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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:Though sin runs deep, God's love runs deeper
Text:CD 1 art 1-2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise:  2014

Psalm 145:1,2

Apostles' Creed

Hymn 82:1

Read:  Romans 5

Text:  COD I, art. 1-2

Psalm 145:5

Hymn 80:1,2,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Three men were sitting around a campfire, deep in conversation.  They were talking about the doctrine of election, about how God chooses some people to be saved.  As they talked about these things, they began to wonder:  who are those who are "elect"?  If some people are elect, does that mean that some people are not?  Would it be fair of God to elect some to salvation, but not others?  And if he does elect only some to salvation, what's the basis, the reason for this?  Was there something about that person that caused God to elect them, or was it simply his choice to do so?  And, sitting around a campfire, as these three men wrestled with these questions, they each began to speak in turn. 

  "The way I see it," the first man said, "is like this.  'Imagine there was fishing boat in the middle of the ocean with 10 people in it.  A storm came, the boat took on water, and soon it began to sink.  The men on the boat put on their life jackets, sent out a distress signal, and then before they knew it their boat had sunk and all ten of them were swimming in the water.  Some time later, they were found by the captain of a large ship.  The captain had heard their distress signal and had therefore sailed over to rescue  them.'

  "Well," said the first man.  "Imagine that those 10 men in danger of drowning were the people of this world.  And imagine that the captain of the ship that had come to rescue them was God himself.  What would he do?  Surely, as the God of love, he would have to save them all!"

The other two men seated around the campfire heard the first man speak and they thought about the story he had told them.  It sounded good: after all, our God is a loving God who takes delight in saving the world.  But is it true that everyone will be rescued?

The second man did not think so.

  "The problem with your story", he said, "is that the Bible teaches us that not everyone will be saved.  That means that if ten people are in the water, the captain of the rescue ship would save some of them, but not all.  But then why would some be saved, and some will not?  This is what I think:  'When the ten men were in the water and the captain of the big ship came to rescue them, the captain decided that he would only save those who wanted to be saved.  And so he called out to them and said, "Would you like me to save you?"  Four of those in the water immediately said "Yes", and so the captain helped them into the lifeboat.  But six others still remained in the water.  The captain was distressed about this, and so he asked again and, after much pleading, another two got into the lifeboat.  But the more the captain called out to the remaining four people, the more they turned away from him.  Until, eventually, the captain of the rescue ship gave up and went away.  The four men who remained in the water, however, eventually drowned.'  And that's how it is with God.  God doesn't force anyone to be saved, nor does he drive anyone away.   He's just standing there, waiting and calling, and it is up to you.  If you choose to accept his invitation to be saved, he will save you.  But if you don't, he won't."

The three men sitting around the fire were silent as each one thought more deeply about the picture of the captain of a ship saving a group of drowning men.  And then the first man turned to the third, the one who up until now had been silent.  "What do you think?" he asked.  "If God was the captain of that big rescue ship, what would he do?  Who do you think he would save?"

  The third man was silent for a while longer.  He could not agree with the first man, since the Bible clearly teaches us that not everyone will be saved.  As far as that went, what the second man said seemed to make more sense.  And yet even that didn't sound exactly right.  Thinking more about all of this, he got up and stirred the fire.  And then he slowly turned to his two friends, and he asked them:  "I understand what you're trying to say with the story about the captain of a rescue ship saving men who are drowning in the ocean, but what if God's work of election isn't really like that?  What if I was to say that the story about the captain of a rescue ship saving ten men swimming in the water isn't really accurate?  You see, those ten fishermen at risk of drowning in the ocean were innocent people.  It wasn't their fault that their fishing boat had sunk, and so the captain of the rescue ship could be expected to save them all.  And indeed, if that was what we were like, then God would be obliged to save us too.  If that was what we would be like, it would not be right, nor fair for God to allow any to perish.  But that is not what we are like.  Perhaps we should not see the people of this world as shipwrecked sailors in danger of being drowned, but instead we should see ourselves as convicted criminals, as those deserving death and sentenced to death."  And it is from people such as that, that God elects some to eternal life."

  "Oh," said the first man.  "But what kind of a God would save a man like that?  If we really are like those condemned to death, why would he choose to save even one?"

But isn't that, my brothers and sisters, the real question?  Why would God choose to save even one?  By nature we are not innocent people drowning in the middle of the sea; rather, by nature we are convicted sinners, guilty and deserving of eternal death.  And what kind of a God would save a man, a woman, or a child like that?  But thanks be to God: our God is exactly the kind of a God would do exactly that. 

  And that's the teaching of the first two articles of chapter 1 of our Canons of Dort.  As we briefly examine these two articles in the light of God's Word together, we will do so under this theme:

Though sin runs deep, God's love runs deeper.

1. The condemnation our sin deserves

2. The love of God that sinners were shown


1. The condemnation our sin deserves.

Chapter 1 of the Canons of Dort deals with "Divine election and reprobation."  Election has to do with how God chooses some people to eternal life, and reprobation has to do with the fact that God has left others in their sin.  This whole teaching, which is clearly taught in the Bible, often leaves people confused.  "Why would God do that?" they ask.  And then they might add, "But that's not fair!  If it is in God's power to save everybody, it is not fair that he should elect some to eternal life but not others.  How could a God who is both just and loving do such a thing?"

  To think that God's not fair is not a new thought: the apostle Paul already addressed this objection in Romans chapter 9 and ultimately concluded in verse 20,

"Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?"

But there is more to be said, as Paul's letter to the Romans also makes clear, and that is that God would have been entirely fair to have left all of us in our sin.  And that's what we need to realise before we even begin to wrestle with the doctrine of election.  And that's where the Canons of Dort starts also, where it teaches us in article 1 that all mankind is condemnable before God.  Let's read this article again.

Since all men have sinned in Adam, lie under the curse, and deserve eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn it on account of its sin, according to these words of the apostle: so that... the whole world may be held accountable to God. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:19, 23); and, the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).

The first thing we need to understand here is that "all men have sinned in Adam."  That's our starting point.  Before we even start to think about our own individual sins, we need to realize that our very nature is sinful.  That's what Romans chapter 5 teaches us.  Romans 5:12 says,

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . ."

And Romans 5:16 speaks of the result of that one man, Adam's, sin.

"For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation."

And verse 17,

". . . because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man."

What the Bible is teaching us here, is that when Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, he did not simply sin as an individual, but he sinned as man.  He sinned as our representative or, as it is sometimes said, he sinned as our covenant head.  As an old poem puts it, "In Adam's fall, we sinned all."  This is the clear teaching of Scripture, and it is important that we believe this, since Romans 5:14 calls Adam "a type of the one who was to come."  That is, just as we sinned and therefore died in Adam, so we are made righteous, and therefore have life in Christ.

  But the fact that we have all sinned in Adam has consequences.  It means that, with Adam, we all "lie under the curse and deserve eternal death".  Romans 5:15 says that we have "died through one man's trespass."  And therefore, as Ephesians 2:1 says, in our very nature

"we were dead in the trespasses and sins."

And, as Ephesians 2:3 says,

"[we] were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."

And that means that we all, by our very nature, lie under the curse and deserve eternal death.  All of us.  Yes, even little children.  Even infants who have not yet personally committed any sin.  Psalm 51:5,

"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."

Which is why our Form for the Baptism of infants states that "we and our children are conceived and born in sin and are therefore by nature children of wrath."

  And it is from that sinful nature, then, that our personal sin comes.  It is because we are sinners that we sin.  And since the wages of sin is death, we all - every one of us - deserves to be condemned on account of it.  It would, therefore, be most fair if God left us in our sins.  Indeed, as chapter 1, article 1 of the Canons of Dort puts it,

"God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn it on account of its sin."

By nature, we are not innocent victims floating on the sea and waiting to be rescued; by nature we are convicted sinners sitting on death row.  And therefore, as Roman 3:19 says, every mouth is stopped; there is no one who can answer back to God, nor challenge him in what he has decreed.  For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.

But though sin runs deep, God's love runs deeper! 

And so we come to our second point,


2. The love of God that sinners were shown.

When it comes to the biblical doctrine of election, two main objections that people voice are first "It's not fair!" and second, "It's not loving."  But the Canons of Dort rightly teaches us that if we really wanted to know what "fair" is, then we have to accept that God would have been very fair, and well within his rights, to leave the whole human race in sin and under the curse.  The fact that God didn't do this is a miracle of his grace. 

  But from there the Canons immediately go on in article 2 to assure us that God is also incredibly loving.  And he has demonstrated his love in the greatest way possible in sending us his Son.  Chapter 1, article 2 of the Canons says,

"But in this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world (1 Jn 4:9), that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16)."

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us." Indeed, there is no greater demonstration of the love of God than what he did in sending us his Son.  And he did that at a time when we deserved nothing like it.  There was nothing in us or about us about which we could claim any credit or use as an explanation that we deserved to have the Lord Jesus Christ come to die for us.  To the contrary, we deserved eternal death.  But it was "while we were still weak", Romans 5:6 says, that "Christ died for the ungodly."  And Romans 5:8,

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

And verse 10,

". . . while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son."

Indeed it is true:  though sin runs deep, God's love runs deeper.

And make no mistake about it:  with the sending of God's Son we also have his promise that "whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

  Whoever believes in him.  Whoever.  There are no exceptions.  The doctrine of election should never leave you with the question "But can I really be saved?"  Rather, the doctrine of election should leave you with the conviction that because of Christ "I can really be saved!"  I can be saved, not because I am able nor because I am worthy, but I can be saved because God is able, and because Christ is worthy.  And God promises us that whoever believes in the Son of God shall most certainly be saved!


And what about those three men sitting around the fire, wrestling with the doctrine of election?  We'll have to leave them there for now.  As we go through the Canons we will learn that there is still much more to study, much more to learn about the doctrine of election and reprobation.  But as we work through these things together, remember what we've already learned: though sin runs deep, God's love runs deeper.  Our sin makes us deserving of death, but in Christ God gives us the sure promise of eternal life.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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