New City Catechism 7.3

Question 7: What does the law of God require?

Answer: Personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience; that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love our neighbor as ourselves. What God forbids should never be done and what God commands should always be done.

God’s law requires perfect obedience. Think back to the Garden of Eden, where God warned Adam and Eve that a single violation would result in a death sentence (Gen. 2:17). James makes the same point when he writes, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10). The logic behind James’s statement here is that the law is not an abstract standard of behavior but rather a structure for how we relate to God, and thus any violation of the law is an affront to God himself.

God requires perfection because he is always true to himself. Were he to lower his standard for our sake, he would deny his own holiness, which would in turn unravel the moral fabric of all things and eliminate all distinction between good and evil. We have a tendency to think of people whose standards are too high as being rigid. Their perfectionism is a kind of defect, an unwillingness to recognize the limitations of humanity. Not so for God. In his case, the demand for perfection represents his unfailing commitment to all that is good, holy, and true, namely, himself.

God’s holy law demands perfection, but we are utterly incapable of rendering perfect obedience to him. In Adam, we have no hope of measuring up to God’s standard. And that is why we need the righteousness of Christ, counted to us by faith. Only perfect righteousness will do, and only Christ has perfect righteousness. Therefore, he is our only hope.

Suggested passage for family or personal reading: James 2:1-13. What does James teach us about the law of God in this passage? What does this tell us about God and about ourselves?

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