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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Very God & Very Man!
Text:BC 19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2008-04-13
Added:2009-05-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


BELGIC CONFESSION OF FAITH XIX

(Reading: Joh.6:60-71; 2 Cor.5:11-6:2)

 

Very God & Very Man!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     The title for the sermon this afternoon is ‘Very God & Very Man.’

          It rings a bell, doesn’t it?

              For it sounds a lot like the Nicene Creed, which has that phrase, “very God of very God.”

 

     It’s no surprise that it does.

          Because this subject is about the very heart of why that Creed was formulated and what the Church was busy battling with for some one hundred and fifty years.

             

     A bit of background helps us here.

          In 324 A.D. the Council of Nicea resolved the controversy about the divinity of Christ. 

               This ecumenical council refuted the claims of the Arians ‘by affirming that Jesus was ‘one in being’ with the Father.’

 

     The Arians were the equivalent then of the Jehovah’s Witnesses today, denying the Trinity.

          And they had come close to changing the whole Church around.

 

     The creedal statement adopted by this council did not end the dispute about the divinity of Jesus, however.

          Nor did it provide the church with the fullest expression of creedal declaration on the subject. 

               That is what happened later at the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.

 

     You see, soon after this there was a resurgence of the Arian party.

          And then was the additional concerns raised by the Apollinarians.

 

     Now, Apollinaris defended the true divinity of Christ over against Arius.

          On the other hand, though, he denied the true and full humanity of Jesus Christ. 

               Apollinaris taught that ‘in the incarnation the Logos, a divine spirit or mind, was united with a human body and soul to form a divine human being Jesus Christ.’

 

     As if that were not enough, Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, brought forward another new teaching.

          He declared that the Mediator consisted of two persons as well as of two natures, human and divine.

          According to him only the man Jesus was born, suffered, and died.

 

     And let’s not forget Eutychus.

          This was not, though, the young man of this name who fell from the window ledge in Acts 20.

               Rather, he was another man in the 4th century with a different doctrine.

                   For he taught that “our Lord was of two natures before the union, but after the union one nature.”

    

     So he reacted to Nestorius saying that two natures would mean two persons.

          He believed true union of the natures would mean one nature, that of the Mediator.

 

     This is all part of the controversy which resulted in the great Council of Chalcedon of 451.

          The Church there rejected both the confusion and the separation of the two natures of Christ.

              It did not solve the mystery of His person but it did declare the limit beyond which it was neither safe nor proper to proceed.

 

     Now, many have said that Chalcedon is too scholastic.

          They say they used many big words which are way beyond normal people.

              Yet Chalcedon was actually Christians expressing in the language of their day the truth that the Saviour was both truly human and truly divine.

     If anything, those complaining about it show their own lack of spiritual depth.

          They are the people who say a lot about man but little about God.

              They give all sorts of answers to personal problems but don’t touch upon the ultimate dilemma of them all!

     For if they did that they would grow to love the peace the apostle speaks of in Philippians 4 verse 7.

          That’s the peace which passes all understanding in Christ Jesus, our divine-human Lord.

 

     So we turn now to the teaching of Scripture that Chalcedon confessed and which we confess also today in Article 19.

          And as we do that we come, first of all, to consider, THERE ARE TWO NATURES IN CHRIST.

 

     Before we dig into this, however, we need to define “nature.”

          By “nature” we understand that which makes a creature what it is.

              For example, the nature of a horse is different from that of a man.

                   An angel’s nature is different again.

 

     Having defined “nature”  we move on to consider each of the two natures.

          The first of these is his divine nature.

              And this Christ certainly had to be.

                   For if He were not God at all He wouldn’t have been able to overcome death for us.

 

     The first letter of John is clear about this.

          In its first chapter verse 7 the apostle declares, “if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

 

     So the One who suffered and paid the price in Jesus’ human nature was the Son of God.

          Everything He did in that nature had infinite value.

              The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

 

     This is why we read that Jesus is called God’s Son.

          He has the power to forgive sin.

              He existed before Abraham, as John 8:58 says.

                   Ephesians 4 verse 10 says that “he who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.

 

     The second nature Article XIX speaks of is Christ’s human nature.

          The One who is from all eternity yet lived feeling hungry, grieving, and being thirsting.

              That’s why the temptations of the devil after our Lord had fasted in the wilderness for forty days and nights were very real.

                   Matthew 4 verse 2 says that He was then hungry.

 

     There are passages in Scripture which show both.

          In John 6 verse 62 we heard Jesus say, “What if you send the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”

              And Paul declares to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20 verse 28 that they are to “be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

         

     The issue before us here, though, is not whether Christ was true God.

          We already saw that in Article X.

              Neither is it a question whether or not Christ is true man.

     Our last article, Article XVIII spelt that out.

          Rather, it is about how these two, God and man, are combined in Him.

 

     This is where Eugene Osterhaven gives a helpful comment.

          He writes, “If Jesus Christ is very God and very man, as the Confession states, He must have two natures, human and divine.

              “And so He has.

     “Christ, the Son of God, became the Son of Man for us and for our salvation.

          “He did not lose that which He was before, but He took unto Himself that which He was not.

              “God became man; the Creator stooped to share the life of His creation by taking into indissoluble union with Himself our very nature.

     “One person, two natures – that’s how we think of Jesus Christ.

          “One nature, three persons – that’s how we think of God.

              “When we think of the Trinity the expression person means self-distinction with certain characteristics which make the person whom he is.

     “For example, the Father is the Father who loves the Son and sent Him into the world.

          “When we think of Christ the expression person means self distinction in the same way, but it also means more.

              “It means also the acting subject, the one Mediator between God and man who has one self-consciousness even though He has two natures, human and divine.

                   “We serve one Lord Jesus Christ in two natures.”

 

     In this way we come to the second aspect of Article XIX.

          From seeing THERE ARE TWO NATURES IN CHRIST we consider next that THERE IS ONE PERSON WITH THE TWO NATURES.

 

     It’s here that an illustration from John Calvin helps us.

          He uses man himself as an example.

              Because isn’t there in all of us a body and a soul?

     Don’t our bodies and souls each have its distinct nature and qualities?

          And yet they are united in an indefinable and lasting harmony.

             

     That’s why we describe ourselves the way we do.

          Sometimes we speak of the properties applicable to the soul.

              Other times we talk about those applicable to the body.

     And there are also times when we have to talk about something which cannot be applied properly to either body or soul alone.

          Then we are picturing what belongs to the union which come through these two things.

    

     Article XIX uses the word “person” to describe the singular entity which hold Christ’s divinity and humanity together.

          By “person” we understand that which makes someone the person he is.

              It refers to who he is – his self.

 

     So there can be no such thing as an impersonal human nature.

          The human nature is always arranged into a person.

              In Christ’s case the human nature had been arranged into the divine Person of the Son.

     Since His incarnation, His birth, this Person existed in two natures.

          So in the man Jesus there were not two persons.

              The self of Jesus’ human nature was the self of the Son of God.

 

     For example, look at how the second paragraph in Article XIX begins.

          It states, “But these two natures are so closely united in one person that they were not separated even by His death.”

              That means there’s a man in heaven right now.

 

     But it especially means what the second paragraph further tells us.

          For when Jesus commended Himself into the hands of His Father on the cross, it was a real human spirit, departing from His body.

               Matthew 27 verse 50 is where you find those words.

 

     And it means that right throughout Christ’s suffering, death, and burial, the divine nature stayed with Him.

          It might not have shown itself for a while.

              But those two natures are completely and perpetually joined!

                  

     Man – what a mystery!

          That’s what we read in 2 Corinthians 5 verse 19.

              For God in Jesus Christ is reconciling the world to Himself.

     This is the Jesus before whom we can only bow in the most adoring wonder.

          Together with Thomas in John 20 verse 28 don’t you too cry out, “My Lord and my God!”?

 

     A preacher named William Greenfield once met, at the house of a friend, someone who was a deist.

          Now a deist is a person who believes that God has nothing to do with the everyday running of this world.

              They would say that at most all God did was winding up this world like an old alarm clock and just left it to itself.

                   These days a deist would be someone who believed in some kind of power who set up the ‘big bang.’

 

     This deist asked Greenfield, “Why is Jesus Christ called the Word?”

          He saw an opportunity to trip up Greenfield with this phrase which obviously didn’t make sense.

 

     Greenfield, who didn’t pick up his sceptical attitude, answered him in his very straight forward and honest way.

          He said, “I suppose, as words are the way that we communicate with each other, the expression is used in the sacred Scriptures to show to us that Christ is the only way between God and man.

              “I don’t know any other reason.”

 

     Well, to that the deist couldn’t reply at all.

           Because that’s the gospel.

              In the good news the incarnation of the Son of God is always presented in connection with sin.

     You see, without the fall into sin why would God need to become man?

          In the words of Galatians 4 verse 4 and 5, because we did sin, “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

 

     Congregation, may we never cease to be so utterly thankful for what God has done in His Son.

          There is no-one like Him.

              Yet that’s what He had to become.

     And all so that we would be one with Him.

          In the further words of Galatians 4, the verses 6 and 7, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, Abba, Father.”

              “So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are son, God has made you also an heir.”

 

     What glory!

          And what amazing grace!

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     Lord God, we are indeed thankful for what You’ve done in Your Son.

          We know that without You plan to save us, done in Him, we would be as lost as everyone else on this earth.

              But we have been redeemed.

     Jesus became what He was not so that we could become what we are.

          How much don’t we rejoice in that!

              In the dear Saviour’s Name, we offer up this prayer, Amen.

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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