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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
Title:Who is the One we Need?
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 85:1,3                                                                                      

Reading – Romans 3:9-31; 5:1-11

Psalm 49:2,3,4

Sermon – Lord’s Day 6

Hymn 38:1,2,3,4

Hymn 1

Hymn 77:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Brothers and sisters, when we look around us, we know there’s a God. We see it in the vastness of the night sky. We see it in the wonders of a new spring. We see it in the perfect details of the human body. These things testify that there is a God. Even if people look the other way, people must recognize him. Scripture says there’s no excuse if we don’t.

            God’s revelation of himself in this world is enough to condemn us. But—and here’s the difficult truth—this revelation isn’t enough to save us. As we marvel at the complexity of so many creatures, we might confess: “There is a God!” But while it’s a good beginning, that’s not enough of a confession. To use a baseball image, that’s maybe getting to first base.

            For we need someone to bring us home, all the way back to our Creator. We need someone who can go between God and us, to restore the bond. And how do we know about this Saviour? Where do we learn about him? If we look at creation, it just won’t tell us.

            In our search for a Saviour, we can look to just one place. And that is the Word of God. Take 1 Corinthians 1:30 as an example. It’s quoted in Lord’s Day 6, and it highlights just a handful of the many aspects of our Saviour’s work. “But who is that Mediator we so desperately need?” is basically the question asked. And the answer is given: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (Q&A 18). He’s a lot of things. He’s everything! In the same way, we’ll see that Paul in Romans 3 and 5 expounds the multitude riches of what Christ our Saviour has accomplished. We take that as our theme, from Lord’s Day 6:
            “But who is that Mediator?” The Bible explains that:

1)     He is our righteousness

2)     He is our redemption

3)     He is our atonement

4)     He is our peace

1)     He is our righteousness: If there’s one word that is important to Paul in his letter to the Romans, it is righteousness. He’s constantly talking about it: the righteousness of God, people being unrighteous, and sinners being made righteous once again. That was even one of the central themes of Romans, announced back in chapter 1: “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; just as it is written: ‘The just [or the righteous] will live by faith’” (v 17).

            You may remember, of course, what it means to be righteous. It’s a legal term, and it means we stand in a right relationship with God. Being righteous means that the holy Judge in heaven looks down at you, and He’s pleased. There’s nothing about you that offends him. Rather, He accepts you in his glorious presence. And that’s how it used to be. In the beginning, God made us in all righteousness. We could rightly know God, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness (Q&A 6). But then there were, as they say, “troubles in Paradise.”

Paul’s told us all about it. He’s told us about our disobedience in Adam. He’s told us about our idol-worship. He’s told us about our deserved condemnation. All the way since 1:18, he’s worked that out: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.” Godlessness. Wickedness. Instead of talking about righteousness, Paul’s first told us about unrighteousness!

Yet Paul’s a gospel preacher. He wasn’t commissioned to go and kick people while they’re down—he was called to preach Christ, and him crucified. And so that’s what Paul will do in the last half of Romans 3. He’s like the person today who introduces his message by saying, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.” Paul’s given us the bad news first, so we’ll more eagerly receive the glad tidings he’s about to share.

He announces it in 3:21, “But now the righteousness from God apart from the law, is revealed…” Hear how he puts it: “But now!” This is something new! God has broken into the human condition. He’s called into the darkness, “Let there be light!” For He’s made known a new righteousness. He’s made it possible for us once again to walk with him. 

This righteousness from God,” says Paul, comes “through faith in Jesus Christ” (v 22). There can be no surprise here: it’s through Christ. For our Saviour was perfectly righteous in the sight of God. He had constant and countless credits to his name. For one, He obeyed God’s law: He abstained from all sin, and He did all that was right. For two, He honoured his God-given calling on earth, from A to Z. Finally, He was faithful, even to the point of death—staying true to his God no matter what. Even when God forsook him on the cross, Christ refused to break the relationship. He would not sin!

And here’s how it works. All those many credits to Christ’s name are legally transferred to us! Like an instant transfer of funds at the bank, from the billionaire’s bulging account into our own, which was empty and overdrawn. Yes, we were a people guilty as sin, who had only an endless string of offenses. We didn’t have one legitimate excuse for our failures. “But now…” through Christ, we too, are righteous. As the Catechism says, the gospel means Christ has “obtained for us and restored to us righteousness and life” (Q&A 17). Through the work of the Saviour, that blessed position is ours once again!

Now, before we move on, let’s not forget that one clause in the Romans theme: This is a righteousness “through faith.” Again, it’s an elementary truth for us: God welcomes into his presence those who believe. He saves those who will trust that his Son has accomplished salvation, and that He’s done it for us.

By faith: it’s very simple—we might even think there has to be more, that it’s entirely too easy. “That’s it? That’s all I have to do?” It’s so easy that some people never get around to it! “I’ll come to faith later, when I’m ready. When I really need it...” But beloved, this righteousness is for today, and it’s for those who confess today, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! I know I’ve strayed—but for the sake of Jesus Christ, take me back!”

No matter how long we’ve been a member of the church, this has to be our confession and prayer. When we say to God: “Father, the finished work of Christ is exactly what I need. I believe it, through and through. In him, restore me to what I ought to be! Make me righteous! In him, save me from all my sin.” And God will.

 2)     He is our redemption: Paul’s got other gospel-ideas, too. Just a couple verses after saying Christ is our righteousness, he says Christ is our redemption. He first reminds us of the diagnosis in verse 23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” and then he underlines the cure in a different way, “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (v 24).

            Redemption. If righteousness is a term from the court room, then redemption is a term from the slave market. People in the ancient world knew all about this, for slavery was a regular part of their society—slaves were bought and sold by their lords all the time. And the reality was that if a slave ever wanted to taste real freedom, he had to hope someone would “redeem” him—set him free, by paying his ransom.

This is similar to what we know about ransoms today. Sometimes we hear of a kidnapping. Say some mobsters have kidnapped the daughter of a very wealthy family. They want some money before they’ll let her go. So they set the ransom amount—how about a million dollars?—and then everyone waits: the parents, the crooks, and that little girl.

That’s the boat we’re in, too. In Romans, Paul will talk about how we’re captives and slaves. Bound with heavy chains, we’re slaves to sin, subject to Satan’s oppression, doomed to eternal confinement. There’s no hope of release, unless a redeemer’s found.

            The problem is that a ransom has to be appropriate. It needs to match the value of the person being held captive: One for one. Only then can there be redemption—if the right price is paid! Was that kidnapped girl only worth a million dollars? Were slaves only worth thirty pieces of silver, fifty if they were young and strong? Such arbitrary amounts might work in the worldview of humans. But it doesn’t work for God. The LORD demands that the ransom unto salvation truly match our value.

And it’s a staggering price. It’s one completely beyond us to cover. We find the terms of this deal in Q&A 16, “The justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin.” And we can’t do it. We can’t absorb the cost!

But Christ did. He paid for us. As Peter wrote, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). He’s paid our ransom! The price He paid for deliverance was none other than his own blood. At the cross, He handed it over to God.

Now that redeemer claims us. Now that He’s paid the price, He calls us his possession. “You’re mine,” He says. “I freed you, so now I own you, in body and soul.” Yes, like the most miserable slaves, we’ve been set free from sin, set free from the power of the devil, set free from eternal torment. And Christ is our new master! That’s the basic Christian confession, found in Romans 10: “Jesus is Lord.” He is our Lord, because we’re now his own possession through his precious blood.

Beloved, also this blessed reality has a consequence for our lives. If Jesus is Lord, if we’ve made that confession, that means we have to listen when He orders us. When He directs us, we need to follow. Simply put, He’s in charge! Now we’ve become his slaves.

Yet He’s no cruel master, nor is He a boss who unfairly puts demands on us. For just think of how we treasure our own possessions. We’ll cherish those things for which we paid the most. For example, we value our homes, because we’ve paid a lot for them. We try to protect them from fire and floods. We maintain them, inside and out. We insure our homes, so we can even replace them in case of disaster.

            The same is true for Jesus, our Lord. We have the great comfort He’ll always protect and help us, for the reason that we’re worth so much to him! We have value, because He gave his own precious blood to buy us. So if we need help, we can be assured our Lord will grant it. If we need mercy, we know our Lord will show it. He’ll take care of us his own, always! Even on the day we die, our Lord will claim us: “This believer belongs to me.”

No, in the eyes of our Saviour, we’re not slaves that can be treated like garbage, nor are we houses that can be allowed to fall apart. For now we’re even temples of his Holy Spirit, where holy acts of worship are carried out. With his precious blood He’s redeemed us, for this life and for eternity.

 3)     He is our atonement: Paul’s not done yet. In Romans 3, he’s got another powerful gospel-term he wants to teach. We find it in verse 25: “God set forth [Christ] as a propitiation by his blood through faith.” He is our propitiation, or another way of putting it: our atonement!

            Over the years, Christians have struggled with this term. That’s because it seems altogether too negative. Propitiation really means that wrath is being appeased, that anger is being soothed. For example, you know that when someone’s upset because of what you’ve said or done, you sometimes have to make amends, with flowers or favours. You do things to take away the other’s anger. That’s what atonement is.

            That same idea is part of many pagan religions. A pagan tribe might conclude that the god of the sky was in a rage against them: there’d been violent lightning storms, and strong winds, and terrifying peals of thunder. The sky god is angry, so he must be appeased—it’s time to offer up atoning sacrifices: maybe some cows and goats, maybe even your first-born son. Hopefully the god will be satisfied with these gifts, turn away his wrath, and send gentle rains.

            Such a way of operating seems below the Christian God, say many. He’s a God of love, not a God of anger, so we shouldn’t talk about appeasing his anger, satisfying his wrath. Some have even said that the Christian idea of what happened on the cross is nothing more that cosmic child abuse, God taking out his rage on his Son.

But let’s take in the whole picture of God’s character. Remember what Paul wrote in 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed.” The holy God does show fury on account of sin! The righteous God can’t stand it when his creatures ignore him, when we defy his will. If we want to live and not die, his just wrath must be removed—it’s the only way.

            And it has been removed, completely! For Christ was presented as the sacrifice of atonement. Already back in the Old Testament, that was always the greatest day in the Israelite calendar. The Day of Atonement was when the holy blood was sprinkled on the cover of the ark of the covenant. That was when all the sins of the people were symbolically laid upon a goat, and the goat was sent away into the wilderness, never to be seen again. The Day of Atonement was a time of great joy, because the people had new confirmation that God loved them, and wouldn’t count their sins against them.

You see then, that there’s a great difference between this and the atonement-idea found in pagan religions. There the gods are petty, unpredictable, and indifferent to the misery of humans. You never really know if your sacrifice will be accepted. But our God, the true God, shows himself to be full of grace. For it’s actually He who gives the means to appease his own wrath. He sent his own Son to deal with the terrible problem that our sins caused!

Paul explains it, “When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). Our sins were laid on his head, his precious blood was sprinkled, and Christ was banished by the perfect wrath of God. He willingly died for us in our place, that God might love us again. He’s brought us back into the Father’s favour.

Beloved, this atonement frees us from a lot of anxiety. It means there’s no need to try and earn God’s favour or win his mercy. He isn’t like those other gods, who need to be flattered with praise, or buttered up with fancy gifts. He’s done everything already, so we dare not add to what He’s done.

That means that even if we’re active in our faith, active in our church, active in our community, we must remember what all these things are for. Only one person could atone for sin, and his name is Jesus Christ. Because of him we live in thanksgiving, and because of him we rest ourselves completely in God’s grace. We don’t try to work for it.

Think of your friend who’s taken you out for lunch. He insisted that it was his treat, that he was going to do it to show his affection for you. You ate and you drank and you enjoyed the meal. But what an insult it would be if when the bill arrived, you still tried to leave some money on the table, or you insisted on paying your own way! Your friend would be offended, and rightfully so. This was his treat! Instead, you just need to say thanks. You need to accept his gift sincerely. So for Christ and us. He fully paid our way—let’s accept it, let’s not try to add to it, but be thankful. He cannot love us more, and He will not love us less.

 4)     He is our peace: When we turn ahead a couple chapters, we see Paul finding even more ways to talk about the gospel. For he begins chapter 5 in this way, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v 1).

            Now, everyone in the world wants peace. We want relief from the many troubles of this life. We want an end to war and personal conflict; we want protection from disease and anxiety, freedom from poverty and suffering. Then we’ll have peace! Yet the Bible sees it differently. True peace isn’t that happy feeling when all is well—that feeling when you’re sitting on the couch at home, and all your troubles seem so far away. No, true peace is about what’s between God and us. The reality is, we’re his enemies on account of sin. Our every inclination is to be at war against the LORD.

But Christ has brought us peace with God. We’ve been reconciled to our Creator, restored to his fellowship. Christ went between us, and with the cross He bridged the gap. Now God calls us friends, his children, his loved ones! Where before there was only war and hostility, crime and punishment, now there’s peace like a river.

            And indeed, this peace is so powerful it can flow into every corner of our lives. If we have peace with God through Christ, we’ll also have peace. We can have contentment, whatever the circumstances of our lives. We have confidence, even when troubles arise, even when we suffer need and endure many griefs. We can face all the uncertainties of daily existence with an abiding calmness—because we know: things are good between God and us! Bottom line: we know He won’t leave us or forsake us.

            Beloved, do you know this peace? Do you know this unshakable sureness in the promises of God? It’s available. There is peace in our time, for those who go to Christ. He’s the one who’s brought a perfect reconciliation. Let us seek it in faith, that we may find it!

            Time for a last word. We’ve seen how in the good news of Christ, God meets our every need, addresses our every trouble! But let’s say this: Getting to know this gospel through the Word isn’t just the calling of ministers or theologians. It’s the calling of all of us, as the people of Christ: to love this gospel, to work this gospel out—to come to an ever-increasing knowledge of what the good news really means for us!

Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, in chapter 3. There he writes, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (vv 17-19).

Be sure Paul isn’t praying that the Ephesians would have some academic knowledge of Christ, as if that would be enough for a blessed life. God calls all of us to a real knowledge of himself—an intimate and living awareness that (for the sake of Christ) we are richly loved.

It’s that gospel-love that God wants us to know, and to know in all four dimensions: “to know how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” Someone once put it this way: We must know that Christ’s love is so wide, even to embrace all nations. Christ’s love is so long, even to last forever. Christ’s love is so deep, even to reach the most degraded sinner. And we must know that Christ’s love is so high, even to exalt us to the presence of God himself. So let us know this love more and more, as we daily study the Word of God, as we immerse ourselves in it and meditate on its riches.

To be sure, it’s above our ability to grasp. It’s a love that “surpasses knowledge,” one that exceeds our human limits. So it’s good to reach that place where we say to ourselves, even often, “It’s beyond me, how God could love a person such as I am. It’s beyond understanding, how God could welcome a sinner like me into his holy presence. It surpasses my knowledge, but I believe it. So I’m going to build on it. I’m going to depend on it. And now I’m going to love this God in thanksgiving for his amazing grace.” Amen. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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