This week we begin with Question 14 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law.
Question 14: Did God create us unable to keep his law?
Answer: No, but because of the disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, all of creation is fallen; we are born in sin and guilt, corrupt in our nature and unable to keep God’s law.
God is completely righteous in all his ways, so when he designed human beings, he made us innocent of all sin and fully capable of loving, serving, and obeying him. In the Garden of Eden, our first parents Adam and Eve had no sin, either as an act that they had committed or as a power that held sway over them. And yet, through the temptation of the devil, they committed an act of rebellion against God when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil without God’s authorization (Genesis 3). As a result, they were cast out of the garden-temple, exiled from God’s presence.
Cut off from the fellowship with God that they were designed for, Adam and Eve, along with all their descendants came under the power of the world, the flesh, and the devil. In Scripture, “the world” often refers to human society in rebellion against God. We are all born into systems of evil in this world that lead us away from God. But if the world refers to systems outside of us that influence toward evil, “the flesh” refers to our own inner corruption that desires sin as we are cut off from God. Since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, it has been our instinct to look out for ourselves rather than to love God wholeheartedly and our neighbors as ourselves. But not only are we under the power of the world and the flesh, but we are also under the spiritual influence of the devil and his demonic powers who rule over this present evil age.
The fall has left us unable to obey God’s law. It did not destroy human nature, but it redirected our nature away from the end for which we were designed (to love God) and turned us toward sin instead. Sin now reigns as a power over us, leaving us guilty before God and completely incapable of rescuing ourselves. We need a Savior.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Ephesians 2:1-10. Can you see the world, the flesh, and the devil in verses 1-3? What do you think it means to be “dead in trespasses and sins” (v. 1)? What has God done to rescue us from this condition (vv. 4-7)? What God’s intended result for us (vv. 8-10)?