(Q. 10, pt. 2) Will God Punish Disobedience?

10. Will God suffer such disobedience and apostasy to go unpunished?By no means,1 but He is terribly displeased with our inborn as well as our actual sins, and will punish them in just judgment in time and eternity, as He has declared: “Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them.”21 Hebrews 9:27. 2 Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10; * Romans 1:18. * Matthew 25:41.

Adam did not act as a purely private person. This is another idea that is hard for us to understand today. We don’t always clearly distinguish between “private” and “public” acts or roles. Adam had a public, official role to perform as the representative of all humanity. He was created good (Col 3:10), in the image of his Creator. He was, as Augustine said, “able to sin, able not to sin.”

Whatever he did, he would do for all of us, and thus, what he did, we did. Thus, Adam was not alone in the Garden. There is another, literal, sense in which he was not alone. Beside his wife, there was another creature in the Garden: The Evil One. According to the Genesis narrative, as catechism summarizes it, he instigated sin. He tried or tempted Adam. It was the image bearer’s vocation to resist the tempter and to conquer him, to slay him out of devotion to the Lord. The curse for breaking the covenant of works/nature/life/law was death. The Evil One was manifestly a liar and the father of sin. He was intent on seducing Eve, and through her, Adam, into breaking the covenant. He proposed an alternative to the covenant of works/life/nature/law: a covenant of equality with God. Whereas the Lord had promised glorification on condition of obedience to God, the Evil Promised deification on condition of obedience to himself. Adam had a clear, unequivocal choice. He chose equality with God and with that choice, he also chose death.

The sin that he committed was the original sin. When he sinned, he became a sinner. Since, however, we are all Adam’s children, we don’t become sinners when we sin (that was the error of Pelagius). Rather, we sin because, in Adam, we are all sinners (Rom 5). We all have inborn sin. As a consequence of that inborn sin, we all commit actual sin. Scripture reflects on this relationship in Ps 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David confesses his sin but he also confesses his sinfulness. When he says that he was conceived in sin he isn’t reflecting on the act of procreation, but rather, on the results of the fall. Adam’s children are all sinful from the beginning of our existence. This is the teaching of Rom 5:12 Through Adam’s sin, “death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Outside of Christ, we face temporal punishment. Paul is explicit about the devastating effects and the overwhelming evidence of sin. Some would explain away sin by appealing to evolutionary biology, but that’s just a convenient dodge. It ‘s a way of making sin normal. It is a way of excuse ourselves, to relieve our selves of responsibility for our choices when, in fact, sin and death is the exact opposite of normal. It is abnormal. That’s why we experience the sting of death. The pain and grief associated with death is no mere evolutionary response. Indeed, evolution doesn’t explain the grief we experience when we lose a loved one. The Scriptural explanation does, however, account for human experience. We grieve because death was the consequence of sin. This is why Heb 9:27 relates our death and the coming judgment to the death of Christ.

The death that followed sin is curse. It was repeated in the history of redemption. Deut 27:26 says, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.'” The very curse of Gen 2:17 is repeated and re-affirmed in the context of the Israelite national covenant. Not that Israel’s justification before God or even her salvation from sin and death was conditioned upon works, but her status as a national people was a reflection of the original works principle. It served to remind them corporately of the righteousness of God’s law and the need for a law keeper.

This is just how the Apostle Paul understands this passage in Gal 3:10. He quotes this same passage and adds, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.'” (Gal 3:11).

Whether in the first covenant or during the Mosaic covenant or now, the wages of sin is death. The law is the standard of righteousness. The law is extrinsic and objective and unyielding. The law does not care about our feelings. It is what it is. The penalty is equally relentless.

The gospel is equally objective and extrinsic. That’s why Paul says that “the righteous shall live by faith.” Faith is, as we confess in the Belgic Confession, the “sole instrument” by which we come in possession of the righteousness which has satisfied the law of God.

We don’t like to face the ugly facts of sin and death, but they are just that: facts. Anyone with eyes can see the effects of sin all about us. Those effects testify of the reality of sin and that reality drives to look for a Savior who has faced our sin and addressed its consequences.

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