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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:The Purpose and Significance of the Death and Burial of Jesus Christ
Text:LD 16 Romans 6:5-14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Suffering
 
Preached:01/19/2014
Added:2014-06-23
Updated:2014-06-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


Pastor Ted Gray

01/19/14 – p.m.

“The Purpose and Significance

of the Death and Burial of Jesus Christ”

 Romans 6:5-14; H.C. Q&A 40, 41, 43

Question 40 of the catechism is a question that we might hear from our young children, or for those of us who are older, our grandchildren or great grandchildren.  Imagine that one of these little children were to ask, “Mom, Dad, Oma, Opa, Pops, Mimi, Why did Jesus have to die? If God is all powerful why couldn’t He forgive our sins without making His Son, Jesus, suffer so much on that cruel cross of Calvary...?”

If that question were to come your way, an excellent answer would be one that follows the teaching of the catechism in Q&A 40.  Question 40 asks, “Why did Christ have to go all the way to death?”  And it answers: “Because God’s justice and truth demand it: only the death of God's Son could pay for our sin.”

God’s Justice and Truth Demanded It

The first thing that the catechism teaches us is that the purpose for the death and burial of Jesus Christ is because God’s justice and truth demanded it. The Scripture that the catechism gives is an interesting Scripture. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. The Lord is pointing out to Adam the goodness of Paradise and how he is to live and enjoy the Paradise that God had placed him in. We read: And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis  2:16-17).

We all know what happened. We all know the tragic account of Genesis chapter 3, of how Adam and Eve ate of the tree of the of the knowledge of good and evil, and how immediately they died. But it wasn’t a physical death. There was no bolt of lighting from heaven. Or sulfur and brimstone such as destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The earth didn’t open and swallow them up as it did Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Numbers 16:25-33).

You see, Adam and Eve didn’t die an immediate physical death, which is the separation of body and soul.  But they died a spiritual death, which is the separation from God caused by their sin.  They were expelled from Paradise, their lives dramatically and tragically scarred and ruined by sin. Just like your life. Just like my life, for the lives of all humanity have been affected by the fall of Adam and Eve, as Romans 5:12 says, Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned...

God is just and true to both His promises of salvation and His warnings of damnation. Why did Christ have to go all the way to death? “Because God’s justice and truth demand it.”  Sin brought death, just as God had warned Adam in Genesis 2:17.

Only the Death of Jesus Could Pay for Our Sin

The catechism goes on to point out that because sin brought spiritual death, that is, separation from God, the only remedy for sin, - the only way for reconciliation to take place, - would require death.

But it couldn’t be any death. It had to be by the death of God’s one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the catechism says, “only the death of God’s Son could pay for our sin.”  And the verse it gives is Romans 8:3, For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering...

The law can’t save us. Our so-called “good works” can’t save us. The prayers of the saints on our behalf can’t save us. Mary certainly can’t save us. There is no way to be saved from sin except through faith in Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved (Acts 4:12).

But for Jesus to save us He had to go all the way to death and the death had to be by crucifixion.  Had Jesus died at the hands of the Pharisees as they tried to stone Him, or if His death came by the piercing point of an arrow, or by injuries when those in His own home town tried to throw Him over a cliff, - if He had died in any of those ways His death would not have been efficacious.  It would not have sufficed to save us from our sin.

As Q&A 39 teaches, it was necessary for Jesus to be crucified because by Old Testament law, as recorded in Deuteronomy 21:23, anyone who is hung on a tree is cursed by God. By being crucified Jesus took on Himself the curse of your sin and mine, and the curse of the sins of all, who by God’s grace, believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. The Apostle Paul quotes the passage from Deuteronomy in Galatians 3:13, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

“Mom, Dad, Oma, Opa, Pops, Mimi, Why did Jesus have to die? If God is all powerful why couldn’t He forgive our sin without making His Son, Jesus, suffer so much on that cruel cross of Calvary...?

Because in the justice and truth of God, because sin caused death, the remedy for sin would also be death, - death by the only perfect person, truly human, truly God, Jesus Christ.

His Burial Testifies that He Truly Died

Question 41 goes on to ask, “Why was He buried?”  Answer:  “His burial testifies that He truly died.”  His death was just as Isaiah had predicted:  He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth (Isaiah 53:9).

There is nothing like a burial to finalize – to testify – to drive home the point that a loved one has died. We have experienced it so many times, several times this year already. A dear friend and member of our church went to be with the Lord so suddenly a week ago Monday night. It almost seemed surreal, like it was just a bad dream. Could it really be?

We had the service and a lot of people came, both for visitation and the funeral service.  The reality was sinking in that our friend and brother in Christ was in glory, that his voice would be missed in the choir, his faithful presence missed at church and Tuesday Bible study.

But the finality of it came about six miles west of our church, in the cemetery where 95th Street dead ends into Archer Ave. On a cold morning with a bitter west wind we carried the casket to its resting place, read from the Scripture how our citizenship is in heaven and how we eagerly await the Savior from there (Phil. 3:20). Of how the body that is sown in weakness is raised in glory (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Of  how when Jesus returns our bodies will be raised in glory and joined with our souls as we meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17).

We acknowledged our faith in Christ and all His blessings, including the resurrection of the body. Flowers from the top of the casket, long stemmed roses, were given to the ladies. The funeral director announced the close of the service. We returned to our cars. The finality of his death sunk in as we knew the casket was being lowered into the ground. Burial testifies that a loved one has truly died.

And that is what the catechism is teaching concerning the burial of Jesus Christ. When Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea came to get the body of Jesus, and then buried it in the tomb, it finalized what had happened on Mount Calvary.  It put the period at the end of the sentence.  It testified that the crucifixion wasn’t a bad dream, a surreal event where it just seemed that Jesus died.  No, the burial serves as a historical marker in the annals of time declaring: Jesus of Nazareth, crucified for the sins of His people, was buried in the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.

Next week, the Lord willing, we hope to look at Question 42 on why we still need to die, since Jesus died for us. But this evening we go on to Q&A 43 which gives us some very practical applications springing from the death and burial of our Savior and Lord. Question 43 goes on to ask: “What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?”

Our Old Natures Crucified

The catechism answers, “Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death, and buried with Him.” The passage the catechism cites is from Romans 6:5-11. Verse 6 of that passage gives its message in a nutshell,  For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin... 

The catechism also refers us to Colossians 2:11-12 which tell how we have been buried with Christ through baptism and raised with Him by the gift of saving faith. But how does that theological and biblical truth work in a practical way in our lives?

I read once about a young man who had been the life of most every party in his small town, but he went off to war, and as a soldier came to faith in Jesus Christ. It was no fox hole conversion.  This young man was truly saved. But when he was released from the army and went home, who should welcome him back with open arms?  All his drinking buddies, all the party-gores. He had no Christian friends yet, though as time went by he found that faith in Christ changes our friendships too.

He had asked his chaplain what to say to all his friends who wanted him to fall into the same pattern of sin he had lived in before his conversion. His chaplain pointed him to Galatians 2:20 where Paul writes: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me...

And that is the verse that he used. When his drinking buddies and the friends he had formerly partied with came to entice him back into that lifestyle, he said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me...”

However, that serviceman found out, as every new Christian discovers, that sins are still a part of our life. As 1 John 1:8 says, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

No Longer Slaves to Sin

Yet, even though we are sinners, we are no longer slaves to sin. That’s the second point of the catechism in its answer to Question 43, “What further advantage do we receive from Christ’s sacrifice and death on the cross?” The catechism teaches: “The evil desires of our flesh (sinful nature) no longer rule over us.”

That is also what Paul is writing about in Romans 6:6-7, For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

But that’s not always our experience, is it? Here is where the problem comes in: None of us can perfectly live up to the calling that we have as Christians.  Even though we have been crucified with Christ, and our sins have been nailed to the cross, that old sinful  nature is still within us.

In that sense sin is like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It’s dead, but it still goes through the reflexive motions and makes a total mess. That’s exactly what sin does. Although we have died to sin and are united with Christ in His death and resurrection, we still need to fight those reflexive impulses of sin within each one of us. That’s why every Christian should pray that prayer of David, there in Psalm 19:13, “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”

An Offering of Gratitude

In addition to prayer, we fight the old sinful nature, as God graciously sanctifies us, by replacing the evil that we are prone to do with good. That’s the third truth the catechism teaches in its answer to Question 43. It concludes by teaching: “that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to Him.”

The verse the catechism cites is the familiar text of Romans 12:1, “I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.”

In Romans 6:12-13 Paul describes two practical ways to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.  He tells of  two ways to live the new life we are called to live as we “dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to the Lord.”

In Romans 6:12-13 we read: Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.

We understand on the one hand that sin comes from our heart which is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23), and the source of all our actions (Matthew 15:19). But we also see from Scripture that if we don’t control all the various parts of our body, sin will get the upper hand and reign in our life. That’s the reason for the warning in verse 12:  Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

As we keep sin from “reigning in our mortal body” (v. 12) we are also told in verse 13 “Do not offer parts of your body to sin.”  What exactly does that mean?

It means that we must guard all the parts of our bodies. For example, we are to guard our eyes. How quickly our eyes can lead astray.  Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).

If we don’t guard our eyes we may find ourselves like Achan who confessed, “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them…” (Joshua 7:21). Guard your eyes, they can so easily lead you into sin.

When Romans 6:13 tells us, Do not offer parts of your body to sin,  it also includes guarding our tongue. James writes, With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be (James 3:9-10). How often has our tongue been used, not only to curse, but to kill and destroy? To attack another person’s character or pass on some morsel of gossip?

We must also guard our hands. Are our hands idle?  Or, perhaps worse, actively doing evil?  And our feet, where do they lead us? Just toward worldly amusements and attractions?  Things that will seem satisfying to us, only momentarily?

But verse 13 goes on to say “but rather offer yourselves to God....”  What does it mean to use those same parts of the body as instruments of righteousness?

It means that with our eyes we look around us and ask, “Who has a special need or care that I could meet....?”

Regarding our tongue we ask ourselves,  “What could I say to someone to encourage them and build them up in the faith?  Instead of speaking about what I watched on TV or heard at the mall, how about if I use my tongue to witness to my neighbor or unsaved friend?”

Or, in regard to our hands, we ask ourselves,  “What if I used my hands to make a meal for some one in need? Or to volunteer in some kingdom work, using my time to expand His kingdom?” What if we took to heart the teaching of Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”? 

And concerning your feet, ask,  “What if I used my feet to be of service to others even as I serve my Lord in these practical ways?  In what ways can I make my feet “beautiful” (Rom. 10:15) by witnessing the gospel to others?”

* * *

It’s a wonderful Biblical truth that we are so united with Christ that the Scriptures describe us as being crucified and raised with Christ.  But it’s not just a truth to store in the mind.  Rather it is a truth to drive us to God in every aspect of our lives, as instruments of His righteousness rather than  instruments of wickedness.

May you and I, this week and always, by God’s grace and sanctifying Spirit, show by the fruit of our actions that we have died to sin, and are raised to that new life of obedience and service, to the glory of our gracious God.  Amen.

 


- Outline -

 

For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin. 

Romans 6:6

 

“The Purpose and Significance

of the Death and Burial of Jesus Christ”

Romans 6:5-14; H.C. Q&A 40, 41, 43

 

I.  The purpose for the death and burial of Jesus Christ (Q 40, 41):

     1) God’s justice and truth demanded it (Genesis  2:17)

 

 

 

 

     2) Only the death of Jesus could pay for our sin (Romans 8:3)

 

 

 

 

     3) His burial testifies that He truly died (Isaiah 53:9; 1 Cor. 15:3,4)

 

 

 

 

II. The significance of His death and burial (Q 43):

     1) Our old selves (sinful natures) are crucified, put to death, and buried with Him (Roman 6:5-11; Colossians 2:11-12; Galatians 2:20)

 

 

 

 

     2) The evil desires of our flesh (sinful nature) no longer rule over us (Rom. 11:6-12; Psa. 19:13)

 

 

 

 

     3) Our lives become an offering of gratitude to God (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:1-2) as we:

            a) Do not let sin reign in our mortal body (12)

 

 

 

            b) Offer the members of our bodies to God as instruments of  righteousness, rather than instruments of wickedness (13)

 

 

 

01/19/2014 – p.m.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 01/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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