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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:Faith
Text:LD 7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2003-01-12
Added:2004-03-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs: Ps. 149:1,2,3; Ps. 149:4; Ps. 105:1,2,4; Hy. 34; Ps. 97:5,6

Reading: Romans 4:1-3, 18-25; Heb. 11:1,2, 9-19; 12:1-3

Text: LD 7
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The Word of God says that we are...

SAVED BY A TRUE FAITH

1. The necessity of faith; 2. The character of faith; 3. The community of faith.

1. LD 7 begins with an important question:

20.Q.Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?

A couple of key words in that question are the words "just as." Are we then saved by Christ just as we perished through Adam?

Here the HC is looking back at LD 2-4. These LD spoke about how we perished in Adam. You remember what we confessed there: That although God created man good, through the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin. Unable to do any good, inclined to all evil. Adam, by his deliberate disobedience, robbed himself and all his descendants of God's good gifts of righteousness, holiness and knowledge. And now man lies dead in sin, under the curse of God.

As Q. 20 repeats: Man has perished in Adam.

We can also bring in what we confess in ARTICLE 15 of the BC -

ORIGINAL SIN We believe that by the disobedience of Adam original sin has spread throughout the whole human race. It is a corruption of the entire nature of man and a hereditary evil which infects even infants in their mother's womb. As a root it produces in man all sorts of sin. It is, therefore, so vile and abominable in the sight of God that it is sufficient to condemn the human race.

Or in the Canons of Dort: 3/4 -

ARTICLE 2 - THE SPREAD OF CORRUPTION Since after the fall man became corrupt, he as a corrupt father brought forth corrupt children. Thus the corruption has spread from Adam to all his descendants, with the exception of Christ alone....

ARTICLE 3 - MAN'S TOTAL INABILITY Therefore all men are conceived in sin and are born as children of wrath, incapable of any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in sins, and slaves of sin....

The unanimous testimony of our confessions is that we have perished in Adam. The confessions only echo the scriptures in this. Eph. 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...

We are dead in Adam because of an hereditary evil. We inherited original sin, and it killed us. We are spiritually dead because of it. We shudder, but we know it's true.

But then those beautiful LD 5 & 6 told us about the way of escape and being received back into God's favour! About a Mediator and deliverer who satisfied God's justice and paid for sin. Who bore the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin. Who restores us to righteousness and life. And we heard that his name is: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are these two Adams. Standing against each other. Death through the one; life through the other. Condemnation because of the first; acquittal by the second. The first brings forth sinners; the last produces righteous ones.

As Rom. 5:17-19 says: If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.

But now LD 7 comes along and asks: OK, but, how does that work? Does that happen by itself? Are we saved by Christ just as we perished through Adam?

An important question. We ought to understand the intention of the HC in asking this question. The HC is not so much thinking here of the heresy of universal atonement. That heresy is out there. There are people who call themselves Christians who say that Christ saves everyone. Whether you are a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Christian-Christ saves you. The main difference between a Christian and, e.g., a Jew is that the Christian knows Christ has saved him; the Jew does not yet know that.

There are those who hold to this heresy. And there are many modifications of it. While LD 7 would contradict this heresy, it is not so much addressing it-the heresy of universal atonement.

Rather, the intention of the HC here is to ask: How does salvation in Christ reach me? Am I passive in the matters of salvation? Does it all happen outside of me?

I perished in Adam. I was born spiritually dead. Do I come alive in Christ in the same way?

The question of universal salvation was not an issue when the HC was written. Instead, the HC, a product of the Reformation, wants to maintain the gospel of Jesus Christ over against the beliefs and practices of the Medieval church. Before the Reformation of the church in the 15-1600's, personal faith was not so important. In the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, as long as you had been baptized, as long as you used the sacraments, and did not put an obstacle in the way of God's grace, then you were OK. Your salvation was assured. As long you believed what the church believed (even if you did not know what the church believed), that was good enough.

This is captured in, what has come to be called, "The Colliers Catechism." (A collier is a coal-miner.) This catechism consists of three questions and answers.
Q. What do you believe?
A. I believe what the Church believes.
Q. What does the Church believe?
A. The Church believes what I believe.
Q. Well, then, what is it that both you and the Church believe?
A. We both believe the very same thing.

The faith of the collier (the coal-miner). Or as it was called in Latin: fides carbonaria.

In the Middle Ages the church presented itself as the institution of grace. The church mediated God's grace more or less automatically. QA 20 addresses that idea of the Medieval, pre-Reformation church. The idea that there was a sort of original grace beside original sin.

Q. 20 could be rephrased: Is there hereditary grace just like there is hereditary evil?

Cat. answers: No. Salv. in Christ is not automatic. Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits.

The Saviour Jesus Christ is central. He calls you to a true and a living faith in him. He is the tree God has planted in the world. The good news about him is proclaimed together with the command to repent and believe. When you do that (repent and believe) you are grafted into him. The Holy Spirit makes you one with Christ.

Faith is necessary for salvation. Personal faith in Jesus Christ.

Does this not need to be proclaimed in our midst as well? We must be members of the church. There is no salvation outside the church. But what kind of church members must we be? Believing members. Members who by personal faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.

2. The character of faith.

After underlining that faith is necessary for salvation, the catechism again asks a good question: If true faith is necessary, what is true faith? What is the character, the nature of true faith?

In answer 21, we hear about knowledge and confidence. It talks about two things, but we must not drive a wedge between the two of them. We must not make an artificial distinction between knowledge and confidence. Faith is both of these working at the same time.

Faith is knowledge of God's word. And so our faith has roots. It is rooted in the word of God. At the same time it is confidence - confidence in the saving work of Jesus Christ. And so it has a firm foundation, nl., Jesus Christ. We've got to keep these two together - knowledge and confidence. If we overstress knowledge, the danger is that our religion becomes sterile, strictly an exercise of the mind. If we overstress confidence, the danger is that the Bible remains a closed book and we rely on our emotions, on warm fuzzy feelings for God.

Faith is both. It affects our mind, our thinking; at the same time, it affects our heart. We cannot have confidence in our heart if we do not learn to know God by reading his word. When we read God's word and learn more and more about the promises of God, then our confidence will increase. The more love we have in our hearts for God, the more we will want to read the great love letter he wrote us. The more we will want to study his word and find out what he has revealed about himself.

True faith is a matter of the whole person: Head and heart; knowing and doing; hearing and applying.

True faith says "Amen" to all that God has revealed in his word. It says, "Yes, I believe it." It takes all the promises of God at face value. If I read in the Bible that all those who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved, then I don't doubt that promise. Then I accept it as true.

And then I also trust in God. I have a firm confidence that salvation through Jesus Christ is also for me. You see how personal QA 21 makes it again. At the same time it is a firm confidence that not only to others, but also to me, God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation.

Again, each of us personally must be able to say that. Not only to others, but also to me ... Faith is the key that opens the storehouse of God's blessings:

* Salvation in Christ; the word 'salvation' is a summarizing word which includes all the benefits we receive from God through Christ. * Forgiveness of sins... * Righteousness... * Everlasting life...

True faith is saying "Yes and Amen" to all the promises of God, to every word of God. True faith is living like Abraham, the father of all those who have faith.

Abram was called out of Ur of Chaldees to go to the land of Canaan. God called him out of a leading city, out of a very cultured and sophisticated city to go and live in tents in some backwater land. As Heb. 11 says, "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob." It took faith on Abram's part to leave the security of Ur for the insecurity of another land. But he went. He said "Yes & Amen" to God's promise.

Faith is believing against all human expectations the promises of God. Again like Abraham: He believed God when God said he and his old barren wife would have a son. He believed the promise of God, grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

By faith, Abraham was even ready to offer up Isaac, the son through whom God had said the promise would be fulfilled. Abraham was ready, because he knew and had confidence that God would be true to his word.

That's faith. Accepting for true God's word and having unwavering confidence in his promises.

Do you have this kind of faith? Do you accept as true all that God has revealed in his word? Do you have a firm, personal confidence that God has granted you salvation?

It's not always so easy, is it? Often we have these little twinges of doubt. Is it all true? Or, is it really for me too? Am I one of God's children? Is the gospel of Christ also for me?

Yes, beloved. It is true. And it is for you too, for each of you. The gospel is proclaimed. It's a well-meant offer. It's for you. Each of you.

And when you do have twinges of doubt, don't despair. Remember that even Abraham, the father of all believers, also, at times, fell into doubt and unbelief. He took Hagar to wife in order to help God out in fulfilling the promise of a son. And while he and Sarah were in Egypt, then he told Sarah to tell Pharaoh that she was only his sister, not his wife, because he was scared that Pharaoh would kill him. At times, even the father of believers showed a lack of faith.

This does legitimize unbelief. Of course not. But it can encourage us. It can keep us from despair when we do, at times, stumble along the road of faith.

When we do, let us flee to the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit, as the end of QA 21 says, is the one who works faith in our hearts by the gospel. Pray God to work that faith in your heart. Pray God to help you believe the promises of the gospel. You'll not be disappointed.

And look to Jesus whom Heb. 12:2 calls the author and perfecter of the faith. He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega of the faith. Look to him. Continue following him. He will bring you to the final goal of faith-life in the eternal land of promise.

3. The community of faith.

LD 7 is not quite finished. QA 22 & 23 show us that although each of us must personally, individually believe in Christ and accept his benefits, we do not believe all on our own. You believe in the midst of the great congregation, in communion with the church of all places and ages.

22.Q.What, then, must a Christian believe? A.All that is promised us in the gospel, which the articles of our catholic and undoubted Christian faith teach us in a summary.

Then, in QA 23, follows the AC, the church's most summary statement (113 words) of the promises of the gospel. The next LD, 8 - 22, will look at each sentence, each word, each expression of this summary statement as the HC continues to explores every corner of our blessed salvation in Christ.

By doing so, the HC ties what you must believe in order to be saved to the ancient Christian church of apostles and martyrs. The Reformation did not establish a new church. It went back to the ancient church. Back to the roots. It proclaimed that ancient gospel you must believe to be saved.

The church does not believe for you. Rather, you believe within the community of the church. The ancient gospel is proclaimed. You believe it. And you are saved. Then you, an individual believer, grafted into Christ, personally accepting the benefits of Christ, have a place within the community of faith, the church of all ages, the people of God. Know it. Be sure of it.

And so, beloved of the Lord: Accept the benefits of Christ. Accept as true all that God has revealed to us in his Word. Have confidence that God has granted you, personally, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation, out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ. Believe all the promises of the gospel. And you will be saved by your true faith. AMEN.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/jan1203pm.html

(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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