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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:God's blueprint for the Great Exchange
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Preached:2012-03-04
Added:2012-03-26
Updated:2012-03-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from the 1984 Book of Praise

Psalm 75:1,2,5,6

Hymn 1A

Psalm 60:1,2,3

Hymn 19:1,2,3,6

Hymn 29:1,2

Read:  Leviticus 16; 2 Corinthians 5:9-21

Text:  Lord’s Day 6.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What would it have been like to have lived in Jerusalem, near God’s Temple, in the time of the Old Testament?  What would it have been like to see the lambs, the goats and the bulls taken in for sacrifice?  What would it have been like to see the knife raised, the animal killed, and the blood that flowed from the altar through special channels out of the temple and out of the city?  What would it have been like to see the smoke and to smell the stench of the burnt offerings?

It would have been a graphic scene that displayed a graphic message.  For every animal brought into the temple, every plaintive cry of a beast about to be slaughtered, every drop of blood poured out on the altar spoke of the sin of man, of our alienation from Holy God . . . and the need for Someone to come to take that sin upon Himself, to take the curse upon Himself and so enable us to escape the punishment that was to fall on us so that we might again be received into God’s favour.

What would it have been like to have lived in Jerusalem and seen all of that?  The sacrifices were a graphic picture of the consequence of our sin, but they also spoke of the hope that sin could be forgiven.  No, the blood of bulls and goats could never truly take away sin.  Not even in the Old Testament.  But the promise in those sacrifices was the promise of the gospel, that One would come who alone could take our sin upon Himself and bear the curse for us.  The gospel, the good news in those Old testament sacrifices is that they pointed forwards to the Great Exchange that God had planned for the salvation of His people.

I preach to you the gospel as we have read it in Leviticus 16 and 2 Corinthians 5, and the church confesses it in Lord’s Day 6 under the following theme:

The Gospel Reveals God’s Blueprint for the Great Exchange.

1.    Who could make this exchange.

2.    What was involved in this exchange. 


1. Who could make this exchange.

The Heidelberg Catechism is split up into 52 Lord’s Days to encourage us to study it throughout the year, one Lord’s Day at a time.  Although this is very helpful, we should be careful that when we study the Catechism, we don’t read each Lord’s Day in isolation from the rest.  For there are lessons to be learned not just in the content but also in the structure of the Catechism.  Lord’s Day 6 also is best understood in the context in which it is found.

Lord’s Day 6 is found near the beginning of the section called “Our Deliverance.”  In Lord’s Days 2-4 we learned about the extent of our sin and misery and were faced with the truth that our sinfulness is absolutely awful.  Our sin is so great that not only are we all conceived and born in it, but it sticks to us.  We can not, of ourselves, even begin to do good, but rather are inclined to all evil.  Through the Fall into sin, our hearts became desperately corrupt – and don’t we all know it!

We also learned in Lord’s Day 2 – 4 about the consequences of such sin: God is terribly displeased with both our original sin as well as our actual sin and has vowed to punish this sin with the most severe judgment, that is, with  everlasting punishment of body and soul.   

And with that, we get a sense of the feeling that Adam and Eve had, just after they had eaten the fruit in the garden.  They had disobeyed God; they had fallen into sin; they knew they deserved to die; the best they could do was try to cover themselves up with fig leaves – but they knew that this would never do.  There was no way out, no where to turn.  Sure, they would later try to deflect the blame, Adam to Eve, Eve to the Serpent, but it would not work.  No wonder when they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden they trembled and hid!

But our Catechism moves on from Lord’s 4 into Lord’s Day 5 and asks the question we now need an answer to. 

 “. . . How can we escape this punishment and be again received into favour?”

Well, we know that fig leaves won’t work.  We also know that trying to put the blame on someone else fails as quickly today as it did in the garden of Eden.  And so the Catechism tries to find another solution.  And from there Lord’s Day 5 concludes that we can not save ourselves, nor can a mere creature pay for us.  And so there is only One kind of mediator and deliverer who could possibly help us, one who is

“a true and righteous man and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is at the same time true God.”

Perhaps we could call Lord’s Day 5 “God’s Blueprint for The Great Escape.”  And now we come to Lord’s Day 6, and Lord’s Day 6 continues with this line of questioning, asking why it is that the One to enable us to escape the punishment that we deserve must be a true and righteous man and at the same time true God.

Answer 16 gives two reasons why our deliverer needed to be a true man.  In the first place our God is a just and fair God.  Whatever God says, He will do.  God had told Adam and Eve that if they ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would die.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God, fell into sin, and therefore earned the Death Penalty.  And since Adam was our representative head, we sinned in him, and Adam’s guilt came to rest on each one of us, his descendants. It was man, therefore, who placed himself under God’s curse.  And therefore the same human nature that sinned should pay for sin.  Anything else would simply be unjust.

But more than that, anything else simply would not work.  When we fell into sin, man’s relationship with God was broken.  It was not simply that sin alienated man from God, but sin also alienated God from us!  Our sin has caused great offence to holy God.  Our sin made Him angry, it filled Him with wrath.  Yes it was a righteous wrath, a holy wrath and a justified wrath.  But it was a wrath that needed to be appeased, to be satisfied.  And the only way for God’s wrath to be satisfied was for that wrath to be poured out on someone who was a true man in every respect, for him to carry the full burden of God’s wrath and so deliver us from it.

But the Catechism also lists another quality for the mediator and deliverer we need: he must also be a righteous man, a sinless man

“because one who himself is a sinner can not pay for others.”

And that is a problem, because, as we confessed in Lord’s Day 3, man’s depraved nature came

“from the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise, for there our nature became so corrupt that we are all conceived and born in sin.”

In other words, every person who is a descendant of Adam and Eve is by that very fact unrighteous, a sinner.  As the apostle Paul exclaimed in Romans 3:10,

“There is none righteous, no not one.”

And so that means that if any of us thought of searching for a man to be a Saviour – or even perhaps offering his own services – we can give up before we even start.  We could never hope to find a truly good and righteous man and present him to God as a possible saviour, we could never find a way to escape the punishment that our sins deserve.

But there is more.  If we were to find Someone to save us from the everlasting punishment of body and soul, that Person must not only be a true man, but also true God.  He must be true God

“so that by the power of His divine nature He might bear in His human nature the burden of God’s wrath.”

A mere person simply could not do it.  The burden of God’s wrath against sin is impossible for a mere human being to carry on his shoulders.  Every sin is a sin against the holiness of the LORD God and so every sin carries with it the heaviness of death, the full curse of God.  And that is a weight that is too great for any mere person to even begin to lift.  No person could withstand the burden of God’s wrath for the sin of one man, let alone the sin of the whole world!  It says in Nahum 1:6,

“Who can stand before His indignation?  And who can endure the fierceness of His anger?  His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by Him.”

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for the LORD God is a consuming fire! 

And so the kind of Saviour that we need is one who is 100% man and at the same time 100% God.  A mathematical impossibility.  A Saviour whom we could never find for ourselves to present to God.

But what man could not do, God has done!  For who is that Mediator who is at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?  Answer 18 –

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”

Our Lord Jesus Christ was God’s blueprint for the Great Exchange!  The One and Only who is true God and true Man at the same time!  The One and Only through whom we might have our sins forgiven and again be received into God’s favour. 

He is our wisdom.  He is the One who shows us the way to the Father.  He is the one who redeems us from the foolishness of the world to turn to the living God.

He is our righteousness.  He alone was perfectly obedient to God and by His innocence and perfect holiness, He covers in the sight of God our sin in which we were conceived and born.

He is our sanctification, our holiness.  Instead of looking at us as sinners, when we are in Christ He sees not our sin but the righteousness of Christ.  We are a new creation.  And in Christ God looks upon us not as unholy objects of His wrath, but holy children of His love!  When He looks at us He does not see our sin but the righteousness of Christ.  And indeed, in Christ we are made new.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:16,17

“Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

And our Lord Jesus Christ is also our redemption.  He has bought us back.  He paid the price, the ransom for sin, and has freed us from all the power of the devil to make us His own possession.

And so in Jesus Christ we have the answer.  In Jesus Christ we have the Great Exchange.  In Jesus Christ we have a Mediator and Deliverer who has fully paid for all our sins with His precious blood, and has set us free from all the power of the devil.

And that was God’s plan from the very beginning!  It was not as though God had tried other ways to redeem us in the past and then gave up His Son as His last chance to save a people for Himself.  For all people, in both the Old and the New Testaments, the only way to be saved is through Jesus Christ.

Answer 19 of the Catechism teaches us that we know about the only Saviour Jesus from the holy gospel, the whole Bible, starting already when God spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.  There were indeed stages in how God revealed the gospel.  It was first revealed in Paradise when God promised to crush the head of the Serpent, then later proclaimed by the patriarchs (that is, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and by the prophets and it was foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, before finally being fulfilled in the coming of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  But the gospel is the same in the Old Testament and the New.  And Jesus Christ is the Deliverer one had to seek – both in the Old Testament and the New.  Indeed, Jesus Himself said that the Scriptures bore witness of Him (john 5:39), and after His resurrection from the dead, beginning with Moses and the Prophets He showed how the Scriptures all pointed to His coming and His saving work.  And that is an important point to remember, for there are some who break the unity of the Scriptures, who say that God worked in different ways at different times, who say that the way to be saved today is different to the way to be saved in past, in the times of the Old Testament.  But there is, and always was, only one way of salvation – in the Old Testament as well as in the New.  For both the people of the Old Testament and the people of the New, Jesus Christ is the only Saviour.  Before His birth people were called to look forward to the day of His coming, and now we look back at the salvation He accomplished for us in His one sacrifice on the cross.  But for all of God’s children, from Adam and Eve to the end of time, it is only in Jesus Christ that we can receive the forgiveness of sins, righteousness and eternal life.

2. What was involved in this exchange.

It must have been something to live in Jerusalem during the time that the Old Testament sacrifices were made.  It must have been something to see those animals brought into the temple, the knife raised, the blood poured out, the animal burned, the smoke going up to heaven. 

We read about this in Leviticus 16.  That chapter describes the most important feast day on the Old Testament calendar, the Day of Atonement.  On that day the high priest was to purify himself before coming to the LORD,  Then, dressed in the holy clothes of the high priest, he was to offer a sin offering for himself before seeking to make atonement for the people.  And then the high priest was to do a peculiar thing.  He was to take two goats into the tabernacle.  One goat was to be for the LORD, and the other for the scapegoat, or as other translations say, for Azazel.  The goat for the Lord was then to be killed and the blood would be brought into the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle and sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  This was a sign and a seal that God would forgive the sins of His people through the shedding of blood.  It was also a promise that in His grace and mercy the LORD would provide a way so that another’s blood might be poured out for our sins!  The LORD would provide us with a substitute who would die in our place.

But that was not the end, for then the high priest would take the other goat, lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and would then send the goat into the wilderness.  And so the goat would bear on itself all the iniquities of the people and remove them from the community of Israel.  (Leviticus 16:21,22). 

And it is in both of those goats that we see just what was involved in God’s blueprint for the Great Exchange.  In those two goats we gain an understanding of just what it was that Christ did to make full payment for our sins.  Not only did he suffer, not only was his blood poured out and did he die, but he also bore our curse and shame.  He was sent out of the city, forsaken by all and hung on a cross.  And on that cross, every single one of our sins was placed upon Him.  He assumed responsibility for them all and He carried them all.  Sometimes we can be so flippant about our sin.  Sometimes we can be so brazen in acting in a manner that is displeasing to God.  Sometimes we can be so easy going in our hurried prayer of “And forgives us our sins”.  But understand this:  Every single one of our sins carries with it a price tag.  Every single one of our sins carries with it the price tag of death.  And every single one of our sins needs to be paid for.  No, God does not count our sins against us who believe.  But He has counted those sins against His Son, Jesus Christ!  Our sin became His.

And when our sin was placed on our Saviour, so was the curse!  The wrath of God against the sin of the whole human race was poured out on the Son of God, as He hung on that cross.  On the cross, Jesus Christ drank the cup of God’s fury to its dregs.  He was cursed . . . for us!

And that is what it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

He made Him who knew no sin not just to carry our sin but to be sin for us.  Jesus was not a sinner, but He became the Sin Bearer, and in becoming the Sin Bearer, He received the full curse that was to fall on us.

And that was God’s blueprint for the Great Exchange.  The righteous One, the sinless One took our sin and unrighteousness upon Himself, He became sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  Isn’t that amazing?  Isn’t that just pure gospel, good news?  As it says in that well loved hymn,

“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,

sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;

that on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,

He bled and died to take away my sin.”

But there is an urgent appeal in all of this.  Next week the Catechism will go on to ask another question:

“Are all men, then, saved by Christ just as they perished through Adam?”

To which we will read the answer,

“No.  Only those are saved who by a true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all His benefits.”

The Reformed theologian R.C. Sproul once said,

“If you are not covered by the righteousness of Christ, you draw every breath under the curse of God.”

And R.C. Sproul was right.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  And that is why the apostle Paul was so urgent in his call to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 5:11.

“Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

And verse 20,

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”

For we are all sinners, and we all deserve the punishment of death.  But the Gospel I may preach to you today is that we have a Saviour! It is in Jesus Christ that we have the Great Exchange.  For He took our sin, He bore our curse, He carried our shame.  Christ accepted the curse that should belong to us so that we can take hold of the blessing that would otherwise only belong to Him.  And now He has become for us our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Praise God for the Great Exchange!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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