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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:What the gospel promises about Christ, God's only begotten Son and our Lord
Text:LD 13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 101

Psalm 68:1,7,12

Hymn 44

Hymn 1

Hymn 10

Scripture readings: Psalm 2, John 5:16-30, Ephesians 4:1-16

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 13

* 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 our Lord Jesus,

If you ever make your way to the city of Rome, many people say you’ve got to visit the catacombs.  For many years during the early history of the Christian church, these underground caves and tunnels were used not only as graveyards, but also oftentimes as church buildings (because of persecution).  Today if you visit these catacombs, you’ll be able to see the places where many early Christians were buried and where they worshipped.  These catacombs are also filled with inscriptions and art. 

One of the most commonly portrayed images in the catacombs is a line drawing of a fish.  Still today, the fish is a common symbol for the Christian faith.  But why a fish?  The Greek word for fish is Ichthus.  Each of the letters of that Greek word stands as an abbreviation in this phrase:  Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.  In other words, the fish symbol was a type of early confession about our Lord Jesus.  With this symbol, the early Christians could briefly summarize the important points about Christ.  That confession brought comfort to the early Christians, just like our Heidelberg Catechism brings comfort to us today. 

Our Catechism begins with comfort, but it’s a theme that carries through the whole thing.  Many people have noticed that compared to other Reformed catechisms, the Heidelberg Catechism is the warmest, most heart-felt presentation of the essential teachings of the Bible.  That’s because the authors wanted to show us how the Christian faith is all about comfort from beginning to end.  That also holds true for our confession of Christ as the Son of God and our Lord.  

Today as we consider the biblical teaching in Lord’s Day 13, we’re going to focus on the comforting gospel promises here.  I preach to you God’s Word as we look at what the gospel promises about Christ, God’s only begotten Son and our Lord.  We’ll learn about:

  1. The shadows of these promises in the Old Testament
  2. The fulfillment of these promises in the New Testament     

A moment ago we read from Psalm 2 and there we see some of the shadows of the Messiah as the Son of God.  In verse 2 we find a reference already to the Anointed One of God – to the Messiah.  Then in verse 7, we hear Yahweh saying to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”  Psalm 2 is one of the most quoted psalms in the New Testament.  In fact, only Psalm 110 is quoted more often.  And when Psalm 2 is quoted, it’s usually verse 7 and it’s always seen as a reference to Christ.

For instance, when Paul was preaching in Pisidian Antioch in Acts 13, he quoted verse 7 of Psalm 2 and said that this was about Jesus.  The author of Hebrews did the same thing in chapter 1 of his letter.  Moreover, Psalm 2 was universally regarded by the ancient Jews as a prophecy of the Messiah.  It’s clear that David’s prophetic vision refers directly to Christ.  He’s the Messiah and the Son of God.

But then someone might say, “But it says, ‘Today I have begotten you.’ Some translations say, ‘Today I have become your Father.’  We believe that Christ is the eternal Son of God, so how can this be speaking about Christ?”  Many times in the Bible we find that a person or thing becomes when it is made known to be what it is. Understanding this, we can paraphrase the last part of verse 7, “I have this day declared that you are begotten by me.” This is basically the same as saying, “I have declared you to be my son.” This is also the way Paul understood the expression in Acts 13:33 where he says the resurrection was the moment at which Christ was declared by God to be the Son of God. He was certainly the Son of God before this, but at the resurrection, at his moment of glorification, God publicly announced his status.

The glorified and exalted Messiah reports in verses 8 and 9 that God has given him the right to rule over all the nations and the ends of the earth. He is the king of Kings and Lord of lords. He will rule them powerfully – with an iron scepter – and when they fall out of line and rebel, he will dash them to pieces like pottery. Nothing and no one will stand in his way.

This is our Saviour described here in this prophecy. When we read and sing this Psalm, we have to be thinking of him and his rule.  But there’s more because we’re united to him by true faith. We believe in this Messiah and that connects us to him. And the New Testament tells us that what’s given to him in his glorification will also be given to us in our glorification. In Revelation 2 we have the letter from Christ to the church at Thyatira. At the end of that letter, what is said about Christ in verse 9 of Psalm 2 is applied to the church at Thyatira.  The church will rule the nations with an iron scepter, the church will dash them to pieces like pottery. Christ says in Revelation 2:26, “The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” -- and then comes verse 9 – “even as I myself have received authority from my Father.”

So this Psalm not only speaks about Christ, but also about those who have union with him. Through this union, someday we will reign with him. That promise is here in seed form in this Psalm – it only gets worked out later in the New Testament, but it’s here already as a seed. God promises that we will rule with Christ the Son of God. Do you remember The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Just as Edmund, Lucy, Susan and Peter were together Kings and Queens over Narnia, so we’ll all be Kings and Queens in the age to come. We’ll rule over heaven and earth and all of Christ’s enemies will be subdued under his and our feet. That’s a promise of future glory that encourages us in the brokenness of the here and now.

The shadows come to fulfillment in the New Testament and what Jesus says there about himself as the Son of God.  In John 5, he sent the Jews into a murderous rage because he called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  Then in what follows, our Lord Jesus explains some of what it means for him to be the Son of God.  In that we see more of how that’s good news for us. 

The key thing there is that the Son does the work of the Father.  The Son does nothing by himself.  He just does what his Father does.  The Son is the image of his Father.  There are three things in particular that Jesus mentions that he does as the Son reflecting his Father’s image.

First, he gives life.  “ also the Son gives life to whom he will.”  Of course, when he says “life” he’s referring to life in its fullest sense, which includes spiritual life, eternal life.  He came to give life and to give it more abundantly. 

Second, the Son gives his Word which leads us over from death to life.  Verse 24, “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”  The Word of the Son, of course, is found in Scripture.  Through his Holy Spirit, the Son has given us his Word, which is also the Word of the Father.  This is a gracious gift of God through which we may know him and know of his love for us.

Finally, the Father has given the Son authority for the last day of judgment.  At the last day, the Son will call out the dead from their graves.  All the dead will rise, both the righteous and the wicked.  The righteous are those who’ve done good.  In other words, the righteous are those who believed in Christ, were declared righteous, and who bore the fruits of faith in good works.  They’ll rise to live forever in the new heavens and new earth.

So, the Son of God is revealed to have all these special functions, reflecting the image of the Father.  This is all good news for us.  We have a Saviour who is a faithful Son and this is all part of what the gospel promises us.  We can be sure that this Son will always carry out what he has been given to do – for he is the eternal Son of God.  He’s always been the Son of God and he always will be.  It’s impossible for him to be removed from God’s family, from God’s love and care.  He’ll always be the Son of God and that’s something that he is and something that he does for us, as part of the good news.    

Now we want to look at the shadows of Christ’s Lordship in the Old Testament.  There were shades of this in Psalm 2.  Christ will possess the ends of the earth.  What is a ‘Lord’?  In Hebrew the word is ‘adonai’ and in Greek, ‘kurios.’  Both refer to a master, an owner, someone who possesses.  In Psalm 2, Christ is the one who possesses the ends of the earth.  Kings have to submit to him, kiss him even, because he is their Lord, their superior.   

Then there’s also Psalm 68, which we sang earlier.  That Psalm was originally written to celebrate the conquest of the Promised Land.  David celebrates the victorious might of God and how God scattered the enemies of his people and gave them the land.  One of the most interesting pictures in this psalm is in verse 18, where God ascends on high, leading captives in his train.  We have a picture there of God who is triumphant and who’s made certain people his own possession.  The question is: who are the captives here?  The enemies of God in this psalm are portrayed as completely destroyed – verse 21 says their heads are crushed.  The captives are thus the people of God – they belong to him, they are his servants and his possession.  He fought for them and redeemed them.    

Now those are just shadows of what the Messiah would do.  We read from Ephesians 4 and there the words of Psalm 68 are applied to what Christ has done.  There the shadows disappear and the full picture emerges.  Christ’s ascended into heaven and this included making us his own possession.  But as his possession, we’re also the recipients of his gifts.  Belonging to Christ is wonderful because he is a gracious Lord and Master.  He is generous. 

Specifically in Ephesians 4, he mentions the gifts of various types of office bearers.  Some of those offices are extra-ordinary and only existed in the time the New Testament was written – for instance, the apostles, and prophets.  Others are still in existence, such as the office of pastor.  What does our Lord do through these offices?  He equips the saints.  The Lord who owns his people generously apportions gifts so that they may be edified and grow.  The Lord is interested in the growth and development of those who are his. 

Loved ones, that’s why we should never despise the offices of the church.  They’re a reminder that we belong to a generous and gracious Lord and Saviour.  The offices of the church are tokens of his love.  Through the special offices of minister, elder and deacon, the Lord is taking care of us and leading us onward to unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God.  He’s leading us onward to maturity and, as Paul says, towards “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 

Some look at the concept of Lordship as authoritarian, something grim and unattractive.  Possessiveness isn’t usually a positive quality.  For example, it’s not something that young women look for in young men, or vice-versa.  Belonging to someone or having someone want to own us aren’t usually considered good things.  We want to be our own person and do our own thing.  But the truth is we always belong.  It’s part of being human.  If we don’t belong to Christ and his kingdom, we belong to someone else and his kingdom.  If we don’t belong to Christ, we belong to the power of the devil and we’re under the reign of sin.  Nobody escapes that reality, no matter how many lies they may tell themselves. 

So the question is:  who will be your Lord?  To whom will you belong?  This is where the gospel beckons.  The gospel says it’s good for us to belong to Christ.  He is a good Lord and master.  His yoke is easy and his burden is light.  Belonging to the kingdom of darkness has its attractions.  It looks fun and it looks easy.  But it is deceptive, it’s all a mirage.  In the end, the words of Proverbs 13:15 will always prove true:  “the way of the unfaithful is hard.”  It’s far better to be a servant of the Lord Jesus than to be a slave to sin.  There is joy and peace in belonging to him.  Though life may not always be easy, you have the confidence of knowing the love of your Father in heaven.  You can be certain that what you experience here are just light and momentary troubles. 

We have a good Lord, a good Master.  This is also evident in the price that he paid so we can belong to him.  In the Old Testament, the Messiah is pictured as a figure who would suffer for the redemption of God’s people.  In the New Testament, this comes to fulfillment.  One of the passages drawing that out is in 1 Peter 1.  There Peter reminds us how we were redeemed, bought back from the empty way of life handed down to us from our forefathers.  That empty way of life is a problem because it’s chock-full of sin.  And sin is a problem because God is holy and he can’t stand sin, in fact, sin brings about his wrath and indignation.   

And how were we redeemed from this empty way of life and its consequences?  Not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  The Lord bought us for himself with the most valuable thing in the universe:  his own blood.  The blood of a man who himself never sinned was offered for you and for me.  That blood turned away the wrath of God, that blood is our propitiation.  The price was paid and now we belong to him – and that’s not just a good thing, that’s a great thing!

Loved ones, as we recognize that, it has an impact on our lives.  Sure, it comforts us and assures us.  But it also motivates us.  In 1 Peter 1, this fact of Christ’s Lordship and his having bought us with his blood is used to motivate Peter’s readers to be who they are.  They are Christ’s and their lives should increasingly reflect that.  They belong to him, they love him, they’re in him, they have union with him – all of these facts come to light when believers live holy lives.  We are to be holy as our God is holy, living our lives here as pilgrims, not as people who are comfortable and happy to have the status quo, but as those who are on their way to something far better.  1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

We confess Jesus Christ to be the Son of God and our Lord.  In this confession, indeed, there’s more of the comfort God promises us in the gospel.  He promises that his Son came for our benefit, to show us the love of the Father.  He promises that Jesus is our Lord and we’re his possession.   Brothers and sisters, continue to look to him in faith and the gospel will always encourage you.  AMEN.


Our Father in heaven,

Thank for you sending your only-begotten Son to be our Saviour.  We thank you for the way in which he reveals your love for us.  Father, we look forward to the day of his return when he will use the authority which you gave him to judge the living and the dead.  We pray that at that great day, we would be among those called out of the grave to life eternal in your presence.  Father, we also thank you that he bought us with his blood.  We’re glad to belong to him.  Father, we pray that your Spirit would be working in us so that we’d grow in love for him, that we’d also be eager to show our thanksgiving with a life that reflects who we are. 


* 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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