(Kersten, Heidelberg Catechism, Vol.1. part 17) The Death of Christ and His Descent Into Hell Lord's Day 16 Psalter No.148 St. 1 & 3 Read Hebr. 9:11-28 Psalter No. 123 St. 1-3 Psalter No. 422 St. 6 Psalter No.425 St. 2,3,6 Beloved, Once a year, on the day of atonement, the high priest of the Old Testament went into the Holy of Holies to make atonement for himself and for the people. For himself the high priest also needed atonement for he was a man as all men. He, too, needed to be washed in the blood of Christ, of which the blood that he had to sprinkle seven times with his finger eastward on the mercy seat, was a type and a pledge. After this he had to kill the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and bring his blood within the veil, and also sprinkle that upon and before the mercy seat. This entrance of Aaron and his successors into the holy place pointed to the entrance of Christ into the holy place, not made with hands. He, the true High Priest, needed no atonement for His own sins, for He had neither original nor actual sins. "Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners." He went into the sanctuary, having brought about an eternal reconciliation, only for His elect. He did not enter the sanctuary made with hands. He was not a high priest after the order of Aaron; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world, as the high priest of the Old Testament had to bring his sacrifice every year. But Christ entered heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for His people. In the heaven of heavens He sits at the right hand of His Father, presenting day and night before His Father the sacrifice He once brought to cover perfectly all the sins of His people. No repetition of the sacrifice of Christ, the only High Priest is necessary, nor possible. For "now once in the end of the world He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." The sacrifice brought by Him on the cross put away sin because by that sacrifice the debt of His people is paid and God's righteousness is fully satisfied. Moreover by His sacrifice, He removed the filth of sin from His people to present them to His Father as a chaste virgin without spot or wrinkle. That which the annually repeated sacrifices of the Old Testament were unable to do was done by the only High Priest, Christ. By His sacrifice God is satisfied with His people, and that people find by faith everything necessary to be restored into communion with God. To do so it was necessary for the Son of God to humble Himself unto death. God's righteousness demanded His death because He had given Himself as Surety for the sins of the elect. He not only died a natural death and confirmed it in His burial, but in His suffering and death He even descended into hell. We must now discuss that death and descent into hell according to the explanation of the sixteenth Lord's Day of the Heidelberg Catechism. Lord's Day 16 Q. 40: Why was it necessary for Christ to humble Himself unto death? A. Because with respect to the justice and truth of God, satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise, than by the death of the Son of God. Q. 41: Why was He also "buried"? A. Thereby to prove that He was really dead. Q. 42: Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die? A. Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life. Q. 43: What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross? A. That by virtue thereof, our old man is crucified, dead and buried with him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Q. 44: Why is there added, "He descended into hell"? A. That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this, that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies, in which He was plunged during all His sufferings, but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell. This Lord's Day speaks of the death of Christ and His descent into hell; and shows us I. the necessity of Christ's death, II. the proof of Christ's death, III. the benefit of Christ's death, and IV. the hellish agonies in His suffering before His death. The sixteenth Lord's Day is the last one to speak of the state of humiliation, and shows us the causes and the fruits of the death and burial of the Lord. Brief and to the point is the answer to Question 40: "Why was it necessary for Christ to humble Himself even unto death?" Because with respect to the justice and truth of God, satisfaction for our sins could be made no otherwise than by the death of the Son of God." With respect to God's justice and truth, therefore, the Mediator had to humble Himself unto death. God's justice demands a full payment for sin, and that payment is made only in bearing the judgment of death to its fullest extent. Hence it could be no other way than that the Mediator entered death in the place of His people. Sin must be punished. God cannot surrender His justice, not in the least bit. That would injure His divine essence. A god who can toy with his perfections is no god. May we be thoroughly convinced of this against those who deny the substitutionary, mediatorial work of Christ, because they have not any notion neither of sin, nor of God's justice. May we understand this rightly that God must punish sin because He is perfect. The necessity of punishing lies in the essence of God, not in compulsion, exercised upon Him. (How could that be?) God is under no compulsion. It is His eternal delight to glorify His righteousness in revenging sin. Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness; and from the Almighty, that He should commit iniquity. In the fourth Lord's Day we were clearly taught that God will punish sins in His just judgment temporarily and eternally as He has declared, "Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." And that punishment of sin, being the punishment of death came for the elect, and for them only, upon Christ. Therefore He had to humble Himself unto death. Moreover, God's truth demanded that death. Among men it is said to be poor pedagogy to threaten punishment without fulfilling the threat; but what kind of a conception do they have of God who think that the punishment He threatens need not to be executed; that God is a God of yea and nay? How very differently does God testify of Himself? "I am the Lord, I change not." Because God never diverges from the word of His mouth, Christ had to die, since the Lord had spoken, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Hence, both because of God's justice and because of God's truth, the Mediator had to be humbled unto death. Since the covenant of works was broken in its power to achieve eternal life, although the demand of perfect obedience remained undiminished. there was but one way by which the sinner could be reconciled with God, and atonement for sin could be made, namely, by the death of the Son of God. God's people learn to know that experimentally. A person, even with an orthodox confession, disregards the impressions of his conscience, as if he need not appear before God's judgment seat, notwithstanding the fact that both God's justice and truth have sentenced him to death, and that sentence must be executed. For God's elect a moment will come in their lives that they are not only confronted with their sins, but they see themselves placed before God's justice and before the sentence of death pronounced upon them, and they learn to know themselves as utterly lost before God. Oh, in what a terrible state they find themselves, out of which no deliverance is possible. Even the mercies of God cannot comfort them, unless God's justice is satisfied and the sentence of death, according to His truth, is executed upon One Who, as a Surety, will pay for them. This often makes them cry out, "There is no soundness in my flesh because of Thine anger, neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin." All ground upon which they wanted to build is fallen away. They cry out, "My heart panteth, my strength faileth me." They learn to despair of everything outside of Christ. Only by His death is death swallowed up in victory; spiritual death, which consists in separation from God's favour is destroyed; eternal death is changed into eternal life, and temporal death becomes a passage into eternal life. Justice and truth demanded the death of the Son of God; they are glorified in that death, and demand the salvation of the elect. Deliverance from the three-fold death rests upon the justice and truth of God. Nothing shall ever prevent that salvation. This is the firm foundation for the salvation of God's elect. They are purchased with Christ's blood, and by His death satisfaction is given to justice and God's truth is maintained. Behold, that is the great mystery which the Holy Spirit reveals to His utterly lost people and of which He wants to assure them. How everyone who has truly been made to see his sins should seek to build on that foundation only, so that he would find all his salvation in the death of Christ, in which God's justice and truth are glorified perfectly. With nothing less than the death of the Son of God could the violated perfections of God be satisfied. That death was necessary. The precious Surety not only had to suffer but also to humble Himself unto death to take away God's wrath for His people. He has really died and proved it in His burial, as we, in the second place, hear of the instructor as he II shows us the proof of Christ's death. That proof is given us in His burial. The Catechism points to that in Question 41: "Why was He also buried?" "Thereby to prove that He was really dead." Christ had already testified that He died when He cried out, "Father, into Thy hands I commit My Spirit." He showed it when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, and it was confirmed by the action of the soldier who pierced His side with a spear, causing blood and water to flow out; and by the investigation of Pilate, which proved that He had really died. By descending into the grave, Christ also showed that He had really died. He bore the power of death to the fullest extent; Zion's King struck Satan who had the power of death, in his heart. In death, his last stronghold, He eternally destroyed him. He has taken captivity captive so that He might proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound. To that end He descended into the grave, although the corruption of death did not cause His flesh to decay. Here the prophecy was fulfilled: "Thou wilt not suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption." So particularly did God care for the lifeless body of the Mediator, that the glory of His victorious entrance into death shone in His burial. Man had appointed His grave with the wicked, there on Golgotha, where they usually buried those who had been crucified; there they planned also to bury Him; but God had ordained otherwise. The burning fire of love in the heart of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus which had smoldered so long under the ashes of the fear of man, broke into flame. Even in the Sanhedrin they had taken a lone stand, and although their vote could not prevent the condemnation, they did not concur in it. Now, after the sentence is executed, they cannot remain hidden any longer. They asked Pilate for the body of Christ, and laid their Lord in a new grave, hewn out of a rock, in which no one had yet been buried. Let the world mock, they shall honour Him, Who indeed bore the curse, but not for His own sin, Who knew neither original, nor actual sin. He was "with the rich in His death." Nevertheless, that burial was a disgraceful humiliation. It is so for everyone, for in our burial this judgment is fulfilled: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Our body is then given over to the worms. In the burial the corruption that came over man by sin becomes evident. His glory is gone, also his might, although it made thousands tremble, also his fame, envied by many. "His glory shall not descend after him. Though while he lived he blessed his soul; and men will praise thee when thou does well to thyself. He shall go to the generations of his fathers; they shall never see light. Man that is in honour, and understandeth not (that is, has no spiritual knowledge of Christ and His benefits), is like the beasts that perish." Oh, that we would think more about it, that one day our place shall be in the grave, that we may know how frail we are, and may count our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. That deep humiliation then, Christ took upon Himself. He entered that chilly, awful and frightful grave. His lifeless body had to bear the judgment of sin also in the grave, in order that He might also sanctify the grave for His elect. He could do so because He is the Son of God. For even in His death the natures were not separated. With full consciousness He experienced the descent into the grave. Just as Jonah was in the fish, so the Son of man was in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. Thus the Son of God consciously suffered this bitter humiliation. Thus the Mediator took away for His people the judgment, the bitterness, and the shame that lie in the grave. Neither death nor grave shall harm God's children at all. Oh, that the fear of death and the terror of the grave were taken away from them more. Their death shall be no death but a passage into eternal life, and the grave, which is an abhorring to the wicked, is sanctified to be a bed to "each one walking in his uprightness." (Isaiah 57.) May all those who are unregenerate of heart tremble and fear at the thought of death. Let their heart shrink whenever they walk on the cemetery, which is the end of all the living. Their death, if they do not find a ransom in the mediatorial work of Christ, shall be so terrible, their grave an abhorring. "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little." Let the upright of heart taste the peace of the cemetery. Let their eyes pass over the graves of those, who had this testimony that they pleased God, whose death was gain, and then hear how that grave cries to them, "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord from henceforth." Is there any terror left for them then? Has not the grave lost all its chill? By His burial He took the curse out of their grave and sanctified their tomb. It shall be their rest. In Christ they seek the destruction of death and release from the bonds of the grave, so that the fear of death and the grave shall be swallowed up and their soul shall glory in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. By His burial the Lord confirmed that He really died and thus has satisfied the justice and truth of God. Oh, if this death and burial of Christ may be confirmed to us experimentally by the application of the Holy Spirit and by the embrace of faith, the fear of death and the grave is taken away, and God's people are set at liberty, as Paul says, "To depart and to be with Christ is far better for me." If we lack the assurance of Christ's death and burial, death often has such terrors for God's people. Therefore they should always seek to be assured of their fellowship with the death and burial of the Lord, by which death is swallowed up in victory. In His burial the Lord proved that He had really died. That was important, for without that death there would be no satisfaction to God's justice and truth. Out of that death of Christ, God's people receive, as we in the third place consider III the great benefit, that our old man is crucified, dead and buried with Him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. We are shown a twofold fruit of the death of Christ: (a) our death is no satisfaction for sin; and (b) that by the death of Christ our old man is crucified, dead and buried with Him. (a) By His death Christ has swallowed up death in victory and has destroyed him, who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Why then must God's children also die, if Christ died for them and thus destroyed death? Should we not necessarily conclude from the fact that Christ by His death brought complete satisfaction, that they would be freed from the threat of death upon sin? Could they not go to heaven like Enoch and Elijah? God certainly cannot and will not punish sins twice. If God's justice is perfectly satisfied in the death of Christ, according to God's immutable justice how can death come upon the believer? This objection would have force if God's children had to die to satisfy God's justice. Then either justice was not fully satisfied in Christ, or God demanded satisfaction twice, which is contrary to justice. But it is not thus. Hear the instructor's answer to that objection: "Our death is not a satisfaction for our sins, but only an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life." Not a satisfaction for our sin. For God's elect there is satisfaction for their sins, all their sins, both original and actual sins. The wrath of God does not burn any more against those who are in Christ Jesus. "For this is as the waters of Noah unto Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so I have sworn that I would not be wrath with thee, nor rebuke thee." (Isaiah 54:9). Hence also in death there is no wrath of God for those that are bought with the blood of Christ. For those who are unconverted it is indeed so, but not for God's children. The sting has been removed from death; death has lost the dreadful characteristic of being the wages of sin; death is not death anymore for those who die in the Lord. If that fruit of Christ's death were impressed more upon the soul of God's people, they would have less fear of death. Often death still has such a terrifying power for them. That is because of the instability of their faith. If only their soul were assured that the end would be peace, there would be less dread of death. Even if they cannot deny what they have experienced, the doubt whether their matters are right for eternity, whether they are truly found in Christ, whether God's wrath is pacified for them, causes them to dread that all-decisive hour of death. Then it will be the trying hour for them; then the blow shall fall; then it shall be eternal well or eternal woe. Even though the consciousness of their state in Christ lies firm, the separation of soul and body, which death brings, causes us to fear him as the king of terrors. Even if that fear were conquered, certainly everyone feels that we need grace to die in order to be able to die, that grace that makes us loose from all that is dear and precious on earth, that cuts the last ropes and sets our ship free to sail into the harbor of eternal salvation. Oh, do not speak lightly of death. Many of God's people have fought the most strenuous battle with death, although they were assured of their interest in Christ. On the other hand, in spite of the fear which is natural to us as children of wrath, something of the victory with which Christ conquered penetrates our heart. No, for the people of God, death shall be no satisfaction for their sins! Death is no act of God's curse or wrath. Let their soul keep courage. Have you not heard of the death beds of those, who after years of strife and doubting, gave a glorious testimony of the victory over death and departed rejoicing and calling to you, "Still wait for God, and He will hear, Wait and the Lord shall bring thee aid; Yea, trust and never fear." The death of God's children is not decisive; for once the full wrath of God descended upon Christ, and in His death He swallowed up their death. Although God's children are not taken to heaven like Enoch, and although God laid the way to full salvation so that it runs through death, yet that death is not a satisfaction for their sins. On the contrary, it is "an abolishing of sin, and a passage into eternal life." How has Christ conquered death? By entering into death. How do His people become partakers of His victory? By going the same way by which Christ preceded them. In death God's people conquer death. Their death is gain. In death they lay aside the sin that here on earth constantly surrounded and cleaved unto them; in their death they mortify forever the old man, that is, the flesh, that lusts against the spirit, and they enter into the joy of the Lord. Oh, tell me, is such dying a penalty? No, certainly not. Death which was the penalty of sin has become a complete deliverance of all that distressed the spiritual life, and a door unto eternal life. One day even the body that has returned to dust shall be loosed from the bands of death and, having been reunited with the soul, shall enter eternal life. May that joyful hope of the full salvation cause us to look beyond death, not fearing the struggle, since the victory is sure in Christ. "Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory." The instructor speaks particularly of the mortification of sin in Question 43 as we now see (b) What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross? That by virtue thereof, our old man is crucified, dead and buried with Him; that so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving. This then is a fruit of the sacrifice of the Lord that we may already taste here in this life, the fruit of sanctification. For the true sanctification flows out of Christ, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). Therefore in the crucifixion of the Lord there lies not only a reconciling and justifying, but also a sin-mortifying and soul sanctifying power. Although these are different from each other, they are inseparably bound together. There is no justification. without sanctification. The old man: that is the corruption, which because of our fall has spread itself over our whole being, called by the apostle the body of sin. From that old man all corrupt inclinations, affections and desires come and it is impossible that he should ever bring forth anything that is good in the sight of God. The natural man has nothing else; all his thoughts and actions are corrupt and are dominated by unrighteousness. But in regeneration God the Holy Spirit renews His children after the image of Him that created them. This entire renewal is perfect in all parts, but not complete in its steps. In other words, the understanding and the will have become new, and the body with its abilities are subject to that renewed will. Still the new man does not attain its full stature on this side of the grave. In the understanding the darkness of sin remains, and in the will the fomentation of wickedness. This is the struggle for God's children till their last breath. How clearly Paul teaches us about that struggle in Romans 7 and other places. He, the favoured one who knew himself by faith to be a new creature in Christ Jesus, and testifies so clearly of that renewal, also speaks of the flesh that lusts against the Spirit, and that is as a law in His members bringing him into captivity to the law of sin. The remnant of the old man in the renewed children of Adam gives them no rest night or day, and causes all their works to be imperfect in themselves, and marred by sin. Thence are the many complaints and their very sad and sometimes almost desperate conditions. Read David's complaints in Psalm 51 and Heman's in Psalm 88, and that complaint is heavier when access by faith to Christ is weaker. There is only one means of deliverance from sin, namely - coming by faith to Christ and His meritorious sacrifice, which is effective against all the sins of His elect, and to His death, for in that death sin is robbed of its dominion, and out of that death flows the mortification of sin in the believer. "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me." This is what the instructor calls the virtue of His death. Thereby the old man is crucified. Dreadful was the judgment that rested upon Christ; raging was the power of darkness that nailed Him to the cross. Neither does the redeeming virtue of the Mediator deal gently with sin, with the old man. That old man is nailed to the cross to die a sure death. "Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6). Therefore sin shall no more have dominion over God's people: the old man died with Christ. That is the benefit of the death of Christ in His people. Oh, that by faith their soul might continually attain to that benefit, that they do not esteem their sin too lightly. That brings a leanness to their soul and deprives them of communion with God. The spotlessly Holy One can have no fellowship with sin, and cannot tolerate in His people that they, who are purchased from sin by the precious price of the blood of the Lamb, shall walk in sin. Far be it from us that we should use this liberty for an occasion to the flesh. He who deals lightly with the old man, walks in darkness and misses the comfort of the death and burial of the Lord Jesus Christ. The benefit that Christ has destroyed the power of sin is for the contrite who, because they have been renewed, see and grieve about the activity of the old man. "That so the corrupt inclinations of the flesh may no more reign in us; but that we may offer ourselves unto Him a sacrifice of thanksgiving." Now our Catechism opens to us the depth in the suffering of the Mediator as he discusses in the last question IV the hellish agonies in Christ's suffering before His death. Question 44 reads, "Why is there added, 'He descended into hell'?" The confession concerning the descent into hell follows that which has been said in the "Twelve Articles of Faith" about Christ's suffering, death and burial. That does not mean that the Lord Jesus descended into hell after His death. That is what the Roman Catholics say and the Lutherans also. The Catholics say that the believers who died before Christ were waiting in a vestibule of hell until He should come to deliver them from there and bring them to heaven. How foolish! There is no purgatory, no limbuspatrum. Would Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon and all those that desired a better country have remained outside of heaven all those ages? Or have they entered the glory that was prepared for them before the foundation of the world? Was the security that Christ gave to His Father in eternity in the Covenant of Redemption not sufficient to allow all God's elect to enter immediately upon their death into the salvation that was prepared for them? No, the Lord Jesus needed not to descend to hell in the sense that after His death He went personally into hell or into the vestibule, or limbus of the fathers; that vestibule has never existed. How very differently Paul teaches us in the letter to the Hebrews: "These all died in faith ... For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city." No, Christ never went to hell. Neither can the Roman Catholics appeal to 1 Peter 3, that Christ went and preached unto the saints in prison. To these Noah preached the word of Christ while they were still alive. Neither does Ephesians 4:9 give them any grounds, but refers to the Lord's burial. Thus they have not any grounds in Scripture. We must not localize the descent to hell, and let us remember that it happened before His death. Our Catechism says, in accordance with the word of God that descent into hell means Christ's suffering. And Luther then? The Lutherans say that Christ went to hell after His death to prove His victory. But Christ had proved His victory when He commended His spirit into the hands of His Father. In spite of all the powers of Satan, His spirit ascended to heaven, and His body reposed in the grave. We do not speak of a descent to hell after His death. When "He descended into hell" follows the confession of His death and burial, that does not mean that the descent into hell follows His death, but the Apostles' Creed shows what was in the suffering and death of Christ before He gave up the ghost, namely the suffering to which His people with all Adam's posterity are subject, that is, the pains of hell. When the weeping women followed the crossbearing Mediator, He said to them, "Weep not for Me." They did not understand the depth of His suffering; they only saw the outward humiliation. But there was very much more in that suffering and death. As the surety He bore what His elect would have had to bear; He bore the hellish pains to which they were eternally subject and He rescued them from hell. That descent into hell took place therefore, before the death of Christ and means that He bore the pains of hell. Now the Catechism reaches so deep into the meaning of the descent into hell that he takes the greatest comfort for God's people from it. The justly praised Westminster Catechism considers the descent into hell to be His tarrying in the state of death, but the Heidelberg Catechism goes farther into the depth of that descent. Both, however, confess, in opposition to the Roman Catholics and Luther, that it does not mean that Christ went personally to hell. The Heidelberg Catechism concludes from His descent into hell "That in my greatest temptations, I may be assured, and wholly comfort myself in this that my Lord Jesus Christ, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, terrors, and hellish agonies in which He was plunged during all His sufferings, but especially on the cross, has delivered me from the anguish and torments of hell." The assaults of Satan can be very fierce, not only at first in conversion but sometimes also later on the path of life, and all those assaults have even more power when terrors rob the soul of rest and strength to flee to God. It seems as if prayer is cut off. It seems to them as if they will not see the kind face of their Father anymore. Some of God's children are severely tried in this awful conflict with the powers of hell and think back to those times with fear. Take, for example, Job and Paul. The Lord led them into that conflict only so that by faith they might glory the more in the victory of Him Who descended into hell, Who bruised the head of Satan, in Whom they are more than conquerors, and in Whom, powerless as they are in themselves, they shall triumph eternally. In Him they left their heads aloft and wear the victor's crown, as we sing in Psalter No. 422, St. 6 Application "Thou art, O God, our boast, the glory of our power" Beloved, you are with me and all people by nature children of wrath. That judgment is not removed by baptism nor by the great privilege, given us from our early youth till our graying years, of living under the Word of God. Only communion with Him Who bore the full wrath of God can deliver us from the eternal judgment of death. How urgent then is the question whether we truly have received communion with the suffering of that wrath by the only Mediator between God and men. God finds His people where they lie in the open field polluted in their blood. Oh, those people learn to know themselves as objects of God's wrath, unhappy forever. May you be given that knowledge, for such unhappy ones are not unhappy. Yet the whole world and all God's people cannot comfort them. They need a Surety for their debt; One Who placed Himself under God's judgment, Who bore the wrath of God and was judicially sentenced to the death of the cross. Oh, sorrowing souls, unhappy in yourself, the Lord grant you to know by faith, Him Who in your stead placed Himself under the wrath of God and put away that wrath for you. Often you are worried whether the work that is in you is right and saving. Your concern should be more to embrace Christ by faith. There can be so many convictions that are not right and have no value for eternity. We can be deceived by them. But no one will be deceived with Christ. Seek Him to be your Savior, denying all outside of Him. In Him salvation is possible for the greatest of sinners. Has your soul never beheld by faith that great salvation in Him? Did all your sins bother you then? Would you then not have shouted to the whole world, "Salvation has been wrought"? Truly, these are matters that God's people cannot deny. How often the Lord has bound your soul to Himself with promises. Still your heart can be so worried. What is still lacking? The acquittal before God's bar. At that bar, in that judicial sentence, we do not appear robed in our experiences, but as condemnable sinners, laden with original and actual sins. Then to God's children the acquittal will be imputed that was given to Him Who once was condemned by the temporal judge Pontius Pilate so that He might free His people in the judgment of God. Oh, seek to receive that acquittal in your heart by the sealing of the Holy Spirit. How you would marvel in the secret, that you as a sinner are reconciled with God through Christ, and that not to become a great Christian, but as a condemnable sinner to have your ground of salvation by faith in Him Who once was judicially condemned in your stead, although He had no sin, in order that He might acquit you before the bar of God's eternal justice. The Lord confirm it in your hearts, people of God, and build you up in the most holy faith, that Christ may be all in all. May He grant us that we may remain poor sinners in ourselves, dying from day to day, so that we may receive of His fulness grace for grace. Amen. (continued in part 18...) ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-02: krhc1-17.txt .