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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:The Word and the Word: God's Revelation of Jesus Christ
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:All of scripture points to Jesus Christ
 
Preached:2014
Added:2014-07-16
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 100

Psalm 22:1,3,6

Hymn 44

Profession of faith:  Athanasian Creed (with Hymn 3:1,2 after article 28)

Hymn 69

Scripture readings:  John 1:1-18, John 5:31-47

Further confessional reading:  Belgic Confession articles 7 and 19

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 6

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


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Every now and then almost every church has a time where they can’t find a minister to fill their pulpit.    Now what you would say if I told you that for one of those upcoming occasions, your consistory had invited a Jewish rabbi?  Over the course of a couple Sundays, this Jewish rabbi will explain the Old Testament to you and help you to understand it better.  The rabbi isn’t a Messianic Jew, just a regular Jewish rabbi.  He’ll come and give you real insight into the Old Testament.  I’d hope that if you heard such a thing, you’d react with some vigour.  While a Jewish rabbi might fill you in on some points of Old Testament background, he would surely miss the point of those 39 books.  A Jewish rabbi isn’t going to have the right understanding of what the Old Testament is really all about.  A Jewish rabbi wouldn’t understand what Jesus is all about.  He might say that he was a revolutionary rabbi, but that’s it.  For a Jew, Jesus was just a man.  But God and man?  Forget it – that’s blasphemous, they would say.  And as for the connection of that rabbi Jesus to the Old Testament, there is no meaningful connection.  So how could a Christian church invite a Jewish rabbi to teach its people?   While we might never do that, that is something that happens around us in other churches.          

That happens because there is confusion out there about the nature of the Bible and about the natures of Christ.  This afternoon, with the help of the Gospel of John and the summary of Scripture in the Catechism and the Confession, we’re going to consider the Word and the Word, God’s revelation of Jesus Christ.  We’re going to learn about:

  1. The nature of the Word inscripturated (or written)
  2. The natures of the Word incarnated (the Word in the flesh). 

The goal of Lord’s Day 6 is to lead us to the Saviour Jesus Christ.  QA 18 tells us about the Mediator in whom we’ll find the way to peace with God and reconciliation.  Then QA 19 asks from where we can know the identity of this Mediator.  The answer is that it’s found in the gospel, the gospel that’s revealed in God’s Word. 

That provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the nature of God’s written or inscripturated Word.  Where did the Bible come from?  What kind of a book is it?  Different people will give different answers.  There are those who say that the Bible is only a witness to the faith of the Jews and to the people who first called themselves Christians.  It only tells us what the Jews believed and what the first Christians believed.  It’s not a revelation from God, but a collection of human documents telling us what certain humans believed at a certain point in history.  Others will expand on that and say that it shows the evolution of religious beliefs.  People went from a simple monotheistic faith to a much more evolved form including all kinds of rituals and ceremonies.  The people who believe those things are known as theological liberals.  We sometimes use the word “liberal” in a loose way (“That church is so liberal,”  “He’s so liberal”), but in its proper sense, liberals are simply those who regard the Bible as essentially a human document.   

So, we have the theological liberals who have certain ideas about the nature of the Bible.  Then there are also the followers of people like Karl Barth – not to be confused with the communist Karl Marx.  Karl Barth was a Swiss theologian in the last century.  He claimed to be orthodox and even Reformed and today you’ll find his name sprinkled with approval in all kinds of popular Christian books.  Karl Barth was not orthodox on the nature of Scripture.  He taught that the Bible is not objectively, of itself the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God as we accept it and as it impacts our lives.   

The problem with all these positions is that they don’t take what the Bible says about itself seriously.  The worldview of many people just doesn’t allow for a supernatural revelation from God.  If there is a God, he has not revealed himself publicly and objectively for all mankind.  Religion is essentially a purely subjective thing and then so is revelation.       

But what does the Bible say about itself?  What does God say about the Bible?  Second Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”  The entire Bible has its origin in God himself.  God has breathed it out – in other words, it is the inspired Word of God.  Peter says the exact same thing in 2 Peter 1:21, “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  Now it should be pointed out that both 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1 are speaking directly about the Old Testament.  However, there are a number of places where what is said about the Old Testament is also applied to the New Testament.  For instance, at the end of 2 Peter, Peter equates Paul’s letters to the Old Testament Scriptures when he says, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”  When he speaks about “other Scriptures” here, he uses the same words he used to speak about the Old Testament in chapter 1.  Paul’s letters are Scripture, just like the Old Testament is Scripture – and we can extend that to all the New Testament writings.   

So, the Bible in all its 66 books is inspired by God.  It’s reliability follows directly and necessarily from that.  We speak about the infallibility and inerrancy of God’s Word.  Jesus said in John 10:35 that the Scripture cannot be broken.  Jesus believed that the Bible is infallible – so do we.  That means the Bible never fails in its judgments and statements.  Everything taught in the Bible is solid and reliable, it is of absolute authority, it cannot be contravened, contradicted or undermined.  Scripture is unfailing, it is incapable of being proven false, erroneous or mistaken.  Though heaven and earth should pass away, its words of truth will stand forever.  It cannot be changed nor destroyed.  The Scriptures are also inerrant.  That means that they possess the quality of being free from error.  As the Belgic Confession says in article 4, nothing can be alleged against the Word of God.  The Scriptures are exempt from the possibility of mistakes, incapable of error.  In all their teachings, they perfectly express the truth of God.  Psalm 12:6, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.”    

So, Scripture is inspired, infallible and inerrant.  We can also add what we confess in article 7 of the Belgic Confession:  Holy Scripture is sufficient.  It fully contains the will of God and all that we need to know to be saved is right there in our Bibles.  As the Spirit teaches in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, it “is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  And because it is a perfectly sufficient revelation from God, nothing can be added to it or taken away from it. 

There is one person in the Bible who stands out for having said otherwise.  In Luke 16, Jesus tells that parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus.  When he dies, the rich man goes to hell.  Poor Lazarus gets taken to heaven to Abraham’s side.  The rich man sees Abraham in the distance and pleads with him to go to his brothers back on earth and warn them.  Abraham tells the rich man, “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.”  But the rich man objects, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”  Abraham replies that if they don’t believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe someone from the dead either.  You see it was the man in hell who said that Scripture is not enough.  And he was rebuked – the rebuke here doesn’t come so much from Abraham as from Jesus himself.  The Bible is enough!     

So, Scripture is inspired, infallible, inerrant and sufficient.  Far more could be said, but let’s now consider the content of Scripture.  What is the Bible about?  Better yet: who is the Bible about?  It’s best to let our Lord Jesus answer that question.  He does that in the fifth chapter of John.  He speaks about the Jewish leaders as those who diligently study the Scriptures – they know their Old Testament inside, out and backwards, probably a lot like any Jewish rabbi today.  They think that in so doing they possess eternal life.  Then Jesus adds these crucially important words in verse 39, “and it is they [the Scriptures] that bear witness about me…”  And then he says in verse 46, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.”  If you’re looking for some verses to memorize this week, memorize these ones, verses 39 and 46 of John 5!  They’re an important key to understanding everything in the Old Testament and everything in the New Testament.  The entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is about Jesus Christ, it’s all centered on him, it all points to him in some way, shape or form.  That’s why we sang Psalm 22 before the sermon.  That Psalm speaks about the suffering of Jesus – Jesus himself takes it on his lips while he’s on the cross.  You could also think of Psalm 110.  That Psalm speaks about the exaltation of the Lord Jesus – it’s the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament – at least 25 times, and it’s always applied to Christ.  The Psalms are about him; and not just the Psalms -- everything points to him.   

The Catechism captures that in QA 19 when it summarizes the way in which the gospel is found everywhere in the Bible.  God himself first revealed it in Genesis 3.  There we find what we call the mother promise in Genesis 3:15, where God promised to bruise the head of the serpent.  The promise of the gospel was proclaimed by and through the patriarchs, by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others.  It was preached by the prophets, by Isaiah, Jeremiah and the like.  The gospel was also revealed in the sacrifices and ceremonies of the Mosaic law.  Then finally it came to fulfillment with the incarnation of the Son of God.  The entire Bible speaks of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Let me mention a couple of ways in which this should impact our lives.  First of all, it has to impact the ministry of the church from Sunday to Sunday.  We’ve probably all heard sermons where the name of Jesus Christ wasn’t even mentioned or if he was mentioned, it was just casually in passing; maybe tacked on to the end as a kind of afterthought.  I’ve heard sermons on the radio and in person, and maybe you have too, sermons that could have been preached in a Jewish synagogue and I doubt any one there would have batted an eye.  There was nothing of Jesus Christ.  Just ethics, do this and don’t do that.  Five easy principles to this or that.  Brothers and sisters, pastors must aim to preach Christ and him crucified and congregations have an obligation to hold their ministers accountable to do just that.   

Second, let this impact the way you study the Bible, both individually and with others.  Watch out for study material that does not point you to Christ.  Watch out for Bible Study material that misses the point of Scripture.  It’s sad to say but a lot of the stuff that’s out there does miss the point.  There’s nothing or very little about Jesus Christ and how different Bible passages point us to him.  This is especially the case with Old Testament material.  As Reformed people we have a rich heritage of reading the entire Bible with an eye to Jesus Christ and his work – unfortunately, there are not a lot of people in our North American context who share that heritage.  So, I urge you to use discernment in selecting Bible Study material – look for study guides that point you to Christ, look for study guides that don’t take the gospel for granted, but have the gospel as totally central, that have Christ as central.  Don’t settle for anything less.  And when you’re doing Bible study with one another, challenge one another on this point:  how does this passage that we’re studying point us to Christ?  How does this passage direct us to the gospel? 

Now as we look at the revelation of Christ in Scripture there are two things that become apparent about him.  Those two things are expressed in QA 16 and QA 17.  He has two natures:  he is God and he is man. 

First of all, the Bible reveals that he has a divine nature.  That simply means that Jesus Christ is God, one person of the Holy Trinity.  John 1:1 is the classic text, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”  As far as his divine nature goes, he has always been the Son of God, he has always had the divine nature.  He has always been God and he will always be God. 

There have always been those who deny the divinity of Jesus.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that God created Jesus billions of years ago as the archangel Michael.  They teach that Jesus is not God equal to the Father, but merely a divine being of some sort, a god, but not God with a capital ‘G’.  The Mormons say that the heavenly Father and heavenly Mother gave birth to Jesus as their first and greatest spirit-child.  They say that he is Lucifer’s spirit-brother who became a god, but whose deity is no different than that of many people.  There are also some Pentecostals, they’re called Oneness Pentecostals, who say there is no Trinity, but that Jesus appears in the roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Oneness Pentecostals are found with sects like the United Pentecostal Church.  It used to be that these types of heresies were on the fringe of North American Christianity.  But you can go to many Christian bookstores today and find books by a popular preacher named Creflo Dollar.  He maintains that Jesus did not come as God, he came only as a man.  Dangerous heresies about Jesus’ divine nature are becoming mainstream.  You can hear them on the radio, watch them on TV and find them in Christian bookstores.

And just because someone says they believe Jesus was divine, that doesn’t mean that they’re saying what the Bible says.  Back in the 1930s, there was a popular preacher named Harry Emerson Fosdick.  While he was officially a Baptist, he was a preacher at a Presbyterian church in New York City.  Fosdick said that he believed in the divinity of Jesus.  But then he went on to say that he also believed in the divinity of his mother.  He said that all love is divine and whoever loves in great amounts is divine.  Fosdick was a trend-setting liberal in his day.  He fudged on the meaning of words.  With his use of the word “divine,” he raised humans to the level of God and thereby also lowered God to the level of humans.  When he wanted to, he could say the right words, but then the words meant something different than historic Christianity.    The point is that just because someone uses the right words, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re saying what the Bible means to say.  This is true in all kinds of areas, and also when it comes to the divinity of Jesus.        

But now we could ask:  why does it matter that Jesus was divine?  Do we have to make a big deal about this?  The Catechism rightly says that he had to be true God so he could bear the burden of God’s wrath.  Without a divine nature, he could not receive the punishment we deserve, die and then rise again victorious.  He could never obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.  If he was a mere man, he would have been totally defeated and he would never have been able to rise from the dead.  That’s why the Athanasian Creed says that you cannot be saved if you deny that Christ has a divine nature.  If you deny that Jesus is God, if you say that he is not a person of the Trinity, you cannot be saved.     

So, the Bible reveals that he has a divine nature.  The Bible also reveals a human nature of Christ.  That simply means that Christ is truly human, one of us.  Verse 14 of John 1 says it plainly, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”  As far as his human nature goes, he became a man at his incarnation.  He has not always had a human nature.  But today he does and he always will.  This human nature, as we confess in the Athanasian Creed, is a true human nature.  That means that he is exactly like us, having a human soul and human flesh.  Yes, he is sinless and yes today he has a glorified body, but in every other respect, he was and is a human being exactly as we are.  When he walked on this earth, he did everything that normal human beings do, except sin.  Everything: you name it, he did it.     

And like there have been people for centuries who deny the divinity of Jesus, there are also those who deny his humanity.  Here we don’t even have to look very far, because sometimes without even knowing what we’re doing, we’re in that number ourselves.  For example, there’s “Away in a Manger,” a popular Christmas carol.  Now I realize that many of you have probably sung this carol and perhaps it’s even a favourite with some.  But this song undermines the humanity of the Saviour when it speaks about Jesus as a baby saying “no crying he makes.”  That’s just wrong, totally wrong.  If we’re to believe that romantic idea, then it’s as if Jesus was not truly a human child who would not cry to let his mother know that he was hungry or wet or had colic.  Then there are those who are so intent on preserving Christ’s divinity that they won’t allow for the possibility that Jesus was really tempted by Satan.  As if these were just fake temptations.  As if Jesus was not tempted in every way like we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  

Loved ones, you may think this is just being picky, but there’s a lot at stake here.  Let me tell you why.  Jesus was truly human and this is encouraging for us.  He was truly tempted to sin.  He was poor.  People attacked him by spreading vicious rumours, they physically abused his real human body, he was mocked and spat on.  He experienced loneliness, deep sorrow, exhaustion and weeping.  The friends of our Lord Jesus turned their backs on him and betrayed him at his lowest point.  His family thought he was deranged.  When he was on the cross, he bled and died.  Some of you are ill, abused, burned out, tired, facing a tough financial situation, tempted, weary, hated, lonely -- we can be encouraged by the humanity of Jesus.  If we didn’t know that he was human, it would be more difficult to go to him for grace in our time of need.  His humanity and what he experienced as a real human being makes him an understanding and sympathetic friend.  Knowing all that, would you want to let go of his humanity or undermine it in the least? 

The Catechism and the Belgic Confession take us further into appreciation for his humanity.  QA 16 says that our mediator must be a true man so that he can pay for our sin.  The same human nature which has sinned has to pay for sin.  The Belgic Confession similarly says that he was true man, “that he might die for us according to the infirmity of his flesh.”  If he only had a divine nature, he would not have died, he could not have died.  But as a man, that’s exactly what he did.  He died for us.  He also rose for us and his resurrection involved his real human nature.  The Belgic Confession rightly says that “our salvation and resurrection also depend on the reality of his body.”  Scripture teaches that in passages like 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 [read].  Notice how the human nature of Christ fits in there:  the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man, through someone exactly like you and me, the risen Lord Jesus presently sitting at God’s right hand.

Brothers and sisters, the entire written Word reveals to us the divine-human Word, Jesus himself, true God and true man.  He is the mediator and deliverer, the one whom God “made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  He is the only one we need, and we need him only and exactly as he is revealed in his Word.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Father,

Thank you for giving us your inspired, inerrant, infallible and sufficient Word.  We praise you for its testimony to the gospel and its witness to Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Help us to hear and see Jesus as we read and study your Word and as it’s preached to us every Sunday.  We thank you also for the two natures of our Saviour.  We are grateful that he could bear your wrath with his divine nature.  We’re grateful that he could die for our sins with his human nature and rise again.  Father, we’re encouraged by the fact he was tempted in every respect like we are, yet without sin.  Lord Jesus, thank you on our human flesh and experiencing what we go through in our lives.  Help us with your Spirit to live with faith in you each day, relying on your Word. 




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

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