Shorter Catechism Q. 20

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.

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See Romans 5:12–21

“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love” (Eph 1:4)

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23)

“And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’” This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.” (Heb 7:20–22)

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Man wants to play God. So it was in Eden, and so it is now. In Eden, Adam and Eve wanted to become like God. To put it simply, they did not know their place. But if we think about it more, their desire to become like God was also their rejection of the true God. For why would they need someone else like God (in this case themselves!) if the God who was already there was sufficiently exalted in their hearts? Their wanting to become like God was their rejection that their Creator alone should enjoy his unique place of honor and devotion in their hearts without competition. In other words, the root of man‘s sin was idolatry.

Man wants to play God. Except when he does, all he ever manages to do is divorce himself from the source of life and joy. Man has divine pretensions, but none of the substance of deity. So all mankind has ever managed to do in their rebellion against the true God was bring themselves under God‘s righteous judgment and into an estate of sin and misery. Smart.

So now what? Apart from the Author of life we have no life in ourselves. We must perish. Exiled from the Giver of true joy, we are left only with misery. Misery of life-ruining and heart-breaking bondage to sin, misery of witnessing sin‘s chaos in the world, misery of death, and finally, the misery of eternal separation from God in judgment.

But there is grace!

Adam, and all of mankind in him, violated the covenant of works and fell into an estate of sin and misery. But God mercifully made a covenant of grace “with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.” That is, Christ was appointed by God as the new mediator of his elect, that through Christ his elect might be rescued from the estate of sin and misery and brought into an estate of salvation. This covenant of grace — grace because God is redeeming undeserving sinners apart from anything they have or will offer God — was executed in a two-fold manner. First, God chose his elect in Christ before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 1:3–14, especially v.4) And why? Certainly not because the elect had any claim to God‘s favor and salvation! We are God‘s elect not for anything in us. It‘s not about us. We are God‘s elect because of God‘s mere good pleasure. This is the sovereignty of God and his rightful prerogative. Or would you once again play God and say he is wrong? God chose his elect in Christ out of his free love and mercy. Free — not because it is cheap or worthless, but free because he had no obligation to give. Free also because we receive it without having to work for it (see Ephesians 2:8–9).

God also executed this covenant of grace in time, in our history. Man would play God, but God became man. So Christ Jesus became the Redeemer of his elect, and offered himself on the cross to make atonement for our sin, and was resurrected for our justification.

That is why we can never hear too much about grace. But realize that God is gracious toward us in Jesus Christ. That is why our worship service, and all of our ministry, aim to be Christ-centered and gospel-centered. Rejoice, then, when you hear of Christ and his works. For tragic will be the day when the preaching of Christ and his gospel no longer sound in our ears.