I promised the last several weeks that we would get to the point where there was some good news to be had! 😊 As we walked through the questions and answers as they dealt with the consequences of Adam’s sin there was a lot to hear about how awful it was to lose all the benefits of the garden life. It was and is awful. Human beings need to grapple with the weight of sin. We need to contemplate what it really means to be alienated from the Father and no longer have all the mercies which were present in the days before the forbidden fruit was taken in hand. The more we understand the putrid nature of sin the more we will come to appreciate what exactly the Lord Jesus Christ has done for us in the gospel. The Q/A today illustrates well for us how our salvation from sin and renewed relationship with God has come to pass by His will:
Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
The first part of the answer is probably the most important part for our purposes today. It must be remembered that we serve a God of justice. “An Eye For an Eye” is a principle of just recompense for the crime committed. For mankind we deserved nothing less than death for the breaking of the Covenant of Works. Our Lord would have been perfectly within His rights to end all human life the second Adam desired the fruit, just as He struck down Uzzah when he touched the ark of the covenant. However, as the catechism notes God “…out of His mere good pleasure”, has decided, “…from all eternity” that not all would be condemned for that transgression of our first parents and that some would be brought to eternal life through another covenant.
This covenantal promise founded in the Redeemer is the only way that God can deal with us. We are dead in sin. We are incapable of making another covenant while the broken covenant of life is still sitting their remaining to be fulfilled. The Covenant of Grace mentioned above is not a replacement for the Covenant of Works, that latter covenant still needs to be completed and it is not annulled, not only that, but now that Adam bears the responsibility for its breaking someone needs to fix it. Either Adam needs to pay the penalty and repair the breech, or he needs a substitute to do it for him, and it can’t just be anyone. It is not as if a lamb or a space alien could bargain with the LORD and make a payment. As Paul makes clear in the 9th chapter of the Book of Hebrews Jesus Christ was uniquely qualified to be the Testator because He was a party to the original Covenant of Works as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. And of course not only was He a party as God, but because of the incarnation, His taking on flesh and being born of a virgin in the manger He also became Adam’s (and by virtue of His Federal headship ours as well) representative in the body. As Romans 5:18-19 clarifies:
Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
The deliverance which comes alone through the Redeemer is because God from before the foundation of the world elected some to eternal life, and others to eternal death. A lot of people have real problems with the doctrine of double predestination and election. That’s nothing new. Folks didn’t care for it in Paul’s day either which is why in Romans 9:14-18 he says:
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
While some may say this is capricious and unfair, the Bible says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.” This is not a cop out to just say, “God is God and you are not so hush it”. When people have a hard time grasping something found in Holy Scripture our answer should never be, “just believe it”. That’s not an acceptable answer. However, as creatures we need to trust that the ways of the Lord are higher and wiser than ours. His blessed gift of electing grace instead of being a stoic determinism which leaves us cold and dry is a teaching which should lead us to praise and worship in the greatest of joys. When David says, “What is man that You are mindful of him?” in Psalm 8 it is a reminder of how thankful we should be that God did not leave us in our sins, but gave up His only begotten Son for our transgressions. Jehovah would have been perfectly right to leave us to the judgment we deserved, yet He has had mercy on us, as sinners. For Christ has died for the ungodly, to rescue us out of the death and Hell we earned in Adam, that we might live forever in the Covenant of Grace made between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit in His love for us.
Rejoice in this.
Here is today’s reading:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church