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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:I believe in Jesus the only Saviour
Text:LD 11 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2011
Added:2011-12-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 37
Hymn 41
Psalm 116:1-5
Hymn 1
Psalm 116:6-10

Readings:  Isaiah 45:14-25
Text:  Lord's Day 11
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Saviour,

John Hick used to take the Bible seriously.  He used to believe that it was the very Word of God, true in all its details.  In 1961 he began teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary.  While he was teaching there, doubts started to arise in his mind.  He began questioning the virgin birth of Christ.  He stopped believing in the inspiration and authority of the Bible.  One thing led to another and he was in the British city of Birmingham doing what he called inter-faith activism.  He began frequenting Muslim mosques, Sikh gurdwaras, Hindu temples, and Jewish synagogues.  He realized that if religion is all about moral transformation, then religion can be found anywhere.  The Christian faith does not have an exclusive claim to helping people live better lives.  You can be a better person by being a Muslim, or a Sikh, a Hindu, or a Jew.  Being a better person will lead you on the path to the same God that all these different religions worship. 

Notice the path that Hick followed.  He questioned the Bible and then ended up denying it.  He then defined true salvation as moral transformation.  From there, he went on to believe that salvation can be found in all religions.  All religions lead us on the way to God.  What becomes of Jesus Christ in all of this?  He becomes just one more moral example among many.  He gets ranked with Muhammad, Gandhi, and other religious notables.  No better and no less.  Just a really good teacher who lived a good life.  But certainly not the only way to God in heaven.  John Hick is not alone in his thinking.  This is the common way of thinking of many people around us.  They deny that Jesus is the only Saviour.  Or perhaps they redefine what salvation itself is. 

For us, however, we take the Bible seriously.  As Reformed believers, we regard it as the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God.  We take it at face value.  We believe everything that it says because it is our God who says it.  From that naturally comes our confession that Jesus is the only Saviour.  We think of that well-known passage of John 14:6.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Christ is the only way to find a home with our Father in heaven when we die or when he returns.  And that is not just taught once in Scripture.  Just for one more example, think of Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  No one else!  Only Jesus.  Because it’s taught so clearly in the Scriptures, it’s also clearly confessed in the Apostles’ Creed and our Heidelberg Catechism.  So this afternoon I proclaim to you God’s Word:  I believe in Jesus the only Saviour.

We’ll answer three questions:

1.      What does he save us from?

2.      How does he save us?

3.      Why does he save us?

R. C. Sproul often tells the story of how he was accosted on the street one day.  Some well-meaning Christian was doing street evangelism.  The Christian asked Sproul, “Hey, are you saved?”  Sproul replied, “Saved from what?”  The Christian was not able to provide a clear answer.  If the name ‘Jesus’ means ‘Saviour,’ we should be able to give a clear answer as to what it is that he saves us from.

If we know our Catechism, then we have a good biblical answer to that question.  What does Jesus save us from?  “He saves us from all our sins.”  That’s a good answer and it’s taken directly from Scripture in Matthew 1:21.  There the angel is speaking to Joseph and tells him to name the baby boy Jesus, “because he will save his people from their sins.”  The Catechism is directly quoting from the Bible here. 

It’s a good answer, but we can unpack it more with the help of other Scripture passages.  Think of what we read from Isaiah 45.  That passage speaks of God our Saviour.  There he is the one who saves his people from idolatry.  Ultimately almost every sin boils down to a form of idolatry, doesn’t it?  But it’s not only the idols, but also the shame, the disgrace, and the confusion that inevitably result from idolatry.  God saves his people from all of this.  He delivers us from the guilt and the shame of our false loves.  This is spoken of in the Old Testament and it points ahead to the reality of what Christ has done for us.  Through Jesus the only Saviour, we are set free from what our sin does to our relationship with God.  Like Adam, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  But unlike Adam, because we have Christ, we do not need to flee from our Father in heaven in shame.  There is no need to hide. 

Isaiah lived on one side of that reality.  Peter lived on the other side.  Peter also spoke of what we have been saved from.  In 1 Peter 1, he wrote of how we have been saved from “the empty way of life handed down to” us from our forefathers.  We have been saved from vanity and pointlessness.  We have been saved from purposelessness, just aimlessly drifting about fulfilling only our own desires and wants.  Now we should ask the question:  why is that empty way of life a problem?  Why do we need to be saved from it? 

We could answer that in two ways.  In one sense, who wants to have an empty and vain, purposeless life?  Who would want to just a live a life that is nasty, brutish, and short?  You’re born, your life mostly stinks (maybe you have a few good weekends), and then you get old and die lonely and miserable.  What kind of life is that?  So there is a real sense in which Jesus saves us from wasting our lives. 

But there is another side to this.  The empty way of life spoken of by Peter is a problem because that way of life remains under the just judgment of God.  God created us to live for him.  He put us on this earth to live for his praise.  The empty way of life is rebellion against the design of the Creator.  That rebellion does not go unnoticed and it will not go unpunished.  God’s wrath is aroused by the empty way of life.  And so vain and purposeless lives are miserable here, but they will be even more miserable in the hereafter.  You see, ultimately Jesus saves us from God.  He saves us from the wrath of God that is coming on all unbelief and rebellion.  That’s exactly what Paul says in Romans 5:9.  He says that we shall be saved from God’s wrath through Jesus.

Jesus is the one who turns away God’s wrath from us.  There is a beautiful biblical word for that:  propitiation.  Jesus has propitiated God for us.  He has done what is necessary so that God’s wrath is turned away and his favour is again turned towards us.  Only Jesus can save us from God’s wrath.  Only Jesus can save us from sin and all its ugly consequences.

Loved ones, we should think often on the salvation we’ve been given as a free gift of grace.  Through our Saviour Jesus, we have so many blessings and benefits from heaven.  But the greatest and the most awesome is reconciliation.  Through Jesus we are reconciled to our Creator, brought into a relationship of fellowship with him.  He is our Father and we are his children.  Through Jesus, our lives now have meaning and direction.  We know ourselves to be children of God and we live as children of God.  All this is a gift of grace.  This is undeserved from beginning to end.  And realizing all that stirs something in our hearts, doesn’t it?  It’s love.  Love for such a great God who gave his Son for us.  It’s thankfulness.  Thankfulness to such a Father who has taken us from death to life.  It’s a longing to please him.  Wanting to please the one who has rescued us from the punishment we justly deserve.  And what’s happening in our hearts can only grow stronger as we also consider the way in which he saves us. 

As we look back at the Old Testament, we’re in the shadows.  In the Old Testament there are indications of how believers will be saved in the New Testament.  We think of the sacrifices under the law.  There were blood sacrifices which pointed ahead to Christ.  There was the Passover lamb and other symbols and ceremonies.  But there was something else and that ties all these things together in the Old Testament.  That something else is found in Isaiah 45. 

In verse 23 we hear God saying that he has sworn an oath.  Because there is no higher authority, he has sworn this oath by himself.  It is an oath that all people will eventually bow to the knee to him.  It is an oath that all people will eventually acknowledge him to be just.  But it is also an oath for the salvation of believers.  Those who have raged against God will be put to shame with an eternal punishment.  But those who have trusted him will receive salvation.  He promises this.  So there is a sense in which God’s people are saved by his Word of promise to them.  He comes to them in the covenant of grace and says, “You are mine and I promise to save you.  Believe me and I will do it.”  Ultimately our salvation rests on God’s promises.  Those promises have been signed and sealed to each one of us in our baptism.  That’s where God first came to each of us personally, put his claim on us, and guaranteed his promise. 

The promise of God for our salvation is carried out through the work of his Son.  Peter speaks of that too.  He says that we are saved by the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish.   The blood of Christ points us to his sacrifice on the cross in our place.  It should have been me on the cross.  It should have been you.  It should have been us receiving the due punishment for our sins through the pouring out of the wrath of God.  We say that on the cross and in all his sufferings Jesus descended into hell.  That’s what we deserve!  But he took it for us.  Christ’s blood was shed in our place, he was our substitute.  So Jesus saves us with his blood, with his death. 

He has also saved us with his life.  He saved us by living a perfect life for us before the cross.  God requires that we keep all his commandments perfectly.  We fail.  But Jesus has succeeded.  And he did it for us, all his righteousness is imputed to us. 

He has also saved us with his resurrection life.  By coming to life again, he gave us the victory over death.  When Jesus rose from the dead, all who believe in him rose again too.  That means that we are not only delivered from the curse of sin, we are also being delivered and will be delivered from the power of sin in our lives.  Oh, isn’t this truly gospel?  Truly good news for our lives?    

Loved ones, you see everything in our salvation centers around Jesus Christ.  Because he is the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to save.  It’s in him that we must believe.  Resting and trusting in this Saviour alone is the only way to the Father’s embrace.  Throughout history, there have been countless people who called themselves Christians but denied this truth.  They would say, “Oh yes, you need Jesus.”  But it was never Jesus alone.  It was always Jesus plus....  So it was Jesus plus Mary’s intercession.  Or Jesus plus the merits of the saints.  Or Jesus plus the good works of believers.  Of course, we recognize that this was and is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Roman way of salvation is always the way of plus.  Never “sola.”  So it is with Christ too.  The Reformers followed the way of the Bible and said, “Solus Christus,” “Christ alone.”  The Roman Catholic Church said, “No, the way is Christ plus all these other things...”  But let us not look down our noses at Rome.  Because we are sinful and prideful, we all have a little Roman Catholic living in our hearts.  If we are not careful, we can easily fall into the Roman Catholic math.  We can easily begin to think in terms of Jesus plus, instead of Jesus alone.  We must pray for more grace so that we keep our eyes always fixed on Christ and him alone.  Because there is truly salvation in no other. 

And that brings us to our last question for this afternoon:  why does he save us?  Here again, let’s first take our cue from our Old Testament reading in Isaiah.  At the end of chapter 45, Isaiah says that all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous in Yahweh.  In other words, God’s people will find their justification through him, through his deeds, through his promises.  And what they will do as a result?  They will exult, says verse 25.  Other translations say, “They will glory.”  They will praise, they will be filled with songs that lift up the Name of God.  They will rejoice and make much of the God who has saved them.  Brothers and sisters, do you see what’s happening here?  This salvation is not just something that has been understood by their minds.  It’s also something that has gripped their hearts.  It’s something that has captured their affections.  In Isaiah, this salvation stirs the emotions of God’s people.  They can’t remain cold and lifeless about this.  It’s got them in its power and they’re on fire about it.  It reminds me of the saying of Luther about his preaching.  He said that he preached as if Christ was crucified yesterday, had risen today, and was coming back tomorrow.  That’s how all preachers should preach -- with a sense of exuberance and urgency.  But that kind of view also has to determine the direction of all our hearts, the sentiments of our hearts.  That will motivate our praises for this great God of our salvation, for our great Saviour Jesus.

Then we’ll also be motivated to truly live for the praise of his glory.  Here think of Peter again.  In 1 Peter 1 he also tells us why God saves.  We are not saved because we are obedient children.  But so that we would be obedient children.  We are not saved because we are holy in our conduct, but so that we would be holy in our conduct, being holy as God is holy.  We are saved so that we would live properly as Christian pilgrims.  We recognize that this world and all its glitter and worldly attractiveness is not our real home.  We’re pilgrims, passing through.  We live as pilgrims with our minds set on our true heavenly home with Christ our only Saviour.  We’ve been saved by him so that we would love one another fervently with a pure heart.  All of this will be an expression of our love for the one who first loved us and gave his Son for us.  All of this will be expression of our thankfulness to our heavenly Father.  And it will magnify his glory in this world.   He saves us so that we would go and live in these ways, and that then our lives would also be a kind of magnet, attracting the interest and curiosity of the world.  “You’re different.  What makes you different?  What makes you tick?”  Then you have an opportunity to witness to the salvation you have through Christ alone.  “What makes me tick is Jesus.  What makes me different is the fact that I have been bought with his blood.  What makes me different is that I am God’s child because of everything Jesus did for me.  I’m different because I believe in Jesus the only Saviour.  Let me tell you about him.”

There are many doctrines in the Catechism that the world will find offensive.  There are many doctrines that even grate on some who call themselves Christians.  Lord’s Day 11 is likely one of the most difficult to swallow for such people.  However, brothers and sisters, if we accept the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God, as the only authority for our faith and life, it is not that much further to accept Jesus as the only Saviour.  Why?  Because Scripture teaches it clearly and plainly.  What more is there to say?  Just this:  “those who by a true faith accept this Savour must find in him all that is necessary for their salvation.”  That goes for me and for you, for all of us, every single one.  If we agree that this is what the Bible teaches, then flee to Christ and rest and trust in him alone.  Put your idols away.  Throw your pride into the trash.  Turn from your sin.  And say, “I believe in Jesus the only Saviour.  Only with him am I safe and at peace today and into eternity.”  AMEN.                                      

Prayer:

Our only Saviour Jesus,

Thank you for saving us from all our sins and their terrible consequences.  We acknowledge again that there is no salvation in anyone other than you.  We rest and trust in your perfect work on our behalf.  Help us never to deny you.  Help us with your Spirit so that we would always find you to be a complete Saviour.  Help us to find in you all that is needed for our salvation.  Please work in our hearts so that this teaching is not just words, but something that actually captivates our affections.  Please give us more grace so that we would truly love you and want to please you and thank you with our lives. 

O God, Father, Son, and Spirit, thank you again for your Word to us today.  We pray that your Word would be carried with us into this new week, that it would guide us and give light for our path.  Please bless our plans and give us strength for each day. 




* 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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