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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:God redeemed us according to the just prescriptions of His law
Text:LD 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation
 
Added:2013-03-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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


Redemption by Full Payment

Ps. 97: 1, 3, 5

Ps. 78: 3

Ps. 98: 1, 4

Ps. 118: 5, 6, 8

Ps. 116: 5, 7, 10

 

Scripture reading:       Isaiah 53; Nah. 1:1 – 8

Text:                              LD 5

 

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Was it possible for God to save us without sending His Son to die for our sins?

 

No, it was not possible for God to save us without the accursed death of His own Son.

We needed such a High Priest and Mediator as we have in Christ, and we needed Him with absolute necessity in order to be saved.   That is what we confess here in LD 5.

 

But someone may say: “Why could God not save us in another way?   He is almighty and He can do whatever He wants to do.   Could He not simply speak a word and forgive us our guilt without sending His Son to die for our sins?”

 

And again we answer: “No, God could not forgive us our sins and accept us in favour without the blood-bought redemption of His own Son.”

 

There are indeed things which God cannot do.

God cannot deny Himself – 2 Tim. 2: 13

God cannot lie – Titus 1: 2

God cannot sin.

God cannot act against Himself.

He cannot act against His own holy nature.

 

Such divine “cannots” are His glory.   To deny such “impossibilities” would be to deny His glory and perfection.

 

Here in LD 5 we also find one of these divine impossibilities: God cannot deny or abolish His own justice.   His justice has to be satisfied.   The holiness of His very Being and the glorious perfection of His own nature demand that His justice be satisfied.

 

 

God will not forgive any sin without full payment.  

God will not let any sin go unpunished.   Either we have to bear the punishment, or Christ had to bear it for us.   There is no alternative.  

All sin has to be punished.

 

The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is that Christ alone was able to pay the ransom, and that He made the full payment on our behalf.

 

That is what LD 5 is about.

 

The purpose of this Lord’s Day is to make clear that there is and was no other way possible in which we can be saved.  It had to be full payment, and the only Mediator who could make this payment for us was the Son of God in human flesh.

 

Now, when we confess here in the first answer of LD 5 that “God demands that His justice be satisfied”, it is the same as saying: God demands in His law that His justice, as spelled out in the law, has to be fully upheld.   His justice, as spelled out in His law, had to be fully satisfied also in the way of our redemption.

 

And so I proclaim God’s Word to you with this theme:

 

God redeemed us according to the just prescriptions of His law

 

We will note…

1.      What payment God’s justice requires

2.      That there was no alternative salvation possible

3.      The importance of this doctrine

In the first place we note…

What payment God’s justice requires

 

God demands that His justice be satisfied.   This is the first thing, the first truth that we confess about our redemption.   This is the foundation of our salvation.  If we remove God’s justice we destroy everything.   God’s throne is built on justice and righteousness.  

Without that He cannot be God.  

 

But where does God demand that His justice be satisfied?  

And what is His justice?  

And how must it be satisfied?

God’s command comes to us in His law.

His justice and righteousness (as it relates to us) is spelled out in His law.  

His law tells us what God’s justice requires and how His justice is satisfied.  

To know what payment God’s justice require, we have to turn to the law.

We cannot find the answer anywhere else.   If we seek any fulfilment of God’s justice apart from His law, we seek in vain.   God has only one will.   He has only one law.  

 

Now, we already saw in LD 2 that God’s law requires perfect obedience, and we already saw in LD 4 that when this perfect obedience is not rendered to God, God’s law requires that the sinner be punished with the most severe punishment of hell.  

 

But is God’s law really absolute.   Cannot God change His law, or overlook His law?   Could He not save us in another way apart from the requirements of His law?

The answer is: No.

For God’s law is not something apart from God.   We cannot separate God from His law.   When His law requires obedience, it means: God requires obedience.  

And when His law pronounces the curse of death on the sinner, it means: God pronounces the curse of death on the sinner.   The law says what God says.  

The law requires what God requires.  

 

If anyone tries to get rid of the law, he tries to get rid of God.

Let us say this once more: If anyone tries to get rid of the law, he tries to get rid of God.

If anyone tries to bypass the law, he tries to bypass God’s own holiness and righteousness.

 

The very notion to seek some kind of salvation that bypasses the righteous requirements of the law is enmity against God.

 

If anyone does not love God’s law, he simply does not love God.   For the law is the very revelation of God’s holiness and righteousness, and His justice.

 

If anyone views God’s law as being harsh and unloving, then he actually views God as being harsh and unloving.  

Yes, whatever you say about God’s law, you say about God.   For God’s law is not something outside of Him.  

God cannot abolish His law, because He cannot abolish Himself.   His law cannot change, because God cannot change.  

 

Therefore His justice, as spelled out in the law, has to be satisfied, has to be fulfilled, has to be fully upheld.

Our redemption had to be a righteous redemption; it had to be a redemption that meets all the requirements of God’s holy law.

 

Yes, God saved us with a righteous salvation.  There is and was no alternative but to keep and to meet all the requirements of God’s justice as spelled out in His law.

 

Now, when we hear the words “full payment” we immediately think of the punishment.  

But the full payment is actually two things.  

God’s law requires complete obedience to the commandments; and when these commandments are transgressed, the law also requires that the transgressor be punished.

And therefore we were in need of two things: we needed perfect obedience, and we needed the removal of our guilt.

 

The law requires both atonement and justification before we can again be accepted into God’s favour.    Therefore the satisfaction of God’s justice and the payment owed to God’s justice was both the perfect obedience of Christ on our behalf and His suffering and death on our behalf.

The law required both: full obedience, and full punishment on disobedience.  

Our Lord Jesus Christ made full payment for us by fulfilling both requirements.   His perfect obedience to the law of God is put on our account, and the full weight of the righteous curse with which we were cursed was laid on Him.

 

 

When we look at the atoning work of Christ, then we note that Scripture describes His work of atonement with various words such as: sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation and redemption.   Each of these words focuses on one specific aspect of His work of atonement.   But there is one word that embraces all the aspects of His atonement: the word obedience.

 

By His obedience to God’s commandments we are clothed with perfect righteousness, and by His obedience in His suffering and death our guilt is payed.  

 

In all things Christ obeyed the will of His Father: 

 

“I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” – John 6: 38

 

By His obedience He wrought our salvation: 

 

“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” – Rom. 5: 19.  

 

He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross – Phil. 2: 8

 

Now, this obedience of Christ, which embraces all aspects of His work of atonement, is the full payment which satisfied God’s justice.

 

We can only be accepted into God’s favour if we are without guilt and clothed with righteousness.  

 

Therefore the words “complete obedience” are written on every aspect of Christ’s work of atonement, for God’s justice had to be satisfied and all righteousness had to be fulfilled.

 

In short: the payment that was required was the complete obedience and fulfilment of all the requirements of God’s law.   Only thereby could the justice of God be satisfied.

 

 

We will now note, in the second place, that…

 

There was no alternative salvation possible

 

The question is still whether God could have saved us without sending His Son to die for our sins.

And the answer remains: No.   There was no other salvation possible.

 

But this reality is denied by many.   Our confession in Lord’s Day 5 is under hard attack in our day.  For: there are many in our day who speak about God’s love, but refuse to hear about His justice.

They create for themselves a god who is only love, a god who will punish no one, a god who simply forgives without a ransom for sin.   But: it is not the God of the Scriptures.

 

God’s free and sovereign love is indeed the reason why He saved us.   He loved us, therefore He saved us.  

God is love.   God cannot stop being love, for He is love.

But His love did not in any way make it necessary for Him to love us who became hell deserving transgressors.  

In His mercy, by His free and sovereign will, He chose to love us.

 

The fact that God is love does not make it necessary for Him to love hell-deserving objects.  

Instead, He chose to love some, and to hate others, as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9: 13).

God’s love did not make it necessary for Him to save anyone.   The fact that He is love did not cause any necessity within Himself that He should love us who deserve nothing but His wrath.

It was by His own free and sovereign will that He decided to love us and to save us, for He was under no compulsion to save any of us.

But, once He decided in His free and sovereign grace to love us, and to save us, that decision of God could only be realised by sending His Son to take our place as our Mediator and to pay the ransom and to restore us in God’s favour.  

 

Because God decided to love us He also decided to save us, and that gracious decision out of His own free and sovereign good pleasure, made it necessary that His Son had to redeem us by His own blood.

 

So then, God’s free and sovereign electing love is the reason why He sent His Son to procure our salvation.   But, why was it necessary for God to become a man?   And why, having become a man, did He have to die?   And: why such an accursed death?

Was it absolutely necessary for God to do this in order to save us?

Could He not just speak a word and forgive us?

 

Brothers and sisters, Scripture makes clear that the perfection of God’s own nature made it absolute necessary for our redemption to be accomplished by the blood atonement of Christ.   And therefore, let us quickly look at a few Scripture passages that speak of the necessity of such a Mediator as God has given us in Christ.

 

In Hebrews we read:

 

“…in all things He had to be made like His brethren…to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” – Hebr. 2: 17

 

In order to make propitiation for our sins the Son of God had to become man.

 

But the absolute necessity of this whole way of blood-bought redemption becomes clear when we read the following:

 

“…without shedding of blood there is no remission.   Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in heaven should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.   For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another – He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself…so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many…” – Hebr. 9: 22 – 28.

 

Why is there no remission of sins without the shedding of blood?    Not merely because it was described by the Levitical laws and sacrifices, but because these laws and sacrifices are “copies of heavenly things”.   The earthly tabernacle with all its sacrifices was not an accidental creation, but was a copy of heavenly realities.   It was a picture of God’s sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle, where no sinner may enter God’s most holy presence without the mediation of such a Mediator as portrayed in the earthly tabernacle with its priestly service and its sacrifices.    

 

Therefore, says the writer to the Hebrews, it was necessary that the heavenly things themselves be purified by the blood of Christ.   

 

The reality of our sin, and the reality of God’s wrath against the sinner, made blood atonement necessary – even the blood atonement of Christ.   After the pattern of that heavenly reality – of God’s holiness and the necessity of atonement – the Levitical sacrifices were patterned.   

And the writer to the Hebrews makes clear that no other than the Son of God incarnate could be this Mediator. 

 

No sinner can in his sin appear before God and live.   It is the holiness of God and the gravity of our sin that makes this blood-bought redemption of Christ indispensible.

 

We needed, with absolute necessity, such a Mediator as we have in Christ.

 

Dear congregation, this doctrine is under hard attack in our day, and therefore we should make double sure to stand firm on this point of our confession, for much is at stake. 

 

We note that in the third place…

The importance of this doctrine

 

God punished our sins to the full, therefore we receive forgiveness.

 

This is no cheap gospel.  

There is no forgiveness of sins possible without full payment.   This makes the gospel very expensive.   The highest price had to be paid – even by the Son of God on our behalf.

 

Our salvation is extremely expensive, for no sin will ever go unpunished.  

 

We are quick to belittle the gravity of our sin.  And we are quick to trifle with sin.   God will forgive anyway, will He not?

Some, who call themselves Christian, even say:

 

            “It is God’s job to forgive!”

 

What a distortion of the gospel!   What a blasphemous image of God!

 

Dear Congregation, the God of our salvation is very different from what man imagines.   He is indeed a consuming fire.   His Spirit goes out like a stream of fire and brimstone to devour His enemies.   His wrath will last forever on those who flout Him.   His vengeance is fearful.

Yes, He is also the God who made hell.  

 

He is preparing everlasting torment to punish sinners.

 

God sent His Son to save sinners.   And in that context it is lawful to say that God loves sinners – He gave His own Son to die for sinners.

But it is just as true that God hates sinners.   He will cast the wicked in the unquenchable fire of His wrath.   And there will be no mercy for them.

 

To understand the gospel, we need also to understand God’s justice.

We need to understand that our sins are forgiven us only because it has been fully paid for in the bitter and accursed death that Christ, the Son of God, suffered and died for us.

 

This is the God of the Scriptures.  

It is not God who has to change, but we have to be changed.   We have to be restored to His image; and not He to our image!

The problem does not lie with God, but with us.   We are wrong and accursed.   We are wicked and rejectable according to the goodness and holiness of God.  

 

And our sin and guilt, by necessity, evoke the wrath of God.

 

We need to stand before God innocent, or else… we have to depart from Him and bear His wrath.  

 

If anyone denies the necessity of the death of Christ, then he distorts the whole gospel.

If God could forgive us our sins without sending His Son to die for us, then God would never have brought such disgrace and suffering on His own beloved Son in pouring out His most severe wrath on His own Son – if it was not necessary!

 

If God could save us without revenging our sin to the full, then Christ would not have to suffer and to die such shameful and accursed death.   Then the humiliation and shame and agony which the Son of God has suffered, would all be unnecessary!

 

It would even be blasphemous to think that the Father would do this to His own Son if such a payment was not necessary in order to save us – if He could save us all the same without revenging our sin to the full.   But God could not abolishing His own law or deny His justice.

 

No, He is the Holy One, and therefore His salvation is holy too.  

The tabernacle was a model and a picture of God’s sanctuary in heaven (Hebrews 9:24).  

When we look at the tabernacle, it looks like a bloody gospel.   We see blood, and more blood, streams of blood that continued all through the year.   And the outpouring of blood symbolized death.   For the payment for sin is death.

 

It is on this aspect of the gospel that the Catechism focuses our attention this afternoon.   There is no remission of sins without full atonement.   No remission without full payment.   The price for our salvation could not be higher.   

 

Dear congregation, we saw in the previous Lord’s days that according to God’s righteous judgment we truly deserve eternal punishment.   The guilt of our sin is enormous and frightening. 

How then can we escape this punishment and again be received into God’s favour?  

 

Yes, we already confessed in Lord’s Day 1 that we belong to our only Saviour Jesus Christ who fully paid for all my sins.   But in order to cling to Him alone we need to know why He is the only Saviour, and how He saves us.

 

The wonder of the gospel is this: that our holy God justifies the wicked – Rom. 4: 5.   The wonder is this: That a just God saves sinners without letting go of His justice.

 

This wonder becomes even greater when we consider passages such as Prov. 17:15, where the Lord says that he who justifies the wicked is an abomination to the LORD.

 

It is an abomination to justify the wicked.   

 

If we are wicked, and if it is an abomination to the Lord to justify the wicked, how then can this holy God justify us?  

 

“I will not justify the wicked”, says the Lord – Ex. 23:7

 

And because He could not justify us as we are in ourselves, He could justify us only in Christ.

 

Because He is just He cannot gloss over sin; He cannot close His eyes to it.  The Judge of all the earth is a righteous and a just Judge.

 

God, in all circumstances always demands that His justice be satisfied to the full.    That is our confession.

And all of Scripture confirms this.  

We must make full payment, either by ourselves or through another.

 

Dear congregation, when we focus on the unchangeable righteousness of God, then we do not see Him as a Judge who has no sympathy with us.   Christ did not have to die in order to gain the Father’s love towards us.   No, it was the Father who loved us so much that He gave His only begotten Son as a ransom for us – while we were His enemies.  

 

The Judge of all the earth did not alter His righteousness, but He loved us so much that He Himself paid the highest price to save us.

 

God became man and took our curse on Him!

 

This is the perfection of mercy and justice combined.   In the gospel of Jesus Christ there is no tension between the holiness and the love of God.   Both are revealed in Christ on Calvary – full punishment, and full salvation.  

 

It is no cheap gospel.  

 

If someone does not believe this gospel, then the curse remains on him.   Without Christ there is no escape from the eternal wrath of God.

Apart from Christ there is no mercy, no forgiveness and no hope.  

Apart from Christ and His sacrifice on the cross there is only a certain and fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries – Hebrews 10: 27.  

 

Do not sin and say: It is God’s job to forgive!   Do not trifle with sin.  For no sin can go unpunished.   Each single sin has to be punished to the full.   Either Christ bore it, or the sinner will bear it forever.

 

Brothers and sisters, let us thank God and serve Him with holy fervour, for our salvation cost Him immensely.  

 

It is only through the blood of Christ that we come to the Father as His beloved children, purified and righteous.  

 

Let us love God with all our heart and soul and mind and with all our strength, for He loved us first – so much that He gave us His own beloved Son as a ransom.   His body was broken and His blood poured out for the complete forgiveness of all our sins.     Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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