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Author:Rev. Pete Van't Hoff
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Brockville, Ontario
 www.brockville-urc.com
 
Title:The Source of Unbelief and Faith
Text:CD 1 Art. 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Election
 
Preached:2022-08-28
Added:2023-01-28
Updated:2023-01-28
 

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 56:1,2,4,5 "O God, Be Merciful"
Congregational Prayer
Offerings
? Hymn 156 "Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies"
Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10
Text: CD I:5
Sermon: "The Source of Unbelief and Faith"
In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the source of unbelief is overrun by the source of faith.
1) The Source of Unbelief
2) The Source of Faith
Prayer of Thanksgiving
* ? Psalm 27-B:1,6,10 "Jehovah Is My Light"
* Confession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed
? Psalm 66-B "Come, All Ye People, Bless Our God"
* Benediction
* ? Doxology: Psalm 103-A "Bless the LORD, My Soul
* 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,

In order to have a fruitful understanding of where unbelief comes from and from where faith comes from, it may be fruitful to have an understanding of freewill in comparison to God’s omnipotent, archetypal knowledge, that is, the attribute of his all-knowing self. Trust me congregation, we are not, this afternoon, going to answer and solve all the questions of sin and freewill that philosophers over all of time have been trying to solve. But we do a service to such questions when considering them through the lens of Scripture.

Long has there been unbelief. Long has there been faith. Of the savable, of which we spoke of last week, some will not believe and some will. There are only two groups. And God holds each accountable. There are consequences for unbelief and consequences for faith. Eternal condemnation, on the one hand and eternal life on the other. But if God is all-knowing and prepares (this is Romans 9:21-24 language) vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy (other names for those two groups), himself, how can unbelief and faith be held accountable to these? The answer is freewill.

Adam and Eve had what some have called an innocent freewill before humanity fell. Fallen humanity has now, a sinful freewill. Before the fall, we could choose God. After the fall, our freewill is limited by sin and unable to choose God. “Then it’s not freewill,” some have said. And I agree. We do have choice in this life. But such choice is always stained with sin and cannot reverse was happened in Genesis 3. “I don’t believe it,” some have said. Ok. I’m not surprised. There are only two groups. From the savable, God will need to give faith.

Today, we come to the Canons of Dort’s First Main Point of Doctrine, the 5th Article, which comes with the title, The Source of Unbelief and Faith. Today we consider such under the magisterial authority of the word of God, from Ephesians 2:1-10. And today, I declare a great truth. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the source of unbelief is overrun by the source of faith.

1) The Source of Unbelief  2) The Source of Faith

Firstly, the source of unbelief. The first sentence from Article 5 of the First Main Point of Doctrine of the Canons of Dort reads, “The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man.” For fallenness, we want to blame God. No sooner, in the Garden of Eden, once the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is consumed, and God is in the garden, calls out for them and takes account with Adam for what he has done (Gen. 3:9-11), listen to Adam’s response. (Gen. 3:12) “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

And we know the rest of the story. To the woman God speaks. She pushes it off to the serpent. And then judgement proceeds, to the serpent and then to Eve and then back to Adam. And humanity has been trying to skirt their own responsibility and consequence ever since.

Now one could argue, and we have, that the freewill present in the garden is not the same as the freewill we have now. In other words, since we cannot choose God now, how can we call it freewill? Good question. We can’t. Then how can God hold us accountable? The answer is in Adam and in every sin we’ve committed since Adam. It’s a hard truth to grasp. But isn’t it also true, that in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we are not held accountable for such sin? Is not the righteousness of Jesus Christ that is accounted towards us instead? Is this not the beauty of the gospel? That God saves a people unto Himself, through His beloved Son, who is able to bear the wrath of God against sin, at no risk to His own Character, for His own glory and for the salvation of His people?

Then unbelief calls us out and says “continue to sin, that grace may abound.” Paul thinks that to be a foolish statement. Listen to him speak at Romans 6:1-2.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Less sinning is the logical conclusion to anyone who understands their fallen condition, knows their Saviour and clings to His work, for relief from condemnation. And James, at 2:17 has stated clearly that “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Paul pulls no punches in our passage this morning. He has known his own sin and the state of fallenness. He lived it “well” before the Lord Jesus Christ met him on the road to Damascus, blinding him as much as unbelief keeps us blind, his faith being received as much as the return of his sight under the watchful eyes of Ananias at Acts 9:17-19. At Ephesians 2:1 he begins, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.”

Children, when you’re dead, you’re dead. Worldly speaking, there is no coming back from it. What comes from death is decay. “For dust you are, And to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). As much as fallen humanity has thought of extending this life into eternity, it cannot be. Theologically, it has been declared by God that this life shall end in death, if Jesus doesn’t come back first. We are finite beings. These lives that we lead are meant to end. Such has been the consequence of the curse. “[F]or in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). From that day forward, Adam and Eve began lives of death. And in each life that followed, death would reign. Without Jesus, we are simply born to die. What a sad state.

At Verse 1, Paul has contemplated that first of oldest enemies we are set against. That being the sin within. At Verse 2 he considers that second of oldest enemies. There is no order to these, other than how Paul has spoken of them here. This second enemy is the world in which we live. Fallen society, if you will with all its draws and temptations (2) “in which you once walked according to the course of this world.”

The course of this world has been one that leads to destruction. These sermons of past weeks have been focused upon eschatology. In the doctrine of last days, the end is declared. The Revelation of Jesus Christ has prophesied that the end of this world, stained with “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) shall end in fire. This timeline has a time limit. There is nothing, touched by the curse in the fall of man that shall be preserved for eternal life coming. Nothing physical that is. This world and these bodies shall be renewed. Our souls are the only thing that shall make it through Judgement Day. This, by the way, is a simple testament to being made in God’s image. There is an eternity attached to our existence.

Verse 2 concludes with the third of oldest enemies set against us. He was present at creation and convinced humanity to fall. He was present at the temptation of Jesus Christ. And his future belongs to the lake of fire coming at Judgement Day. What else shall we call him? Here’s a list. It is extensive.

Abaddon — Hebrew for "destruction," Accuser, Adversary, Angel of Light (a being Satan can transform into), Angel of the bottomless pit, Antichrist,Apollyon — Greek for "destroyer," Beast,Beelzebub — "Ruler of the demons," Belial, Deceiver, Devil, Dragon, Enemy, Evil One, Father of Lies, King of the Bottomless Pit, Lawless One, Leviathan, Liar, Lucifer, Murderer, Power of Darkness, Prince of the Power of the Air (2), Ruler of the Darkness, Ruler of this World, Serpent of Old, Son of Perdition, Fallen Star, Tempter, Thief, Wicked One.

The course of this world moves (2) “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.” Sons of disobedience: there’s another name for fallen humanity. This group, this race, has no patience for the God of the Bible. You have heard me say often and I say it again. When Adam and Eve fell, no longer did they desire to obey their God. In choosing to be like Him, they wanted to be gods unto themselves. The command was to obey. To disobey was their choice and God held them to it.

Again, Paul pulls no punches. Just in case we think ourselves worthy of God’s goodness, we are reminded of our heritage, of the work of our hands and of the fallenness in our hearts. This is where we’re from, beloved. And to these, we must return to share the gospel with. Paul describes the sons of disobedience at Verse 3. “[A]mong whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” This is our current, natural state. We like to do what’s natural.

Children, do you know what it takes for break a bad habit? Some say it takes 28 days to break a bad habit and it helps to replace it with a good one. The fallen state is worse than just a bad habit. It has infused every fiber of our being. Left to ourselves, we have no sense, no idea of what being unfallen is like. I do wonder, sometimes, about Adam and Eve, having now fallen, if they had any recollection of how good the garden was. Left to ourselves, there is no redemption, no rescue, no hope. We are sons and daughters of disobedience, by nature, we are children of wrath. This has been our heritage. This is from where we come from. God is not the author of such things. The source of unbelief is in ourselves.

But, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the source of unbelief is overrun by the source of faith. Secondly, the source of faith. God has seen our miserable state, congregation and to us has declared a certain salvation. To return to Him is not a work that we can fathom in and of ourselves, but a work of the Son of God. His name is Jesus, for He will free His people from their sins. The second sentence coming from Article 5 of the First Main Point of Doctrine of the Canons of Dort gives us this. “Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God.”

It was not one of us, whose life, since conception forward was lived in perfect response to the law of God. It was not one of us, who walked this earth, through God’s creation and glorified Him in every way declared. It was not one of us who was never more at peace, on this earth, when in prayer with His Father. These descriptions to do not describe any one of us, but the one, Jesus Christ.

And then we come to the end of His earthly life. It should have any one of us. They could have just killed Him but they drew it out. In His betrayal by Judas, in His arrest and unjust trial and conviction, in His crucifixion, we get a clear picture of just the kind of people that Jesus came to save. In these vicious acts we see our true fallen and wretched nature.

And then we come to His agonizing death. Where the weight of the sins of His people are placed upon Him. Where God’s wrath towards the sins of His people are given to their King to endure. For three hours (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44) the Christ deals with the Father’s wrath against your sins. And that struggle ends in death, for that is the consequence of sin. He suffered such, so that you don’t have to.

Let us be then reminded of the work behind the free gift offered. The extent to which God has gone to save a people unto Himself, to say the least, is profound. We have talked about those three oldest of enemies. Let us dwell for more than a moment on our three oldest of Friends, if I may call Them that.

Let us consider the Third Person of the holy Trinity. His work is a silent but powerful work. He was the creative Force at creation and He shall be the re-creative Force in the new creation. By His power, life abounds. The Apostles’ Creed rightly proclaims that the Christ was incarnated by the Holy Spirit. And we also understand that conception is more than just a physical act. In the coming together of male and female, the Holy Spirit bonds a soul to those cells. How can we not be pro-life?

And then let us come to the death-no-longer of Jesus Christ. There, on that Sunday morning, so long ago the Holy Spirit raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). Who shall raise you from the dead beloved? The Holy Spirit shall. Who has been sanctifying you every day, in preparation for the last day coming? The Holy Spirit shall. Who inspired prophesy and then to write it down so that future believers could dwell upon the words of God. The Holy Spirit. Beloved, your future is well kept in the name of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, John tells us of His quiet work (John 16:13). You must know Him, but He wants you to know the Son, the second Person of the holy Trinity. It is why every message that is preached must be Christ centred. It is why we must read the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament. Every time God intervenes in humanity we must see the Son taking action. But let also, those Old Testament texts and passages take you to the first words of Matthew and Luke where the Son of God is conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Children, the angel said to Joseph at Matthew 1:21 these saving words. Never forget them. “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). And then He will go on to live. And then He will go on to die. And then He will go on to live forever more. And where He goes, we go!

And yet why? Why has the Son done all these things? It is because the second Person of the Trinity, shares the love, the first Person of the Trinity, the Father, has for His people (that love, of course, worked out over time and in truth by the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit). Every work of the Son was a glory-filled effort given to the Father. I am reminded of Jesus baptism where we hear the words of the Father, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). The Father’s will was to show us His glory and to save us through it. I mentioned Romans 9:22-24 earlier. Now is the time to read it.

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Romans 9:22-24)

Dear believer, your creation and your recreation has been according to the Father’s will. The Son obeyed that will to perfection, freely, so that the Father’s wrath against you is removed, giving you access, once again towards His glory. Salvation, dear Church of Jesus Christ, is not about us. It’s about Him. And yet we are saved through such glory, through such love, through such mercy.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).

What is the definition of grace, dear believer? Two words. “Unmerited favour.” We did nothing to deserve salvation. Even if we would attempt to try, we know the imperfections present and that doesn’t measure against God’s perfect law. Our efforts earn death only and the Christ experienced that death, again, so that we never will. That is, a death warranted by God’s wrath. Death shall likely come to each of us (hold fast for the coming of Christ, believer). But that death, is a doorway into glory for all who have believed in Christ’s work and that it belongs to them. Such a privilege has been unmerited and it is based upon the favour of God’s love!

In Christ and in His resurrection we have been raised up. This is how Paul continues at Verses 6 and 7. God,

raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Finally we come to the passage referenced by the confession. Of the many differences we have with every other religion in the world, this is the most primary of reasons why we believe what we believe as Bible-believing-Christ-centered-Christians,

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Such has been the source of our faith and it overwrites any unbelief in our hearts. In the fall, humanity began in unbelief and must own up for it. This is what we freely chose. But in redemption, a gift has been given, according to the Father’s love, worked out through His Son and worked in us, by the Holy Spirit. today, I declare a great truth. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, the source of unbelief is overrun by the source of faith. 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.
The source for this sermon was: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq01-rCeMkc

(c) Copyright 2022, Rev. Pete Van't Hoff

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