There is an old saying that is often attributed to Baxter, which goes: “Save for the grace of God, so go I.” There is great truth in those words. God declares that we are righteous not by fulfilling some of the Law, but that we need to complete every last bit of the Law to please God (Deuteronomy 27:26). Jesus will later reinforce this idea when he reminds his hearers in the Sermon on the Mount that not even the smallest bit will fall away from the Law until the heavens and the earth pass away (Matthew 5:18). Every last bit. And, if you listen to the rest of Jesus’ sermon, it is not just that the letter of the law must be fulfilled, but the intention behind the law must be fulfilled as well.
It is like one of those impossible traps that we get caught in — if you do not thread the needle perfectly in every corner and in every context, you fail. One small slip is all it takes to fall. And the fall is not just a little stumble, it is a catastrophic loss of everything — it is a plummet into Hell. As Moses writes and as Paul later affirms, “Cursed” is everyone who does not fulfill everything written in the book of the Law. And so, save for the grace of God so go I…and you…and every human being.
And so, in Heidelberg Catechism, Question 10, the point is driven home — why am I under such misery of because of my sin? Indeed, we are miserable because we have failed to live up to the Law of God and are thus under the curse. And woe to the one who thinks they can pay the wages of curse on their own merit. Lest anyone be unclear or unsure, left on our own, every man, woman, and child who has ever lived or who will ever live, no matter how noble, gracious, or honorable, will face divine condemnation apart from a relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior and Substitute. Such is the heart of part 2 of the catechism where the grace of God in Christ is taught…but apart from the grace of God, so go I…and you too. Wretched creatures are we.