Question 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism states that God is not only displeased with my actual sin (that is a no-brainer) but that he is also displeased with my inherited sin. Wait one cotton-picking minute! Look, I get that I am guilty of the things I have done, but does that mean that I am also guilty of the sins of my father? Yes, it does…and more so than that! You and I are guilty of the sins of our father’s father and of our father’s father’s father before him…all of the way back to the first sin of Adam. Oh boy, we are in deep!
Here’s the thing, folks, God says that he will visit the iniquity (another word for sin) on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him (Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9)…and, well, we have already talked about our natural inclination to hate God and fellow man…even as Christians! What a mess we are in.
The implication is that even if it were possible for one person to live perfectly according to God’s law and never to sin in thought, word, deed, or intention, that person could still not earn his way into heaven because of the inherited debt from his forefathers. Jesus told a parable about forgiveness that Matthew records at the end of chapter 18. In the case of this parable, the man owed 10,000 Talents to the King. When people today come to terms with the quantity of money that 10,000 Talents represented, the natural response is “How did he accumulate such a large debt?” And that would have been one of the first questions the people of Jesus’ day would have been asking themselves, too. The only logical answer is that he inherited it from the mismanagement of his father and of his father and of his father…you get the point.
But, wait a minute, Jesus had no sin and lived a perfect life. What about him? Who is Jesus’ Father? God the Father himself is! That means that Jesus entered into this world with no inherited guilt of sin from his Father before him.
But how is that fair? I have very little control over the sins of my father or of my grandfather and I never met my great-grandfather. How can I be held accountable for their sins? Okay, I am waiting for it, “That’s not fair!” Perhaps it is not “fair” by human standards, but grace is not fair, either — though it is just. And justice is far more important than fairness — the first is objective and the second is purely subjective.
The fairness, then, is not relative to the conversation, but the justness is. Adam was our covenant head — our first representative and our mediator with God. When Adam fell, all of us fell. That’s the bad news, because Adam’s sin was really, really bad and ours has followed suit. The good news is that Jesus Christ entered into humanity and sacrificed himself to satisfy the demands of the law (justice!) for all of God’s elect…every single one.That means, in Christ, the sinless one becomes our Mediator and Covenantal Head and that means that inherited debt (remember the 10,000 Talents!) is forgiven along with our actual sins…in and because of Christ. That is good news indeed and while not fair, it is just and again, that is far more important.