Book 2: The Knowledge of God the Redeemer
Chapter 1: The Sinful State of Man and Original Sin
When certain philosophers urge man to know himself, their motive is that he should not be ignorant of his brilliance and position. They want him to see in himself only the things which will fill him with false confidence and inflate his pride. But true self-knowledge consists of two things. First, we should think about the purpose for which we were made and the splendid qualities God has given us to spur us on to worship and to know what our duty is. We have no good quality in ourselves that was not given to us by God. Secondly, when we look at our wretched state since the Fall, all confidence and boasting melts away. We blush for shame, are dissatisfied with ourselves and are truly humble (for we realize we are unable to approach God in worship nor fulfill our purpose nor perform our duties).
But having realized this, we are set on fire with fresh desire to seek God because we yearn for our lost dignity. Searching in perverse ways for this dignity, the human mind loves nothing better than flattery. Blinded by self-love, we willingly convince ourselves that we do not possess even one undesirable quality. Nothing is more gratifying to us than a speech which flatters man’s innate pride. So in every age the one who is quickest to lift high the excellence of human nature is received with the loudest applause. But teaching man to rely on himself is nothing more than sweet seduction that leads to ruin. If we listen to teachers who get us to dwell on our good qualities, then far from making progress in self-knowledge, we will sink into the most disastrous ignorance. To grow in self understanding, a person must assess himself by the standard of divine justice. Then he will find no grounds for confidence; the more thorough his self-examination, the greater will be his despair. He will abandon all self-dependence and feel completely incapable of right living.
Original sin may be defined as the hereditary corruption and depravity of human nature. The contamination of parents is transmitted to their children so that everyone, without exception, is depraved from their earliest moments. Adam was not just an ancestor but a root so that the whole human race grows out of his corruption and is tainted by it. By sinning, he not only brought disaster and ruin upon himself, but also plunged human nature into the same destruction. So Adam, when he corrupted himself, passed on his contagion to all his posterity and infected the whole of mankind. Original sin reaches every part of the soul, making us objects of God’s wrath and produces in us sins. The corruption itself is sin and the things that spring from it are sins such as adultery, murder and theft. Sins are the fruit of sin. We are crooked and corrupt in every part of our nature and are justly condemned by God who can accept nothing put righteousness, innocence and purity. Even babies bring their condemnation with them from the womb. Although they do not have the fruits of sin, they have the seed within them. Their whole nature is a seedbed of sin and is repugnant to God. Everything in man, from the body to the soul, from the intellect to the will, is defiled with this lust; the whole man in himself is nothing but sinful lust.
Chapter 2: The Effects of Sin on the Mind and the Will
When man withdrew his loyalty from God, he became an exile from the kingdom of God and everything which belonged to the spiritual life was extinguished. Although there is left in us a residue of intelligence and of will, a mind which is weak and darkened cannot be called sound and whole. Our reason was not completely destroyed by the Fall, but the light of the mind is enveloped by dark clouds. In the same way our will did not perish, but became bound by depraved lusts. A longing to investigate the truth has been implanted in the human mind, but the human mind is unable to follow the right line of inquiry and stumbles like a man groping in the dark. As for spiritual discernment, men are blinder than moles. I do not dispute that some philosophers can come across some wise observations about God, but it is like a confused traveler seeing his surroundings momentarily by a flash of lightening. Then they disappear before he can take a step. This discernment is not enough to lead to the truth.
Chapter 3: The “Righteous” Unbeliever and the Enslavement of the Will
But what about those people who seem to desire to live good lives, which perform noble acts, who behave with integrity? We must realize that despite our fallen natures, there is room for divine grace to restrain the heart without cleansing it or it would be impossible to maintain law and order (in general human society). If the Lord allowed our fallen passion to have its way, no wild beast would rush with such fury. Those who are restrained are held back by shame or fear of the law or because they think an honest life will be in their self-interest or because they desire to rise above common folk of inferior rank. And thus God is able to restrain perverse human nature without making it inwardly pure. So in everyday speech we say that one man is good and one is bad, but we must maintain that both are depraved. The virtues we observe in men may be acclaimed by society, but before the judgment seat of God they will be useless in establishing a claim of righteousness.
When the will is enslaved to sin, it cannot begin to do good. Every step towards salvation, including the first one, is entirely due to God’s grace. Simply to will is common to all men; to will evil is the work of a corrupt nature; to will good is the work of God’s grace. The enslaved will is inevitably drawn to evil, but it sins voluntarily because no external force coerces it to do so. It follows its own passions. God must begin and complete the conversion of the will. This is totally God’s work. Anything good in the will is entirely the work of grace. All good qualities that believers possess are due to God. God is the author of spiritual life from beginning to end. If we had the slightest ability to do good in ourselves then we would merit our salvation, but man has not one atom of goodness to boast in. The whole work is God’s alone.
Chapter 6: Salvation Is Found in Christ Alone
Since the Fall, all of our knowledge of God a creator would be useless unless it led us to faith in God as Father in Christ. We cannot infer that God is our Father simply by looking at the world for conscience tells us we deserve to be rejected as sons because of our sin. We must accept the preaching of the cross if we want to return to God our Maker from whom we are estranged so that he is our Father again. This makes quite inexcusable those who throw open the gates of heaven to unbelievers without the grace of God in Christ. In every age and nation all are estranged from God and are children of wrath until they have been grafted into God’s Son. Only those who believe in his name can become sons of God.
Chapter 7: The Law Drives Us to Christ
The reward of eternal salvation awaits any who perfectly obey the Law. But the requirements of the Law are beyond us so that we see this promise from a distance but it is practically of no use to us. Nothing but instant death is offered by the Law to sinners. Thus if we look only to the Law we are filled with depression,, hopelessness and confusion until we realize its promise of life can only be given to us by God’s free grace, offered to us in the gospel, apart from our works. There is no mortal soul who has loved God with all his heart, his mind and his strength and who has not been touched by sinful lust. Yes, some claim there are saints in this life who have achieved the purity of angels, but this is contrary to Scripture and experience. No saints will ever be perfect as long as he lives n his world.
The Law is a kind of mirror. As a man looks into a mirror and see the dirty marks on his face, so the sinner looks into the Law and sees his sin and his helplessness to save himself. All the Law can do is accuse, condemn and destroy. When we see how poverty stricken we are, we finally take refuge in God mercy and find complete protection in it. We renounce all goodness and merit of our own and cling to God’s mercy along. In the Law God is seen as the avenger against sin, but in Christ his face shines out full of goodness and gentleness for poor unworthy sinners.
Chapters 12-13: Why the Incarnation Was Necessary
Christ’s work as Mediator was unique. It was to restore us to divine favor and to make us sons of God and heirs of a heavenly kingdom instead of heirs of hell. The Son of God could only do this by becoming the son of man. He received what is ours that he might transfer to us what is his. What is his by nature, can become ours by grace. We trust that we are the sons of God because the Son of God took upon himself a body like our body, flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. He became one with us so that he in turn could give to us what was distinctive to him. He himself calls us his brothers. In this way we can be sure of our inheritance in the heavenly kingdom because the only Son of God to whom it all belongs has adopted us as his brothers. If we are his brothers, we are partners with him in his inheritance. Thus it was essential that the one to be our redeemer be both truly God and truly man. God, in his infinite mercy, having resolved to redeem us, became our redeemer himself. The Lord adopted our human nature so that he might in our place obey the Father and so that he might pay with our flesh the penalty we had incurred to divine judgment which is death.
Chapter 14: The Relationship Between Christ’s Deity and Humanity
When we say that the Word was made flesh, we must not infer that his divinity was changed into our flesh or blended with our flesh. The Son of God became the son of man, not by mixing the two substances but by uniting them in one person. We believe the divine nature was united with the human in such a way that the characteristics of each remained unchanged and complete, and yet the two together make up only one Christ, that is one person.
Chapter 16: The Work of Christ
Christianity Makes No Sense Unless We Comprehend Our Sin.
Until sinners are released from guilt, they are under God’s wrath. Because he is a just judge, he cannot allow his law to be broken with impunity. God was our enemy until he was reconciled to us in Christ. If it was not stated clearly that divine wrath and vengeance and eternal death hang over us, we would be less aware of our condemnation without the mercy of God and less likely to value the blessings of salvation.
To remove the enmity between God and us, Christ had to pay the price to redeem us in his death. To obtain our ransom it was essential that he choose a type of death that could deliver us. If he had been murdered by assassins or killed in war, there would have been no satisfaction made for our sin. But when he stands as a criminal in court and witnesses are brought to bring evidence against him and the judge condemns him to death, we see him taking on role of one who has broken the law. On the cross he takes on the role of a sinner, not an innocent person, and dies on account of sin. So we see Christ taking on the character of a criminal even while his personal innocence shines brightly and thus it is evident he is suffering for someone else’s crimes, not his own. Our acquittal lies in this: that the guilt which made us liable to punishment, was transferred to the head of the Son of God. It is really important to see he has taken our place so that we do not live in anxiety that God’s wrath is still hanging over us. Christ, while hanging on the cross, subjected himself to the curse of the law. The whole curse, which we deserved because of our sin, was taken from us and transferred to him. The Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took on himself the disgrace and shame of our iniquity and in turn clothed us in his purity. By faith we lay hold of our acquittal in Christ’s condemnation and our blessing in his curse. Christ has transformed the cross from a symbol of disgrace into a victorious chariot. He allowed himself to be overcome by death, so that he might destroy it and so that it would not destroy us. He put himself in its power to free us from it.
Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension
Our salvation is divided between the death and resurrection of Christ. Sin and death were wiped out by the former and life and righteousness are restored by the later. Like a pledge, his resurrection assures us of our own. The Lord by his ascension, has opened up the way to heaven for us which Adam had shut. He has entered heaven in our flesh and thus seated us in heavenly places with him. He sits next to the Father so that he may constantly appear as our advocate and intercessor. He directs the Father’s attention to his righteousness and away from our sin, opening up access for us to the throne of grace.
Christ, the Final Judge
What a comfort it is to know that the final judgment rests with one who planned for us to share in his glory. He did not ascend to the judgment seat to condemn us, Christ the intercessor will not condemn those under his protection. The one who promises eternal bliss to us in the gospel will one day confirm that promise to us as the judge. The Father committed all judgment to the Son so that when his people are terrified at the thought of the judgment, they might remember the judge is their Savior.