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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Heirs of Everlasting Life
Text:LD 23 Romans 4:18-5:11; Q&A 59 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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

Pastor Ted Gray
“Heirs of Everlasting Life”
Romans 4:18-5:11; Q&A 59

The catechism asks a question here in Lord’s Day 23 that many a skeptic might also ask. Many people ridicule Christianity, asking, in effect, what the catechism does in Question 59, “What good does it do you to believe all this?” – referring to the promises of Scripture as expressed in the Apostles’ Creed.

In other words: “What good does it do you to believe in Jesus, to live by His Word, to be a member of the church?  Isn’t all that a waste of time? Aren’t you being fleeced by the church?  Isn’t your faith just a crutch that you lean on because you aren’t strong enough to stand on your own?  What good does it do you to believe all this?”

The answer that the catechism gives is only one sentence. But that one sentence is, in the words of a seminary professor I once had, “pregnant with meaning.”  That is, it is full of life and meaning and depth and riches. It is a short sentence that speaks of great blessings.  The answer of the catechism is: “In Christ I am right with God and heir to life everlasting.”

That one short sentence speaks of three great blessings. First, to believe “all this” - the basic Biblical doctrines that we profess to believe whenever we recite the Apostles’ Creed - places us “in Christ.”

In Christ

What does it mean to be “in Christ?” To be “in Christ” means that our identity is with Christ.  As Paul says in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” 

To be in Christ is to have the power of Christ in us. Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

To be in Christ means that we know every promise God the Father has made to us is guaranteed by Christ Himself. 2 Corinthians 1:20: “For no matter how many promises God has made they are “yes” in Christ”

Has God promised you the forgiveness of your sins? The resurrection of your body? An eternity in heaven?  Has He promised to provide daily bread, guidance and protection through the perils of this life?

To be “in Christ” is to know that all those promises of God, great and precious, wonderful promises, are guaranteed to be fulfilled because we are in Christ, right with God, justified by faith in Christ Jesus.

There is an alternative to being “in Christ.” The alternative is to be in the world, and to be a child of the one whom God has allowed power in this world, the devil. As Jesus said to the Jewish leaders who opposed Him, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire” (John 8:44).

Those who are in the world instead of in Christ are under the control of the evil one. 1 John 5:19 says, We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. And the evil one has blinded their minds, for the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).

But we who believe the gospel, we who are by grace through faith “in Christ” are delivered from the evil one and his power. Colossians 1:13 assures us, He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,

Do you see the tremendous contrast, and the greatness of the blessing of being “in Christ” rather than a child of the evil one who has such great power and influence in the world?

When the Bible speaks of “the world,” it most often uses that designation to describe all humanity in opposition to Christ. We understand that we must be in the world in the sense that Jesus uses the word in His hi-priestly prayer, where He prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

But we recognize that we are not to succumb to the beckoning call of this world in its opposition to Christ. Admittedly, the world has it’s glitter and some earthly glory; it offers some transitory pleasures that appeal to the sinful nature.

But all that is in the world is destined to pass away. There is nothing in the world that can give you or me or anyone else true lasting value. 1 John 4:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

Furthermore, not only is the world destined to pass away, but all who follow the way of the world, all who are “in the world” instead of “in Christ” will also pass away - pass away into eternal damnation. John 3:36 is cited by the catechism: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

There is no in-between place to be. We are either in the world or we are in Christ. The only way to bridge the deep chasm from this fallen world to that place of being “in Christ” is by faith in Jesus, for He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 4:25-5:1).

Right with God

Those verses not only tell us what it means to be “in Christ,” but also how believing “all this” causes us to be “right with God.” We are “right with God,” that is in words of Romans 5:1 “we have peace with God,” by being in Christ.            

Martin Luther certainly found out that we can only be right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. You remember how he tried to earn his salvation with good works, but he found no peace with God. He became a monk. He denied himself all earthly pleasures, but he still found no peace with God; his life was utterly miserable.

Then he came across that verse that the catechism has in parenthesis there next to Romans 1:17.  In parenthesis it says: “Habakkuk 2:4.” Habakkuk 2:4 is quoted three times in the New Testament. It is quoted not only in Romans 1:17, but also in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.  The Old Testament quote is short and to the point: “The righteous will live by faith.” That verse changed Martin Luther’s life and changed the world. Through that verse Luther came to see the truth that we are made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by our works. 

It was only when Luther gave up on trying to earn his own way into heaven that he came to know what it means to be right with God. he came to realize that it is not what we do, but what Jesus Christ has done for us with His perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection that makes us right with God. And when we finally realize that, and trust in Christ alone instead of our works, then we know the joy of being right with God, that joy described with exclamation marks in Romans 5:9-11:

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Just as being in Christ has an alternative - being in the world - so too, being right with God the Father has an alternative, just one alternative.  The only alternative to being right with God is to be at enmity with Him, to be an object of His righteous, holy, awesome wrath.

Years ago, when our nation was more godly than today, it was common in the obituaries to read: “Having made their peace with God, the deceased passed from this earth on such and such a date...”  A skeptic, reading the old obituary columns scoffed and said, “Peace with God? I never knew we were at war with Him!”     

The Scriptures are clear that because of our sin we are at enmity with God unless we are in Christ. Only through faith in Him are we made right with God. Ephesians 2:1-3 are as clear as any verses in the Bible: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

You see, just as you and I are either in Christ or in the world, so too, we are either right with God or we are at enmity with Him.

Heirs with Christ

A third great blessing in believing “all this” – all the truths we profess in the Apostles’ Creed – is that our faith enables us to be heirs with Christ of life everlasting.

Romans 5:2 makes a reference to the glory of which we are heirs when it says we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And later on, in Romans 8:17 our inheritance is spelled out more clearly: Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

To be an heir of Christ is to have an inheritance in heaven, an inheritance that 1 Peter 1:4 assures us can never perish, spoil, or fade, - kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power.

An inheritance in Old Testament terminology usually referred to looking ahead to the promised land. Consider Abraham. When God appeared to him and told him to leave his home in the Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham obeyed. He did not know exactly where he was going, but he was obedient to the Lord because He believed in the Lord and trusted His promises. As we read in Hebrews 11:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:8-10).

That is the essence of our inheritance. Our inheritance is far greater than any earthly inheritance. We inherit not just our parents’ house, or a portion of a life insurance policy. No, we who believe, we who are in Christ, we who are right with God through saving faith, we inherit heaven. We inherit the city having foundations whose architect and builder is God.

In that city we come face to face with God.  For that city is His eternal home, and that city by His grace becomes our eternal home and we live and reign with Him forever.

What an awesome inheritance, beyond what any of us can fully conceive! It is an inheritance so great that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind can conceive what God has stored up for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Living by Faith

But to have these joys carries a requirement. To be an heir of an eternal inheritance we must live by faith as Abraham did. He had faith, not only in the promised land, but he also had faith that he would become a father even though he was well up in years. Romans 4:18-24 describes Abraham’s situation and his faith:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.

Abraham had faith because He saw, by God’s grace, the eternal Christ who would centuries later take on human flesh, be born in Bethlehem, and be named "Jesus" because He saves His people from their sins. The same was true for all the other Old Testament believers. They were saved by faith as they trusted God’s promise of the Messiah, just as we are saved by faith by looking back with saving faith to the life, death and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, in John 8:56, “Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.” And Paul adds, in Galatians 3:6-7, Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.

Part of living by faith is giving up all. Abraham left the security of his homeland in the Ur of the Chaldees. The same is true for everyone else who believes in the Lord. The Ur of the Chaldees for Abraham represented the world for us. It is only when we are willing to give up all that the world has to offer that we truly know what it is to be in Christ and to cling to Him with true saving faith. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39).

Those skeptics who ask, “What good does it do you to believe all this?” don’t have any conception of that truth. They have no conception of what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

I read about a very wealthy man who had vast treasures of expensive, rare, beautiful works of art.  The man had one son, somewhat nondescript, just an average young man. This son passed away in his late teens, and his wealthy father, who had been widowed, died shortly after of a broken heart.

The father’s will stipulated that all the rare master pieces of art would be sold at an auction.  But there was one stipulation. The first item to be auctioned, the will declared, was to be an oil painting of the man’s only son who had died.

A large crowd came to bid on the beautiful works of art, and they were all surprised, and more than a little put off, that the first item was this oil painting of the son. He wasn’t that handsome. He was just an ordinary looking boy who had passed away. They weren’t about to spend their money on his portrait when there were all these great treasures, these masterpieces of art, ready to be auctioned.

When the auctioneer presented the son’s portrait, no one made a bid except for a poor old servant who had loved the boy and his father. He was very poor; he made a bid of 75 cents. That’s all he had. The portrait was sold to him; there were no other bidders.

The crowd pushed forward eagerly, now the real treasures would be auctioned, they thought.  But the sale was stopped. The auctioneer explained that the father’s will had one other provision. The will stated that whoever loved the son enough to purchase the portrait would receive everything in the entire estate. The humble servant was suddenly heir of a great fortune. 

There is no way that we can purchase salvation. Only Jesus Christ could and did, there on the cross. All human analogies expressing the blessings of being right with God the Father through faith in His Son fall short. But they do remind us of what Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”  Part of true saving faith is losing your life to cling to Christ. The world will scoff. They will ask, “What good does it do you to believe all this?”

The answer of the catechism, as it follows Scripture, is so short. Yet it truly is pregnant with meaning, full of life, rich, encouraging, all encompassing: “In Christ I am right with God and heir to life everlasting.”

Where are you this evening and where am I? In Christ? Or in the world? At peace with God through faith in Christ? Or at enmity with God? Have we forsaken self and works to cling to Christ, trusting in Him alone for salvation, for our inheritance in heaven?

By God’s grace may you and I be able to echo the answer of the catechism, from the heart: “In Christ I am right with God and heir to life everlasting.”  Amen!

                                    - bulletin outline -
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for
our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. -  Romans 4:25-5:1
                              “Heirs of Everlasting Life”
                           Romans 4:18-5:11; H.C. Q&A 59
I.  Many ridicule Christianity asking, in effect, what the catechism does in Question 59:
     “What good does it do you to believe all this?”
II. The answer:  To believe “all this” - the promises of Scripture as expressed in the
     Apostles’ Creed:
      1) Places us “in Christ” as opposed to being in the world (Romans 5:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17)
      2) Causes us to be right with God (Romans 5:9-11), as opposed to being at enmity
           with Him (Ephesians 2:3)
      3) Enables us to be heirs with Christ of everlasting life (Romans 8:17; Hebrews 11:8-10; 
          1 Peter 1:4)
III. To know these blessings, we must live by faith in Christ, as Abraham did (Romans 4:18-24;
      John 8:56; Galatians 3:6-7), willing to lose all to follow Christ by faith (Genesis 12:1;
       Matthew 10:39; Philippians 3:7-11)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Ted Gray

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