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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:The Dawn of Deliverance
Text:LD 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2008
Added:2008-07-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 58
Hymn 1A
Psalm 49:1,2
Psalm 25:1,6,8
Hymn 36:4 (after offertory)
Hymn 6

Reading:  Nahum 1
Text: Lord's Day 5
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in the Lord Jesus,

 

Lord’s Day 5 begins a new section of the Catechism, the second part regarding “Our Deliverance.”  And this is reflected in the words we find in this Lord’s Day.  We find words like “escape,” a payment being made, and “mediator and deliverer.”  In previous Lord’s Days we’ve considered the darker themes of our sin and God’s justice.  We have been brought to our knees in confession:  we deserve temporal and eternal punishment.  In this Lord’s Day we consider the dawn of our deliverance.  We’ll explore:

 

God’s loving favour

God’s just demand

God’s impossible obstacle

God’s mediator and deliverer

 

God is just in demanding punishment for sinners.  That being the case, the first question asks how is it then possible for us to escape and be again received into favour?  Let’s first of all consider what it looks like to be received again into God’s favour. 

 

We need again to go back to the beginning.  In Genesis 2, we see some of the contours of the relationship between God and Adam.  For one thing, there was trust.  God entrusted Adam with the responsibility to work the garden and take care of it.  God brought all the animals to Adam to see what he would name them.  There was also open communication, God spoke clearly and freely with Adam.  Finally, we also see God’s love and care for Adam in the fact that he created a suitable helper for him.

 

At the bare minimum, all of that is what being received back into favour would look like.  But, praise God, we can go far beyond that.  I can assure you that what we gain in the Second Adam is far more than what we lost in the First.  Think about it for a moment.  Today Christ sits at God’s right hand with our human flesh and blood, with a human body and soul.  Is Christ not more highly exalted now than was Adam in the Garden of Eden before the fall?  We have the promise of God’s Word that at the last day we will share in Christ’s glorification.  What we gain in Christ is far greater than what we lost in Adam.

 

Think about it as a marriage.  The couple started off in passionate love with one another all those years ago.  They were best friends.  But then the couple hates each other, they’re at war.  The divorce is bitter.  Time goes by.  Suddenly, something changes and the couple falls in love again, they’re reminded of why they got married the first time.  They get remarried and their second marriage is so much better than the first.  They have more love for one another than they did the first time around.  They have the best relationship a husband and wife could ever dream of.  Moreover, there is no threat that the marriage could unravel a second time.  Do you see it now?  What we gain in Christ is far greater than what we lost in Adam.       

 

So, we can say that being received back into God’s loving favour means all the following:  a total restoration of trust in our relationship with God.  Unhindered communion and friendly fellowship with God, culminating in our being able to behold the presence of God with our very own eyes in the age to come.  Being received back into God’s favour means being assured of his loving disposition towards us.  It means that we can be assured that we are God’s children here and now, we are his heirs.  And some day we will be glorified, possessing “perfect blessedness such as no eye has seen, nor ear heart, nor the heart of man conceived, a blessedness in which to praise God forever.”  What a rich and deep salvation! 

      

The loving favour of God is our desired destination.  So, how do we arrive at this destination?  We cannot get there by going around God.  We have to be confronted with his demand:  there must be satisfaction for God’s justice.  Full payment for our offenses has to be made, either by ourselves or by someone else.  Romans 8:3,4 tells us that the righteous requirements of the law must be met in us if there is to be salvation.  The law demands perfect obedience, someone must positively fulfill the law.  Further, the law says that when people do sin, payment must be made.  Do this and live, and if you do not, you must die eternally to pay.  God is not simply going to overlook what has happened, he is not going to turn a blind eye to sinners.  This is God’s just demand and it places us in a position of indebtedness with respect to God. 

 

I think most of us know what it’s like to be in debt.  Maybe you have a credit card.    When you have a debt, then there is also supposed to be a payment.  The time comes when you have to pay what you owe. 

 

It works the same with God and us.  We sin all the time.  Whenever we sin, we are offending him and subtracting from the glory that he deserves from all creatures.  We are placing ourselves into debt with God.  We owe him something for our sins.  In Nahum 1:3, we read that Yahweh, the LORD, will not leave the guilty unpunished.  Something has to be done to make up for what we have done wrong.  God justly demands a payment from us for our debts against him.  God wants justice – he wants what is wrong to be made right again.  And the only way that can happen is if there is a payment.

 

But who can make this payment?  This is where we encounter God’s impossible obstacle.  The first chapter of Nahum tells out what this obstacle is.  Verse 6 has a rhetorical question:  “Who can withstand his [God’s] indignation?  Who can endure his fierce anger?  His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.”  It’s a rhetorical question; the answer is obvious.  No one can stand before God’s wrath. 

 

No mere human being can make the payment God’s justice demands.  Instead of being able to make a payment, we simply place ourselves further and further into debt with God.  It’s a downward spiral.  That’s why the Lord Jesus taught his disciples to pray for the forgiveness of their debts in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. 

 

I recently had a phone call from someone who had heard the radio show I do on Friday mornings with another local Reformed pastor.  We had been talking about forgiveness and the fact that the Bible teaches that we are to regularly ask for the forgiveness of our sins.  This man who called appreciated a lot of what we were saying and he was friendly enough.  But he objected to the idea that believers have to regularly seek God’s forgiveness for their sins.  He said that Christians don’t have to do that.  However, he failed to reckon with the Lord’s Prayer and the fact that Jesus himself teaches us to regularly seek the Father’s forgiveness of our sins.  That keeps us humble before God; it reminds us that we cannot make payment for ourselves, it’s a total impossibility.  We daily increase our debt and the Lord’s Prayer reminds us of that.

 

But what about other creatures?  Can they make the payment on our behalf?  Perhaps angels or animals?  Is this the way out?

 

The Bible teaches us that this payment must be made by a human being.  It cannot be made by an animal, angel or any other creature.  Following the Bible in passages like Ezekiel 18, the Catechism says, “God will not punish another creature for the sin which man has committed.”  That would not be just.  Man did the sin, man has to pay for the sin.  Moreover, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God’s wrath, in other words, no creature can run the gauntlet of God’s anger against sinners and survive.   

 

So, we have this conundrum where man has to make the payment, but man cannot make the payment.  No self-salvation is possible.  And to make matters worse, there is no creature who can make the payment for him.  There is an impossible obstacle in the way to God’s loving favour.  At least, it is impossible from a human perspective.  In Matthew 19:26, the Lord Jesus was asked about the salvation of the rich man.  We can take what he says and apply it here as well.  He replied, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Where we see an impossible obstacle, God in his love makes a way for salvation. 

 

That brings us to consider the mediator and deliverer we must seek.  The conundrum can be solved, but only if all these conditions are met.  First of all, note that we need a mediator.  A mediator is one who mediates, who goes between two parties who are at loggerheads with one another.  In this case, we are seeking someone who can resolve the conflict between ourselves and God and bring us into favour with him.  A covenant has been broken and restoration and reconciliation requires the services of a mediator.

 

We also need a deliverer.  We need someone who can deliver us, rescue us.  And from what do we need rescue?  From what are we saved?  1 Peter 1:18 tells us that we have been redeemed from “the empty way of life handed down” to us from our forefathers.  What is the consequence or result of that empty way of life?  It is God’s righteous judgment.  And we find that expressed in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him.”  Loved ones, we need deliverance from God’s wrath.  When we are saved, we are saved from God.  Yes, we are saved by God, but we are also saved from God and his wrath.  Our problem is not hell in the abstract, but hell as an expression of God’s just wrath.  Our problem is a holy and just God who cannot have sin or sinners in his presence.  The question was posed by Christ himself in Matthew 23:33, “You snakes! You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?”  He addressed those words to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, but they are words everyone needs to consider.  How will we escape being condemned to hell?  We need someone to deliver us.

 

And what will this mediator and deliverer have to look like?  We confess from the Scriptures that he must be a true man.  He must make the payment with human flesh and blood, with a human soul.  Hebrews 2:17 reminds us that he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he could be the merciful and faithful high priest.  He had to be a true man in order to make atonement for the sins of his people, to bring God and the people back to fellowship.  That’s what atonement literally means – to make at one, to bring into unity and fellowship.

 

So, true man.  But he must also be a righteous man.  He is going to make a sacrifice to pay for sin – in Biblical terms that means that he is going to be a high priest.  We need a high priest who does not have debts of his own, who does not need to make sacrifices for himself.  We need one who can focus entirely on making the sacrifice for others.  Hebrews 7:26 tells us that the high priest who will meet our need will be holy, blameless, pure and set apart from sinners.  The high priest who can propitiate, who can turn away God’s wrath, is one who is not weak and prone to failure. 

 

True and righteous man.  But that is not enough.  If he were merely a true and righteous man, God would destroy him in the process of paying for sin.  His redemption would be incomplete, for death would still have conquered him.  He needs to have victory over sin and also over the results and effects of sin, including death.  Consequently, he must be more powerful than all creatures, he needs to be at the same true God. 

 

We know the way of escape and deliverance.  We know the identity of God’s mediator and deliverer.  Jesus Christ is the true and righteous man, the one who is more powerful than all creatures.  He is the God-man.  Through him, we have reconciliation with God and deliverance from his wrath.  According to Romans 3:25, through him and through his blood, we have propitiation – God’s wrath is turned away from us.  With him, deliverance has not merely dawned – it shines forth more brightly than the sun. 

 

Loved ones, let’s forever be thankful that God did not leave us in our sin.  He could have done that and he would have done no injustice.  He was not obligated to rescue us from his wrath.  But instead, in his grace he went after our first parents in the Garden, and in so doing also went after us.  He gave them and us what we do not deserve, in fact the very opposite of what we deserve.  Do not ever let that thought cease to amaze you.  Though we have in every way forfeited the love of God, in Jesus Christ he receives us into a deeper favour than what Adam and Eve knew.  That’s why we call it amazing grace.

 

Let us pray:

 

Father,

 

We acknowledge that our just desserts are temporal and eternal punishment.  But we thank you for your loving favour displayed in Jesus Christ our mediator and deliverer.  We will forever be grateful that he has made the full payment for us.  We thank you that he sustained the burden of your wrath against sin and delivered us from it.  O LORD God, teach us to love and sing and wonder and praise your name.  Let us love you, the God who loved and bought us even while we were your enemies.  Thank you for washing us with the blood of Jesus.  Thank you for the gospel of our deliverance.  We pray in Jesus Christ, our mediator and deliverer, AMEN.    


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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