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Author:Rev. Pete Van't Hoff
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Brockville, Ontario
Title:God’s Right to Condemn All People
Text:CD 1 Art. 1 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: NKJV

Song Book: Trinity Psalter Hymnal

Welcome and announcements
Silent Prayer (respond w/? 558 “Hear Our Prayer, O Lord”)
Call to Worship
* Confession of Dependence & God's Greeting
* ? Psalm 84-C "O Lord of Hosts, How Lovely"
Congregational Prayer
? Psalm 79-A:1,3,4 "God, the Nations Have Invaded"
Scripture: Romans 3
Text: Canons of Dort: I:1
Sermon: "God’s Right to Condemn All People"
Although God has every right to condemn me, I am saved through Jesus Christ.
1) The Knowledge of Sin
2) The Condemnation of Sin
3) Deliverance from Sin
Prayer of Thanksgiving
? Psalm 35:1,4,11 "Lord, Plead My Case"
Confession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed
? Hymn 213:1-3 "Glory Be to God the Father"
? Doxology: Hymn 213:1-4 "Glory Be to God the Father"

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

Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ,

The Canons of Dort, only one work of many and only one discussion of more than a few that came out of the Synod of Dort (1618-1619), begins offensively. Right off the mark, it begins with a hard truth. We are big on rights these days. Politically and medically, nationally and spiritually, we have gone through a rough season of determining what our rights are, what rights are to be given up for the greater good, and what rights are not so good to give up. What of God’s rights?

Most of humanity is not ready to discuss such a topic. It may be that we’re too busy being gods unto ourselves. Father Adam, representing all of humanity, desired to be like God rather than listen to Him. And he and Eve partook of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And in doing so, he turned his back on God. And we know the rest of the story. When the Father came looking, humanity hid. And in Genesis 3, judgement occurs. Such was God’s right.

When discussing who we are and how we got here, this is where we have to begin. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). And humanity fell from that creation. In my fallenness, I don’t want to admit it. I want to be the center of my universe. Frankly, I got that from Father Adam. I don’t want to have to answer for my fallen state. I got that from Father Adam too. And yet, “In the beginning, God…” Before I became the center of my universe, God created it.

This leaves me answerable for how I have held myself and how I have treated His creation. Beloved, if you want to own anything or take credit for anything in this life, I say, own the sin. I say, realize that of all the good and blessedness that God the Father has issued to you and I, we image-bearing creations of the Lord God Almighty, that we fail, that we fall short. It is only then, that we will be better able to understand our deliverance from our sins. Which is where I hope to take you this afternoon, submitting to God’s faithful word from Romans 3 while considering a summary of it from the Canon’s 1st article of its 1st Main Point of Doctrine. Although God has every right to condemn me, I am saved through Jesus Christ.

1) The Knowledge of Sin  2) The Condemnation of Sin  3) Deliverance from Sin

Firstly, we shall consider, the knowledge of sin. I think it fitting to speak on the title of the first main point of doctrine, of the Canons of Dort to begin with. There were five responses given to the Remonstrant, back in 1618/19, at the Synod of Dort. The Remontants were a group of scholars, who, based upon the work of Jacob Arminius, presented opposing arguments to standard reformed doctrine and thought. Pages 144-147 of our Forms and Prayers book contains an introduction to the Canons. It is assigned to you this week, to read. The title of the First Main Point of Doctrine is Divine Election and Reprobation. In this, we understand that God alone elects and that God alone leaves all others alone. “How unfair,” some have said.

Article 1, as we can see begins with an understanding: “Since all people have sinned in Adam…” This is the knowledge and understanding that we must come to. Romans 3, today, shall get us there. The book of Romans itself reveals to us its author. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” This is how the book of Romans opens. Paul speaks of his former self at Philippians 3:5-6. He was,

5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

In other words, Paul knew the law. He was born into it (I think he, now converted, would say, “under it.”) He studied everything Pharisee. At Acts 22:3 he says, “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law.” All this, of course, was who he was. After Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, his former training remained nothing more than a constant reminder of his need for Jesus. Paul beings at Romans 3:1,

1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

In this, we are reminded of God coming to Abraham to make promises. In this we are reminded of the law given to Moses at Sinai to share with God’s people, these descendants of Abraham. Basically, if we, Gentiles, want to meet God, or be introduced to Him, we must go to Moses and Abraham, to those first people to whom God made covenant with, in order to see who God is and to see why we need him. In other word and perhaps more broader, if we want to meet the Creator of the Universe, we must go to His word, where He is inerrantly and infallibly revealed to us. Congregation, if you’re going to believe anything, you must believe in the God revealed from His Scripture. You must believe that His law confirms our fallen state.

3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,

And may overcome when You are judged.”

Paul then, thinking nothing of himself and little of humanity in general, would have us focus then, upon how the law, as revealed from God’s word, reveals our need for salvation from it. In every sin we commit, in every failure we endure, in every shortcoming we see in ourselves, we see more clearly, the God who is so able to save us from it. Let us follow Paul’s thinking through Verses 5-8. See the contrasts.

5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

In our unrighteousness, see our need for God’s righteousness more clearly. God is just. In our incessant lying, see the need for God’s truth more. And when we fail in representing our God well, see please, God’s own ability to represent Himself. We fail, God does not fail. Their condemnation of us, is just. And God shall be the judge. This is what the knowledge of sin reveals. And by it, humanity stands condemned. Accordingly, Canons of Dort, First Main Point of Doctrine, Article 1 begins,

Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin.

Secondly, the condemnation of sin. Having known then, our sins we must further understand the fruit of such. For a moment, we turn to the quote from Romans 3:19 as given to us in the Article. ‘As the apostle says: “The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God.”’ If sin has affected every human being than every human being shall be held responsible. How do we come to this?

Romans 3:19 follows Romans 3:9-18. Paul had previously been commending us to look to the promises of God and to His law to see God’s goodness, to gain the knowledge of our sins and to glorify God in our salvation. Never being able to win such a salvation and yet, still having it, has left Paul, and the church of Jesus Christ in awe. We are reminded that the world still watches us fail and fall short. Paul says, “your right, we still do, and yet the Lord still chooses to save. Look not upon my failures but upon God’s goodness and glory.”

He continues, his argument looking now, at both Jews and Greeks. The first being given the law of God at first, and the second being those who will have to learn it too. The law given to the Jews at first, is the law that all of humanity will be judged on, Greeks included. In other words, Paul’s not talking to two distinct people groups, but one race, and the law by which they will be judged, and the God, whose goodness draws from this one fallen race, a people group unto Himself. For He says at Verse 9, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.”

And then to prove his point, as has been always Paul’s practice, and ought to be ours, Paul turns to Scripture, the very word of God.

10 As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;

11 There is none who understands;

There is none who seeks after God.

12 They have all turned aside;

They have together become unprofitable;

There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Here he muses on Psalm 14. It is a Psalm that the unbelieving world does not understand. They cannot understand. They’re actually too busy trying to outweigh their misdeeds with better ones. They see God as unfair when His judgements seem unbearable. They prefer Him to look the other way when the secret sins of their hearts make their way out of the mouth and into their hands.

Paul continues on at verse 13 with,

Their throat is an open tomb;

With their tongues they have practiced deceit.

Here he references Psalm 5:9. Psalm 5:7 is a call into worship. To God we have been called. In fear of Him, we shall worship. For the God of all creation is the judge of what is right and of what is wrong and of who may worship Him and of who shall remain a god unto himself. The Psalmist cries out at Psalm 5:10,

10 Pronounce them guilty, O God!

Let them fall by their own counsels;

Cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions,

For they have rebelled against You.

The deceitfulness of the fallen heart, is always well hidden. Humanity has no issue proclaiming its triumphs as long as its failures remain hidden, but Paul follows with a quote from Psalm 140:3, “The poison of asps is under their lips.” In other words, their words speak death. It matters not how eloquent. It matters not our perceived intention. There is death in them. Paul follows quickly with a quote from Psalm 10:7 to complete his thought upon the fallen heart. (14) “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”

Paul says further of this fallen race (15) “Their feet are swift to shed blood,” quoting now from Proverbs 1 and Isaiah 59.

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;

17 And the way of peace they have not known.

The fallen heart refuses to accept God as God and we as His creation, His image bearing creatures. So blind have we become to this truth, so disqualified have we made ourselves, we have forgotten how to read the law for its proper use. Paul concludes his quoting with (18) “There is no fear of God before their eyes,” again, quoting from Psalm 36:1.

Do not be fooled then by what the eyes see or what the ears hear. God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible, holy word has explained the world to you. Dear listener, this is where you’re from. The law convicts. It has made your sins known to you. This is its function, alone. By the law, we stand condemned.

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Is there no hope then? Thirdly, we shall contemplate deliverance from sin. We have gained the knowledge of sin, even from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We have partaken of its fruit and have produced the fruit of condemnation. Who shall deliver us from this body of death?

If such is what the law has taught us we need something that stands outside of the law to revive us. The law of God has been searched. There is a standard presented within, a perfect standard required. But I have known the sins of my past and today, and tomorrow, I can guarantee you, that I will sin again.

I remember once in catechism class, many years ago. I think I was 13 or 14. Our catechism teacher asked for us to count up all our sins that day. My friend counted around 8 or 9. I counted around 11. No one wanted to be a bigger sinner than the other. Going around the room, the teacher came to one of the girls and her answer was this. “There are too many to count.” 33 years later, and I haven’t forgotten that. I cannot speak for my friend but I felt arrogant. Her answer was the right one. The law teaches us this. It is its only use.

In doing so, however, there is a second use. It points us towards God; towards Jesus; towards the Holy Spirit who works in us what we cannot work in ourselves without Him.

21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.

To this fallen race then, God’s righteousness is displayed. Firstly, we always begin, as we have with this message, with what’s wrong. Verse 22 continues, “For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Jew and Greek both have this in common. Perhaps this is most what we have in common with one another.

Knowing such, now we can lose the language of the law and focus upon He who has fulfilled the law, whose righteousness we own now. Here’s how. We sinners are,

24 …justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation [an appeasing] by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

There is something to say about God’s forbearance. Our lifetimes and the lives of all those who have lived before us, and the lives of all those who shall yet come, until the Christ returns, are full sin. The law has taught us as much. But all such sins, for those who believe in Christ’s work are taken away by the Christ’s one act, one work, upon the cross. In this we don’t have to search for salvation. All we need to do is see it in God’s word and trust that almost 2000 years ago the Son of God came into humanity to die for humanity giving humanity the offer of free salvation. Such is the salvation offered for those who believe. You don’t need another man’s work. You don’t need your own work or the work of those who are going to follow you. You need Jesus. He alone appeased God’s wrath against your sins. He is your Saviour!

Paul continues,

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. 29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, 30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Is it a strange thought to think that faith fulfills the law? It only can, if such a faith is put towards the Son of God’s perfect work in regards to the law that tells the rest of us that we fall short. The old old story of Jesus and His love, begins with the Jews and the law that God gave them. To a certain people group, God made covenant with. This comes with the blessedness of eternal life for all those found in Jesus, drawn from both Jew and Greek, and of course the curse of eternal death for those left in Adam’s first failure.

It has been God’s right to condemn. However it has also been His pleasure to save, through the Person and work of His Son, worked in you, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. I say, realize that of all the good and blessedness that God the Father has issued to you and I, we image-bearing creations of the Lord God Almighty, that we fail, that we fall short. It is only then, that we will be better able to understand our deliverance from our sins. Although God has every right to condemn me, I am saved through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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