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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
 
Title:Christ Fulfilled the Law!
Text:BC 25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2008-06-08
Added:2009-05-28
 

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 XXV

(Reading: John 4:1-26)

 

Christ Fulfilled The Law!

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...

 

     We might wonder how a section like this ends up here in a Confession of Faith.

          After having dealt with the great doctrines of justification and sanctification how can you then move onto the abolition of the ceremonial law?

             

     However, when we connect this subject to the overall flow through the Confession of Faith, this Article is a natural development.

          Because haven’t we seen the battle being constantly fought in the previous Articles?

              Didn’t we note the struggle against the denial of Christ through what Rome taught?

 

     This is why the Articles 17 till 21 were really all about grace alone.

          And this is why the Articles 22 till 24 were all about faith alone.

              So now we begin to see, in Article 25, it’s all about Christ alone!       

                   ‘Sola Gratia,’ ‘Sola Fidei,’ and ‘Sola Christus.’

 

     If you’re wondering about the other ‘Sola,’ that was right at the beginning of the Confession of Faith.

          For there the Articles 2 till 7 were concerned about ‘Sola Scriptura,’ “Scripture Alone.”

 

     Let’s then look at ‘Sola Christus,’ – Christ alone.

          Because there can be no doubt that this is what Article XXV declares.

              In fact, the Articles begins by decisively stating that IT ALL COMES TOGETHER IN CHRIST.

                   Our first aspect this afternoon.

 

     Congregation, there is huge slab of the Bible that Christians have anguished over throughout the ages.

          For they wonder how the Old Testament relates to them today.

              And so there has been a variety of views about the so-called ceremonial laws.

                   From the Church of Rome, which has replicated many of these ceremonies in its services, right through to Anabaptist churches, which completely ignore the Old Testament altogether.

 

     Even in Reformed-Presbyterian Churches we have a range of opinions on this.

          It wasn’t so long ago that the theology known as theonomy took some Calvinists right back into the fold of Rome.

              Nowadays in America particularly, but also elsewhere, this has developed into the Federal Vision theology.

     And then there was the antinomian movement of Geoffrey Paxton which went totally the other way.

          They teach there is no need for any application of those laws for today.

 

     But here we may wonder which laws we’re speaking of here.

          There are various types in the Old Testament.

              So we need to first clearly define what is meant here in Article XXV by the term ‘ceremonial law.’

     Because it is different than the moral law.

          The moral law is the law of God which the apostles trace from before the time of Moses.

              It’s the law which still applies today.

     The Ten Commandments especially declares it to us.

          It has an abiding value.

              The ceremonial law, however, relates to what was revealed for God’s people when it was the Israelite people.

 

     Then there is what is known as the ‘civil law’.

          The civil law was that concerned with the regulation of the life of the nation of Israel.

 

     So the ‘ceremonial law’ is that which was intended to regulate the religious life of the covenant people during the time of preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

          It was only ever a temporary and transitory law.

              It’s different in this way than the moral law which is for all of time.

 

     We can further define the ceremonial law as legislation in the Old Testament which involves four kind of subjects.

          The first of these are holy things – sacrifices, furnishings, writings, vows, and gifts.

              The second of these are holy places – tabernacle, temple, cities of refuges, and so on.

     The third of these are holy persons – priests and Levites.

          And the fourth of these are holy days and seasons – feast day, Sabbaths, the year of Jubilee.

 

     This ceremonial law, like the other laws of God, directed the people to God.

          It was truly Torah – pointing out or directing, as the Hebrew word means.

              Its broad instruction led Israel on to ever higher standards of faith and duty until the coming of Christ.

     This is because Christ fulfilled “the ceremonies and symbols of the law” in its every respect.

          As He said in Matthew 5 verse 17, “Don’t think I have come to abolish the Law or Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

              And He goes on in verse 18 there, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

 

     It was on the cross that the Saviour declared He had indeed accomplished all that this law looked forward to.

          When He cried out in John 19 verse 30, “It is finished,” it was fulfilled.

 

     This is why Article XXV confesses that this law has ceased and these symbols have been accomplished.

          It’s also why it goes to declare that the use of this ceremonial law must now be abolished among Christians.

 

     It’s interesting that already in Israelite history the ceremonial law had been shown to be temporary.

          You see, under the Sinaitic Covenant the heart of the worship of Israel was the sprinkling of the blood of sacrifice within the holy of holies upon the mercy-seat.

              That was the mercy-seat over the ark of the covenant containing the two tables of the Law.

     For the ark symbolised the covenant God made with Israel.

          After the Babylonian captivity, though, this most holy act couldn’t be done anymore.

              There was no temple, ark, or mercy-seat!

 

     Yet God hadn’t forsaken His people.

          While they were missing a key aspect in the ceremonial law, it didn’t mean they couldn’t serve Him.

              It was only a temporary ritual which was taken away before Christ came.

                   His coming made its cessation final and ordered by God.

 

     Congregation, this law could only ever be a shadow of the substance.

          While it was a guide for God’s people it wasn’t anything compared with the Guide Himself!

             

     This is what the apostle Paul wrote of in Colossians 3, the verses 16 and 17.

          There we read, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

              “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

 

     And the letter to the Hebrews confirms this.

          In verse 1 of chapter 10, it says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.”

 

     The sad thing is, though, history shows the Church often returns to ceremonies and symbols.

          For example, the church as it was at the dawn of the Reformation was nothing but a plethora of symbols and ceremonies.

 

     Yet this is exactly what God’s Word tells us we should not go back to.

          For those ceremonies and symbols of the Old Testament was for the Church in her infancy.

              If you like, the Old Testament is a child’s book with lots of picture and minimal text.

                   The New Testament, though, is an adult’s book with few pictures and lots of text.

 

     Having reached maturity, you don’t look at the pictures anymore.

          But you still listen to the message.

 

     So the Old Testament still has its place.

          The Lord Jesus and the apostles often quoted from it.

              As we must do today.

                   Because the New Testament is essentially an explanation and clarification of the old Testament.

 

     If you don’t know the Old Testament you cannot properly understand the New Testament.

          You certainly wouldn’t be able to know the meaning of the many symbols the book of Revelation borrows from the Old Testament.

              No wonder there are so many weird and twisted interpretations of that book.

                   They don’t know what it came out of!

 

     The Confession is to the point when its says of the ceremonial laws that “the truth and substance of them remain with us in Jesus Christ, in whom they have their completion.”

          This is why Reformed churches have Christ-centred preaching.

              Because Christ is what the Old Testament looks forward to, with the Gospels telling about what He did, and the rest of the New Testament spelling out the difference that makes!

 

     IT ALL COMES TOGETHER IN CHRIST.

          And, then, in the second place, IT ALL STAYS TOGETHER IN CHRIST.

 

     Congregation, the message of the Old Testament still speaks to us today.

          How tragic the church where two-thirds of the Bible is not opened up at all!

              For there you have a church which is very childish!

 

     This is definitely not what Reformed churches believe in.

          Indeed, the second half of Article XXV is very clear about this.

              For we have to “still use the testimonies taken out of the law and the prophets to confirm us in the doctrine of the gospel.”

 

     I mean, you look at how the Old Testament is used in the New.

          Because it’s used in a way to show that all has come to pass.

 

     The Lord Jesus on the road to Emmaus opened the eyes of the two disciples with explaining it to them.

          In Luke 24 verse 27 we read, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in the Scriptures concerning himself.”

 

     How did the Berean believers in Acts 17 check out the truthfulness of the apostle Paul’s preaching?

          Well, it says there in Acts 17 verse 11 that they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

              And those Scriptures were the Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament.

 

     There are other examples also.

          Philip explained Isaiah’s fulfilment in the Messiah to the Ethiopian official in Acts 8 verse 35.

              The disciples of John in Acts 19 verse 4 were fully enlightened into what the Baptist was preparing the way for.

 

     But it’s perhaps in John 4 where we see the fulfilment best explained to us.

          We all know the story.

              Jesus knew that Samaritan woman backwards.

                   He really showed up the state of her life.

 

     But most of all, the Lord shows us there the difference His coming makes for our hearts and lives.

          In verse 23 there He declares, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.

 

     You see, while the New Testament Church no longer has all those involved and intricate ceremonies, it is also very positive about what is here now.

          The Reformers confirmed the same as they cleansed the Church from superstitious and frivolous ceremonies.

             

     This is why Jesus could tell the Samaritan woman that the temple had become obsolete.

          Because this was the temple which now by faith in Jesus Christ is present in the heart and lives of His own.

 

     The book of Hebrews is the clearest exposition of this.

              It sets out the charter and constitution for Christian worship.

 

     For instance, within the church there is no longer any room for an altar.

          Hebrews 7 verses 26 till 28 states that Christ has come and now appears before God as our heavenly high priest.

 

     Nor do we have special earthly sanctuaries or holy places.

          For as Hebrews 12 verse 22 says, we “have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.”

 

     And there’s no longer any special priesthood.

          Hebrews 13 verses 15 and 16 point to this.

              There we read, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.

                   “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is please.”

 

     To this can be added many other New Testament passages.

          For example, the apostle says in 1st Peter 2 verse 9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

 

     So God doesn’t teach us anymore by ceremonies and symbols.

          He places the proclamation of the Word right in the centre.

             

     Worship in the new covenant, therefore, is simple and spiritual.

          It is not a burden with layers of layers of traditions and regulations.

              Rome has only impoverished true believers.

 

     As does the ecumenical movement today.

          For it is essentially a “liturgical” movement.

              Somehow sharing the sacrament together does away with everything altogether.

     They are ignoring or simply do not know that IT ALL STAYS TOGETHER IN CHRIST.

          For they have gone right away from the Word in the centre.

 

     This is how Article XXV concludes.

          It says that the Old Testament is still of much value as it regulates “our life in all honourableness to the glory of God, according to His will.”

 

     That’s why every part of our public worship today is according to God’s Word.

          It’s not done because of man’s felt needs.

              It’s not done because some other church found it worked in getting more people through the door.

                   Rather, all that takes place in public and private worship, in our jobs or family life, at home or anywhere else, is to glorify God.

 

     So, dear believer, we live as those who have seen the light.

          For Jesus is ‘The Light.’

              He who opened the eyes of those disciples on the road to Emmaus has enlightened us too.

     He who opened up Isaiah to the Ethiopian official has shown He is the Messiah to us also.

          I mean, look where you are!

 

     And you’ve been listening, too.

          Haven’t you?

              Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

     O Lord God, we are humbled before You.

          For again we have seen it was all because of You and what You did in Your only Son, our dear Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ.

     Help us to keep looking to Him.

          Let’s not become distracted by the sights and sounds of this world but catch that glimpse of glory itself in Your Word.

              Do so stir us and encourage us, we pray, in Jesus’ name, 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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