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New City Catechism 13.2

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.

It is beyond our ability to understand how deep sin runs in us. We tend to think of sins as individual acts of wrongdoing that punctuate otherwise upright lives, but the Bible presents a different picture. Sin is not only specific deeds of lawbreaking, but it is also the environment in which we live our daily lives. Indeed, it is the power that holds us in bondage apart from Christ (Romans 7).

If sin represents any failure to measure up perfectly to God’s standard, then we must ask ourselves what his standard is. He has told us that the greatest of all commandments is that we love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:4-5; Mark 12:28-34). In other words, perfect obedience to God’s standard is defined as perfect love for him, which issues forth in constant, selfless love for our neighbors. Who among us can claim to have fulfilled this command, even for one continuous hour of our lives?

Yes, we sin when we do wicked things. But we also sin at every moment we fail to love God and neighbor with the perfect love that God commands. We desperately need Christ to save us from the guilt and power of sin that, apart from him, holds us under its domination.

Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Mark 12:28-34. What is the greatest commandment? What is the second greatest commandment? Why are these two commandments tied together? Have you obeyed these commandments perfectly? What do you need to do in light of your failure to live up to God’s standard?

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