Why Must He Be a True and Righteous Man? (Heidelberg Catechism 16 pt 2)

Question 16 Part 2: Satisfaction for Sin

Few things rankle the modern mind more than the idea that God’s justice must be “satisfied.” The old liberals (and some new feminists! See Lucy Reid, She Changes Everything, 16) derided this notion as “slaughterhouse theology.” The truly modern, autonomous person not not submit his sovereign self (or her sovereign, divine self) to El Shaddai, to Yahweh Sabbaoth of the Hebrew Scriptures nor to the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and certainly not to any God who demands satisfaction by a bloody death of a representative substitute.

The autonomous modern notwithstanding, Scripture unashamedly portrays the God of the Bible not only as just but as angry with sin and sinners “every day” (Ps 7:11; AV). God saves the “upright” or the just (Ps 11:7). That is the consistent testimony of Scripture. The Psalmists claim time and again to have been righteous, to have fulfilled the will of the Lord and on that basis more or less insist that God recognize this fact and deliver them from enemies (see Ps 18:21, 23; 73:13; 119:56). This pattern of revelation is grounded in the original condition of humanity. We were created and constituted righteous and holy and able to obey. We were given a law that we could obey. We freely chose to disobey, due to no fault of God or in his creation. Thus the fall is a great mystery.

In the fall our state or condition changed profoundly, but God’s righteous demand for complete obedience did not. Further, God’s law having been violated, not only did the demand for conformity continue but now there arose a requirment for satsifaction, damages if you will. The modern mind is outraged at a God who demand damages but I’ll bet that if I willfully (or even accidentally) rammed my car in the modernists car, that so-easily offended modernist would not hesitate to demand satisfaction from me! She would demand my auto insurance information and that my insurer would make right her car or provide her with a new one. Further, if, by hitting Madame Modernist, I violated the law, the authorities would punish me for failing to obey the law and after gaining satsifaction from me, the law would continue to require that I obey it.

Why is doctrine of double imputation or the imputation of the active and passive (suffering) obedience of Christ so difficult? We see it every day! I get ahead of myself.

Exodus 29 lays out in exquisite detail the requirments of Yahweh for the “sin offering.” The bull is ritually slaughtered outside the camp (v. 14). An entire ram is to be burnt on the altar of Yahweh. As if to rub the faces of the Enlightened in his most unenlightened religious (cultic) ritual, Scripture says in v.18, “It is a burnt offering to Yahweh. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to Yahweh.” The God of the Hebrews, the God of the Bible, is said to be “pleased” or even worse (to the modern) “soothed,” i.e. propitiated by a bloody, firey offering.

This is the stuff that drives the clever Socinians and Unitarians mad. This is also the very religious system to which Jesus, whom they would reduce to a mere wise man, rabbi, or teacher subscribed body and soul. The modernists object to the blood in the temple. Jesus objected to the money changers. Jesus never objected to the bloody temple sacrifices because every day more blood was spilled in the temple, every time a Jew brought an offering, he was testifying to the nature of divine justice and to the need for a perfect sacrifice to bring the entire sacrificial system to a close. Everytime a priest’s razor-sharp knife slit the throught of an innocent lamb, Jesus’ mission to, as the Baptizer said, “the lamb of God” was illustrated and vindicated.

God has a nature. His nature is righteous or just. When offended, the divine justice must be satisfied by a perfect, spotless offering. The consistent and crystal-clear teaching of the the OT prophets and the entire book of Hebrews (e.g. 10) is that the entire sacrificial system was incapable of providing that satisfaction. God was not pleased with the typological sacrifices and offerings. He demanded love, not sacrifice (Hos 6:6). Jesus was that love, not the squishy sort of love favored by the modernists but real, bloody, divine-human love for sinners, willing to take their place. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The modernists are gnostics. They won’t have that love, propitiating (wrath-turning) love. They want an ethereal love that is no love at all, because they worship a god that is not God at all, who has no justice. They are rebels who yell for justice, but when true justice is presented to them, they turn their heads like children who turn away from healthy food in favor of candy.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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One comment

  1. Good good stuff, Dr. Clark. The thought that God is satisfied should free our hearts to praise and worship Him through our Mediator, Our Christmas blessing, Jesus Christ. To Him be all glory and praise on this Lord’s Day.

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