This week we begin with Question 15 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law.
Question 15: Since no one can keep the law, what is its purpose?
Answer: That we may know the holy nature and will of God, and the sinful nature and disobedience of our hearts; and thus our need of a Savior. The law also teaches and exhorts us to live a life worthy of our Savior.
If you have ever seen something that was the color off-white, you might have assumed you were looking at a white object if you had nothing else to compare it to. However, the moment you hold up true white next to off-white, you can tell immediately how much difference there is between them. In a similar way, if we only look at ourselves, we may get the impression that we are pretty good people. Most people probably think of themselves that way. “Sure,” they might say, “I know I’m not perfect. But I’m doing pretty well. I haven’t done anything really bad, and I try to be helpful to others when I can. That’s got to count for something.”
Against this mindset stands the pure standard of God’s law, which exposes our sin for what it is when compared to God’s holy character. When we are exposed by the law of God, we are left without excuse. The condemnation of eternal separation from God, which is our destiny apart from Christ, is exactly what we deserve for our failure to love God above all things at all times and to love our neighbors as ourselves. God’s holy name is at stake in the way he responds to our sin. God’s holy law is the prosecutor who calls us out for our sin, and we have no escape from its condemnation apart from the gospel.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Romans 3:9-20. What does this passage teach about the how much we have been affected by sin? What do verses 19-20 tell us about the law?