Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
12. Since, then, by the righteous judgment of God we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, how may we escape this punishment and be again received into favor?
God wills that His justice be satisfied; therefore, we must make full satisfaction to that justice, either by ourselves or by another.
The only way for sinful man to escape God’s just punishment of sin and be restored to God’s favor is “if satisfaction be made on the part of man by a sufficient punishment for his disobedience,” a punishment which “is equivalent to that which is eternal [Daniel 9:24; Hebrews 9:12]” (Ursinus).
13. Can we ourselves make this satisfaction?
Certainly not; on the contrary, we daily increase our guilt.
We cannot satisfy God’s justice because “we sin continually, and in sinning we increase our guilt and the displeasure of God toward us.” Plus, “our guilt being infinite, deserves an infinite punishment–one that is eternal, or that is equivalent to everlasting punishment… But we cannot make satisfaction by a punishment that is eternal, because then we would never be freed from it [Psalm 130:3]” (Ursinus).
14. Can any mere creature make satisfaction for us?
None; for first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man committed; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s eternal wrath against sin and redeem others from it.
Man sinned; and therefore, man must be punished. It would be unfair if other creatures, whether angels or animals, should be eternally punished for something of which humanity is guilty (Heb. 2:14-18; 10:4). Furthermore, no creature, not even a sinless creature, could endure and survive the heavy weight of God’s wrath against sin. “God is a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24). If the creature being punished in our place cannot survive the punishment, then how can that creature deliver us from the punishment?
15. What kind of mediator and redeemer then must we seek?
One who is a true and righteous man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God.
The only substitute capable of fully satisfying God’s justice for us is one who must be a perfect man and yet more than a mere man. He must also be God. Our substitute must be a person who is both God and man, so that he may truly be a middle person, and mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5); one who will bring it to pass that God loves men, and men love God, so that an eternal peace or agreement is established between them (Isaiah 54:10). As we will see, Jesus Christ the God-Man has offered the all-pleasing sacrifice to fully satisfy God’s justice.