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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:Christ is Everything
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-03-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 33:1,6

Hy 2:1,2,3

Reading – Romans 3:9-31; Romans 5:1-11

Ps 27:1,2,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 6

Ps 130:2,3,4

Hy 26

* 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 with some attention, we know that there’s a God. He is revealed in all the glories of his creation! God’s majesty is there to be seen, in the amazing design of the hummingbird, in the mathematical wonders of the Fibonacci sequence, in the stunning galaxies of the universe. And this display, Romans 1 says, actually 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. For even if we confess that there’s a God, we don’t respond in the right way. We don’t give him wholehearted love and worship. So He should condemn us, yet God saves. That’s the beautiful leap from the first part of the Catechism (our sin and misery) to the second part (our deliverance). We are great sinners who need a great Saviour, and that’s what God provides!

So how do we know about this Redeemer? If we studied creation our entire 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.

Take 1 Corinthians 1:30 as an example. It’s quoted in Lord’s Day 6, and it highlights a handful of the many aspects of our Saviour’s work. “But who is that Mediator we so desperately need?” is basically the question that is asked. And the answer given: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (Q&A 18). You can hear that He’s a lot of things. He’s everything! In the same way, we see that Paul in Romans 3 and 5 expounds the multitude riches of what Christ our Saviour has accomplished. This is our theme from Lord’s Day 6:

Who is Christ the Mediator?

  1. He is our righteousness
  2. He is our redemption
  3. He is our atonement
  4. He is our peace

 

1) He is our righteousness: If there’s one word that’s important to Paul in his letter to the Romans, it’s righteousness. He’s constantly talking about it: the righteousness of God, people being unrighteous, sinners being made righteous once again. It’s one of the core themes of Romans, announced back in chapter 1: “In [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; just as it is written: ‘The just [or the righteous] will live by faith’” (v 17).

What does it mean to be righteous? It means we stand in a right relationship with God. It’s a legal term, and being righteous means that the holy Judge in heaven looks down at you, and He’s pleased. There’s nothing about you that offends him, but He accepts you in his glorious presence.

And that’s how it used to be. In the beginning, God made us in all righteousness. We could rightly know God, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness (Q&A 6). But then there were, as they say, “troubles in Paradise.” In Romans, Paul tells us all about it, about our disobedience in Adam, our idol-worship, and our deserved condemnation. All the way since 1:18, he’s worked that out: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men.” Godlessness. Wickedness. Instead of talking about righteousness, Paul’s first told us about unrighteousness!

Yet Paul is a preacher of the gospel. He wasn’t commissioned to go and kick people while they’re down—he was called to preach Christ, and him crucified. So that’s what Paul will do in the last half of Romans 3. He’s like the doctor today who introduces his message to you by saying, “I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news.” Paul has given us the bad news first—just read that first part of chapter 3—so that we’re primed to receive the glad tidings.

He announces it in 3:21, “But now the righteousness from God apart from the law, is revealed…” Hear how he puts it: “But now!” Those are wonderful words. “But now!” This is something new. God breaks into the misery of the human condition. He calls into the deep darkness, “Let there be light!” For He’s made known a new righteousness. He’s given us life and legs so that once again we can walk with him. 

“This righteousness from God,” says Paul, comes “through faith in Jesus Christ” (v 22). It’s through Christ, for our Saviour was perfectly righteous in the sight of God. In the first place, He obeyed God’s law: He abstained from all sin, and He did all that was right. In the second place, He honoured his God-given calling on this earth. Finally, He was faithful, even to the point of death—staying true to his God no matter what. Even when God forsook him on the cross, Christ refused to break the relationship. He would not sin!

And here’s how it works. All those many credits to Christ’s name are legally transferred to us! It’s like an instant transfer of funds at the bank, from the billionaire’s bulging account into our own, which was empty and overdrawn. We were a people who were completely guilty, whose only achievement was an endless string of offenses. Remember that we didn’t have one legitimate excuse for our failures, we didn’t have an ounce of personal merit.

“But now…” through Christ, we too, are righteous. As the Catechism says, the gospel means Christ has “obtained for us and restored to us righteousness and life” (Q&A 17). Through the work of the Saviour, that blessed position is ours once again! Righteous.

Before we move on, let’s not forget one of the key bits of the Romans theme: This is a righteousness “through faith.” Again, it’s an elementary truth for us: God welcomes into his presence those who believe. He saves those who will trust that his Son has accomplished salvation, and that He’s done it for us.

By faith: it’s very simple—we might even think that there has to be more, that it’s entirely too easy. That’s it? That’s all that I have to do? Just believe? Yet some people never get around to it. “I’ll think about faith later, when I’m ready. When I really need it, then I’ll believe.” But this righteousness is for today. It’s for those who confess today, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! I know that I’ve wandered so far from you—but for the sake of Christ, take me back!”

Don’t put that off, or think you don’t need it. No matter how long we’ve been a member of the church, this has to be our daily confession and prayer. When we say to God: “Father, I thank you, because the finished work of Christ is exactly what I need. I believe it. In him, please restore me to what I ought to be! Make me righteous. In him, please save me from all my sin.” And God will.

 

2) He is our redemption: Paul has other gospel-ideas, too. Just a couple verses after saying Christ is our righteousness, he says Christ is our redemption. He first reminds us of the diagnosis in verse 23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” and then he underlines the cure in a different way, “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24).

Redemption: if righteousness is a term from the court room, then redemption is a term from the slave market. People in the ancient world knew about this, for slavery was a regular part of their society—slaves were bought and sold by their masters and lords all the time. And the reality was that if a slave ever wanted to taste real freedom, he had to hope that someone would “redeem” him—set him free, by paying his price.

In our time we hear about something similar, human trafficking. It’s a terrible thing, but in some countries people are bought and sold and then held in captivity. They’re forced into labour, or they have to work as prostitutes, or even have their organs harvested and sold to other people. Often the only way a person can be set free from this terrible misery is if someone gracious and generous buys them.

That’s the boat we’re in, too. In Romans, Paul will talk about how we’re captives and slaves. We’re slaves to sin, subject to Satan’s oppression, doomed to confinement and death. There’s no hope of release, unless a redeemer is found.

The problem is that a ransom has to be appropriate. It needs to match the value of the person being held captive: One for one. Only then can there be redemption—if the right price is paid! Is a human being today worth only $5000? Maybe $50,000? It’s an arbitrary amount—could be more, could be less, depending on whose asking. But it doesn’t work for God. The LORD demands that the ransom unto salvation truly match our value.

And it’s a staggering price. It’s one completely beyond us to cover. We find the terms of this deal in Q&A 16, “The justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin.” And we can’t do it. We can’t absorb the cost!

But Christ did. He paid for us. As Peter wrote, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). He paid our ransom! The price He paid for deliverance was none other than his own blood. At the cross, He handed it over to God.

Now the redeemer can claim us. Now that He’s paid the price, the redeemer calls us his possession. “You’re mine,” He says. “I freed you, so now I own you, in body and soul.” Like the most wretched slaves, we’ve been set free from sin, from the power of the devil, and eternal torment. And Christ is our new master! That’s the most basic Christian confession—the simplest creed—found in Romans 10: “Jesus is Lord.” He is our Lord, because we are now his own possession through blood. It’s the Lord’s Day 1 confession, “I am not my own, but I belong in body and soul to my faithful Saviour.”

Beloved, this blessed reality too, has a consequence for our lives. In the first point, we saw that if Christ is our righteousness by faith, then we have to be sure that we do believe! That we live by faith in his name. Now for this truth: If Jesus is our redemption, if He is Lord and we’ve made that confession, that means we have to listen when He orders us. When He directs us, we need to follow. Simply put, He’s in charge! Now we’ve become his slaves. Does your life show that Jesus has redeemed you? Does He run every part of what you do?

He’s not a harsh master, but we have the great comfort that He’ll always protect and help us. We have value, because He gave his own blood to buy us. So if you need help, be assured that our Lord will grant it. If you need mercy, know that our Lord will show it. He’ll take care of his own, always! Even on the day we die, our Lord will claim us: “This believer belongs to me. I bought him, body and soul.”

 

3) He is our atonement: Paul’s not done yet. In Romans 3, he’s got another powerful gospel-term he wants to teach. We find it in verse 25: “God set forth [Christ] as a propitiation by his blood through faith.” He is our propitiation, or another way of putting it: our atonement!

Over the years, Christians have struggled with this term, and not only because it’s a hard word to say. The struggle is because it seems altogether too negative. Propitiation means that someone’s wrath is being appeased, that their anger is being soothed. For example, when you know that your spouse is upset because of what you’ve said or done, you might have to make amends, with gifts or kindness. You do things to take away her anger with flowers or favours. Very simply put, that’s what atonement is.

That same idea is part of heathen religion. A pagan tribe might come to think that the god of the sky was in a rage against them: there’d been violent lightning storms, and strong winds, and terrifying thunder. They must’ve done something to upset him, so the sky god must be appeased—it’s time to offer up atoning sacrifices: maybe some prized cows and goats, maybe a first-born son. Hopefully the sky god will be satisfied, soften his wrath, and send gentle rains.

This way of operating is below the Christian God, say many. He’s a God of love, not a God of anger, so we shouldn’t talk about appeasing his anger, satisfying his wrath. Some have even said that the Christian idea of what happened on the cross amounts to nothing more than cosmic child abuse, God the Father taking out his rage on his Son.

But let’s take in the whole picture of God’s character. First, remember what Paul wrote in 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed.” The holy God does show fury on account of sin! The righteous God can’t stand it when his creatures ignore him, and when we defy his will. If we want to live and not die, then his just wrath must be removed—it’s the only way.

And it has been removed, completely! For Christ was presented as the sacrifice of atonement. Back in the Old Testament, that was the greatest day in the Israelite calendar. You can learn about it in Leviticus, how on the Day of Atonement the holy blood was sprinkled on the cover of the ark of the covenant. At the same time, all the sins of the people were symbolically laid upon the head of a goat, and the goat was sent away into the wilderness, never to be seen again. On the Day of Atonement the people were assured that God loved them, that He wouldn’t count their sins against them.

So you see there’s a great difference between this and the atonement-idea found in pagan religions. There the gods are indifferent to the misery of humans, and you never really know if your sacrifice will get accepted. But the true God shows himself to be full of grace. For it’s actually He who gives the means to appease his holy wrath. He sends his own Son to deal with the terrible problem caused by our sins!

Paul explains it, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom 5:6). Our sins were laid on his head, his precious blood was sprinkled, and He was banished by the perfect wrath of God. Willingly He died in our place, that God might love us again. He’s brought us back into the Father’s grace.

Beloved, think about how this atonement frees us from a lot of anxiety. It means there’s no need to try and earn God’s favour, or win his mercy. He isn’t like those other gods, who need to be flattered with praise, or buttered up with fancy gifts. Christ has done everything already, so we dare not add—we need not add—to what He’s done.

Compare it to your friend who’s taken you out for lunch. He insisted that it was his treat, that he was going to do it to show his affection for you. You ate and you drank and you enjoyed the fellowship. But what an insult it would be if when the bill arrived, you still tried to leave some money on the table, or you insisted on paying your own way! Your friend would be offended, and rightfully so. This was his gift! Instead, the only thing need you need to do is to say thanks. You just need to accept his gift sincerely, and enjoy the point of it, which was to be together.

So for Christ and us. He fully paid our way—let’s accept it, let’s not try to add to it or think we can make ourselves worthy of it, but simply be thankful. Think about why Christ paid our way: He did it so that we could become his own, so that enemies could become friends, even his brothers and sisters. Thank Christ for it, love Christ for it, and then show him your love.

 

4) He is our peace: When we turn ahead a couple chapters, we see Paul finding even more ways to talk about the gospel. For he begins chapter 5 in this way, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v 1). Now, everyone in the world wants peace. We want relief from the many troubles of this life. We want an end to personal conflict, and national strife. We want protection from disease and anxiety, freedom from poverty and suffering. Then we’ll have peace!

Yet the Bible sees it differently. True peace isn’t that happy feeling when all is well. No, true peace is about what’s between God and us. The reality is, we’re his enemies on account of sin. Our every inclination is to be at war against the LORD. But Christ gives us peace with God. We’ve been reconciled to our Creator, and restored to his fellowship. Christ went between us, and with the cross He bridged the gap. Where before there was only war and hostility, crime and punishment, now there’s beautiful peace.

And indeed, this peace is so powerful it can flow into every corner of our lives. If we have peace with God through Christ, we’ll also have peace—contentment—whatever the circumstance. Having peace with God in Christ means we can have confidence, even when troubles arise, when we suffer need and endure many griefs. We can face all the uncertainties of daily existence with an abiding calmness because we know: things are good between God and us! For this is the bottom line: we know He won’t leave us or forsake us.

Beloved, do you know this peace? Do you know the unshakable sureness in the promises of God? Is your heart at rest in the LORD? This peace is available. It’s been prepared for you. This peace is for all who go to Christ, who believe in Him who brought a perfect reconciliation. In fact, your heart will always be restless and always troubled until it rests in Him!

Time for a last word. In this sermon, we’ve seen how in the good news of Christ, God meets our every need and addresses every trouble! Christ is our righteousness, our redemption, our atonement, and our peace. It’s a diverse love, a multi-faceted grace. And it’s something that we all should get to know, more and more.

Consider Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians, in chapter 3. There he writes, “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (vv 17-19). God calls all of us to a real knowledge of himself—an intimate and living awareness that we are richly loved, for the sake of Christ.

We aim to know it, to grasp a little more of it, to surround ourselves in it, to know it in every dimension. I wonder if we’re sometimes content just to know a little about redemption, only the bare minimum. “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Are we satisfied with a passing knowledge, a superficial glance, rather than a deep awareness? So what difference does it make when we get to know this gospel of salvation in all its many dimensions?

The first reason is doxological: it moves us to praise our Triune God for his amazing work of salvation. It is stunning, how much God was willing to do for us, even those who were his enemies. This salvation causes us to marvel at the sheer riches of God’s love and goodness, and to praise him even more.

The second reason is personal: it is an immense comfort, to know how secure we are in Christ. No matter how much we know of the love of God in Christ, no matter how fully we enter his grace, there’s always more to know, more to experience. Just when you think Christ can love no more, his love is renewed. Just when you think that it’s surely been exhausted by all your sin, his love will increase and endure.

Pray to know something of this! Pray to understand how it is Christ alone who can satisfy you, more than anything else you might desire or treasure. Learn to look to Christ with the eyes of faith, and then to seek him and to depend on him, more and more. Know that in God your Saviour, you lack nothing at all!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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