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Author:Rev. Steven Swets
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Congregation:Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church
 Abbotsford, BC
Title:The Only Possible Deliverer
Text:LD 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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

Scripture Reading: Psalm 80 and Matthew 4:1-11

Lord’s Day 5

Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

            This afternoon we move into the second part of the Heidelberg Catechism. In Lord’s Day 1 we received an appetizer to the second part of the catechism, but we recognized thereafter, if we want Jesus Christ, then we had better know why we need him. After Lord’s Days 2, 3, and 4, it became clear that we are in a terrible predicament when it comes to sin. In fact, we could almost include QA’s 12, 13, and 14 into that first part of the catechism.

            In this sense, we are typified with Isaac on the altar. We know that sin committed against God’s supreme majesty, be punished with the supreme penalty—eternal punishment of body and soul (QA 11). This pretty much puts us bound on the altar. The wood is laid in place, the fire is ready and we understand that blood must be shed in order to atonement for sin to take place. When the knife is about to come down in slaughter, God intercedes. God provides, not a ram in the bushes, but one who is “truly human and truly righteous, yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, he must also be true God.” By so doing, God delivers us from the altar of sacrifice and provides the true atoning sacrifice. In that sense, Abraham was right when Isaac asked him, “Father, I see the wood and the fire, but where is the lamb.” Abraham responded and said, “God will provide the lamb for sacrifice.”

            It is that lamb of God that we hear of this afternoon. Our theme is Our God provides His people with the only possible deliverer.

  1. The Requirement
  2. Our Inability
  3. The Mediator

I. The Requirement

            Read Question 12. Already in that question there are three things taking place. First, there is a confession of sin. This is a confession that we deserve punishment, both in this world and forever after. We know this...we have seen this very truth in the last three Lord’s Days. After Lord’s Day it should have been clear, all of our “but” questions, all of our final pleas are done away with. We are done trying to defend our own sin. That’s it, we admit it, we are guilty.

            You see, we saw last week that the QA’s were asked by an objector...that was us. We were in the courtroom of God pleading not guilty. We brought in all of our witnesses, we gave our best arguments, etc. But now we have no more witnesses to bring, no more arguments to give, and so in Question 12 we withdraw our plea of not guilty in exchange for a plea of guilty. After this confession of guilt, there is a plea/prayer for relief.

            “How can we escape this punishment?” How are we going to get off the altar before the knife comes down? How will we be able to receive a sentence from God even after pleaing guilty? There is emotion in that three letter “how.” How can we escape?

            The third part of this question is how can we “return to God’s favor?” Prior to the fall into sin, our first parents were in a state of innocence...they walked with God in communion and fellowship. We want that fellowship restored...we long for a return to paradise, a better in which that fellowship will not be able to be broken. The human heart longs for that which God created it to have; namely, peace, joy, love and unity with God. All these things were lost because of sin. But above all, it was that true fellowship with God that was lost.

            In our lives we can strive for fellowship in our marriages, with our children, parents, friends, etc. and all of those relationship suffer because of sin. But, all of those relationships are secondary. Communion with God is our greatest need. In order for that to happen, something must give.

            Answer 13 makes it very clear that God’s justice must be paid in full. “God requires that his justice be satisfied, Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full.” If we stopped reading there that would be some bad news. We are sinners, we are guilty, we are on the altar. God has a claim. The claim is that His justice has been transgressed by us. Someone is going to have to pay, either us or another. Those are the only two possibilities and it is those two possibilities that the remainder of our Lord’s Day deals with.

II. Our Inability

            So, where we are now, is that we acknowledge and confess that we have a terrible debt to pay before God. The claims of God’s justice must be paid in full. So, the first question or attempt is “Can we pay this debt ourselves.” You know, maybe we have enough credits saved up and we can pay off the balance of our debt. Answer 13 quickly slams the door on that idea. We see the increasingly familiar “certainly not.” No way, impossible, can’t happen, certainly not.

            Not only do we not have enough money, credit, good works, or whatever we might want to pay off this debt with, we continue to accrue further debt. Our catechism says that we “increase our guilt every day.” For us to pay off our debt would be akin to seeking to pay off an infinite debt. After paying off an infinite debt for decades, you would be back at square one owing an infinite amount. What this means is that if we possibly had a way to start to pay on this debt, the interest would accrue faster than we could pay. Our payment is no good. One things we have seen from the book of Romans is that no one is justified by their works. Ephesians 2 says that we are not saved by works but by grace. Even more, our works that we might try to do to lessen our debt, make us even more guilty. We are in quick sand and the faster we move our legs and kick and try to climb our way out the faster we sink further down and down and down.

            This is the foolishness of a work-righteousness. Anyone who seeks to combine their works to Christ’s in order to earn the favour of God are fighting a losing battle. Anyone who combines works with grace continues to increase their guilty every day. It doesn’t matter how hard someone tries or how much they give or how much they benefit others. They cannot pay this debt themselves. Works righteousness is a false religion. It is not Christianity, at least not biblical Christianity. Revelation 2:5 says, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Oh, we are earning something before God, but it most certainly is not forgiveness or everlasting life. It is the opposite.

            We can’t pay our debt and no other creature can pay for it either. Read QA 14. God will not punish a creature for man’s sin. Boys and girls, do you know why? This is because animals are not on the same level we are. Animals are not made in the image of God. Animals are not moral beings and they do not have a soul. Animals can be very important to some people, especially pets. That is fine, but animals, sheep, bulls, goats, birds, etc. cannot pay for sins. Animals are incapable because animals do not have wills. A will is part of what it means to be made in the image of God. Animals operate on instinct. Humans are made up of bodies and souls, animals are made up of bodies. Ezekiel 18:4 says, “Behold, all souls are mine; The soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine. The soul who sins shall die.”

That answer also gives two reasons why God cannot punish a creature for us. First, no creature can bear God’s anger against sin and second, no mere creature could release others from it. The Old Testament church lived in light of the promise of the coming Messiah. Each sacrifice offered pointed ahead to Jesus Christ. Last week from Romans 4 we briefly saw that Abraham’s circumcision was a sign and a seal of something was not the reality itself. So too with baptism and the Lord’s Supper today. These signs and seals testify to the fact that no mere creature could bear the weight of God’s eternal anger on sin or release others from it.

So, where are left at at the end of answer 14 is spiritually speaking not all that different from where Israel found herself in Psalm 80...on the outside of God’s grace. In Psalm 80, Asaph, the Levite appointed by David to lead the worship and music before the ark if the covenant, cries out to God. Read Ps. 80:1-3. What Psalm 80 is getting at is the same thing that becomes clear in Romans 3 and in Genesis 22. It is God who must provide the righteousness. In Psalm 80 it comes in the form of God “causing his face to shine once more” Genesis 22 it is a ram who gets caught in the bushes...either way you say, it is a cry for the true deliverer, the only mediator.


III. The Mediator

            Read QA 15. We are looking for the God-Man, the incarnate Son of God. The whole reason we are dealing with this need goes back, as we saw from LD 4, to the garden and the sin of our first parents. What they failed to do, Jesus does, namely, overcomes sin and temptation from the evil one. We see this possibly most clearly in terms of temptation in Matthew 4.

            There Satan comes to tempt Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus has been fasting for forty days and if you have ever fasted or gone a long period without food, it becomes consuming. Jesus is hungry. Three times the Devil tempts him. The first temptation is to turn stones into bread. Jesus was fasting, he was hungry, yet, he did not give into temptation. He responded with God’s word.

            The second temptation is for Jesus to prove He is God by throwing himself off the temple thereafter to be caught by angels. Once again, Jesus responds with God’s Word, calling himself God in verse 7. Jesus attests to Himself, that He is the God of the scriptures.

            Then finally, a third temptation to bow before Satan in order to obtain all the kingdoms of the world. Once again, Jesus responds with God’s Word. Then the Devil leaves him and the angels come to minister to him.

            Jesus Christ is the greater Adam...he did not believe the lie over the truth, He did not bow the knee to the evil one. If the Devil would have put a piece of forbidden fruit before Jesus he might as well have hit it out of His hand. Jesus overcame temptation. However, this was just a small victory leading up to the great defeat of Satan. This is accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the deliverer, this is the mediator, there is only one Name under heaven by which we must be saved. This is the Jesus the Christ.

            Congregation, our sin has put us in dire straits. All of the objections we might attempt to muster have been answered. We have no defense, no substitute, and we must willingly lay on the altar of God’s wrath. We deserve the eternal judgement of God. This is what we would get if it was not for Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus Christ we have righteousness and life.

            One interesting thing about Genesis 22 and the testing of Abraham’s faith, is that we do not see how Isaac responded. His life was at the end, it was over as he lay bound on the altar until God intervened. But with Isaac, so too with us, it is not just a saving from death or a postponement of the inevitable. God takes us forgives, gives us the righteousness of Christ, He calls us sons and daughter whom He has adopted. God fills us with the Holy Spirit, God gives grace, so that we can live in response to salvation with the gratitude and thanksgiving. We can fight and overcome temptation, not by ourselves, but with God.

            Our debt was infinite and we could not pay for it. But be comforted, the God of all grace has paid our debt in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe in Him. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Steven Swets, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Steven Swets

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