ANSWER: Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.
Can you name some events/passages in the Old Testament that foreshadow Christ's substitutionary atoning death?
In the commentary for this catechism question (see under "C" here) John Stott observes:
The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.
Do you think this is a good summary of our sin and God's salvation? Why or why not?
As you contemplate the atonement, you might appreciate these words from George Herbert on death and how Christ transformed it:
But since our Savior’s death did put some blood
Into thy face,
Thou art grown fair and full of grace,
Much in request, much sought for as a good.
For we do now behold thee gay and glad,
As at Doomsday;
When souls shall wear their new array,
And all thy bones with beauty shall be clad.
--From 'Death' by George Herbert
ANSWER: That because of his divine nature his obedience and suffering would be perfect and effective; and also that he would be able to bear the righteous anger of God against sin and yet overcome death.
In catechism questions 22 and 23 we are looking at the work of our truly human and truly divine Redeemer, Jesus Christ. What is the theological term we use when talking about Christ bearing the punishment for our sins and satisfying the wrath of God? (Hint: It begins with the letter "A."**) If we believe that Christ's death was a necessary sacrifice, what does that tell us about God's view of sin? How does the author of the letter to the Hebrews explain Christ's sacrifice in Hebrews 10:1-18?
Do you think it is difficult for human beings to accept that Jesus is truly God? Take a look at the story of the paralyzed man who is delivered to Jesus by his friends (see Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 5:17-26). How do the scribes and Pharisees react? Why do you think they were outraged by Jesus' claims?
In contrast to the scribes and Pharisees, how does the Apostle Paul describe Jesus' divinity in Colossians 1:15-23? If you list Christ's roles and attributes using this passage, how many items do you get?
**For a good explanation of this term, see "Sacrifice" in J. I. Packer's Concise Theology and also the series "The Atonement in the Old Testament" on Ed Stetzer's The Exchange blog.
ANSWER: That in human nature he might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment for human sin; and also that he might sympathize with our weaknesses.
This catechism question seems to beg us to look at the letter to the Hebrews...
Take a look at Hebrews 2:14-18. Why do you think the author emphasizes that Jesus didn't help the angels but rather the children of Abraham? What vocation that we usually think of as an "Old Testament role" does Jesus have, according to the author? What did the people in this role traditionally do?
Now, turn to Hebrews 5. When Jesus acts as our high priest, how is he similar to the high priests who came before him? How is he different?
As you think about the truly human Redeemer, may these words from Hebrews 10 serve as an encouragement to you:
So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.--Hebrews 10:19-25 in The Message
ANSWER: One who is truly human and also truly God.
This catechism question leads us into a discussion of who Jesus Christ is. In our Sunday worship, when do we--speaking together as the people of God--affirm the fully human, fully divine nature of Christ?
How does John describe Jesus in John 1:1-18 in terms of 1) who Jesus is; 2) Jesus' relationship to us?
Have you ever heard people describe Jesus in ways that deny that he is truly human AND truly God? If so, what are some of their ideas and arguments? What are some problems with getting Jesus' identity wrong?
Why do you think it is important to have a clear understanding of the Redeemer who brings us back to God?
So many heresies have arisen over the identity of Jesus Christ. Many have ancient origins but are still professed by people today. You might enjoy this interview with Justin Holcomb, author of Know the Heretics (Zondervan, 2014), in which he discusses good reasons for Christians to be familiar with heresies. See also Holcomb's blog series on some of the top heresies in history.
ANSWER: The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.
From our pastor's meditation on this week's catechism question: "[I]t is one thing to believe that Jesus is a redeemer (as in one among many), but it is something else entirely to assert (as Christianity does) that He is the only redeemer." This statement gets at an idea called the scandal of particularity, or the fact that God has worked out his plan of redemption in a very specific way--that is, through a particular chosen people (Israel) and one particular Savior who came through that people (Jesus Christ). Why is this idea so scandalous, so offensive? What alternatives might we and others prefer?
According to Paul in his letter to the Philippians, how did Jesus act when he became man and bore the penalty for sin? How are we called to respond? See Philippians 2:5-11. How does Paul's description of Jesus contrast with some of the pictures we get of Jesus in popular culture today?
As you think of the Redeemer this week, you might meditate on the words of Samuel Medley's familiar hymn based on Job 19:25, 'I Know That My Redeemer Lives.'
ANSWER: Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer.
What is the justice of God? What would be some detrimental consequences to us and to the world if God did not insist on satisfying his justice?
Look carefully at the answer to this question. Who is the subject performing the actions of reconciling and delivering? Why is it significant that there is only one subject?
As you ponder the justice and mercy of God this week, you might enjoy a Puritan prayer called "The Mediator."
ANSWER: No, every sin is against the sovereignty, holiness, and goodness of God, and against his righteous law, and God is righteously angry with our sins and will punish them in his just judgment both in this life, and in the life to come.
The declaration made in this catechism question--that God judges and punishes sin--is very hard for us to hear. Why must God punish sin? Why do you think it is difficult for us to accept that every sin must fall under God's judgment?* How did Satan try to convince Adam and Eve that disobeying God would not lead to punishment? (See Genesis 3:4-5.) Are there echoes of Satan's urgings in messages about judgment that we hear today?
When we accept that God's judgment of sin is for real, we can't help but agree with what the psalmist says in Psalm 130:3. What does that verse tell us about ourselves and our ability to escape judgment? He's not mentioned by name in this psalm, but who makes it possible for us (and for the psalmist's original audience) to claim the steadfast love and plentiful redemption of God mentioned in verse 7?** See Romans 5:1-11.
If you are reading these questions and want to understand more about trusting Jesus Christ to take the judgment and punishment for your sin, please don't hesitate to contact us.We want to talk with you.
*Catechism question 28 deals with the nature of God's judgment.
**Catechism questions 29 and 30 discuss how we can be saved from punishment by Jesus Christ.
ANSWER: Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.
When we studied the eighth catechism question we looked at two passages: Exodus 24:3-8 and 32:1-6. Those passages are worth revisiting now that we're looking at the problem of idolatry. Can you describe some of the ways that the Israelites' trust shifted from the Creator to the golden calf? We don't know every thought that went through their minds, but can you get some idea from these verses of why they switched from God to the idol? What was their reasoning?
According to Paul in Romans 1:18-32, what happens to us when we make a habit of serving idols? (This link will take you to both the ESV and Message translations--both are helpful for answering the question!)
Can an iPhone become an idol or, at least, a means to idolatry? What do you think of this analysis of screen-swiping as liturgical practice:
A way of relating to a phone [that is, swiping a screen to get what you want or get away from what you don't want] has now become a way of relating to the world. The practices for manipulating a small device are now expanded to show how we'd really like to manipulate our environment to serve our needs and be subject to our whims. And while we don't go around swiping our hands in front of us to change the scenery, we perhaps nonetheless unconsciously begin to expect the world to conform to our wishes as our iPhone does. Or I implicitly begin to expect that I am the center of my own environments, and that what surrounds me exists for me. In short, my relation to my iPhone--which seems insignificant--is writ large as an iPhone-ized relation to the world, an iPhone-ization of my world(view).--James K.A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works (Baker, 2013), p. 143.
ANSWER: Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
It is helpful to return occasionally to the opening chapters of Genesis to examine the "sin that started it all." Does the definition of sin in this catechism question fit with what happens in Genesis 2:15-17 and Genesis 3?
It's difficult to think of people who would deny that sin exists in the world--even if they prefer to use other terms when talking about it (evil, injustice, social problems, my issues, moral failings, etc.). At the same time, it's easy to imagine many people mocking the description of sin and its consequences found in question 16. What do you think makes this particular understanding of sin so hard to swallow?
If the result of sin is our death and the disintegration of all creation, what hope is there for us? Our current sermon series is drawn from Romans 1:1-7. Can you explain our hope using these verses?
ANSWER: That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior. The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.
In Galations 3:24, Paul explains to the recipients of his letter that the law was their guardian or tutor until Jesus Christ came. What does Paul mean when he describes the law in this way? (See also The Message translation of this verse, which is helpful for giving a fuller sense of what a guardian/tutor did in Paul's time.)
The commentary for this week's question, which comes from John Stott's The Message of Galatians, says:
The purpose of the law was…to lift the lid off man's respectability and disclose what he is really like underneath—sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God, and helpless to save himself. And the law must still be allowed to do its God-given duty today. One of the great faults of the contemporary church is the tendency to soft-pedal sin and judgment….
Do you agree with this assessment of the church today? Why or why not? If you agree, how do you think the church could best curb its tendency to soft-pedal sin and judgment?
As you have studied the catechism questions on God's law (questions seven through fifteen), what have you learned about sin, obedience, and grace?