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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:We are one with Christ through faith
Text:LD 7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Faith
 
Added:2017-06-04
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps. 46: 1, 3

Ps. 46: 5

Ps. 62: 3, 4

Ps. 52: 5, 6

Ps. 33: 5, 6

 

Scripture reading:       John 15: 1 – 8; Rom. 10: 13 – 17; 11: 13 – 24

Text:                            Lord’s Day 7

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


One with Christ through Faith

Ps. 46: 1, 3

Ps. 46: 5

Ps. 62: 3, 4

Ps. 52: 5, 6

Ps. 33: 5, 6

 

Scripture reading:       John 15: 1 – 8; Rom. 10: 13 – 17; 11: 13 – 24

Text:                            Lord’s Day 7

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

A farmer with an orchard, or a farmer with a wine farm, may know the art of stem grafting.   

You make a cut into the stem of a fruit tree and then graft the branch of another tree onto it.   Or you graft the shoot of a desired vine into the stem of another vine.  

When this grafting is successful then the original stem nourishes the implanted shoot, so that the shoot grows and bears fruit.

 

Our Lord Jesus used such stem grafting as an image to illustrate our union with Him.   We are shoots and we need to be grafted into Him, because we have no source of life in ourselves.   We live only through union with Him.   As long as we remain in Him, and He in us, we will live and bear much fruit.   But if anyone is cut off from Christ, he withers and dies and is gathered for the fire.   

Jesus says:

 

“I am the vine, you are the branches.   He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)

 

Now, to be grafted into Christ is a wonder of God’s grace.   He grafts us into Christ.   And the means by which He grafts us into Christ is: through faith.  

 

We also read that passage in Romans chapter 11 where the apostle Paul says to the Gentile believers:

 

“…remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.   You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’   Well said.   Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith…” – verse 20

 

It is because of unbelief that some covenant children are cut off from Christ.  And it is through faith that we are grafted into Christ; and through faith that we remain in Him.

 

In the same passage the apostle continues to state that if the Jews would come to faith in Christ they will be grafted into Christ again, for God is able to graft them in again – verse 23.

 

They are not able to graft themselves into Christ; only God is able to do this.  

 

Now, the means by which God does this wonder of spiritual stem grafting, is by the proclamation of the gospel.   By His Word and Spirit He grafts us into Christ.   The Holy Spirit gives us ears to hear, and confirms the preaching of the gospel in our hearts, so that we believe in Christ, and thus by faith are grafted into Christ.    

 

I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

We are one with Christ through faith

 

We will note…

1.      That only those who are grafted into Christ will be saved

2.      That the Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ through faith

3.      That the Holy Spirit works faith through the Word of God

In the first place we note that…

Only those who are grafted into Christ will be saved

 

All God’s promises have their fulfilment in Christ.  

In Christ only!  

The apostle Paul says to the Galatians:

 

“…to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made.   He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed’, who is Christ.” – Gal. 3: 16

 

The Hebrew word for seed can, just as in English, be a collective noun referring to many seeds, including all the descendants of Abraham.   And the apostle knows this.   But, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gives us a trustworthy interpretation of the promise.   He says, that the seed refers to One only: Jesus Christ.   In Him we find the fulfilment of the promises; in Him only.

 

In Christ all God’s promises are “Yes”, and in Christ “Amen” – 2 Cor. 1: 20.

All God’s promises have their fulfilment in Christ.   Apart from Christ there is no promise and no blessing.

 

And thus we need to be grafted into Christ, for apart from Him there is only death.

 

Dear congregation, we live in a world and a society where all religions are treated as equal.   While many still call themselves Christian, they do not dare to confess that salvation is only to be found in Jesus Christ.   If you would make a public statement in the newspaper saying that the Christian faith is the only true faith, and that all other religions are false, and that all who are not grafted into Christ by a true faith will surely perish eternally, you may be persecuted for making such a statement in public.

It will be viewed as discrimination and “hate speech” to say in public that the Christian faith is the only true faith.

 

Instead of recognising one true faith only, instead of believing in Jesus Christ as our only Saviour, we are told by many voices in our society that all religions serve the same God – Christians, Muslims, Hindus, whether holding to New Age beliefs or Aboriginal beliefs worshipping forefather Spirits, or whatever religion there may be!   We are told that each religion has something good in it, and that we have to learn to appreciate the good elements in other religions.   We can all learn from each other!

 

But, dear congregation, Scripture is extremely exclusive.  

There is only one Saviour who can save: our Lord Jesus Christ.

Apart from Him there is no salvation, as Jesus Himself said:

 

            “I am the way, the truth, and the life.   “No one comes to the Father except through        Me.” – John 14: 6

 

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4: 12

 

Only one way, one truth, one Name: Jesus Christ.

 

Apart from Him all men are dead in sin; dry wood that will be gathered for the fire.

 

So then, if there is no life apart from union and communion with Christ, where does this union and communion with Christ come from?  

Is it something natural, or something that is common to all men?  

Do we all share in Christ’s benefits just as we all share in Adams curse?  

 

No, there is indeed a parallel between Christ and Adam.  

Christ is called “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15: 45).

And Christ is called: “the second Man” – (1 Cor. 15: 47).

 

And: “…as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” – 1 Cor. 15: 22

 

All who are in Adam die; all who are in Christ are made alive.

But there is a difference between our union with Adam and our union with Christ.

We are one with Adam by nature, but we are one with Christ only by a gracious work of God’s electing love.

We are children of Adam by birth, but members of Christ by faith only.

 

And thus not all men are saved by Christ just as they perish through Adam.

Something supernatural has to take place.   We need to be grafted into Christ by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit.

 

We note that in the second place, that…

The Holy Spirit grafts us into Christ through faith

 

If a child would burn his hand, and his father would go and purchase ointment to apply to the wound, then the ointment will not benefit the child until it is applied to the wound.

Without applying the ointment the purchased ointment won’t benefit.

 

The same is true with regard to the salvation which Christ has purchased for us.   It needs to be applied to each of us personally.  

And this is what the Holy Spirit does.   He joins us to Christ so that we are united to Christ and share in all the riches of His salvation.  

 

God saves us.  

He saves us by joining us to Christ.    

 

And thus we come to this crucial question with regard to our salvation:  How am I joined to Christ?   How am I grafted into Him so that I actually receive all the riches of His salvation?   It is through faith only; and this faith the Holy Spirit works in me by the preaching of the gospel.

 

In the previous Lord’s Day we confess that God has made our Lord Jesus Christ “our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption”.   We have it all in Christ Jesus: full and complete salvation.

But there is only one way in which these riches of Christ’s salvation become our own: through faith in Him.  

This faith is a most wonderful, divine and powerful work which the Holy Spirit works in and through us.  

 

He works this faith in us through the preaching of the gospel.

Through the preaching Christ is proclaimed to us, and the Spirit confirms the preaching in our hearts so that we believe in Christ, and cling to Him.

 

Through His Spirit Christ Himself dwells in us, as He said to His disciples that His Spirit will dwell with them and in them – John 14: 17.   And then He also says this:

 

            “…I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” – John 14: 20

 

Christ makes His dwelling in us through His Spirit.   His Spirit is the bond between Christ and us.  

“…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” – Rom. 8: 9

 

The Holy Spirit is also called “the Spirit of adoption” by whom we call God our Father – Rom. 8: 15.   Without the Spirit we have no communion with Christ.

Thus we also confess in the Form for Baptism that God the Holy Spirit promises us that He will dwell in us and make us living members of Christ, imparting to us what we have in Christ.

It is the Holy Spirit that makes us living members of Christ.   And the means by which He does this is faith – faith in the Lord Jesus.

 

So then, Christ applies His salvation to us by joining us to Himself.   He joins us to Himself by making His dwelling in us through His Spirit.  

This happens only in one way: by means of God’s revealed Word the Holy Spirit proclaims Christ to us, and then He works faith in our hearts so that we believe the gospel.  

 

Yes, the Holy Spirit works faith, but He does this only through the proclamation of God’s Word.

We note that in the last place, that…

The Holy Spirit works faith through the Word of God

 

“…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

 

We read it this afternoon in Romans chapter 10.

 

How can anyone believe in the Lord if he never heard of Him; and how can he hear the gospel if no one proclaims it to him?   

“So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” – Rom. 10: 17

 

The Holy Spirit does not work faith in us in an immediate way.   The Holy Spirit gives us faith by one means only: the Word of God.   We need to hear the gospel proclaimed to us in order to believe it. 

 

Faith is not something abstract; it is not just a mystic feeling.   Faith has a definite and fixed content: the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed to us in holy Scripture.   Faith is to trust God’s Word.   Faith is believing the content of the gospel.    Faith is believing in Jesus Christ as He is presented to us in the proclamation of God’s Word.

 

And thus faith in Christ comes only through believing the gospel of Christ.

 

The apostle Paul says for example:

 

“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” – 1 Cor. 1: 21

 

It pleased God to use the preaching of this despised gospel to save those who believe it.

That is the means by which He saves us: the preaching of the gospel.

 

The apostle Peter also calls the preaching of God’s Word: the seed by which we are born again.  

“…having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever…”

“…Now, this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1: 23, 25.

 

So then, we receive faith through the preaching of God’s Word, and we are born again through the seed of God’s Word which the Holy Spirit in this way plants into our hearts.

 

If someone does not believe the Word he simply does not believe.

True faith is in the first place “a sure knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word”.    There can be no true faith in Christ while doubting His word.

 

There are indeed in our day many theologians who call themselves Christian, but who doubt the accuracy and the trustworthiness of God’s Word.   They do want to believe in a god, but not the God of the Scriptures.    Yes, they say they believe in God, while they reject His Word.

But we confess that this is not possible.  Faith is, in the first place, believing God’s Word.

As we confess here in Lord’s Day 7: a true faith is first of all to accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word.

 

Dear congregation, we are not allowed to make our own small selection from God’s Word and decide what we want to believe and what not, or what we want to hear and what not.   We either believe all that God has revealed to us, or we don’t believe at all.

 

But faith is in the second place also a firm confidence and assurance of the complete salvation that God has promised us in Christ.   Through faith we put our trust in God and in His Word, believing all His promises which are yes and amen in Christ Jesus.  

 

So then, it is the Holy Spirit who works faith in our hearts, but He works this faith through the revealed Word of God which He proclaims to us in the preaching, and the Word itself points us to God’s salvation in Christ.

 

Dear congregation, the charismatic movement has become huge.   It is all around us, and also infiltrating many Reformed churches.   One of the main errors of the Charismatic movement is that, to a certain degree, it separates the working of the Holy Spirit from the revealed Word of God in Scripture.

 

It happens in various ways.

It happens for example when they believe that the Holy Spirit does not speak to us only through the Scriptures, but also through dreams and visions, and that the Spirit guides us not only through God’s Word in Scripture but through mystic experiences and feelings.   They believe that the Holy Spirit guides and teaches us also apart from God’s revealed Word – by dreams and visions and mystic experiences – and that the Spirit works faith in us also in an immediate direct way without the Word.

 

Such a false and mystic faith is becoming very popular in our day, especially as postmodern man rejects all absolute truth and all revealed truth, and turns to a mystic religion where man searches for truth in himself, in his own feeling and experiences.  

 

The Charismatics do the same; only, they ascribe their own feelings and experiences to the work of the Holy Spirit, and thus are guided by their own feelings and experiences.

 

The separation of Word and Spirit also happens when they interpret the Word in a subjective way.   The interpretation of God’s Word then becomes a matter of feeling and experience.   Whatever the Word says is then taken out of context and interpreted according to own feeling and experience. 

In this way, God’s Word is replaced by man’s own imagination, even while they do this with an open Bible and call it the guidance of the Spirit.  

 

The separation of Word and Spirit also happens when people reinterpret Scripture to suite their own time and culture.   Then many passages of Scripture are viewed as outdated and irrelevant for our time, so that the Spirit needs to guide us into new truths, without a clear Bible.   And the more they deviate from Scripture the more they boast about the guidance of the Spirit.

 

But that is no true faith.   And that is not the Spirit of Christ.

The Holy Spirit does not work faith in our hearts by a mystic experience apart from God’s Word, but only by the revealed Word of God as proclaimed in Scripture.

 

All the work of the Spirit in us is by the Word only.   He called us by the preaching and instruction of the Word.   He gave us faith by the Word.   He guides us in the truth by the Word.   He testifies in our hearts by the Word.   He sanctifies us by the Word.   He gives us spiritual growth by the Word.

In short, He unites us to Christ and all the blessings of His riches and salvation, only by the Word of God.

The moment we try to separate Word and Spirit, it leads to heresy and death.

 

Dear congregation, if we realise that we are united to Christ and receive all the riches of His salvation only through faith, and if we realise that the Holy Spirit works this faith in our hearts only through the revealed and proclaimed Word of God, then we start to realise that we really need to be instructed by God’s Word. 

And we do not need the instruction of God’s Word only once, but continually.   We can only believe in Christ as long as we are being instructed in Him, and by Him.

 

We need the instruction of God’s Word in our homes; we need also with absolute necessity the official administration of God’s Word as it is administered to us by the elders during home visits, and as it is administered in the catechism classes, and especially here in the church service where God’s Word is officially proclaimed and preached to us.

Yes, without receiving continually the proclamation of God’s Word there can be no true faith, no true union with Christ, no life.

The Word is not only the seed of regeneration by which we receive faith once, but also the milk and also the solid food by which we continue to live and to grow in Christ.

 

Brothers and sisters, God’s promises in Christ are also for you, therefore, believe His promises!    Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died not only for the sins of others, but for you.

God called you, and He continues to call you by the preaching of the gospel.

God promises you the forgiveness of all your sins and everlasting righteousness and salvation out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  

 

Yes, the Holy Spirit is at work also in this church service, as God’s Word comes to you this afternoon with the command: repent, and believe the gospel.

Hear the Word, and believe the Word.

The promise is also for you: complete salvation through the blood of Christ, and a new life in communion with Christ.

Amen.




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

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