This week we begin with Question 24 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 2 (questions 21-35), which focuses on Christ, redemption, and grace.
Question 24: Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?
Answer: Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.
In Genesis 2:17, God warned Adam regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God instituted the death penalty from the beginning as his holy response to sin.
In the Bible, death has many dimensions. There is, of course, physical death, or the separation of the soul from the body, leaving the body without life (James 2:26). But that separation is itself a result of spiritual death, which is our natural state of separation from a life-giving relationship with God in Adam (Eph. 2:1). Ultimately, eternal death or the “second death” is the experience of final, permanent separation from God and the endurance of an everlasting absence of any trace of his grace or favor. Scripture pictures this horrifying prospect as a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15).
Death is a harsh penalty for sin, but it is just. God cannot deny himself, and because sin is, by definition, a defiance of his supremacy, for God to overlook it or to fail to oppose it with holy wrath would be to endorse it. If God did not punish sin with death, that would constitute a denial of himself. Let this reality inform our understanding of Christ’s death for us.
Suggested passage for personal or family reading: Galatians 3:10-14. What is Paul’s point about the curse? How should we respond to this passage?