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Make That Make Sense

11 October 2012 by Tom Chantry

Q. 71. How is justification an act of God's free grace?
A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God's justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace.

The gospel is a stumbling block, even to six-year-olds. My oldest son now asks with annoying regularity whenever the death of Christ comes up, “But I don’t understand one thing; how can one person be punished for another person’s sins? It doesn’t make sense. If I disobey, I’m punished. If my brother disobeys, he’s punished. How is this possible?”

My only real answer is, “Because God decided it was acceptable. God is the one in charge, His justice was offended by our sin, and if He decides to let Jesus take our punishment, then it just plain works.”

And that is what this catechism question turns on. Substitution didn’t have to be a legitimate element of God’s justice. Most of us would not have made it such. But it was grace on God’s part that established the very principle, for without it we would be lost.

The Son demonstrates obvious grace by actually dying on our behalf. The Father also demonstrates obvious grace by giving us His only beloved Son as the sacrifice. But beyond that, the Father demonstrates a more subtle grace by accepting the satisfaction from another which He could just as well have demanded from us.

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”

(And I offer anything, up to half my kingdom, to anyone who can make that make sense to a six-year-old.)