Heidelberg Catechism Devotional Q9

Q.9. But doesn’t God do us an injustice by requiring in his law what we are unable to do?

Aš. No, God created humans with the ability to keep the law.  They, however, tempted by the devil, in reckless disobedience robbed themselves and all their descendants of these gifts.


It is hard to imagine humanity capable of keeping God’s law, especially since we have never seen it firsthand, but it is true, that is how we were created.  After probing many thoughts, the writer of Ecclesiastes affirms man’s created ability.  Read Ecclesiastes 7:29.  Adam and Eve were created good, in God’s image and in this verse “upright” is used to describe mankind.  These all imply that obedience to God’s law was a real option for humanity.  Read Genesis 1:31.


So what happened to our original abilities to live into God’s law?  Simply put, sin happened.  However, the catechism says that humanity was first tempted by the devil.  In the garden, the devil, in the form of a serpent approached the woman and urged her to disbelieve God and to act on her own volition instead of in submission to God’s law.  Read Genesis 3:1-5.  The result was disastrous; for sin took over and human goodness disappeared.


Read John 8:44.  The result of the devil’s tempting and the subsequent human acquiescence to the devil’s scheme was a permanent change of status.  Where men and women once belonged to God as his good creation, now they belong to the devil.  We are his property, completely congruent with his ways of living. We lie, deceive, and disobey God’s law, even though we know what he requires.  These are but a few of the sins that humanity now faces.  Read Romans 1:18-31 to see how far humanity has fallen.


But that was true for Adam and Eve; don’t I start with the same chance as they?  Unfortunately not.  Just as a sports captain represents a his team at the start of the game and his decision affects the rest of the players, so also does Adam and Eve’s sin affect us.  Their disobedience brought death to all, sin to all and robbed us of the option of playing the game our way.  They were our team captains. Read Romans 5:12, 18-19.  Thankfully, the sin of Adam isn’t the last word in the story.  There is hope and it lies in the one act of Jesus. 


Jesus saves sinners; he died to overcome the sin and disobedience we exhibit every time we disobey God’s law by failing to love God and humanity.  Jesus rescues us from sin and allows us to put on a new self.  Read Ephesians 4:24.  After spending a few chapters talking about Jesus’ wonderful salvation, Paul says that we have a new nature available to us.  We no longer belong to the devil, but we can have a new body capable of loving obedience again.  This is a wonderful message of hope.  We can be righteous and holy because of Jesus.  Rejoice at this great news.


Read Colossians 3:9-10.  Just like yesterday, we are encouraged to cast off the old self we inherited from Adam and to be “renewed”.  I love this word, it means that which we once had is being restored.  To renew something is to take it from its broken and dilapidated state and restore it to a condition like new.  While the analogy could be pushed and over extended to include the idea that we always carry a seed in us capable of doing good, this would flatly deny the biblical witness we have already learned.  Rather, God is giving us back what we once lost. That is the core of the ‘renewing’ we experience in Christ. He gives us grace and his spirit.  He restores us to life and health.  He renews us.  Praise the Lord; for once again, all believers are able to know their Creator and to live into the fullness of the Law, because of Jesus who now lives in them.  This is our joy and our hope.

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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