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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Great Privilege of Knowing the Gospel of Christ
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-03-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 138:1,2                                                                                      

Ps 90:1,8  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – 1 Peter 1:10 - 2:3; 2 Peter 1:12-21

Ps 19:3,5,6

Sermon – Lord’s Day 6

Hy 48:1,2

Hy 37:1,2

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


Beloved in Christ, it’s knowledge that opens many doors, and knowledge that provides us with good opportunities. For instance, a thorough knowledge of how cars are put together will help you to be a good mechanic. A wide-ranging knowledge of cooking should help you to make good meals. A knowledge of human nature helps you relate to other people. With the right kind of knowledge comes great blessing.

But with knowledge also comes responsibility. For example, if the auto mechanic sees something wrong, and he knows it may lead to major engine failure, he needs to speak up! God gives knowledge, but He expects us to use it in the right way. We can’t sit on it, or hide it from others. But we need to put it to work, for God’s glory, and our neighbor’s good.

This is all the more true for what we know about eternal things! For God has given us the knowledge of salvation, something truly good and beautiful. Beloved, you know something that many philosophers haven’t yet discovered. You know something that is ridiculous to those who don’t believe, yet it is the very wisdom of God. You know something that opens the door of everlasting life, something of inexpressible value.

But this knowledge too, means a calling and responsibility. Knowing what we do, we may not pretend ignorance. Knowing what we do, we’re not allowed to hide it away or let it fade from our memory. Instead, we must treasure the knowledge of Christ and put it to work! I preach God’s Word to you from Lord’s Day 6,

Consider your great privilege to know the holy gospel of the Mediator:

  1. it was searched out by the prophets
  2. it was pointed to by Christ’s Spirit
  3. it was fulfilled through God’s only Son

 

1) this gospel was searched out by the prophets: We’re getting into Part 2 of the Catechism, which is all about “Our Deliverance” from sin and misery. But before we get any further, let’s think about this: Whose idea was it anyway, that dead people should be reborn, that sinners should be sanctified through Christ, that a bunch of nobodies should be called the people of God? Where did these amazing truths come from?

Peter writes in his second letter, “We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 1:16). The gospel that we announce is not a man-made fairy tale, a massive example of wishful thinking.

Rather, the knowledge that we have is tried-and-true, and its source is God himself! And in his first letter, Peter explains how it came to us: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you” (1 Pet 1:10). He’s looking back to the time of the prophets. These were the men in Israel who were commissioned to bring the Word of God to his people. A prophet had the task of being the “mouthpiece” of God, speaking whatever God commanded him to speak.

Over the centuries, there were many such prophets. For some, we know their names—Samuel, Nathan, Gad, Hosea, Obadiah, Malachi, Elisha—while others are known to us merely as “a prophet,” or “a man of God.”

When we read the Old Testament prophecies, we see that these men addressed many kinds of situations. The prophets would confront the injustice of the Israelites; they’d warn against idolatry; they’d foretell the judgment of the foreign nations. And they’d foretell the judgment of God’s own people, too!

But no matter what heavy message had to be announced to his children, God always included a word of salvation. You can be reading through one of the prophets, like Jeremiah or Isaiah or Micah—chapter after chapter of stern warnings and condemnations, threats of judgment and exile to strange lands. And all of a sudden, quite unexpectedly, there is a message of hope. The prophet reveals that a remnant will return. The land will be renewed. The dead stump will send up a new shoot. Because God is God, there’s redemption for his chosen ones!

And remember, this was never a message of their own making. Like it says in 2 Peter, “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men spoke from God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (1:21). This was God’s living Word through them. Earlier in this worship service, we echoed that wondrous truth in the Nicene Creed. There we confessed, “We believe in the Holy Spirit… who spoke through the prophets.” Through his Spirit, for all those years, God was speaking to his people.

And so God did bring deliverance to Israel, just as He promised. The enemies were defeated. The exiles came back. The land thrived once again, and the people experienced the refreshing goodness of the LORD’s grace.

Yet this was the thing: there was always more to come. The greatest rescue operation that the world had ever seen wouldn’t happen until later. God’s people wouldn’t taste full deliverance until the Christ appeared. Notice that the prophets “spoke of the grace that would come” (1 Pet 1:10). It was yet to come: something better was around the corner, a glorious salvation was just over the horizon. The prophets realized this, which is why they always wanted to find out more!

For the prophets “inquired and searched carefully” (1 Pet 1:10) into the things God revealed. They wondered: “What did all these prophecies really mean? What would this new salvation be like? Just what kind of Messiah was on his way?”

Sometimes we picture the Old Testament prophets as if they were a bit robotic: God would speak, and they’d write it down on their scroll automatically, without thinking—something like those apps on your phone where you talk, and the software writes down whatever it thinks it hears. The prophets weren’t robots. They were humans, living people, sinners themselves who hungered for salvation.

So Peter describes their careful inquiries, how they were “searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Pet 1:11). God said deliverance was on the way, that Christ would surely come, but the prophets wanted to know: When was it all going to happen? What events should they be looking for? And how would they know the Christ?

The prophets were left with their questions unanswered. They spoke as God ordered them to speak, and they searched intently into the meaning of these words, yet there was so much that they did not know. This knowledge was not for them. You can almost hear them ask Question 18: “Who is that Mediator [who can save us]?”

The prophets realized that they would not meet him. The fulfillment of all those promises belonged to another time. Yes, God was giving salvation to the Old Testament people, too. But their knowledge was cloudy, the picture was grainy. In the animal sacrifices and the prophecies, they saw a faint reflection of the cross, but it was deep in the shadows.

Beloved, let this cause you to appreciate the beauty and greatness of what God has now revealed to us. For God has told us about our salvation in clear, simple language—in words that we can read and understand.

It’s a salvation that was planned before the creation of the world, “first revealed in Paradise,” then “proclaimed by the patriarchs,” and prophesied over thousands of years by dozens of prophets (Q&A 19). And along the way, the gospel was “foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law” (Q&A 19). Many righteous men who spoke for God investigated this salvation carefully, yet the LORD reserved it for us!

So what’s the consequence for us? Remember: with knowledge comes responsibility. Peter makes this point in his second letter. “You do well to heed [this] as a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19). If you’re ever walking through the house in the middle of the night, you depend on the faintest glimmer of light to find your way—maybe the faint glow from the clock on the microwave, or the light of the moon coming through the window. It’s the only thing you have to guide you, so you cherish that light. So for the Scriptures that we possess in this dark world: Pay attention to it, as to a light that shines in dark place!

What do we do with the word of salvation, the holy Scriptures? We’ve got the whole story of salvation, written in modern English, sitting on our shelf, waiting to be opened. Do you search the Word intently? Do you heed the Word as a light that shines in dark place? Or does it get overwhelmed by all the other flashing lights and glowing screens in our life? If the prophets took the greatest care to find any passing hint of the Mediator, think of what we should do, we who know Christ’s Name and all that He accomplished!

We’re so privileged to have a knowledge of Christ. So let’s take the time to read this Word. And pray to the Holy Spirit that He might help us to understand. Pray that we might see our Saviour revealed on each one of those pages.

 

2) this salvation was pointed to by Christ’s Spirit: When the prophets did their work so long ago, they weren’t just saying whatever popped into their heads. This was God’s message, after all. In 1 Peter 1:11, the apostle uses an unusual term; he says that “the Spirit of Christ” was busy pointing. As the men of God looked forward to the sure dawn of redemption, it was actually the Spirit of the promised Saviour at work within them.  

We’re probably used to calling the third person of the Trinity “the Holy Spirit,” not “the Spirit of Christ.” But the name “Spirit of Christ” is very fitting. For it was Jesus who always promised to send the Holy Spirit to his church. And it’s about Jesus that the Holy Spirit testifies. That’s actually the primary role of God the Holy Spirit: to make known the message of Christ, to introduce the Saviour to our hearts so that we believe in his name.

So it makes sense that the Spirit of Christ has always been pointing ahead, even long centuries before Jesus walked on earth. For the message was about him! The prophets didn’t know him or understand what He would do. Yet through the Saviour’s own Spirit, they spoke of his coming redemption.

And what would make our redemption possible? Through the Spirit, the prophets described “the sufferings of Christ” (1 Pet 1:11). This must’ve been a tough message for the prophets: hard to understand how through physical suffering—how through death—there could come redemption. Yet that’s what the Spirit always said, in different years, with different voices.

The Spirit of Christ said it through the prophecy of Psalm 22, about a man terribly forsaken by God: “Dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.” The Spirit of Christ prophesied it again in Psalm 118, how the stone that the builders had rejected would become the capstone.

Christ’s Spirit pointed to the Messiah’s suffering through the prophet Isaiah as well. Think of what he said in chapter 53: “He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… He was led like a lamb to the slaughter… He was cut off from the land of the living.” This was a tough thing to grasp—how can a dead Messiah save his people? How can a weak lamb possibly lead his flock to safety?  

Even Peter, the one writing this, found it hard to accept that the Messiah would suffer and die. Remember how he reacts when Jesus says that He’ll be arrested, tormented, even killed: “Never, Lord!” Peter said, “This shall never happen to you!” (Matt 16:22). Yet this was God’s way: through suffering comes healing, through shame comes glory, out of justice arises mercy. The Scriptures had always foretold it.

And on Good Friday, suddenly all the Old Testament puzzle pieces fit together. At the cross, it started to make sense. All those laws about bloody animal sacrifices took on new meaning. All of Isaiah’s words about the “Suffering Servant” rang with new power. In those moments, the ancient words of Christ’s Spirit came true, for great violence was done to the Messiah, He suffered in great anguish, and then the Saviour died.

But there were also “the glories that would followed” (1 Pet 1:11). For just like God said, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and He ascended into heaven. And this too, was always spoken about by the prophets and by the Psalms. Think again about how we confess this in the Nicene Creed, that on “the third day [Christ] arose, according to the Scriptures.” Have you ever noticed that phrase? Jesus died and He rose, “according to the Scriptures.” Even down to his last glorious moment on earth, it was all part of God’s plan.

So wherever the apostles went in those first years of the church, they could bring the full and complete gospel of peace. To the Jews they could say, “You know the promised Messiah? Well, He has finally arrived!” And to the Gentiles they could say, “Let me tell you about something wonderful you’ve never heard before—let me tell you about someone who can bring you to eternal life!”

This is the same Word that is preached to us. This is the same Word sitting on our shelf at home, the same Word open before us today. And when we read the Scriptures today, the Spirit of Christ is still pointing in the same direction, like He’s been pointing for so many centuries: He’s pointing to Christ our Saviour.

This means that when we open God’s Word, we’re not just looking for a quick dose of comfort, like taking a spiritual aspirin to make us feel better. When we open Scripture, we get to meet a real, live person! We meet Jesus the Christ! It’s Christ who comforts us, Christ who reassures us, just as it is Christ who teaches us and rebukes us. The Sunday preaching, and personal devotions, and family devotions, and Bible study, are for getting better acquainted with Christ our Saviour, knowing him better and loving him more.

 

3) this gospel is fulfilled through God’s only Son: Has anyone ever told you a big secret? Shared news that you had to keep to yourself for at least a little while? That’s exciting, but at times you can feel like you’re going to burst.

This is what God has done for us: He’s told us the full truth. To our eyes, He’s revealed the message that was kept hidden for centuries. God has declared how redemption was finally worked out on the cross! For us, the clouds have lifted, the shadows have faded, and the faint reflection has become clear as day!

And so Peter writes in his second letter, “We have the prophetic word confirmed” (2 Pet 1:19). It has been confirmed—verified, made absolutely certain—through the revelation of Christ! Jesus brought about everlasting salvation in the fullness of time. We know his name, and what He was like, and we even have the words that He spoke.

When we look at Jesus, we get to see God’s true glory, for in Christ we see how merciful our God is, how perfectly just God is, how faithful God is. And it is through faith in Christ that we can again have fellowship with God. For Jesus was the required offering, the full payment, the effective atonement!

In the words of the Catechism, Christ was a true man, bearing “the same human nature which has sinned,” and He was a righteous man, able to “pay for others” (Q&A 16). What’s more, Christ was true God: “So that by the power of his divine nature He might bear in his human nature the burden of God’s wrath, and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life” (Q&A 17). He alone was able to deal with our sin and guilt.

If we come back to Peter’s first letter once more, he emphasizes how blessed we are to know Christ, and to know about this redemption. He says that these are “things which angels desire to look into” (1 Pet 1:12). The salvation that the prophets prophesied and searched for intently, the salvation that Christ’s Spirit pointed to for centuries, the salvation that was preached by the apostles—this salvation even the heavenly beings desire to know.

Angels are special servants of God. They’re great and powerful so that they can be tireless in doing God’s will. And these angels long to look into the word of salvation. Why is that? The Bible says that angels care deeply about the redemption of God’s people. Think of Jesus’ teaching, about how the angels rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Angels rejoice, because their Lord desires repentance, and because salvation is their Lord’s great plan for his children. They understand this, yet they want to know more.

So consider again our great privilege to know the message of Christ. Even the angels want to find out more. But we are those who have seen. We are those who have heard. The truth is, so many people in this world have never received the opportunity. So many have lived and died, without ever reading or hearing the gospel of life. But we have. The solution to our sin, the deliverance from our doom—gets told on the pages of God’s holy Word.

So must we do? Embrace this knowledge! Love it, and keep it! How blessed we are, to know the one road back to God! The knowledge of Christ and of his Word should be our greatest treasure. And then we must also treat it as our treasure: to be in that precious Word of Christ. To know it well. To love it dearly. We need to know better than anything else we know, the “holy gospel.” Because being in the Word is basic to being in Christ.

Long for it, grab hold of it, and cherish it! As Peter says: “As newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet 2:2-3). Crave the pure knowledge of the Word. Drink it in, and you’ll grow.

And having received this knowledge, let’s share it with others. The knowledge we have is a knowledge that opens doors—it opens the very door of salvation. We live in a world that is full of people searching for hope, not knowing where to turn. May we not sit on this knowledge and hide it away. But let us speak of it! Speak of it: humbly, boldly, and faithfully.

That’s the beautiful privilege of what we know. And that’s the serious calling.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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