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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Title:Behold the Lamb of God!
Text:CD 2 Art 3-4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Forgiveness of Sins

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

Psalm 18:1,6

Hymn 1

Hymn 79:1-5

Hymn 7:2

Hymn 84:1,3,4

Read:  John 1:1-36

Text:  John 1:29; Canons of Dort Chapter 2, art 3-4

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

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

For most of you these words from John 1:29 are not new, and when you hear "Lamb of God" you immediately think of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But what would it have been like to have heard these words for the first time?  What would it have been like to have been with John the Baptist  near the Jordan River, to see a man walking towards you, and then to hear John say concerning him, "Behold the Lamb of God"?  Who was this man?  Why did John call him the Lamb of God?  And what does it mean that he had come "to take away the sins of the world"?

  Although we are familiar with the words "Lamb of God", you don't find them very often in the Bible.  In fact, you will only find these words here in the gospel according to John and in another book that John wrote, the book of Revelation. No one called the coming Christ, in fact no one called a man "the Lamb of God" in the Old Testament.

  But these words do find their roots in the Old Testament.  And these words tell us in a nutshell what the Gospel is all about.  The Old Testament cries out for the coming of the Lamb, and the message of the gospel is "Behold the Lamb!"  And it is when we understand Jesus to be the Lamb of God from the perspective of the Old Testament that we begin to understand something about the depth, the breadth, the greatness and indeed the value of the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.  And then when we add the words "Lamb of God" to what comes after in John 1:29, that this Lamb "takes away the sin of the world", it is then we will really begin to understand what Christ has done for us.  And it is this that the Canons of Dort teaches us in Chapter 2, articles 3 and 4, when it describes the infinite value of Christ's death.

  Turning to John 1:29 in connection with what we confess in the Canons of Dort, I proclaim to you the gospel under this theme:

Behold the Lamb of God!

1. A perfect sacrifice

2. Value beyond compare


1. A perfect sacrifice

Chapter 2, article 3 of the Canons teaches us about the infinite value of the Christ's death:

"This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins, of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."

We'll get to the part about "the sins of the whole world" later, in our second point, but for now I want you to see how the death of Christ is described.  It was the "most perfect sacrifice", it was "satisfaction for sins", it was "of infinite value and worth" and it was "abundantly sufficient".  In other words, the suffering and death of Christ achieved all that was needed for our salvation.  There is nothing that his death failed to accomplish.  That's something that the apostle John wants to emphasis in his gospel by explaining both who Jesus is and what he had come to do.  And both of those things - who Jesus is and what he had come to do - is found in the description that he is "the Lamb of God."

As I already mentioned, when John the Baptist called the Lord Jesus "the Lamb of God", he was saying something new.  Never before had the words "Lamb of God" been used to describe our Saviour.  But they also spoke of something that was old, the Lamb of sacrifice spoken of in the Old Testament. 

  By calling Jesus the Lamb of God, John the Baptist drew the connection between what Christ had come to do and the lamb that was offered in the Old Testament daily sacrifice.  In accordance with the laws of the Old Testament, every day, both morning and evening, a lamb was offered in the temple - and two extra lambs on the Sabbath.  These lambs were given as a burnt offering for sin.  What happened was that before these lambs were killed, the priest would lay his hands on the lamb's head.  By putting his hands on the lamb's head, the priest was symbolically placing the sins of the people on that lamb and the lamb would then be sacrificed in the place of the death of God’s children.  God’s people were sinful and it is they who deserved to die.  Nevertheless, through the sacrifice of a lamb, God accepted the lamb as a substitute.  The lamb died so that God’s people did not have to – but rather could live before His face.

But there was also another lamb that the people of Israel were familiar with – the lamb of Passover.  The Passover Lamb was of great importance to the people of Israel because it reminded them of their redemption from Egypt.  At that time the people of Israel were slaves of Pharaoh, king of Egypt and on the night that they left Egypt, on the night when the angel of death went through the land, killing the firstborn of all Egypt, the Israelites were to smear the doorposts of their houses with the blood of the lamb they had killed.  The angel, seeing the blood, would then pass over the house and deliver them from death.  The lamb of Passover, therefore, was a substitute, dying in the place of God’s people Israel.  And now, coming towards John the Baptists was the Lamb of God, the One to whom all the lambs of sacrifice and every Passover lamb pointed to.  To the One who truly is our substitute, to the One who could take our sins upon Himself and die in our place.  That is why after His death and resurrection the apostle Paul could write in 1 Corinthians 5:7 that

“Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.”

He is our Passover Lamb.  He is our substitute, the One who came to die in our place.

So the Lord Jesus Christ was the fulfilment of both the lamb of daily sacrifice and also the lamb of Passover.  But there is one other place in the Old Testament that pointed to the Lamb that was to come.  In Genesis 22, when Isaac was still a child, the Lord spoke to Abraham and He said to him,

“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

And so Abraham went up Mount Moriah, the mountain that would later be called Zion, the place where the temple would be built, Abraham and Isaac along with wood, fire and a knife.  But no lamb.  And then come those poignant words of Genesis 22:7.

7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

Where is the lamb?  Verse 8 –

8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

And he did provide the lamb.  Already on that day, just as Abraham was about to offer his son Isaac, the LORD stopped him and then Abraham turned around and there behind him was a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns.  And Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.  And just as that ram was a substitute for the life of Isaac, so the true Lamb, the Lamb of God has come.  He has come to be our substitute.  He came to die, to be sacrificed in our place.  And so it was that at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry on earth, John the Baptist pointed to the end of that ministry, to his death on the cross.  For the day would come that, in the region of Mount Moriah, just outside of the city of Jerusalem, at both the time of the Passover feast and of the evening sacrifice, that Our Lord would die on a cross.  It was in this way that He was in this way that He would be sacrificed.  It was in this way that he, taking our place, would die so that we might have life.  It was in this way that he ultimately revealed himself to be the Lamb of God.

But he was not just any lamb; he was the Lamb.  Whereas the lambs of the Old Testament had to be sacrificed daily and could never take away sin, Christ was offered up only once, and that once for all.  The letter to the Hebrews makes this clear in, for example, Hebrews 9:25-26,

25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

And Hebrews 10:11-14,

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

He is, therefore, the perfect sacrifice.  As our Canons of Dort puts it in Chapter 2 Article 3,

"This death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins."

And the reason why he was that perfect sacrifice is because of who the Lord Jesus Christ really is.  The gospel according to John not only calls the Lord Jesus Christ the Lamb of God, but, already in chapter 1, uses other words to describe him also.  Verse 1,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

So the Lamb of God is the Word, who is God.  And being God, he is from the beginning, as God is from the beginning, as verse 2 says.  And, verse 3,

"all things were made through him."

And then verse 14,

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

In other words, he who is true God has also become true man.  And then in John 1:14 we learn something else about him - and I'll use the NKJV here as it uses a word that can be found back in the Canons of Dort,

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

He is God's only begotten Son.  And it is this that makes Christ the perfect sacrifice as the Lamb of God.  And that's what the Canons teach us in chapter 2, article 4, where it explains why Christ's death was of infinite value.  Let me read that to you again.

"This death is of such great value and worth because the person who submitted to it is not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only-begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, for these qualifications were necessary for our Saviour.  Further, this death is of such great value and worth because it was accompanied by a sense of the wrath and curse of God which we by our sins had deserved."

It is Jesus Christ, therefore, who is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sins.  Behold, the Lamb of God.

  That brings us to our second point,


2. Value beyond compare

John the Baptist goes on to say more.  Not only is the Lord Jesus “the Lamb of God” but He is

“. . . the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

This is also stated in Chapter 2, article 3 of the Canons where it says that Christ's death was

"of infinite value and worth, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world."

But what does that mean?

Sin is a concept that the world does not understand.  The world has its own values and the world understands something about the concept of right and wrong.  But what the world does not understand is that what is wrong is ultimately that which is wrong in the eyes of God.  Sin is disobedience towards God, breaking His law, failing to do what He commands, and doing that which He forbids.  And that sin must be punished.  We have already learned this in Chapter 2, article 1 of the Canons of Dort, which says this:

"God is not only supremely merciful but also supremely just.  And as he himself has revealed in his Word, his justice requires that our sins, committed against his infinite majesty, should be punished not only in this age but also in the age to come, both in body and soul.  We cannot escape these punishments unless satisfaction is made to the justice of God."

We can not live under sin.  Our sin is our death sentence.  A death sentence for each one of us individually and a death sentence for the whole world.  We cannot live before God in our sin-filled state and therefore either we must be consigned to the eternal punishment of body and soul or we need to have that sin taken away.

And that is what Christ came to do!  The Old Testament sacrifices did not just speak of substitution, but they also spoke of expiation, of payment for sin.  (And indeed, that's what that word expiate means:  to blot out our sin, to pay for it, to remove it, and therefore make us right before God.)   And whereas the blood of lambs and goats in the Old Testament only pointed to the way for sin to be removed, Christ came to take our sin away and to take it away completely!  And he would do so as the Lamb of God.  The true Lamb of sacrifice.  The One who would suffer, the One who would die instead of you and of me.

But note something else that John the Baptist said in John 1:29.  Seeing Jesus coming towards him John said,

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

When Christ came to earth He did not just come for Israel, but He came to redeem the world.  The Old Testament sacrifices were only for the nation of Israel, but the Lamb of God was to be offered as a payment for the sin of the whole world!  No, that does not mean that He died to take away the sin of every single person.  The Lord Jesus Himself warned us in John 8:24 that

“. . . unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

There is only one way not to die in your sins and that is to turn Jesus, to behold the Lamb of God, to believe in Him and have life in His name.  But His death is indeed sufficient to take away the sins of the whole world. There is nothing lacking in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.  And He takes away the sin of all those who come to Him – from every tribe, from every nation, from every language and every culture.

And that is good news for us!  Because if Christ, the Lamb of God, has come to take away the sin of the whole world, then why not your sin?  Why not my sin?  It is not just other people who need to have their sin taken away and made right with God.  So do you, and so do I!  And the good news for us is that the death of Christ is abundantly sufficient to expiate, to pay, for the sins not just of the whole world, but also for you!  In his commentary on the Canons of Dort, Daniel Hyde writes,

"I don't know where you are with Jesus, but this means that there is no special kind of sinner that is outside the sufficiency of his suffering.  What have you done?  It doesn't matter.  Jesus suffered the infinite wrath of God.  No particular sin can exclude you.  Repent and believe. "

Or, as it says in John 1:11-12,

"He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God."


"Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

But there is one last reference to the Lamb of God that I want to draw to your attention, and that comes from the Book of Revelation, which speaks about us living with God and with the Lamb forever.  Revelation 7:9-10 says,

9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

And that is what the death of Christ has ultimately achieved:  the redemption of a great multitude from every nation under heaven. 

  And then reading on in Revelation 7:13-15,

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

  Brothers and sisters, will you be there?  Will you be there with those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb?  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Behold him!  Look to him and believe in him.  And you too will be saved in him.  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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