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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Gradual and Glorious Unveiling of Jesus Christ
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:All of scripture points to Jesus Christ
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-08-07
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 118:5,6                                                                                           

Hy 3:2,5  [after Nicene Creed]                                                                                              

Reading – 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Hebrews 1:1-14; Belgic Confession Article 2

Ps 99:1,2,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 6

Hy 48:1,2

Hy 37:1,2

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


Beloved in Christ, when we look around us, we know that there’s a God. For He is shown in the glories of his creation! Through things as big as the wonders of whales on their annual migrations, and things as small as those shoots of life in our garden that announce the coming spring. God’s majesty is there to be seen! And this display, Romans 1 says, leaves people without excuse: If you knew there was a God, then why didn’t you worship Him?

The divine show in the creation is enough to condemn. But—and here’s a hard truth—this revelation isn’t enough to save. Remember what previous Lord’s Days have said: There’s no way to have fellowship with God on our own terms, or by our own initiative. For even if we confess that there’s a God, we don’t respond to Him in the right way. We don’t give him wholehearted love and worship. So He should condemn us, yet God saves. We sinners need a great Saviour, and God provides!

So how do we know about this Redeemer? If we studied creation all our lives—looked into the microscope, or gazed into the telescope—the creation wouldn’t tell us. It shows us the glorious God, but it doesn’t show the way back into his holy presence. 

In our search for a Helper, we can look to just one place. And that’s the Scriptures. As our confession puts it, “[God] makes himself more clearly and fully known to us by his holy and divine Word… to his glory for and our salvation” (B.C., Art. 2). On these pages God liberally makes himself known—not to convict, but to redeem! The solution to our sin, the deliverance from doom, gets told in one place only: God’s holy Word! I preach this Word to you,

In the Scriptures God reveals Jesus our Mediator:

  1. this is a gradual unveiling
  2. this is a glorious unveiling

 

1. This is a gradual unveiling: When sin entered the world, it had an immediate result. Kind of like an atomic bomb hitting the centre of a city, there was nothing subtle about it. As the shockwaves spread out into all creation, that first sin ruined everything it touched. It meant the beauty, peace, and harmony of life were suddenly shattered. Work becomes a sweaty and frustrating burden. Childbirth becomes a painful ordeal. Relationships now suffer because of shame and proud selfishness. And worst of all, there’s no more walking with God. A great divide is opened between him and those made in his image.

From that first moment, there’s a desperate need for someone to help. Couldn’t someone put things right? And if He had wanted to, God could’ve given this help at once. Nothing prevented him from revealing the perfect answer to sin, then and there. He could’ve unveiled in the Garden none other than Jesus Christ. He could’ve announced to our parents that their hour of darkness was over, almost as quickly as it had begun. “Fear not. Meet your Saviour!”

But God does something else. He reveals salvation in another way, by the gradual method. He provides a Mediator, and He makes him known—just not all at once. We’re probably all familiar with the message of John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” A beautiful promise, one of the fullest statements of the gospel that you can find in Scripture, but God won’t just drop it onto earth. He’ll “take his time” with it, pulling the curtain back slowly.

There’s a gradual unveiling… Yet God will give a glimpse of what salvation looks like—even as the shockwaves are still spreading. The Catechism says, “God himself first revealed the gospel in Paradise” (Q&A 19). For the LORD speaks to Satan those well-known words about his coming doom. He explains to him how his head is going to be crushed, and that a child of the woman he led astray is going to do it!

Those words are meant for Satan’s ears, yet notice how God lets us listen in. Before He removes us from the Garden forever, He lets us hear this. Because what was bad news for the devil, is great news for fallen man.

When the first child, Cain, was born, don’t you think that Eve dared to hope? As she held little Cain in her arms, we imagine that the thought must’ve been on her mind: “Is this now the saviour? The one we’ve been waiting for, for months now? Could this be the chosen child, who will crush that wicked serpent?” Eve remembered God’s promise, cherished what He’d said in Paradise. But it wasn’t Cain. God has his own schedule and plan. Adam and Eve, and their descendants, and their descendants, will have to wait, and wait some more. God likes to make his people wait—we’ve got things to learn.

But even in all the waiting, this one thing never changes: God has announced the gospel, He has signalled his gracious intent to save sinners, and God won’t take it back. Rather, He keeps revealing more and more, pulling back the curtain further on his grace. Hebrews 1:1 says, “God at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers.” That verse describes how God continued to speak words of redemption to his people. God reassures them that He hasn’t forgotten, that He’s still working on it. He does it in the Old Testament through visions and face-to-face encounters, through miracles and signs, through laws and decrees.

For then God “also had the gospel proclaimed by the patriarchs” (Q&A 19). What’s a patriarch? The father of a nation. So think of Abraham. He’d just barely met God in Genesis 12, when the LORD tells him that his name will be made great, that all nations will be blessed through him, and that from him kings will come. This is how Jesus can say what He does about Abraham in John 8, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (v 56). Without knowing exactly what he was looking at, Abraham anticipated the great day of Christ coming to earth. He saw it, Jesus says, and was glad!

Later on, the patriarch Jacob gives a prophecy from his deathbed when he says that the sceptre will not depart from Judah’s house.  A man from Judah’s house will one day hold the sceptre, that symbol of rule and authority, so that He can crush the enemy.

These are just small glimpses of the gospel. We’d call them “teasers” or “previews”—“trailers” for the full-length feature. From snippets and glimpses, Israel sees that God is working on something incredible: that He’s actually going to deliver them from sin. The same message is underlined in the following centuries. It’s repeated often by the “prophets” (Q&A 19). By Isaiah, and Jeremiah, by Ezekiel, and Daniel, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and more—they all spoke about one who was coming. The prophets said He would be a suffering servant, a faithful shepherd, a righteous king in Judah’s tribe and David’s line, one born in Bethlehem, raised in Galilee, and received at Jerusalem.

Even when there was no prophet in the land, Israel heard echoes of the gospel. They could hear it every day through the temple worship. Says the Catechism, “God had [the gospel] foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law” (Q&A 19). Just what did they learn from those things? Israel learns about God’s majestic holiness, and their own dirty sinfulness. They learn that their sin can be atoned for, but only by the shedding of blood. Slowly, also, the people must have learned that animal sacrifices simply were not the answer. Bulls and goats just weren’t doing the job, for those offerings had to be repeated, day after day, year after year. All that blood was wishing and hoping and praying for the One who was yet to come—and yet to die—once and for all.

We’re not surprised then, to meet two old saints in Luke’s gospel, Simeon and Anna. Luke says that they are “waiting for the redemption of Israel.” Having heard about it so often, having seen the need for it so long, they yearned for what God was making ready! They were waiting for it.

Let’s ponder that point for a moment: Why do it this way? Why not just tell us about Christ, on that first dark day in the Garden? He could’ve told us then, but He didn’t, and He waited centuries to do so. So why?

First, think about how this brings glory to God. With each new announcement, each new promise, his people are being given beautiful pictures of the LORD’s amazing grace. With every new installment, each new preview, they could praise God for making their hope even more certain: “God really is going to save us!” And as they learned more, they could see how marvelous it would be. It’s like when you hear a long drum roll before a final announcement, or like a long countdown before a rocket lifts off for space. The build-up is beautiful! The anticipation puts all eyes on what God is going to do next, and how glorious He is.

God did it for his glory. But second, God probably also knew that the gospel was too much for us to take in all at once. If He printed John 3:16 leaflets and dropped them out of the sky onto Paradise, we probably wouldn’t have known what to do with it. What’s all this about? Don’t we first have to realize how badly we need his grace? And don’t we have to learn how God can make his grace happen—that it’s not cheap grace, but costly? God knows we’re slow to understand, slow to make connections. And so, bit by bit, He teaches. Stone by stone, He lays down the gospel’s foundation, so we can build on it as firm and steadfast.

So after the final Old Testament prophecy, did God’s people know what the Saviour would be like? Could they put it all together, build a profile of who God was going to send? They probably should’ve known, but they didn’t. Think of what happened on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. There were two disciples walking, disheartened by recent events: Jesus had just been captured, crucified, and buried. Now there were rumours about his body being gone, which only made them more troubled.

And then the risen Jesus appears to them. They don’t know it, of course, but the very one they’re mourning takes time to listen to their sorrows. And when they’re done, He doesn’t comfort them, but rebukes them: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26). Yes, they could’ve known.

But the stranger doesn’t stop with a rebuke. For He’s got a lesson to teach—it’s a Christ-centred survey of all the Scriptures! Starting with Moses, and going right through to the Prophets, Jesus brings forward text after text, things that these disciples had doubtless heard many times, passages they’d memorized from their youth.

“Take a look at Psalm 2,” Christ says, “Or Psalm 16, Psalm 22, Psalm 72, Psalm 110, and Psalm 118. Take a look at Isaiah,” He says, “chapter 7, chapter 9, or chapter 40, chapter 53, and chapter 61.” Where it said that the Saviour would have a ministry of power and praise, but also one of pain and rejection, and one ending in death. As Jesus says: He had to suffer these things, for they were spoken of by God’s Word. Jesus reveals how the whole puzzle fits together: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (v 27).

There’s a good corrective in those words, isn’t there, a reminder we need? The most important thing that the Scriptures say is about Christ the Saviour! The Bible isn’t about us as believers, not in the most direct sense, anyway. No, the Bible is about God, revealed in Jesus. He’s the main character. Do you remember what Jesus said in John 5? “Search the Scriptures, for they testify to me.”

And that has a practical consequence. It means that when we read Scripture, and study the Bible together, we shouldn’t jump right away to questions like, “What does this have to do with me?” or “How can I apply this to my life?” Those aren’t bad questions—in fact, we need to ask them. But there’s something else to do first. In every chapter, we should know what the Bible says about our God and our Saviour, how it all applies to Him. “What does this story teach us about God’s greatness, his love or justice or faithfulness? How does this text make us appreciate Christ even more?”

If we read Scripture like it’s just a manual for a better life, a book that makes us better people, we end up taking the spotlight off Jesus. And what an unspeakable loss that would be! Because in the end, what are we, without Christ? Apart from Jesus, what hope do we have? So see Him first. Search for Him first. Let every text show you something about how He saves sinners, and how He is glorious in his ways. Remember to be amazed at what is said in all Scripture “concerning him.” Patiently and progressively, slowly but surely, God revealed the coming Saviour. And now He has come, in all his glory!

 

2. this is a glorious unveiling: Let’s return to Hebrews 1 for a moment. The letter opens: “God… at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets…” (1:1). That summarizes our first point: the gradual unveiling of God’s saving place. Now listen to the next verse: “But God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son” (v 2). This is something new, a great leap forward. God announces the gospel through the person and work of his Son. This is what you’ve been waiting for, like when Jesus declares, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me!”

For in every way, Jesus has all the needed qualities. We’ve learned about these qualities in previous Lord’s Days. As is necessary, Jesus is a true man, in body and soul. It says in Galatians 4:4, “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman.” He was a true man, and a righteous man—a spotless sacrifice for sin.

And when we look at Jesus, we see that He’s also, like Isaiah prophesied long before, “Mighty God.” For this Jesus of Nazareth raises the dead. He calms the storms. He forgives sins. He’s worshiped by people, and He doesn’t tell them to stop. He says He is the great “I AM.” That’s how Hebrews can say so boldly about Christ: He is “the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person” (1:3). When we look at Jesus, we see the Almighty God himself. No longer is there a filter, a curtain, a veil. God revealed himself in creation, but never like this. God revealed himself in the past, but not like this. In Christ we see the saving God!

Think also of our reading from 2 Corinthians 3. There Paul is remembering what happened at Mount Sinai. That was an awesome revelation of the LORD, in the fire and smoke and thunder. Yet for all the splendour of Sinai, the Israelites didn’t see the full glory of the LORD. And then when God’s glory was reflected in the face of Moses, they couldn’t bear to look at it, and he had to wear something in front of his face.

Keep in mind that the Israelites were looking at a reflection of glory—it’s like seeing the moon in the night sky. Its only light is reflected light, light borrowed from the sun. No, Israel wasn’t ready to see God’s greatness. And who could ever be ready to see it? It’s enough to destroy us—He’s a consuming fire. It’s like when parents tell their kids not to look right into the sun. You can hurt your eyes!

But then the glorious God comes near in Jesus. Says Paul, “The veil is taken away in Christ” (v 14). When we look at Jesus, we go behind the scenes. We see God’s true glory. In Christ we see how merciful our God is. In Christ, we see how perfectly just our God is. In Christ, we see how faithful God is. In the face of Jesus we see the light of the glory of God: radiant, shining light! We can look right at the Son, and not be destroyed, but healed.

It’s through faith in Christ that we can again have fellowship with God. For Jesus was the required offering, He was the full payment, the effective atonement! He dealt with our sin, and He purged our guilt away.

Think of the blessing that is ours to know this! Already in the Old Testament, God’s revelation was stunning—think of how much Jesus had to say to those two men from Emmaus. There was a sure message of hope back then, yet it’s been far outshone and far surpassed: “If what was passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious” (v 11). How marvelous is the full gospel of Christ!

In his first letter Peter writes about how this gospel was promised through the servants of God. He says the old prophets always wanted to find out more, yet it was hidden from them—it was off-limits. Peter says, “Even angels long to look into these things” (1:12). Not that angels need salvation in the same way we do—they don’t. But even angels understand how amazing is the grace of God. Even angels can see how glorious is the gospel for those who believe. So Peter says that even angels want to know more about it, to be impressed by its beauty.

Ponder the privilege we have. The day that Abraham rejoiced to see, even from a great distance, is a day that we’ve seen up close! What the ancient prophets searched for so intently, this treasure God has revealed to us! What even angels long to look into, you and I can look at with the eyes of faith! For God has told us the whole story: the story of the cross, and the empty tomb, and the promise of life eternal.

The solution to our sin, the deliverance from our doom—gets told in one place only: on the pages of God’s holy Word. So what is our responsibility but to be in that precious Word of Christ? To know it well. To love it dearly. We need to know, better than anything else we know, the “holy gospel.” Because being in the Word is fundamental to being in Christ. It’s fundamental to having faith in Christ. “The Scriptures testify to him!”

How do you know that Word better? There’s no easy or automatic way. Having it on your phone, or on your shelf, or your bedside table is only the first step. Sleeping with it under your pillow won’t fill your mind with its content and message. There’s no easy way to know the Word. But neither is there a secret to it. It comes through the daily discipline of reading Scripture, the daily practice of studying God’s Word.

Let’s admit that we easily lay Scripture to one side. We’re tempted to skip it if we’re running late, or if we’re feeling tired, or we’re just too busy this week. And then there are other things to do, things we consider more urgent, more enjoyable. Think of the priority that we put on going to the gym, or on having a nice yard. Or maybe you have a favourite TV show, one you look forward to and wouldn’t think of missing. Or think of all our time spent online: posting, and surfing, and scrolling, and gaming. Think of whatever it is that fills your hours when you’re not working, you’re not sleeping, or you’re not eating. What fills those hours?

The point is not to “guilt” you into doing something. The point is to consider how rich is the good news that God has told us—good news of hope and encouragement and wisdom that we need each and every day of our life.

So just imagine giving more importance in your life to the Word of God. Imagine learning about Jesus, and hearing his voice in the Scriptures, and doing so often. Imagine looking forward all day to your time of devotions, because you know that it pleases the Lord, and you know that it blesses you. And after you’re done, imagine that you want to talk about it, and share it with someone else. Because it’s the best news you’ve heard all day.

This isn’t some unrealistic dream, something unachievable. It’s do-able. And it’s vital. Because God wants to be known. He wants us to know Him, and to know his Son, Jesus our Saviour. So know Him more, that you may love Him more.  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 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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