature and the loss of our ability to obey the law.

We also learned about the seriousness of our sins, the inability of our will to obey God and the fact that God will certainly not let our sins go unpunished. And if you will remember, at the end of my previous sermon we were confronted with the greatest dilemma of all which is how can a perfectly just God forgive sinners when we know that the concept of justice and forgiveness are 2 contradictory things.

In this sermon we will try to explain how God solved the dilemma. In order to do that, we will have to understand how God delivers mankind from his misery. We will be studying the entire Lord’s Day number 5, question 12 to 15, and in this sermon, we will only have two (2) sermon points. First is a discussion about our Deliverance and the second is about who is our Deliverer, but before we continue, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.


Heavenly Father, we thank you for your amazing plan of redemption. We know that all we deserved from you is judgment and wrath, but in your grace and mercy, You made a way for us to be delivered from the misery of sin and death and be reconciled with you. Today Father, we pray that you open our eyes that we might be able to see clearly the beauty of your plan. May we appreciate the wisdom behind it and cause us to be more thankful for the salvation we received. This we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.    

The Deliverance

Question: According to God’s righteous judgment
we deserve punishment
both now and in eternity:
how then can we escape this punishment
and return to God’s favor?

Answer: God requires that his justice be satisfied.
Therefore, the claims of this justice
must be paid in full,
either by ourselves or by another.  

Lord’s Day 5, question number 12 asked about how can we be delivered from God’s eternal punishment and return to his favor. The answer to this question is that the claims of God’s justice must be paid in full or be satisfied, and this satisfaction may either be by our selves or by another. However, later on we will find out that there are actually no two ways to be delivered from the punishment of God, but one.

Justice simply means God giving to every person what they deserve. In Romans 2:6-8, it was said that “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

In other words, the justice of God demands from us either the exercise of perfect righteousness or the imposition upon us of a perfect punishment if we fail to do the first. We already discussed previously that we cannot obey God’s laws because we are all bent to hating Him and our neighbors. Therefore, there is nothing more we can expect from the justice of God but the imposition of his punishment upon us both in this life and the life to come. As Exodus 23:7 says God, will by no means acquit the wicked.

But if we let ourselves suffer from the wrath of God for our sins, will we ever be able to pay the full demand of God’s justice and eventually return to His favor? The answer is no, because justice demands that we be punished in hell eternally for offending an eternally good God. Because the offense is committed against an eternal being, the nature of the punishment is eternal as well, hence there can be no full satisfaction of justice to the point that the punishment will be enough and the sinner will finally rest from all the torment.   

Not only that we cannot fully satisfy the justice of God by being punished in hell forever, but question-and-answer number 13 of the Heidelberg Catechism says that on the contrary, we actually increase our debt every day. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” Therefore, it is very clear that we cannot deliver ourselves from the punishment of God for even our suffering in hell cannot fully satisfy the demands of God’s justice to the point that someday our sentence will be fully served and we will be eventually be released from the lake of fire.  

Since we cannot fully pay the demands of justice, our only hope for deliverance can only come from another. However, several objections may be raised against this idea. The first one is that law of God never provided a legal remedy wherein a person may escape punishment if another person or creature will answer for his sins.

Yes, we can concede that this is indeed the case, however, the law does not condemn or prohibit this remedy either. In fact, in the law of Moses, the Israelites symbolically transfer their sins to animal sacrifices which are killed and sacrificed to God on their behalf. In the book of Genesis, when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, the angel of God stopped him and God provided for a substitute sacrifice which is a ram whose horns are caught in a thicket. Although these are not express commands saying that it is allowed for another creature to answer for the sins of a person, they definitely serve as a type or foreshadow of the manner of deliverance that God would use in the future so save us from His own wrath.

Furthermore, we do not expect the law to expressly provide this remedy, for the law is never meant to justify or save a person. We came to know this manner of deliverance not from the law, but from the Gospel.   

Some might also raise the objection that it is unjust for God to let another person or creature pay for the sins of another. And if a finite creature is not capable of paying the claims of justice for his own sins due to the eternal nature of the punishment, then how is it possible that he can pay for the sins of another? These objections are also valid, but fortunately, the catechism anticipated and answered this in question-and-answer number 14, which says:

Question:  Can another creature—any at all—
pay this debt for us?

Answer: No.
To begin with,
God will not punish any other creature
for what a human is guilty of.
no mere creature can bear the weight
of God’s eternal wrath against sin
and deliver others from it.

Ezekiel 18:4 also says, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die” andverse 20 says “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” 

Based on the things we mentioned, God would not allow a person or any other creature to pay for the sins another. However, it was never said in the Scriptures that an uncreated being is bound by this rule. Yes, it is unjust to make a creature answer for the sins of another creature, but the Scripture did not say that it is unjust for the Creator to pay for the sins of his creatures.

This also answers the other question about whether a finite creature can pay for the sins of another finite creature when the penalty for the sin is eternal. The answer to this question is no.  Psalm 49:7-9 says, “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit”.  The catechism says that no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal wrath against sin and deliver others from it. But an uncreated infinite being can.

When a finite creature sinned against an infinite and eternal God, he should spend the rest of eternity paying for his sins, for the God that he offended is infinitely more valuable than him. But when an infinite being pays for the sin of the finite being, He need not spend the rest of eternity paying for the latter’s sin because He and the One who was offended by the finite creature are co-equals.   

The Deliverer  

This already gives us a clue as to who can qualify as our deliverer, but to further narrow down the options, let us consider question and answer number 15 of the Heidelberg Catechism which says:

What kind of mediator and deliverer
should we look for then?

Answer: One who is a true and righteous man,
yet more powerful than all creatures,
that is, one who is also true God.

So far, we all know that only and uncreated, infinite and eternal being can pay for the sins of another because if a mere creature will do this, it will violate the justice of God and the creature will not be able to withstand the weight of the eternal wrath of God for the sins committed against Him. And we also know that there is no other uncreated, infinite and eternal being other than God. However, the catechism also tells us that aside from being God, the deliverer must also be a man, a righteous man.

The reason for this requirement will be fully explained in the succeeding parts of the catechism, but today we shall discuss the rationale behind this requirement a little bit. The catechism says that the kind of mediator and deliverer that we should look for must be one who is a true and righteous man and God at the same time. The deliverer who will pay for the sins human beings should be a human as well because the justice of God requires that because human nature sinned, then human nature must also pay for the sin. This explains why an angel or another being cannot qualify as our deliverer. And logically speaking, even God will not be fitting to be our deliverer, unless He also takes upon Him the nature of a human being.

In other words, the only deliverer that could qualify to pay for the sins of mankind is someone who is fully man and fully God at the same time.  Because if the deliverer is only a man, making him answer for the sin of another will be unjust. And even though God allows it, he wouldn’t be able to fully pay the demands of justice because the punishment is eternal. On the other hand, if the deliverer is only God, then he will not be fitting to pay the sins of mankind because only a being of the same nature can pay for the other’s sin. We can read the necessity of God taking on human nature to save mankind in Hebrews 2:14-17 which says, “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest pin the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Without God taking on human nature he will not qualify to make a propitiation for the sins of his people. Furthermore, if God will not be a man, it will be impossible for Him to suffer and die.

Aside from being a true man, the deliverer must be a righteous man as well, for a man who has his own sins to pay cannot qualify to pay for the sins of others. So, as we can see, the only one who qualifies as the deliverer of mankind is the second person of the Trinity, the Only Begotten Son of God, Our faithful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is why it is very crucial that we have a correct understanding of his dual nature. We do not consider Him as a mere man or creature, like what the cults are claiming, and we also do not see Him as only a Deity. If we will not understand the dual nature of Christ correctly, the message of the gospel will become an absurdity.

In His plan of redemption, the Triune God made sure that no one will ever be qualified to take on the task of delivering mankind from God’s wrath but only the Second Person of the Trinity. This shows us the infinite wisdom behind the crafting of this plan. The message of the Gospel is so simple that even the uneducated can understand it, but if we will study it more deeply, we will see that there is so much depth and complexity in this plan. The prophets in the Old Testament and even the angels desired to have a knowledge of this plan of deliverance during their own time, but God did not reveal it to them yet. But as members of the New Testament church, we are very blessed to have these things revealed to us through the Scriptures and explained more clearly by theologians whom God raised in the history of the church to teach us about these things so that we will be able to appreciate more preciousness and the gloriousness of the salvation that we received.

So brothers and sisters in Christ, in light of what we have learned today, let us be more grateful to God for this amazing plan of redemption that He has crafted for us.

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