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.
The catechism rightly says “no mere human has been able to keep the law of God perfectly.” By inserting the word “mere,” it indicates that One who is fully human, but not merely human, namely, Jesus Christ the God-man, has indeed fulfilled the law of God perfectly. The sinlessness of Jesus Christ is one of the cornerstones of our faith.
If Christ had ever sinned, he would not be qualified to be a sacrifice for our sins. He would have had to pay for his own sins, preventing him from serving as a substitute for us. Furthermore, if Christ had ever sinned, he would not be able to grant to us his perfect righteousness as a gift of grace by which we stand justified before God.
So yes, while it is true that “no mere human being” can obey God’s law outside of Eden, there is one who is fully God and fully man who has obeyed God’s law perfectly. And he did it for our sake.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Luke 4:1-13. Do you notice anything about this story that reminds you of Adam? Do you notice anything that reminds you of Israel? In this story, how does Jesus surpass both Adam and Israel?