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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:Brothers and sisters of the only-begotten Son
Text:LD 13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 146:1,5                                                                              

Ps 18:1  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Hebrews 2

Ps 103:1,4,5,7

Sermon – Lord’s Day 13

Hy 72:1,2,3,4,5

Hy 85:1,2,3

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

Beloved congregation, have you had a recent family photo? Maybe it’s been a couple years, and it’s time for an update. The parents are getting greyer, or the braces have come off, or you’ve added a boyfriend or girlfriend. When you look at a family portrait, you see at a quick glance who belongs.

If the Lord Jesus had a family portrait, who would be on it? Maybe we think of Joseph and Mary, his earthly parents from Nazareth. Maybe we think of his siblings in the flesh, sisters and brothers, of which we know He had a few. In Mark 6:3, the crowds ask about Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” His was an earthly family of at least nine people.

But it’s far too limited to picture Jesus’s family so small. The Scriptures talk about his family in a different way. It’s a family altogether too large to be captured in a photograph. Those who have faith in Jesus becomes the family of God! In Christ, all his believers become holy sons and daughters of the Father, brothers and sisters of the Lord. This is what we consider today, looking at the teaching of Scripture summarized in Lord’s Day 13.

The only-begotten Son makes us His brothers and sisters:

  1. the distance in this relationship   
  2. the authority in this relationship
  3. the closeness in this relationship


1) the distance in this relationship: The Catechism is always itching to show how Christian doctrine relates to our lives. So it asks questions like, “What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?” (Q&A 28). What difference does believing this make for us, as God’s people?

In this Lord’s Day too, the Catechism wants to show the relevance of the lesson. You hear it in the question, “Why is he called God’s only-begotten Son, since we also are children of God?” (Q&A 33). You’re a son of God, and Jesus is a son of God—so what’s the meaning of this for our lives today?

But before getting into our great privilege as sons and daughters of God, we have to realize that there’s still a distance in this relationship. We might be part of the family of God, brothers and sisters to the Lord Jesus, but there’s a big difference.

That’s where the Catechism begins: “Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God” (Q&A 33). Each word is important here. Christ alone is the Son of God. There is only one Son of God, who shares the nature and status of God. This is the stunning miracle of salvation, that God so loved the world that He gave his ‘one and only Son,’ that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Christ is God’s only Son. And just like Abraham offering up Isaac on the altar, God was willing to sacrifice One who was so dear and so beloved.

Christ alone is the eternal Son. Someone who is eternal stands outside of time. He has always existed, and He will always—without a beginning, without an end, and without any progression of moments. So there was not a moment in time when the Son of God came into being. Rather, as Colossians 1 says of Christ, “He is before all things” (Col 1:17). In Daniel 7, we see a vision of Christ, and He is called ‘the Ancient of Days.’

Christ is the eternal Son, and the natural Son. This means that whatever traits the Father has, the Son also possesses. Think about how a human father will pass on many of his characteristics to his children: some strong points, and weak points, and physical features. In a similar way, God the ‘natural’ Son shares in all the perfections of the Father.

The Father is almighty—so is the Son. The Father is gracious—so is the Son. The Father is perfectly wise—so is the Son. The Father is good—so is the Son. If we want to see what God the Father is like, we can look at God the Son. The previous chapter of Hebrews says this about Christ, that He is “the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person” (Heb 1:3).

As the eternal and natural Son of God, Christ also shares in the principal works of the Father. Think of creation. Already at the dawn of time, the Son was busy creating alongside the Father. Colossians 1 says of Christ, “By him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible” (Col 1:16).

God the Son also shares in the government of the universe. Lord’s Day 10 teaches that it’s God the Father who upholds all things in his power, yet in this work too, his Son shares closely: “In him all things consist,” or “in Christ all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Right now, the Son of God is governing all created things, visible and invisible.

You’ll know that the Nicene Creed speaks of Jesus as “true God of true God.” When our creed says this, it’s trying to put in the most emphatic way the truth that Christ, as the Son of God, is God. It is saying that the Son is not lesser or inferior, but He is of the same substance and being of God the Father.

It can be the subject of another sermon entirely, but the Scriptures really do overwhelm us with the proofs of Christ’s divinity. ‘The Word was God,’ we know from John 1:1. Or there is Thomas’s confession of Christ, ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20:28). Besides the numerous clear examples, there are less obvious but still very powerful passages where Jesus is portrayed as God—where He is seen as the ‘eternal and natural’ Son of God.

One really fascinating place is John 12. There, John is explaining how Jesus fulfills the words of Isaiah 6. Now, in that chapter of Isaiah, the prophet describes his earth-shattering vision of God. He says, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple” (v 1). He is confronted by God as ruler of the universe, surrounded by angels crying out: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (v 3).

And then what connection does John draw to Christ? John says, “Isaiah…saw [Christ’s] glory and he spoke of him” (John 12:41). That’s right—the glorious one whom Isaiah caught a glimpse of in the temple wasn’t just the LORD God. It was also Christ! Christ is the Holy One of Israel. The three-times holy Christ is surrounded by angels, and He dwells in the brightness of heavenly glory. If that doesn’t mean that Jesus is God, then nothing does.

So Christ alone is the eternal, natural, Son of God—even God himself. Now for the distance between us, the fundamental difference between Christ and the rest of his adopted family. For who are we in God’s sight?

Listen to what Isaiah says after his vision of Christ’s glory: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts” (v 5). This revelation of God’s glory troubles him. He is intensely aware of his own sinfulness. If the LORD is so holy, how can unclean Isaiah stand in his presence? “I am undone,” Isaiah says, or “I am ruined.”

There’s such a distance between who God is or who Christ is, and who we are. In the Father’s eyes we are children who have rebelled against his rule. We are those who ran away from home because we though we knew better. Next to the glorious Son of God, we’re nothing, and deserve nothing.

We should remember this when we think about the Lord. It is natural for us to view Jesus on our level. We regard him as a sympathetic brother, a loving friend, and a gentle teacher. For one who believes in Christ, all these things are true, and they are greatly reassuring.

And what is also true—and also reassuring in a different way—is that our Christ is also the Son of God, the Ancient of Days, the King of kings, the First and the Last. So we should think of him, and speak of him, and worship him, as the one who is infinitely majestic. Approach him with joy and trembling. Remember that Christ belongs to a completely different category than us here on earth. And that’s a good thing!

For despite the great distance, God doesn’t disown us. You are more sinful than you know, and you are also more loved than you realize. Psalm 103 tells us that “Like a father, God has compassion on his children, for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are only dust” (vv 13-14). God wants us restored. He wants his prodigal children to come back, to be seated at the table beside him. This is the Father’s purpose through Christ, says Hebrews, “[to bring] many sons to glory” (Heb 2:10).


2) the authority in this relationship: Christ is exalted as the Son of God. And as the Son, He has great authority, a position of rule and dominion. Hebrews 2 says that God “put all in subjection under him” (Heb 2:8). Christ has been crowned with glory and honour—so He is not only Son, but He is Lord.

That’s the second title of Christ explained in this Lord’s Day: “Why do you call him our Lord?” (Q&A 34). A lord is someone with power and authority over another person, or over a given realm or territory. Jesus is the Lord of the universe because God has entrusted all things to him.

And He is Lord of the church because Christ bought the church. He has an ownership claim on us because He purchased us, “not with silver or gold but with his precious blood” (Q&A 34). These words of the Catechism come directly from 1 Peter 1:18-19, “It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb with blemish or defect.”

It took costly blood in order to buy us. The only way Christ could free us from the judgment that our sin deserves is through the making of a full payment. It’s a steep price. We couldn’t pay it by doing good works. We couldn’t pay it by enduring pain. We’d never be done. We’d always be in debt. But Christ ransomed us. He freed us from all the power of the devil, “to make us his own possession” (Q&A 34). Paying the price, we have a new lord and master.

Consider the rich comfort we have in this truth. If you ever need a defense against the devil’s attacks, Christ will help you. If you ever need help to live a better and a holier Christian life, your Lord will assist. If you need mercy for all your failings, or wisdom for knowing his will, or daily strength for the battle, your Lord will grant it when you humbly ask. Because you are his! You belong to him. And finally, on the day you die, your Lord will claim you before the Father: “This one is mine. I paid for him, I bought her with blood.”

You can hear how Lord’s Day 13 is an echo of Lord’s Day 1: “What is your only comfort?” is the personal question with which the Catechism begins. “That I am not my own, but I belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.” That is our living confession, our new identity: ‘I belong.’ Jesus is my Lord, my Master. Because He is, He always preserves me.

We are comforted, and we are also called. For if Jesus is Lord, then we are servants. If Christ commands us, we want to do it. His will becomes our delight. So we gladly bow to his gracious authority. We obey him, whether we’re in public or we’re in the quiet moments of your day, unseen by all but God. We obey Christ when we’re in the midst of our family: honouring your parents, loving and respecting your spouse, nurturing your children. We obey the Son of God in our church, through accepting one another, forgiving one another, serving one another. He is Lord, and He commands us.


3) the closeness in this relationship: So there’s a distance between Christ and us. It’s the distance between an almighty God and weak mortals. It’s the distance between a sovereign Lord and lowly servants. But there is also a blessed closeness, an intimacy. I love what it says in Isaiah 57:15, “This is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit.’” God and Christ are unspeakably great, dwelling in a high and holy place, yet they come very near and they make us their own.

This is what the Catechism is itching for us to know in Answer 33. Yes, it is true that Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God… “we, however, are children of God by adoption, through grace, for Christ’s sake.” Don’t miss the miracle: We have become the children of God! He freely adopted us and welcomed us into his family.

And the way in which this happens is put so simply, “for Christ’s sake.” Through him, on the basis of his merit, we have become the children of God. And what did Christ need to do in order to grow the family of God?

In every way, He needed to share in our humanity, to become one like us. So He was conceived as a human, knit together in his mother’s womb. He was born and grew up, partaking in all the weakness of this life. And as a man, He had to lead a fully righteous life, to present the obedience that we could not. As a man, He needed to undergo total suffering, to endure the curse that we could not. In love for sinners, the Son of God and our great Saviour let himself be counted as one of us!

See how the Spirit puts it in Hebrews 2: “Both he who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one” (v 11). ‘All of one’ means that we’re part of the same family. Christ and we are from the same stock, we spring from the same family tree. It was by sharing in our humanity, becoming our brother, that He could come alongside and help us.

Compare it to some medical procedures nowadays. Sometimes a sick person needs to receive a kidney, or blood, or perhaps even bone marrow, from a person who’s closely related. It has to be compatible for it to work, otherwise it won’t take, and the disease will overwhelm the body. So maybe a brother will donate the blood, or a cousin give the bone marrow. Sometimes that’s the one chance to preserve life. It comes through the contribution that only a close relative is able to make.

That’s a picture of what Christ did for us in his immense grace and mercy. Keep in mind that previously, He wasn’t family—He was God himself, living in heaven above. But Christ became one of us! He came and lived among us. In his birth, in life, in death, He identified with us. He became a brother, He became family, to give the one necessary thing to preserve us. He gave his blood.

And what is the amazing outcome? It is a new family of God! Sons and daughters, now restored to the Father. Once rebellious children, now back at home. It says in Hebrews 2:11, “[Jesus] is not ashamed to call them brethren.” Not ashamed to call us his brothers and sisters!

It used to be that we were a great reason for shame. Who’d want to be associated with people like us? We were the kind of people whose portrait you wouldn’t put up: too ugly, too broken, too embarrassing. An entire family of black sheep, the ornery goats separated out from the rest of the flock. But now Christ is not ashamed to say He knows us. That’s because He has washed us, sanctified us, made us holy. Now we’ve become his brothers, his sisters!

Though Christ is the Son of God, with him we can have a true closeness. As our brother, He shares in our hurts and temptations and sorrows—the things so common to this life. He’s been there, so He knows and He understands. As our brother, He sympathizes with our struggles, and so He prays for us. As our brother, He defends us. He remains by our side, whatever happens. As our brother, He even shares with us his glorious inheritance, and He’s making a place ready for us in the Father’s house.

Christ entered our lowly existence as humans. We have a Saviour who’s gone the distance in our place. Because of that, you are never alone, never friendless, never brotherless, never hopeless—never, for Christ is with you and Christ is for you.

On the basis of this work, the Father allows us to become his own children. It says in Ephesians: “You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but… members of God’s household” (Eph 2:19). And this is what Jesus says in John 8:35, “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.”  We’ve been accepted as children of the Father forever!

There is so much blessing that overflows to us from this new position. But we’ll highlight just one, the blessing of prayer. We can come to God with this amazing prayer on our lips: “Our Father who is in heaven.” And then we may depend on him for every good thing! Go to the Father in sin and weakness, with your burdens and concerns. He will protect you, teach you. His patience with you will endure and his hand will never waver.

And when we’ve adopted into God’s family, we want to follow the example of our righteous brother. Doing God’s will shows that we are his family indeed! Someone once told Christ that his mother and brother were waiting outside. And He said in answer, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:48-50). The family of Christ are those who do the Father’s will!

Probably every family has its own special stories, inside jokes and traditions. And you don’t really know these things unless you belong. These are the unmistakable markers of being part of this family or that one. You can’t pretend with someone else’s family. You can’t fake it.

So it is with the children of God. We show that we belong to his family when we act like it. We show that we’re his when we actually do the will of our Father. We show that Christ is Saviour and brother when we imitate his humility and grace. And this needs to happen every day. You can’t fake it. We are seen to be part of the family of Christ when we obey the Lord’s commands: when we love, and serve, and practice self-control, and worship, and delight in him.

There’s a great miracle in all this: when we put our trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour, the Father accepts us. John writes, “To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent… but born of God” (John 1:12-13). God’s new family is a miracle in every way. It’s a total change in our circumstances. It’s a gift beyond all deserving. That’s our blessed privilege: to be bound so close to our Father, to be bound so close to our Saviour.

So every day, let us show whose family we are: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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