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Author:Pastor Ted Van Raalte
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 Canadian Reformed Church - CanRC
 
Preached At:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:A LAMB, Standing as Though Slain
Text:LD 25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2003-10-05
Added:2005-05-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 123.
Hymn 1A Having prayed that God renew his grace to us in this worship service let us also confess that his grace today rests on the sure foundation of his holy work as Triune God for our salvation. "For the grace of God that brings salvation . . .." (Titus 2:11-14). Let us sing Hymn 1A.
Read: Gen. 15; Rev. 5.
Psalm 56:4.
Text: LD 25
Hymn 23:1,2,3,4,5.
Psalm 56:5.
Hymn 23:6,7,8.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brothers and Sisters in Our Lord Jesus Christ,
I wonder whether a radio show with kidsí riddles would accept this riddle. What stands at the centre of history, the centre of salvation, and the centre of worship? If they did ask it, who would get it? Itís rather difficult, I admit. But there is an answer, and that is the answer which we will explore this afternoon, the one who stands at the centre of history, the centre of salvation, and the centre of worship.
God himself has solved the riddle for us. We are asking this question only because he himself has provided the answer.
Imagine the people of Old Testament Israel making a sacrifice. I have read from good sources that for certain sacrifices they would make a parade around the altar while singing praise to the Lord. I donít mean a parade with people dressed up to look silly. Israelís worship was never like that. It was solemn and joyful, yes, pure. So imagine the people of the Lord forming a circle around the altar and singing to the Lord as the parts of a lamb are placed on the altar for a sin offering or a burnt offering. In the centre of their worship is a slain lamb, given for their sins.
Imagine further that this lamb after having been offered on the altar should return to life and stand up on that altar some three days later. There, in the centre of the worship of the people of God would be the Lamb, standing as though slain, but very much alive. Something amazing has happened. He paid for their sins with his life but then he received that life back again. He had achieved what no other lamb had yet achieved: by his power he had effectively completed the full payment for the sins of those worshippers. The payment was made. He could live. They could live. Now, all the more, he belonged in the centre of their faith and life and worship, in the centre of their whole reality.
This is the message of the gospel. This slain Lamb goes by the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the centre of history, of salvation, and of worship. This is good news and it needs to be good news for you. He must be in the very centre of your faith if you are to be saved. I proclaim the gospel in this way:

The Slain Lamb Is Alive So He Must Be In The Centre Of Your Faith: He Is:
1. Proclaimed by the Gospel;
2. Portrayed by the Sacraments;
3. Provided by the Holy Spirit.


1. The Slain Lamb Who Lives is Proclaimed By The Gospel:
More than any other Lordís Day of the Heidelberg Catechism, this one has a repeated phrase that is the centre of our faith. Three times we read about the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. In answer 66: "And this is the promise: that God graciously grants us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life because of the one sacrifice of Christ accomplished on the cross." Then in question 67: "Are both the Word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?" Finally, for the third time, in answer 67: "Our entire salvation rests on Christís one sacrifice for us on the cross."
This is the central message of the gospel, brothers and sisters, and it needs to be in the centre of your heart and life. You have to live and breathe this gospel. As a Christian, this is the ready answer that must always be on your lips. That God gave his Son for you. When you are frustrated with yourself because of your own sins then you have to find this gospel from the Lord and seek to be transformed through it. It has to be in your heart and life every day.
This centre of our lives is the very centre of the Bible. The Lamb, standing as though slain, but now alive. He is the very centre of the Bible. Whether we start at the beginning or enter at the middle or turn to the end, we come face to face with the Lamb of God. Rightly understood, the Bible points to him all the time. He is its united message, from Genesis to Revelation.
In Genesis Abram had been called by God to go to another country. Abram had gone. All he had was Godís Word. Nothing to give him assurance except the truth that it was God Almighty who had spoken to him. And there were a lot of stars in the sky (15:5).
Now, once Abram has arrived and been there for some time, the LORD repeats his promises that the land where he is a stranger will be his (12:7; 13:14-17; now 15:7). God will give it to him. Abram believes the LORD with a true faith. Yet he does ask for a sign, and the LORD proclaims to him the gospel through this sign.
Abram brought several animals near to God at Godís command. He cut them in half. Abram laid the right half on the right and the left half on the left. There was room to walk in between the two cut halves of the animals. This was the way that a covenant could be made between two people. They walked between the animals together to say that they themselves should be cut if they would break their solemn covenant. What is more, they walked on the blood. For in the centre, between the pieces one would find the blood that flowed out. This is the blood of the covenant. The slain animals provided it. The covenanters walked upon it. Should one of them break their covenant, that one should have his blood shed. Such was the meaning of the event.
But in this case only one of the parties to the covenant walked between the pieces. Only the Lord did so, with the symbol of a smoking furnace and a flaming torch. This whole passage is far more rich in meaning than I have time to explain right now. It is clear, however, that Abram did not walk through the alley of blood, as one might expect him to do (Jer. 34). The LORD teaches Abram that the promises of the LORD do not depend on Abraham but on the LORD. The LORD God is willing to put the display of his glory with a torch through the alley of blood in order to proclaim the gospel. Abram has only to believe Godís promise. God had sealed it with blood and that was enough. Had Abram walked through it would not make the covenant reality any stronger. God established his covenant according to his choice. Abram could not walk away from it. God had chosen him.
The gospel that the LORD proclaims is in the blood of the covenant. In order to make his Word sure, the LORD walks over the blood and so he puts blood front and centre in his covenant. He provides the church here with the sign of Christ. Through the blood the LORD promises everything in his covenant - Abrahamís whole future rests on that.
Move ahead now to the thousands of lambs and other animals sacrificed in the Old Testament. Once again, with every lamb, the LORD promises everything through the blood. All of it points back to his promises already established and points ahead to the fulfilment of his promises which the believers know is coming. The slain Lamb stands in the centre of salvation.
Move ahead now to Revelation ch. 5 and we see that still the blood of the Lamb is proclaimed in the gospel. No one is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. No one can open the scroll which will lead to the unfolding of world history. If anyone opens it, all the world will be destroyed forever by the sin of mankind. But if the slain Lamb opens it history will be redeemed to the glory of God. He is the only one who is worthy.
Here in Rev. 5 the blood remains in the centre. It is very important that this Lamb is one who was slain. He is alive, but it still remains evident that he was slain. It is only as the slain Lamb that he is now worthy to break the seals and open the scroll. History can go forward until the second coming because of the work he has done. He stands in the centre of history itself.
Look then at how he is worshipped. The slain Lamb stands in the centre of the throne. He is also called the Lion of the tribe of Judah. His power is far greater than many realize. Around the throne the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down in worship. They sing, "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." Then around the elders thousands upon thousands of angels sing, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Finally, a third circle, the circle of every living creature there was, shouted, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The Lamb was on the throne, as God who gave himself for the redemption of all those who were singing, and there he was, the very centre of worship itself.
In the centre of the praises of the church, which includes the living creatures, the elders, the angels, and the saints, stands the slain lamb. But he stands! He is alive! He must be in the very centre of your faith.
We have a doctrine in the Canons of Dort we call limited atonement. A better term might be effective atonement. The point of it is this: When Jesus gave his life on the cross, he accomplished a perfect salvation for his elect. He effectively cancelled their sins. His sacrifice on the cross was not a general effort to try to save every person in the whole world. If it was, he has failed miserably! Rather, his sacrifice was for Godís elect, and in the centre of history he saved them. He made the purchase. He did not fail at all. He made himself the centre of history, of salvation, and of worship.
This slain Lamb, now alive, is proclaimed by the gospel. From Old Testament to New Testament, he stands always in the centre. He is like the sun around which the entire universe revolves. The ring of the saints around his throne grows like the rings of a tree. Every year another ring. He stands in the centre, directing the whole course of the world. The gospel declares that you are saved when by a true faith you believe that he came for you. You believe in what he did. You donít need to add to it to save yourself. You simply need to trust in him. He did it all. He gave his own blood for an effective atonement. Is he then the centre of your faith and life?
What does it mean for us when we confess that he perfectly satisfied the wrath of God against our sins? Do you accept that with a believing heart when you sin? This enables us to confess our sins without fear! This enables us to ask forgiveness of God and of one another without fear. We are utterly humbled by sin, but we are not destroyed. No! We are accepted and blessed, because that one Lamb lives! Our entire salvation rests in Christís one sacrifice accomplished on the cross. Thus says the Lord! So do you know what that means for you?


2. The Slain Lamb Who Lives Is Portrayed By The Sacraments:
Abram, strong as he was, needed a sign. He believed the LORD. He is recommended to us as an example of faith (Heb. 11). Yet his faith is weak, not perfect. He too could not carry on without signs. And what a sign he was given! An assurance of the promises of God, founded on the blood of Jesus Christ in that covenant ceremony of the animals cut in half.
But are we any different? We need signs too. Our faith is established through the good news of Jesus Christ, but we are still weak. In his grace for us, God has given us two sacraments for propping up our faith. When we would fall, he provides us with support. The signs and seals of his grace are given to assure us that he does indeed stand behind the wonderful words of grace which he speaks in the gospel. Those words should be real for you.
The sacraments portray this grace of God. This is what Abram received - a picture of the grace of the God who makes his words depend on himself and guarantees them through the sacrifice of blood. Abram in Gen. 15 received a sacrament in the sense that it was a sign and seal of Godís promises which God used to more fully declare and seal his promises. It was not an ongoing sacrament like circumcision and Passover, but it was a sign and seal. We can still be assured through it, as the children of Abraham. But the Lord has taken us further ahead.
The sacraments no longer contain blood as such because that one Lambís shed blood ended the shedding of blood, as we read in Hebrews. Yet both baptism and Lordís Supper still very clearly point to the sacrifice of the Lamb who was slain for us. And it underlines all the more that our entire salvation rests on his one sacrifice when we do away with blood as such in the signs. That blood was shed then, not now. That redemption was accomplished there, not here. That sacrifice was made, it is no longer being made. He lives!
In the purposes of God Christ was slain from before the foundation of the world (1Pet. 1:20; Rev. 13:8). But in terms of the historical reality, this Lamb of God took away the sins of the world when he accomplished his death on the cross. This is what we celebrate in the sacraments. It is on this foundation that God makes his promises to us through the holy sacraments. They clearly portray for us the effects of the finished work of Jesus Christ. We are washed and we are nourished because of what he did.
Once again this slain Lamb who lives needs to be the very centre of your faith. All our religious ideas and influences and commands have to come from him, in the centre. Life emanates from him. Grace comes through him. He is like a burning stove in the centre of an old one-room schoolhouse. When the stove is burning, then the heat radiates out to the whole room. Standing near the stove you receive its blessings. The sacraments picture God being even closer to us, promising far greater things. But they only come to us from the centre, from the centre of salvation which forms the centre of history and dictates the churchís centre of worship. The Living Lamb of God.

3. The Slain Lamb Who Is Alive Is Provided by the Holy Spirit:
What is your connection to this centre? How do you stand close to your Saviour?
Yesterday I saw a childís bicycle lying between the road and the sidewalk. It was a very small bicycle and it appeared to be abandoned. But there is no point in you going over there to pick it up for your little girl or boy because it is rather broken. This bicycle had wheels made with plastic spokes. But all the spokes had been smashed out of the wheels. Quite well, I must say. The tires were still on the rims, but nothing held the rims to the centre hub. There was no connection between the centre and the circle around it.
Let us now turn this picture to ourselves. Are you connected to the hub? Are you one with him who is the centre of history, of salvation, and of our worship? We are like a wheel with the spokes smashed out it. Christ may be in the centre of reality, but we are not automatically connected to him. And there is nothing we can do to make a connection with him. Someone is going to toss us in the garbage.
This is where the work of the Holy Spirit comes in. For he is a master spoke-builder. There is no one else who can build the faith that connects you to what drives you, moves you, and motivates you. If Christ is in the centre of everything in the world, he needs to be in the centre of your life. But if you donít have the Holy Spirit to put him in the centre of your life, you will never be connected to him. This faith comes from the Holy Spirit. What can those who are looking for faith do about it?
In one sense: nothing. We canít make faith in our hearts or in anyone elseís heart. But there is one thing we can do. We can pray. We can ask God to do it. Have you asked God for the Holy Spirit who works faith? We can each pray to him every day for faith. On good days and bad, according to need. This is what we can do and we do it with the promise that God definitely hears such prayers and he never denies faith to those who ask him.
There is more. For the Holy Spirit works faith in us by the preaching of the gospel and the use of the sacraments. Do you desire faith? Do you want the Living Lamb of God to be in the centre of your life? Then hear the preaching of Godís Word where he is placed in the centre. Then come to the sacraments where he is again placed in the centre.
These are the tools the Holy Spirit uses to make useful spokes for us. He uses the gospel to make spokes out of nothing, as we heard this morning, and he uses the sacraments to strengthen the spokes, as we will hear in the coming weeks.
No one should neglect the worship services where Christ is put in the centre. It says in Hebrews 10:25, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Donít easily stay home! The family belongs in church together as soon as possible. Itís a covenantal means of grace to receive the gospel preaching and to observe the gospel sacraments (Dt. 31:12; cf. Ezra 10:1). The children who are promised everything in the gospel at their baptism and who were brought for baptism by Dad and Mom need to hear about that gospel together with Dad and Mom. The children need to see that Dad and Mom take these things seriously, that when they confess that faith is worked by the preaching and strengthened by the sacraments, then they are there to have it worked and strengthened.
No doubt we in our hearts like to have less preaching and more ornamentation. No doubt we have certain parts of Godís Word that we would like to see emphasized. But true faith accepts ALL that God has revealed, everything. Therefore, if you want to worship the Lamb in the centre, humbly receive his Word, even where it pinches. Humbly receive the signs of his Word - the sacraments. Use the means he has given for faith!
He is alive! He is alive at the centre of everything, at the centre of life itself. Each of us needs to be joined to him. Just believe in his one sacrifice accomplished on the cross. Believe he came for you! Believe all that he has promised you in the gospel. Believes he lives. Make him your own as he has made you his own! Have him in the centre of your whole being, yes, in the centre of your entire world. By faith join the ten thousand thousand tongues praising the Lamb once slain but now alive forevermore. Let us now join those adoring hosts above in singing praises to the Lamb of God. We shall soon be there too. Amen.



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Ted Van Raalte, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2003, Pastor Ted Van Raalte

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