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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:Saints and Sinners
Text:LD 21 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading of Scripture: Romans 12:1-16

Text: Lord's Day 21 of the Heidelberg Catechism

Songs: Ps. 48:1,3,4; Hy. 38:1,2; Ps. 46:1,2; Hy. 1A; Ps. 87
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation:

The Scriptures teach and we confess that the church belongs to Christ. It doesn't belong to certain people. A certain family or clan. It doesn't belong to a certain minister. The church belongs to Christ. To the Good Shepherd. To the Son of God who gathers the church, defends it and preserves it.

The Son of God gathers the church, his flock. He does it in certain places. (His work is universal. The church is catholic. His work encompasses the whole world. Ever since Pentecost (last week). It's not restricted to a small country in the Near East, like it was in the time of the OT. On the last day we will stand on the heavenly Mt. Zion with people from every tribe and tongue and nation singing the new song: Worthy art thou, O Lamb of God.) But as he does his work all over the world, he does it in definite places.

He is working in steamy, equatorial jungles. He is working in big concrete cities.

He is working, gathering people into communion with himself and with others - saving them from their sins and giving them his righteousness and eternal life.

Out of the whole human race, throughout history, he is gathering, defending, and preserving a church which is a communion of forgiven sinners.

I proclaim:


1. The Gatherer; 2. The Gathering; 3. The Forgiven.

1. As the Bible teaches and we confess, it is the Son of God who gathers, defends and preserves the church.

The Lord Jesus said that he is like a shepherd. Well known imagery. He calls out to his sheep. He speaks to them. They hear his voice. They recognize it. They go to him. He gathers his flock together. He leads them. He feeds them.

Like a faithful shepherd, he defends them. When the wolves attack, he drives them back. The gates of hell pour out their hatred against the church, but Christ defends his sheep. The gates of hell attack the church by way of persecution from the outside, or, from the inside, by way of false doctrine, or traditionalism, or the spirit of compromise. But the Son of God defends his church.

So well does he defend his church, that he preserves it. His sheep will not perish. No one will snatch them out of his hand. Because the Father has given them to him.

We are safe, beloved, safe with Jesus. Safe with the good Shepherd. He has gathered us. He defends us against attack. He preserves us.

The Son of God does this great work by his Spirit and Word. The Word of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ together with the its command to repent and believe, is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith. Christ sends out heralds to preach the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit - the gospel which is the power of salvation, and to call people to faith in the Christ proclaimed in the gospel.

No one can call upon the Lord if he does not believe in him. No one can believe in the Lord if he has not heard of him. No one will hear about the Lord if the Lord is not proclaimed. No one will proclaim the Lord unless the Lord sends a preacher. Faith comes from what is heard. And what his heard comes by the preaching of Christ. And so, Christ sent out preachers. First in Jerusalem. Then in Judea and Samaria. And from there into the world (since Pentecost). He still sends out preachers. Preachers to proclaim his name. So that people will hear, believe, be baptized, and so be saved. For it is by the washing of water with the word that the Son of God cleanses and sanctifies the sheep he gathers in.

It is by that same word - that word which is the gospel of salvation proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit - that the Son of God also defends and preserves the flock he has gathered. It is through the word and by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Son of God drives back the wolves that would attack the flock. I say it again: We are safe. Safe in the sheepfold. The Shepherd is out there for us. Keeping watch. Defending us against the wolves. Preserving us from their attacks.

That gospel of grace and power does not mean that we may now let a spirit of complacency, apathy, and lethargy, set in. That would be our undoing. Our destruction. Complacency, apathy and religious lethargy are the ingredients of spiritual concrete.

Rather, we need to give ourselves whole-heartedly to the Spirit and Word of the Son of God. Those are the means the Son of God is using to gather for himself a church. If those are the means he is using, then we must give ourselves to those means.

In Acts 2 we read that the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching. Christ had appointed the apostles to be the teachers of his people. Through their ministry he was pleased to work in the hearts and lives of his sheep with the power of his word and Spirit.

The Son of God still gives men for this work. He appoints preachers, elders and deacons. He uses them as vessels. By their ministry he works in our lives in the power of his word and Spirit. Through the preaching of the word on Sunday. Through catechism instruction. Through home visits where we are taught, encouraged or admonished.

We need to submit humbly to this. To the teaching and the guidance of those whom the Son of God has given in a specific time and place. BC 28 - We are to join the assembly wherever God has established it, submit ourselves to its instruction and discipline, and so bend our necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ. The instruction and discipline is given in the name of Jesus Christ. Through this work, through the ministry of the word, Christ calls his flock together. In definite places. In Ephesus, in Corinth, in Rome, in Ancaster.

Let us accept the word when it comes to us. As Christ in his grace sends it out to us. It's a gift of grace that his word is proclaimed here. Embrace that gift of grace. Submit to it. And allow the Holy Spirit to continue working the renewal of life in your hearts by means of the word.

In that way the Son of God gathers us in the unity of the true faith. That's what unifies us - the true Christian faith. We're not all the same. Old and young. Male and female. Professionals and tradesmen. Businessmen and students. We have different characters, different interests. One likes this. Another likes that. One has this emphasis. Another, that. We are not all little clones of some great exemplar. Thankfully not. That would be pretty boring. But this we have in common - the true faith.

Let us hold to the true faith. Don't let go of it. For then we will die spiritually. Let us use faithfully the means the Son of God uses to gather, defend and preserve us - his word and Spirit.

Then, by means of his word and Spirit, the Son of God will conform us more and more to his own image. He will be the firstborn of many children of God. And we will be assured of everlasting life.

2. We end answer 54 by confessing that we are living members of the church of the Son of God. What does that mean - to be a living member of the church?

QA 55 works that out.

To be a living member of the church of Christ means to be a saint within the communion Christ has gathered. Christ gathers his church into a communion. We are a communion, a fellowship. In fact, we are a communion of saints.

We have communion / fellowship, first of all with Christ. Secondly, with one another as fellow members of Christ. A communion of saints. A communion, a fellowship, of holy people. That's what "saints" means. A saint is a person who has been washed clean of sin by the blood of Christ and whose life is being renewed by the Spirit of Christ. Such a person has communion with Christ and has a share in all his treasures and gifts.

You see that ans. 55 refers to treasures and gifts of Christ. It makes a distinction between treasures and gifts. The treasures of Christ are the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. When we, by a true and living faith, have communion with Christ, we share in those treasures.

The Lord Jesus came that we may have life. He gives us eternal life.

These are the treasures which Christ will share with us. Do you have a share in them? There's a share for you too. There's enough treasure to go around. As we confess in CD 2:3, the sacrifice of the Son of God has infinite value and worth. It is abundantly sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. Because the one who gave the sacrifice is not only a true and righteous man. He is also true God.

Do you have that communion with the Son of God? I proclaim to you the promise of the forgiveness of all your sins, the resurrection of your body on the last day, and life everlasting. I proclaim to you the treasures of the Son of God. He became poor so that you may have treasures. Embrace the Son of God by faith. And these treasures are yours: if only you accept them with a believing heart.

Not only will you have a share in his treasures. You will also share in his gifts.

When we think about the gifts of Christ, we must think about what the apostle Paul said in Romans 12 and 1 Cor. 12. In these passages, he used the image of a body. The human body. He said that the local church is like a body. Many different parts. An eye, an ear, a hand, a foot. Each has a different function. But each is indispensable for the proper functioning of the body. No part of the body can say to another part: I have no need of you. The various parts work together. The eye sees. The ear hears. The hand does things. Our feet carry us from place to place.

So it is in a congregation. Paul said: there is a variety of gifts. Varieties of service. Varieties of workings. However, Christ has given these different gifts for the common good. For the good of the body. For the common good of the fellowship.

Can we not testify to the truth of what Paul wrote? Is this not true for the church at Ancaster as well? Are there not many gifts, talents and abilities lying here in our midst?

One has the gift of knowledge of the word of God. He's to build others up in knowledge.

One has the gift of wisdom. That br. or sr. must use that to give good advice to others.

The Lord has given others material prosperity. He requires that you use that for the good of the body.

Others have the ability to teach. Yet others to lead. Some have musical gifts which, of course, can be well used in the worship service. Some brs. and srs. have received the gift of encouragement. They are able to encourage those who are down. Yet others are able to do practical things with their hands. The gift of service.

Christ has given each of us certain gifts. He hasn't skipped anyone. Sometimes people think that they have nothing to contribute. That they have no talents, nothing to offer.

Not so. Paul said in 1 Cor. 12:7, exactly when he was speaking about the wide variety of gifts in the church: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." Christ has not skipped anyone. He has given each of you gifts which you are to use for the good of the fellowship. It's just up to you to discover what those gifts are, and to put them to work.

We are duty-bound to use the gifts Christ gives us readily and cheerfully for the benefit and well-being of the other members. We are, as Paul said in Phil. 2, to have the mind of Christ. We're not to look only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Christ does not give us these various gifts so that we can selfishly enjoy them and keep them all to ourselves. He gives us gifts so that we may share them with one another.

Each of us is to be a living member of the church in that place where Christ is gathering his people together. A living member of the communion of saints rejoicing together with them for the treasures we have received from Christ. And building each other up with the gifts Christ has given us.

As we say in BC 28: We are to serve the edification of the brs. and srs., according to the talents which God has given them as members of the same body.

3. Last thing we want to see is that the Son of God gathers us into a communion of forgiven sinners.

A moment ago we were talking about saints. Now we're talking about sinners. Isn't there a contrast here? Saints and sinners?

No. There's no contrast. Saints are sinners. And in the church, sinners are saints. Forgiven sinners. Saints are sinners who have been made holy by the blood and Spirit of Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life so that we may have life.

This is the first treasure, and the basic treasure, we have from Christ. The forgiveness of sins is the first treasure in which we have a share when Christ embraces us and we embrace him in faith. That's why you find this article about the forgiveness of sins included in LD 21, the LD about the church. The forgiveness of sins is the first treasure Christ shares out to the church. As well, it is the first and basic thing the church proclaims. In the name of Christ, the church proclaims the forgiveness of sins.

It is proclaimed every Sunday. For the sake of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, God will forgive your sins. He does not deal with us according to our sins. As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

There is no God like our God. He has compassion on us. For the sake of Christ, he treads our iniquities under foot. He throws our sins into the depths of the sea.

Through Christ, God has reconciled us to himself. God will no more remember your sins. Nor will he remember your sinful nature - the sinful nature against which you still have to struggle. On the day of Christ, the great judgment day, God will not condemn you. Rather, he will graciously grant you the righteousness of Christ. And everlasting life.

God is holding out to you the forgiveness of sins. Don't ignore the gift. Receive it. Embrace it. Be reconciled to God.

And in the mean time, between today and the return of our Lord, struggle against your sinful nature. We admit that in QA 56 - that we still have to struggle against our sinful natures. Do struggle. Be valiant in the fight against sin.

You don't have to do it alone. God, in his free grace, has given the church to help you in that struggle. Use the means God has provided.

Use the preaching of the word of God and the teaching ministry of the church to help you in this struggle. Use the visits brought into your homes by the office-bearers of Christ to help you in this struggle. Be a living member of the communion of saints. Help others in their struggle. Allow others to help you.

We are a communion of saved sinners. A gathering of people who have communion with Jesus Christ and with one another. Christ has gathered us out of the world. He is defending us. He will preserve us. Let us remain united in our faith in Him.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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