Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29bNKJV
Question 152 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What doth every sin deserve at the hands of God?” It gives the answer, “Every sin, even the least, being against the sovereignty, goodness, and holiness of God, and against his righteous law, deserveth his wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come; and cannot be expiated but by the blood of Christ.” Last week we looked at the evil of sin and we saw how it is against all that God is and loves, and so against all that is good, right, and true. Today we consider the punishment that all sin deserves and the only way a sinner can escape that punishment.
As we saw last time, because it is the contradiction of all that God is and loves, sin gives the greatest possible offense that could be conveyed to Him. Consider. An offense is given to a person when he is treated in a way that is less than what he deserves, according to his position and performance. Such treatment belittles him by robbing him of the dignity and honor which is due to him for who he is and what he has done. Moreover, the person who caused the offensive treatment is at fault and therefore blameworthy to the degree that he was responsible for it. He cannot plead innocence if the offense came about by his intention, carelessness, or even neglect. He is now guilty and liable for the offense; therefore he is responsible for its complete removal.
Furthermore, in order to fully restore the honor taken from a person by an offense, the offender must not only remove the offense, he must provide satisfaction over and above what he originally owed. So, for example, if I steal your television for a year and then, when the police catch me, I give it back to you, the law says that is not enough. I will have to pay a fine or go to jail in order to satisfy the law, which I broke, and “pay my debt to society.” Then, in the civil trial that typically follows the criminal one in such cases, you will be able to sue me for the unjust pain and suffering my theft caused you.
But how do we restore to God the honor which our offenses would take from Him? In order to maintain His own perfect honor and justice, God must fully exact from the sinner the recompense that is His due from every offense. God is infinite, the offense given to Him by every single sin, no matter how “small,” is necessarily infinite. Sin is evil. God is good. Therefore, God perfectly hates sin and evil. His wrath burns against it. His curse falls upon it. Yet sin and evil do not exist in the abstract, but as intentional actions of willful creatures who know better, and who owe to God everything they are, have, or ever will have. Therefore, God’s wrath and curse must fall upon sinners or else God would cease to be good. How long will God’s wrath and curse be on them? Only as long as it takes for a finite creature to render satisfaction for an infinite debt. Thus, even if the Scriptures did not teach the eternity of hell, we would have to conclude it by necessary consequence from the doctrine of God’s perfect justice.
How is it then that the sinner can be forgiven of this infinite offense by the blood of Jesus Christ, whose blood was necessarily the blood of a finite man (for God does not have blood)? Christ’s blood expiates the sinner of all guilt because His death provides to God an infinite satisfaction for sin. The soul that sins shall die (Ezek. 18:20). That is the teaching of Scripture. The penalty of sin is death, which is not so much dissolution or even separation of soul from body, but refers to bearing the wrath and curse of God, which is the fullness of death. The blood of Jesus; which is to say the death of Jesus; satisfies God’s infinite honor, because when the man Jesus died His human nature was in full and perfect union with His divine nature. Only the human nature of Christ died or could die, but that nature was always perfectly united to His infinite, eternal, divine nature, what theologians call the “hypostatic union.” And therefore, whatever His human nature accomplished or suffered is, through the hypostatic union, attributed to His divine nature and thereby given infinite weight in the accounting of God. Thus, God could pour out upon the man Jesus all of His infinite wrath for sin and Jesus could take all of it because the man who was suffering was not merely a man, but He was also God. And so as the Catechism teaches, our guilt can only be expiated by the blood of Jesus, because only in Jesus can there be full expiation from the infinite guilt of sinning against God! May God grant us greater faith and love in our Lord Jesus Christ, who saves us from the infinite wrath of God due to us on account of our sins.