This week we come to Question 13 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law.
Question 13: Can anyone keep the law of God perfectly?
Answer: Since the fall, no mere human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly, but consistently breaks it in thought, word, and deed.
Humanity was created innocent by God and placed in a garden-sanctuary to serve him and enjoy his presence. However, due to the temptation of Satan, our first parents rebelled against God, and as a result they were exiled from the holy place. Ever since, humanity has lived in exile from the presence of God, and thus all people descended from Adam by natural generation are born in a state of enmity with God and are, consequently, under his wrath.
It seems harsh to us to think that from the moment of our birth, we are “by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3), guilty before God and thus destined for his coming judgment without his saving intervention. After all, did you or I decide one day that we wanted to become sinners?
An ancient heresy known as “Pelagianism” argued that we are born into the world in the same state as Adam prior to the fall: innocent of sin and capable of obeying God in everything. By contrast, the Augustinian view of sin, which aligns with the biblical teaching, affirms that we are sinful, and thus guilty, from the moment of birth. It is a condition into which we are born, not a particular decision we ever make. The reason for this condition is that we relate to God through our covenant head, Adam, who became a covenant breaker. In Adam, we cannot be righteous before God. But thankfully, there is another covenant head to whom we can be joined by faith: Jesus Christ, the last Adam.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Genesis 3. What does this story teach us about what has gone wrong with us and our world? Do you see any signs of hope in this story?