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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:What a rich salvation we have in Jesus Christ!
Text:LD 32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 6

Psalm 116:1-4

Psalm 116:9-10

Hymn 1

Psalm 148

Scripture readings:  1 Corinthians 6, Titus 2

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 32

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

Beloved congregation of Christ Jesus,

C.S. Lewis begins his book the Voyage of the Dawn Treader (from the Chronicles of Narnia) in a memorable way:  “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.  His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb.  I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him for he had none.”  Later in the book, the intolerable Eustace Clarence Scrubb was changed into a hideous and ferocious dragon.  You might think that such a boy would enjoy his new identity and he did at first.  But in time he came to hate it.  Lewis writes, “…it was very dreary being a dragon…He hated the huge bat-like wings, the saw-edged ridge on his back, and the cruel, curved claws.” 

One day a lion came to Eustace the dragon and told him to follow.  The lion (Aslan was his name) brought the dragon to a pool of clear water.  Eustace wanted to go in, but Aslan told him that first he had to undress.  At first he didn’t know what this meant, but then he remembered that he was a reptile-like dragon and dragons can shed their skins.  So he started scratching and eventually his skin peeled off.  But as he looked at his reflection in the water, he looked no different than before.  So he tried two more times and the end result was no different each time:  he was still an ugly dragon.

Finally, the lion spoke, “You will have to let me undress you.”  Eustace says,

I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat on my back and let him do it.  The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.

Afterwards, Eustace jumped in the pool and realized he’d turned into a boy again.  But the story didn’t stop there.  Afterwards Aslan dressed him in new clothes. 

Doesn’t that beautifully echo what Christ does for us?  Christ is the one who saves us from a hideous destiny, one far worse than being a dragon.  Christ is the one who strips off the old clothes, washes us and dresses us with new clothes.  From beginning to end, Jesus Christ is our Saviour. 

With Lord’s Day 32 we’ve come to the third part of the Catechism.  That part has the title, “Our Thankfulness.”  We might be tempted to think that this is going to be all about us.  We messed things up in the first section with our sin and misery.  God redeemed us in the second part with our salvation in Christ.  And now with the third section, we get to do our part and show our thankfulness. 

But if we’re thinking this way, the Catechism stops us in our tracks.  The first question wants to pull us in a man-centered direction:  we’re saved by grace alone through Christ, then why must we do good works?   But the answer begins, not with us, but with Christ.  Notice those two words, “Because Christ…”  He’s first and foremost here.  It makes you think of those other two great words in Ephesians 2:4, “But God…”  In the first verses of Ephesians 2, Paul says we’re dead in sins and trespasses.  We’re by nature children of wrath.  And then in verse 4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved….”  Likewise here in the Catechism, we don’t take the initiative:  Christ does.  He’s first and foremost.  His grace extends to our entire salvation.  And what a rich and full salvation we have in Jesus Christ!  That’ll be our theme this afternoon as we consider the biblical teachings found in our Catechism. 

We’ll learn about how Christ:

  1. Redeems us with his blood
  2. Redeems us with his Spirit 

Up till this Lord’s Day, the Catechism has been primarily concerned with our redemption through Christ’s blood.  After establishing that we’re sinners who deserve temporal and eternal punishment, we’re reminded that there is a way of escape.  It’s through a mediator and deliverer who is true and righteous man and at the same time true God.  All those will be saved who by true faith are grafted into Jesus Christ and accept all his benefits.  Starting with Lord’s Day 7, we’re reminded of all that is promised us in the gospel by way of the Apostles’ Creed.  From front to back, the Creed is about what the Triune God does, entirely gospel.  Then in Lord’s Day 23, we learn how justification is by faith alone and that it’s entirely grounded in the work of Christ.  Following that, we explored how that faith is created (by the preaching of the Word) and strengthened (by the sacraments).  And last time we had a catechism sermon, we looked at the keys of the kingdom of heaven and these too are about our redemption.  The preaching brings us into our redemption and church discipline guards us in our redemption. 

So when the Catechism says here that Christ has redeemed us by his blood – that’s nothing new.  But just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean we can pass it over.  An important part of the ministry of the Word is to repeat glorious yet familiar truths.  That’s biblical.  Christ often repeated himself and reminded his followers of what was important.  The apostle Peter learned well from his master.  In 2 Peter 1:12 we read, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.”  Our Lord Jesus and his disciple Peter, they reminded their listeners and readers of things they already knew because this was what they needed.  And so when the Catechism does that here again, we can be thankful.  It’s always good for us to be reminded of the gospel!              

We find that beautiful good news announced in what we read from 1 Corinthians 6.  Right now I just want to focus on the last two verses, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  So glorify God in your body.”  Note the kind of language that Paul is using here.  It’s a building, a temple, what Peter calls a spiritual house.  Let’s take the image a step back.  Before God’s work, there was no temple.  Instead, there was a pile of ugly rubble.  But guess what?  God bought the rubble.  “You were bought at a price.”  What was the price?  According to 1 Peter 1:19, it was the precious blood of Christ.  Loved ones, this is a humbling thought.  You were rubble, a heap of lifeless stones, you were dead in sins and trespasses.  There was nothing, absolutely nothing, in you to make God love you or desire you, quite the opposite really.  But yet…yet you were bought with the price of the blood of the Son of God.  God gave his own Son for you.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wrap my head around that.  Truly amazing. 

Titus 2:14 gives us the same truth in different words, speaking about our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness….”  That the Holy One through whom all things were created would give himself for me, for you, for us…  Wow.  It’s amazing.  Because it was bought at such a high price, we have a rich salvation in Christ.  We’ve been redeemed with his precious blood. 

Now we say that, but do we really know what that means?  We know what he’s purchased or redeemed us with:  his precious blood, but I don’t know if we often ask the next question:  from what?  What are we redeemed from?  Peter gives us the beginning of the answer in 1 Peter 1:18 when he says, “…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers…”  Ransomed or redeemed from futile or empty ways.  Galatians 3:13 brings us closer to the answer when it says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law…”  The futile, empty way of life was under the curse of the law.  But a curse is something personal; inanimate objects don’t curse, persons curse.  With the law, who is doing the cursing?  The author of the law, God.  We are redeemed by Christ from the curse of God which rests upon the empty way of life.  That’s exactly what we read in Romans 5:9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”  Saved from what?  Redeemed from what?  From the wrath of a holy and righteous God.  From wrath we deserve.  Only the blood of Jesus could turn away that wrath from us and pay the price.  Believe in him and you will be saved. 

That’s not a message that plays well today.  It never has.  The gospel is always offensive – it’s offensive because it tells us the truth of who we are and who God really is.  It’s offensive because it tells us the way things really are.  It tells us that there’s only hope through the blood of Jesus Christ offered on the cross.  We need to be constantly fixated on him as he is revealed in his Word.  If we don’t, the end result will be how theologian H. Richard Niebuhr described Protestant liberalism, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”  That kind of “good news” is a lie and it won’t save us and it won’t change hearts and lives.  The Catechism gets it right and reminds us again of how rich we are:  Christ has delivered us from God’s curse on sin with his blood.  Loved ones, that’s a truth that can transform lives and that’s what we’re going to look at now. 

Answer 86 continues by telling us that the same Christ who redeems us with his blood also renews by his Holy Spirit to be his image.  There are two different things in view here.  When we speak about the redemption through Christ’s blood, that’s referring to our justification.  When we speak about the renewal through Christ’s Spirit, that’s speaking about our sanctification.  Sanctification is about the process of renewal in our lives, where we’re being made over into somebody new, someone who looks like Jesus Christ.  This is what’s in view when Titus 2:14 speaks about Christ being the one who purifies “for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” 

Now the Catechism says this is done by the Holy Spirit.  We should take that a step further and ask, “How?”  How does the Holy Spirit do this work of renewal?  The Spirit works through means or an instrument, a tool.  That tool is the Word of God.  The Scriptures are the Sword of the Spirit according to Ephesians 6:17.  That means that not only does the Bible come from the Holy Spirit, it’s also the weapon or instrument the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish God’s purposes.  The Word is like the claws of Aslan stripping us of our old clothes and dressing us with the new.  So, Christ renews us by his Spirit working through his Word. 

But to what end?  What’s the purpose?  The Catechism gives us a three-fold purpose.  The first and most important has to do with God:  that we may show our thankfulness to him and so he’ll be praised by us.  Here again we can think of what we read from 1 Corinthians 6.  Remember the image there at the end of that chapter is of a building.  We noted that God bought the building materials, though those materials were a mess, a pile of rubble.  Well, God also took those materials and built something out of them.  He built a temple.  What’s the purpose of a temple?  It’s a building meant for sacrifices.  But because Christ has been sacrificed once and for all for our sins, the sacrifices offered in this new temple can’t have anything to do with atoning for sin.  There’s only one sacrifice left for believers in the New Testament:  the sacrifice of thankfulness.  So, New Testament temples exist for expressing thankfulness, praise and love to the God who saved us.  Our bodies, in fact our whole life, belongs to God and is to be dedicated to his service.  And so Paul says, “Therefore honor God with your body.”

So the first purpose has to do with God.  The second has to do with ourselves:  “that we ourselves may be assured of our faith by its fruits.”  When Christ renews us with his Spirit and we do good works, we’ll become more certain of our faith.  The Catechism uses the expression, “fruits.”  We can’t help but think of a tree.  Christ is the tree.  We’re grafted into this tree by faith.  Because his sap is flowing through our branches, fruit is going to emerge and when we see that fruit, we know for sure that we’ve been grafted into this tree!  Jesus said in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  Fruit.  Fruit is the proof of our grafting into Christ by faith. 

Now we come to the third purpose:  “that by our godly walk of life we may win our neighbours for Christ.”  In other words, Christ will work through our godly walk of life to draw others to himself.  Renewing us by his Holy Spirit will be his way of redeeming others with his blood.   We can see this in Titus 2 when Paul gives a series of exhortations to Titus.  He tells him to instruct the older women to train the younger women, “To love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands…”  Why?  “That the word of God may not be reviled.”  Paul is interested in seeing behaviour which doesn’t provoke a negative response towards God among those who don’t believe.

He turns this a slightly different way in verse 10 when he is writing about how Titus should instruct the slaves.  They’re to be subject to their masters and so forth.  Why?  “…So that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour.”  Christ wants to use his renewal in our lives as a way to draw others to himself.  The Catechism speaks about us winning our neighbours for Christ, but if we draw that out we know that we’re only instruments in his hand.  Ultimately it’s all his doing, part of his rich salvation for us and others

Now given all that, we come to a different question:  can those really be saved who don’t turn to God from an ungrateful and impenitent walk of life?  Let’s first be clear about what’s being asked.  The word “ungrateful” is clear enough:  unthankful.  Impenitent – perhaps not so clear.  Impenitent means unrepentant.  It means a person just doesn’t care about the way they’re living.  They never have any second thoughts about anything they say, think or do.  They just go on living a sinful life without ever confessing their sins to God and seeking his forgiveness through Christ.  That’s also captured with the words “walk of life.”  This is about a pattern, a way of life, something that characterizes somebody. 

The answer is emphatic:  “By no means!”  And then follows a paraphrase of a number of Scripture passages including the one we read from 1 Corinthians 6.  People who live in sin, who have a sinful way of life and never repent and turn to Christ, they won’t inherit the kingdom of God.  Don’t be mistaken:  that means they won’t be saved from the wrath of God.  This is a serious warning.  It demands careful consideration.  Listen:  if you’re living a sinful life without repenting, the implication is that you haven’t really believed in Christ.

That goes back to the image of the vine and the branches.  We’re grafted into the vine, into Christ, by faith.  If that graft has really taken, then fruit will inevitably follow.  If there’s no fruit, the logical conclusion is that the graft hasn’t taken.  There’s no faith in Jesus Christ.  That’s why living in sin is not a matter first of all of the externals of lifestyle, as if people just need to hear more about what they have to do.  Living in sin is a matter of unbelief, of not believing in Jesus Christ.  They need to hear and believe the gospel and the fruit of a believing lifestyle will inevitably follow.

Hebrews 12:14 tells us, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”   Did you hear that?   Listen again:  without holiness no one will see the Lord.   Loved ones, holiness begins with faith in Christ, being grafted into the Holy One.  That grafting opens our eyes and ears to his Word so when the Word tells us we should live a certain way, we’re eager to follow it.  Our union with Christ makes our hearts pliable and impressionable, so the Scriptures become Christ’s tool to make us increasingly holy.  That’s what happened in the church at Corinth.  Though there were problems in that church, after Paul gives that list of types of people who won’t inherit the kingdom of God, he adds, “And such were some of you…”  But they were transformed.  Note that they didn’t transform themselves.  All of these things were done to them by God: washed, sanctified, justified.  They were united to Christ by the Spirit working faith in them and this is what changed their lives, so that they were no longer sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, drunks, slanderers and swindlers.  Faith in Christ, believing the gospel, is what made all the difference for them and that’s the way it’ll be with us too.         

In Lord’s Day 33 we’re going to learn more about the nature of repentance or conversion.  After that, we’re going to spend a few weeks with the Ten Commandments again.  As we do that, don’t think this has anything to do with the root of our salvation.  Rather, let’s be clear that this section of the Catechism is about our thankfulness.  Our good works are not the root, but the fruit of our salvation.  But even as the fruit of our salvation, they’re Christ’s work in us and through us.  We know that our justification is entirely in Christ.  With sanctification too, we have to be careful that we don’t turn in on ourselves – this is also part of Christ’s work for us, it’s part of the package of his rich salvation.  When we realize that, we’ll grow even more in love for God and thankfulness to him.  AMEN. 


O Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We praise you, the God of our salvation.  We thank you for your having redeemed us when we were dead in sins and trespasses.  Father, we praise you for having chosen us before the foundation of the world.  Lord Jesus, we praise you for redeeming us with your blood and renewing us with your Spirit.  We thank you that because of the cross, we need not fear judgment and wrath.  Holy Spirit, we worship you for your work in our lives, creating faith and sustaining us in our new life.  O Lord God, help us so that we would more and more be conformed to Christ.  Please mould us and shape us so that we show ourselves thankful to you for our redemption, that you would be praised by us each and every day.  We pray that your work in us would assure us of our faith and comfort us, also in dark hours.  And we also plead that we would be your instruments to win our neighbours for Christ.  Use us as you will for the advance of your kingdom!  And Father, we also pray that none of us would lead an ungrateful and impenitent life.  So work in us so that we would always repent of our sins and believe the gospel.  Lord God, please continue to shower your mercy upon us. 


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

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