No Mere Creature

Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.”

- Psalm 49:7–9

Scripture depicts plainly the problem of human sin and our need for a redeemer to pay our debt if we would be restored to a right relationship with the Lord (Gen. 8:21; Ps. 51:5; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 3:21–26). Theoretically speaking, my redeemer could be me or it could be another; in reality, however, only another can save me, because as long as I am in Adam, all I do in attempting to follow God’s law is increase my own guilt. If I am honest with myself as I try to keep the commandments, I find myself “imprisoned … under sin” (Gal. 3:21–22). In my fallenness and enmity toward our Creator, I take His good statutes and, apart from Christ, find myself provoked to sin against Him all the more (Rom. 7:7–13). As the Spirit works in my heart, I realize that my only hope in life and in death is for someone else to redeem me.

But what kind of person can pay the debt of my sin on my behalf? Can just any other human being do for me what I cannot do for myself? The answer to these questions is “no.” This is a biblical truth summarized in the answer to question 14 of the Heidelberg Catechism, which uses Psalm 49:7–9 as one of its proof texts. In its immediate context, this passage deals with a person’s ability to use his wealth to save himself from death. The psalmist recognizes that no one can buy his way out of death, but the principle, broadly understood, also shows that no one who is merely a creature can ransom himself from eternal death. If, as we saw yesterday, sinners cannot save themselves but only increase their guilt when they try to ransom their lives, no other sinner can rescue me from my predicament. Every human being who is merely a creature — every natural-born son or daughter of Adam — is trapped in sin, unable to save any other human being from divine wrath (Rom. 3:23; 5:12–14).

Another can save me from sin, but not just any other person. Only one who is not merely a creature and therefore not an ordinary descendant of Adam can save me from sin. Only such an individual could be born without the original sin and original guilt that estranges naturally born sons and daughters of Adam from our Maker. This Redeemer, we will see, must be truly human, but one does not need to be an ordinary descendant of Adam to be truly human. It takes a supernaturally born son of Adam, free from the stain of original sin, to pay our debt.

Coram Deo

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 33:16–17
Isaiah 43:1–11
Hosea 13:4
1 Timothy 4:10

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