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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Title:The Incarnation
Text:LD 14 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son
 
Preached:2021-07-15
Added:2021-08-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs:

Ps. 89:1,3,6

Hy. 17:1,2,3

Ps. 40:3,4

Hy. 23

Hy. 20

 

Scripture readings:

Psalm 132

Luke 1:26-35

 

* 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 of the Lord Jesus Christ:

The incarnation describes something that we only know by revelation. “Incarnation” is one of those million-dollar words that are essential to the Christian religion, but which might need to be explained. It is a theological words that came from the Latin language. A more Anglo-Saxon sounding translation of the word would be “in-fleshment.” The eternal Son of God came into human flesh. He took human flesh upon himself.

That is something we would never know if the Word of God had not revealed it to us. I am speaking about how the eternal Son of God, the second member of the holy trinity, became one of us, a true human being.

There are a couple of words in answer 35 that make this very clear. They are the words, “Took upon himself.” The eternal Son of God took upon himself true human nature. We could also translate from the original German of the Heidelberg Catechism that the eternal Son of God “adopted” a true human nature.

Lord's Day 13 spoke about how we are the adopted children of God. The thing about adoption is that an adopted child really and truly becomes part of its adoptive family. If things are well the parents make no distinction between any children conceived and born naturally, and any that were adopted. Well, when the Son of God adopted a true human nature, it really and truly became his and part of who he is, now and forever.

I have summarized the teaching of this Lord’s Day by this theme:

By way of the incarnation the Son of God entered the human race

The Incarnation:

1. Demonstrates God’s great love for us;

2. Is a mysterious miracle;

3. Provides for us profound benefits.

1. The incarnation was an act of love of each of the holy trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

a) It was an act of love of the Father. God the Father showed his love to us by sending his Son—his precious, only-begotten Son. It was God the Father who chose his Son to enter the world to save sinners. As Peter said in 1 Pet. 2:4, the Lord Jesus is chosen and precious in God’s sight. There is no one more precious to God the Father, no one whom he loves more, than his eternal Son. He loved him throughout all eternity. And yet out of his great love for us, while we were yet sinners, while we were yet the enemies of God, God the Father sent his only Son to go and die for us sinners.

b) The incarnation was also an act of love of God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit showed his love to us by conceiving a child in the womb of the Virgin Mary. First, for 1000’s of years, the Holy Spirit inspired prophets and poets to write about the coming Saviour. And he worked faith and hope in the hearts of God’s people not to give up or despair but to keep looking forward with eager expectation to the day of the coming of Messiah. And then, when the time was right, the Holy Spirit caused the Messiah Jesus, the Saviour of God’s people, to be conceived in Mary. An act of love by the Holy Spirit.

c) And then the incarnation was also, clearly, an act of love of the eternal Son of God. For he chose to come. He chose to do his Father’s will. As he said in Ps. 40 by the Spirit of prophecy, “I have come to do your will”. He chose to take upon himself a true human nature. He chose to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary. He with whom the Father had shared his glory for all eternity. He, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, was the very essence and being of God, chose in love to empty himself of the glory and take the form of a servant. That’s what Paul says in Philippians 2 in his hymn of praise to the Lord Jesus (Hy. 23). He says: “Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. “And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

That is love, beloved. Usually when we think about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ, we think about how he was willing to go to the cross for us. The cross is undoubtedly a sign of his love for us. Greater love has no man than this - that he lay down his life for his friends. But no matter how far back we go in the life of Christ, we see his love for us. We see it even when we go back before time began, into eternity. For no one forced the incarnation upon Christ. It was out of love that he chose to do his Father’s will and enter humanity for our sake.

He knew that the way from the cradle to the cross would be a way of suffering. He knew that the way from his mother’s womb would be a way of bitterness, of loneliness, of humiliation, of pain and anguish, and that it would end in Gethsemane’s tomb. The road from Mary’s womb led to the garden tomb. He knew that. And yet he chose this way out of love for us sinners.

2. The miracle of the incarnation.

There is always something miraculous, even mysterious about the conception and birth of children. That a new life, a new child which never before existed, is conceived and then nourished in its mother’s womb. And then born. It’s a miracle. It fills us with a sense of awe and wonder.

And this miracle fills us with joy. Such a new life is something to rejoice over. A family rejoices when a child is born. The congregation rejoices when a new covenant child can be brought to the assembly of the people of God in order to receive the sign and seal of baptism and so be received into the church of God.

The Lord God rejoices over the birth of a child. God rejoices when he sees Godly offspring.

The conception and birth of any child is a miracle. This holds true for every child, but most of all for the conception and birth of Jesus Christ. For when he took upon himself a true human nature of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, through the working of the Holy Spirit, then he remained, at the same time, true and eternal God. The Lord Jesus Christ as he walked upon the face of the earth had two natures—a divine nature and a human nature. He still has these two natures. This is the miracle of the incarnation. He remains what he was—he remains true and eternal God. But in addition to remaining what he was, he also becomes something he was not before. He becomes a man. That’s the miracle—God and man in one person. Eternity enters time and yet continues to be eternal. God takes on manhood. The Creator dwells in his creature. The Potter takes upon himself the clay he himself has moulded.

As answer 35 says, he, the eternal Son of God, took a human nature from the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary. The Heidelberg Catechism makes a special point of if because in the time of the Reformation there were those who denied this. The “Anabaptists.” They denied that Jesus took his human nature from the flesh and blood of Mary. They said that he took his human nature from heaven. They said that his human nature was created in heaven and that he only past through the womb of Mary. He past through the womb of Mary like water passes through an eavestrough. The water passes through the eavestrough without taking anything from the eavestrough. Or like sunlight passes through a window. The sunlight just passes through without taking anything from the window pane.

 This is clearly wrong. The Bible is clear on the point that he was of the seed of David. And Lord’s Day 14 underlines that fact. It says that he took his human nature from the flesh and blood of Mary and thus he is also the true seed of David.

He was the true seed of David. He had a right to the throne of David. The genealogies of Jesus as we can read them in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 both spell out that, according to his human nature, Jesus was descended from King David. He has a place in David’s family tree.

The catechism goes on to say that since he has a true human nature, he is, therefore, like his brothers in every respect, except for sin. He is like us. He can identify with us - with each one of us.

He knows what it is like to be a child. He played on the streets of Nazareth. He laughed and cried. He fell and scuffed his knees. He picked up splinters in his Father’s carpentry shop.

He knows what it is like to be a youth. We know that when he was twelve years old he was already confessing his faith and demonstrating his knowledge of the Scriptures. And when he was twelve, he was obedient to his parents. He is well acquainted with every aspect of human existence.

Do you experience pain? Your Lord Jesus knows what that is. The pain you feel is not foreign to your Lord. You can go to him with it.

Are you lonely? If anyone knows what loneliness is, it is Jesus. Imagine being arrested by a mob of Roman soldiers and temple police and having your friends who, a moment ago, were standing around you, run off into the darkness. Imagine being abandoned by your Father. Loneliness. Go to your Lord with it.

Are you tempted to sin? Speak to the Lord about it. He was tempted in every way, and yet he resisted each temptation. And so he is the perfect one for you to speak with about your struggles, difficulties and temptations. He knows what you are going through.

The miracle of the incarnation is that we, through faith, are his brothers and sisters. He is your elder brother who will always be there to help you any time you need him. He knows how to help because he is like you in every way, except for sin.             

3. The benefit of the incarnation.

We already spoke about some of them, but lest the point escape us Q. 36 asks: What benefit do you receive from the holy conception and birth of Christ?  

Whenever the Heidelberg Catechism asks a question such as: How does this help you?; what benefit do you receive from this?; or, how does this comfort you, then it is in its element. It loves to ask questions such as these. The Catechism realizes that theological statements alone don’t help anyone.  We’ve got to make the doctrine apply to our daily living.

And so the Catechism with its brilliant insight shows us how even the conception and birth of the Lord Jesus proclaim one word: SALVATION.

The answer to the question of how the holy conception and birth of Christ benefit us is: “He is our mediator, and with His innocence and perfect holiness covers, in the sight of God, my sin, in which I was conceived and born.”

Before we can receive this wonderful benefit, we have to own up to something. We have to own up to the fact that we were black with sin from the moment of our conception. We needed a Saviour the moment we were conceived.

To receive the benefit of the perfect holiness and innocence of Christ in which he was conceived and born, we must first confess our radical sinfulness. We must admit that we don’t just have a few problem areas in our lives. My life is one big problem. Right back to the moment I came into being. Christ has to undo and redo everything for me. He’s got to go back to the beginning.  To my conception. And cover the sin which is there already. I cannot do it. I can’t go back and start all over again and do a good job of it this time. As far as that goes, Nicodemus was correct when he asked, “How can a man re-enter his mother’s womb?” He was right. That’s impossible. That only happens once. But the Lord Jesus spoke the truth when he said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again. From above. By the Spirit.” Through that Spiritual rebirth the innocence and perfect holiness of Christ covers, in the sight of God, my sin, in which I was conceived and born.

And so from the moment of his conception, the Lord Jesus was our mediator. From the time he was born, he was the Saviour. The cradle was reaching forward in time to the cross. Christmas marched purposefully towards Easter.

Christ is the new Adam. He is the founder of a new human race. If you by faith are grafted into him, then you share in all of his perfections. And that includes his innocence and perfect holiness. That includes his holy conception and birth. If you are grafted into Christ, then his innocence and holiness covers, in the sight of God the sin in which you were conceived and born. If you do not love Christ and if you do not believe in him, then your sins remain uncovered in the sight of God. Then when God looks at you all he sees is your sinfulness. And his holiness will have to destroy that on the day of judgment.

But if you love Christ and believe in him, then when God looks at you, your sins are covered. He really, in fact, does not see your sin. He sees Jesus Christ. He sees the innocence and perfect holiness of his own dear Son whom he sent to save us from our sins. He sees him whom he loved from all eternity.

Do you see how personal the catechism becomes at the end of Lord’s Day 14? As the catechism so often does, a Lord’s Day begins in the third person, then shifts to the first person plural, and ends in the first person singular. He is like his brothers (third person). He is out mediator (first plural). He covers my sin (first singular). The catechism wants you to appropriate the message for yourself, personally.

Take it personally, loved one. Allow the Heidelberg Catechism, allow the Word of God upon which the Heidelberg Catechism is based, allow God who spoke the Word to look you straight in the eye. Speak in the first person singular. Confess: “I am a sinner. I need Jesus Christ. I need his innocence and perfect holiness to cover, in the sight of my God, my sin in which I was conceived and born.”

And know that everyone who confesses with sadness and grief: “My sin!”, can shout with joy: “My Saviour!”

AMEN




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. George van Popta

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