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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:Firstborn Children of the Father
Text:LD 46 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2006-12-17
Added:2006-12-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Scripture: Exodus 4:18-23; Romans 8:28-39; Hebrews 12:22-29
Text: Lord's Day 46
Songs (Book of Praise): Hy. 47:1; Hy. 27:1,4; Ps. 103:4,5,6; Ps. 68:3,12
* 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 Lord Jesus Christ taught us how to pray. In a few words, he taught us to pray as children—firstborn children. That's what we are going to speak about this afternoon. About praying as firstborn children.

THROUGH CHRIST WE MAY PRAY AS FIRSTBORN CHILDREN

The firstborn's

1. Gracious Status; 2. Expectant Attitude; 3. Necessary Lessons.

1. The gracious status of the firstborn.

(a) In OT times, the first son born to a man and woman had a very significant place. He was believed to represent the prime of human vigor. E.g., in Gen. 49:3, when Jacob blesses his sons, then of his firstborn, Reuben, he says: "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power." Psalm 78:51 calls the firstborn son the fruit of manhood.

In the tenth plague to come upon Egypt, God killed the firstborn son of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and of every Egyptian family, and even of the livestock. Because Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go, God killed the firstborn sons of Egypt. In memory of this, of how God led Israel out of Egypt right after that, the LORD God claimed the firstborn son of every Israelite family. The firstborn son was consecrated to the Lord. When he was a month old the father had to present him to the LORD at the sanctuary and then buy him back from the priest, the Lord's representative, for five shekels of silver.

Because of this, the people of Israel attached very high value to the eldest son. He was assigned special privileges and responsibilities. The birthright of a firstborn included a double portion of the inheritance and leadership of the family when the father was dead. After his father's death, he would take care of his mother until her death. He also provided for his sisters until their marriage. The firstborn could sell his birthright, as Esau did. It was possible for the firstborn to forfeit his rights because of gross misconduct, as Reuben did because of incest. Reuben slept with his father's concubine, Bilhah. If you read through Genesis 49, then you see that the blessing of the firstborn was taken from Reuben and given to Joseph. Later, when the land was divided between the tribes, Joseph received the double portion of the firsborn. Ephraim and Manasseh were the two sons of Jacob. They both got a tribal inheritance. Through his sons, Joseph got the double portion.

(b) Figuratively, Israel was God's firstborn. In Exodus 4:22 we read that Moses was to say to Pharaoh, "This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son.…" Israel was the apple of God's eye. Very special to God. That's why God told Moses to say to Pharaoh, "Let my son go, so he may worship me. But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son."

God gave his firstborn son a great inheritance: a land to live in. A land flowing with milk and honey. Even when Israel sinned and God had to discipline and punish him by sending him into exile in Babylon, yet God loved his firstborn. Even as he was sending him into exile, God promised there would be a return. In Jer 31:9 the Lord said: "They will come with weeping; they will pray as I bring them back. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am Israel's father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son."

(c) Although Israel enjoyed special status as God's firstborn son, the highest status as a firstborn goes to his only-begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In a number of places, Christ is called God's firstborn Son. That does not mean that the Son of God had a beginning. Every firstborn son has a beginning—his birthday (or, better, his conception day). The Son of God is without beginning. He existed since eternity. As a man, as Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, he had a beginning—the moment he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. But as the Son of God, as God, he had no beginning. What does, it mean, then, that he is God's firstborn?

It means that he has all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of the firstborn. In Col 1:15, Paul wrote: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Some heretics who deny the divinity of Christ use this text to say that the Son of God does not have existence from eternity. They say that there was a time when he did not exist. They say that the Son of God is God's first created being. The first thing he created in Gen 1:1. That's the ancient Arian heresy peddled today by the cult known as Jehovah's Witnesses. But that's not what it means. Paul is talking about his status. He has the status of the firstborn. He is the firstborn from the dead. You heard those familiar words again this afternoon: "Grace to you and peace from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth."

He is worthy of all the honour and glory that goes to the firstborn. God raised him from the dead and honoured him by giving him a great inheritance. The inheritance is heaven and earth. Christ, God's firstborn, is ruler of heaven and earth. He got it all. God gave the whole works to him because of his faithfulness, his obedience, his righteousness, his holiness. Because he did exactly what the Father sent him into the world to do: that is, to redeem us. To redeem for God a people chosen unto everlasting life.

(d) And that brings us to what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8. It brings us to the gospel. In v. 29 Paul wrote that Christ is the firstborn among many brothers. God the Father does not just have one child; he has many children. We are all children of God the Father. We became children through Christ. But nature, we are children of wrath. In man's fallen state, all are children of the devil. But through Christ, we are God's children. As it says in QA 120: "God has become our Father through Christ."

We are not just children. We are firstborn children. We all have the special status of the firstborn. As we read in Heb 12:23, we belong to the church of the firstborn. Actually it is in the plural. We belong to the church of the firstborns, or, the firstborn ones. In a way, that is impossible. In a family there can only be one firstborn child. Even when twins are born, one of them is born first.

Christ Jesus is God the Father's firstborn. But in him, we are all firstborns. All of you share the status of Christ. Just like Christ arose from the dead to enter into his inheritance, so you all will arise from the dead to enter into your inheritance, a new heaven and a new earth. A place where righteousness and peace will dwell. An inheritance that no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived. It is yours in Jesus Christ. Child of God: embrace and enjoy your inheritance as a firstborn child God.

2. As such, you may have an expectant attitude.

This really comes out well in both QA 120 & 121. Christ has commanded us to address God as Our Father so that we will have the proper trust in the heavenly Father. So that we will trust that God will not deny us what we ask of Him in faith. That our heavenly Father will more readily give us what we need than our earthly fathers. And then we add: "Who art in heaven" so that we will expect from his almighty power all things we need for body and soul.

Paul made the point very emphatically in Romans 8. The Father works everything for our good. Sometimes things seem to be going so very poorly. You experience hardship. Illness, trouble in your family, trouble in your business. Everything seems to be coming down around you. You don't know what is going on anymore. Why this?! Why that?!

What we need to hold on to in all of life's circumstances is that in all things the heavenly Father is working for the good of his children. Often we cannot see it. But when we cannot see it, we need to believe. Now is the time of faith. The time for holding on to the Father's promises. God elected us in eternity, called us through the gospel, justified us by faith in Christ, and he will also glorify us.

God is for you. No one can be against you. No one can hurt you. Whoever has God the Father on his side is, by the very fact, in the majority. The Father gave up his Son for you. Along with his Son, he will give you everything else you need for body and soul. Today when you cannot see it, it is the time for faith.

Your Lord Jesus Christ is at the right hand of the Father praying for you. No one can separate you from the love of Christ. No one in heaven or on earth loves you more than Jesus Christ. Not your husband or wife, nor your parents, nor your fiancée, nor your girlfriend or boyfriend—no one loves you more than your Lord Jesus Christ. You might experience trouble and hardship in this life. But your heavenly father is working everything for good in your life, also through the trouble and the hardship. Nothing in creation, nothing in the universe, will separate you from the love of the heavenly Father with which he loves you for sake of his Son, your Lord Jesus Christ.

You can pray on that foundation. That is the solid basis for your prayer, of which your catechism speaks. God is your Father for the sake of Christ Jesus his Son. As one of God's many firstborn children, you may pray expectantly—expecting from His almighty power all things you need for body and soul.

3. Necessary lessons.

Those who have the status of firstborn children and who pray expectantly need to be continually taught and reminded of the grace and goodness of the heavenly Father.

Christ is our teacher. He gives us our lessons. He teaches us what we need to know. As LD 46 says, he has commanded us to address God as our Father to awaken something in us. A teacher will do that. As my catechism students know, repetition is the mother of learning. Through repetition, the teacher awakens knowledge. Sometimes you forget things you were once taught. Your teacher reminds you. And you say: "Right, I knew that. I just forgot it, but I knew it."

Christ Jesus says: When you pray, say: "Our Father." That will remind you of something. It will awaken in your mind something you actually know. That you are God's child. It will remind you of the reverence and trust you are to have for the Father.

When the Lord taught us to add: "Who art in heaven", Christ was teaching us that his Father is not an earthly but a heavenly Father. A Father who is more powerful than any earthly father. In the simple address: "Our Father who art in heaven," are contained profound lessons for us, God's children, to learn. Just before he ascended to heaven, he gave his teaching ministry to the church. He sent the church into the world to make disciples of the nations, to baptize, and to teach. Today the church needs to teach.

In this, the church has a motherly character and function. The church is our mother. Somewhere John Calvin said that those who have God as their Father have the church as their mother. We drink the milk of the Word of God from the church as a child drink's milk from the breast of its mother. And what does mother church teach us? Many things. Among the many things, mother church teaches us to have reverence for the Father. As a mother will teach her children to respect their father, so mother church teaches her children to revere the heavenly Father. She teaches us to trust the heavenly Father. Through preaching, through catechism instruction, when the elders and deacons visit you, mother church is encouraging you to trust the Father. Are you ill? Are you experiencing hardship, in your family, your business, somewhere else? Do not give up, but keep trusting Father.

As you love your mother, so you will love mother-church. You will be devoted and committed to her. You will speak well of her, because of what she is doing for you. Teaching you and reminding you, weekly from Sunday to Sunday, and also during the week, of the great love of the Father for you. And of the great love of your Saviour Jesus Christ for you.

Pray to the heavenly Father, beloved. Pray on the basis of the status you have as children through the work of Christ for you. Pray confidently, expecting everything you need from the fatherly hand of God. Keep learning the lessons or trust and reverence. Reverence and trust for our Father in heaven. 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.
(c) Copyright 2006, Rev. George van Popta

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