Westminster Larger Catechism (Q 26-28)

Dear Church Family,

Continuing in our Sunday school lessons in the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), this past Sunday we covered questions 26-28. Here is a brief review.

WLC 26  How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin.

WLC 22 established that “all mankind descending from him [Adam] by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell in that first transgression.” Here in WLC 26, we learn how original sin is conveyed from Adam to the rest of humanity. The phrase that the catechism uses to describe the conveyance of original sin is “by natural generation.” This means that all human beings, except Jesus Christ who was born by supernatural generation (Luke 1:35), “are conceived and born in sin” (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:19).

We must be careful, however, to understand that when we speak of how we inherit a sinful nature from Adam, we recognize that this is a spiritual and moral issue and not one of biology or genetics (as was the case in some early theologians and in the Middle Ages). Today, in our age of scientism, there are those who seek to explain or reduce these discussions to the physical world and that which can be measured and examined through the scientific method. Yet, as we just learned in the previous question, our sinful estate includes the corruption of our whole nature, whereby we are “utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil” (WLC 25).

WLC 27  What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?
The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.

The misery into which the fall brought mankind may be summarized under two types: (1) Loss of communion with God and (2) God’s displeasure and curse. God’s immediate displeasure and curse is described in the judgments which He brings upon Eve and Adam immediately following their first transgression (Genesis 3:16-19). And the loss of communion with God is clearly seen in the fact that God drove man out of the garden of Eden and then barred his access back into the garden with cherubim and a flaming sword (Genesis 3:24).

Due to our loss of communion with God and His displeasure and curse, all human beings are now by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3), bondslaves of Satan (Colossians 1:13-14; 2 Timothy 2:26), and “justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.” This last phrase is a lead-in to the next two questions of the catechism in which we learn of the punishments of sin in this world (WLC 28) and the punishments of sin in the world to come (WLC 29).

WLC 28  What are the punishments of sin in this world?
A. T
he punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

The catechism lists three kinds of punishments in this world: inward, outward, and death itself. Let’s consider these three things in turn.

First, inward punishments of sin include blindness of mind (Ephesians 4:17-19), a reprobate sense (Romans 1:28), strong delusions (2 Thessalonians 2:11), hardness of heart (Romans 2:5), horror of conscience (Isaiah 33:14), and vile affections (Romans 1:26). This is why it is necessary for God to regenerate us before we can understand and believe the gospel. As Jesus taught Nicodemus, unless a person is born again or cleansed by the Spirit he cannot see or enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). The Holy Spirit must remove the veil of delusion and blindness that lies over our hearts before we may turn to the Lord and be freed (2 Corinthians 3:15-18).

Second, outward punishments of sin include the natural world (the curse of God upon the creatures), and all of our societal relationships (all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments). In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul explains how creation is related to both the fall and the redemption of man. After the fall God subjected creation to futility (Romans 8:20) so that presently the whole creation is groaning and longing for the revealing of sons of God at the end of the age (Romans 8:19, 22). For at the second coming of Christ, the glory of the children of God will be revealed and creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption (Romans 9:21).

Third, the punishment of sin in this world includes death itself. The Scripture could not be more clear: “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Conclusion & Good News

Thinking about what the Bible teaches regarding our inherited sinfulness from our first parents can be depressing. It’s bad news. But the Bible also teaches us the good news: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).

The good news is that the punishments of sin apply only to men and women apart from Christ. And, while believers may feel the effects of the fall and the punishment of sin in this world, the good news of the gospel is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). So, while believers still continue to war against the remnants of sin and their own corrupt natures, we have been forgiven in Christ – the condemnation and punishment for our sin has been paid in full by our Savior. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The Lord be with you!
– Pastor Peter M. Dietsch