Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
9. Does not God, then, do injustice to man by requiring of him in His law that which he cannot perform?
No, for God so made man that he could perform it; but man, through the instigation of the devil, by willful disobedience deprived himself and all his descendants of this power [to obey perfectly].
God is not unjust to continue to require fallen man to obey Him perfectly, because God created our first parents with the ability to obey Him perfectly. But they lost this ability for themselves and also for their posterity: “in Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22). If a prince were to give a nobleman a piece of property and he were to rebel against him, he would lose the property not only for himself but for his posterity also; and the prince would do no injustice to the nobleman’s children by not restoring to them what was lost by the rebellion of their father. God’s demand for perfect obedience should make us admit and be sorry about our inability and seek His salvation in Christ (Rom. 3:19-26).
10. Will God allow such disobedience and apostasy [falling away from the truth] to go unpunished?
Certainly not, but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as He has declared: ‘Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them’ [Deut. 27:26 in Gal. 3:10].
Our inborn sin (our original sin) is our sinful nature which we inherited from Adam through our parents; and is the root cause of our actual sins, our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds: “out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries,” etc. (Mark 7:21). Every sin is a violation of God’s law; and, therefore, according to God’s justice, deserves eternal punishment and banishment from God (Gen. 2:17; Gal. 3:10). God’s punishment of sin begins in this life (Rom. 1:18). It includes all the miseries of this life, together with death itself. The small punishments of this life are warnings to the unrepentant that a greater and more complete punishment is still to come (Luke 13:5). As for the righteous, though they suffer many of the same things the wicked suffer, the afflictions of the righteous are not to be regarded as punishments; they are merely the chastisement of a loving father (Heb. 12:6).
11. But is not God also merciful?
God is indeed merciful, but He is likewise just; His justice therefore requires that sin which is committed against the Most High majesty of God, be punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of both body and soul.
God is exceedingly merciful, but he will not exercise his mercy in a way that does violence to his justice. A crime committed against God, who is infinitely good, demands infinite “everlasting punishment” (Matt. 25:46). And when God does execute his justice, “he does not delight in the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11); and has also shown his mercy and compassion toward us, by laying the punishment which we deserve upon his own Son” (Ursinus). Next week we begin to see how we escape the just punishment of our sin.