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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:Jesus Christ is and will be number one!
Text:LD 19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5
Hymn 1A
Psalm 21:1-3
Psalm 21:4-7
Psalm 117

Readings: Matthew 25:1-13, Ephesians 1:15-23, James 5:1-12
Text: Lord's Day 19
* 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 the Lord Jesus,

With the Apostles’ Creed, we confess that 2000 years ago a man sat down. We confess that he still sits. Only God the Father knows how long he will continue to sit. Now many of us have jobs where we sit down all or most of the time. But there was a time when a person sitting down was generally not working. You’d sit down when the job was done.

It was certainly that way in ancient Israel. In ancient Israel, in the tabernacle, the high priest would go in to the holy of holies once per year. He would do his work, but he would never sit down. In fact, there was no place for him to sit even if he wanted to. The work was never done. Atonement had to be made continually.

But now, now we have a better high priest who has gone into the heavenly holy of holies. Having ascended into heaven, Christ has sat down. He is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty because his work of atonement has been completed. The work the Father gave him to do here on earth – he finished it all. And so now he sits at God’s right hand.

But that doesn’t mean that he’s finished everything he’s been given to do. In fact, just like many of us work at our jobs sitting down, so Christ is also continuing to work. He is not someone who sits and does nothing. At God’s right hand, he holds a position of authority. You’ll remember what he said at the end of Matthew 28. Before he went up into heaven he said that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to him. Being at God’s right hand, he rules. He is and will be God’s number one, his right hand man, the one whom God has trusted to reign over everything. So that’s our theme as we consider what we confess about our Saviour in Lord’s Day 19.

Let’s begin by looking at what God has revealed in Ephesians 1. We’re especially interested here in verses 20-23. One of the striking things about the first chapter of this letter is that Paul is just so absorbed in glorifying God. He praises God for all his blessings in Jesus Christ! And when it comes to the Ephesian believers, he can’t stop thanking God for them and praying for them. He prays that they would know God better. That they would know the hope to which they’ve been called, that they would know “the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” That they would know God’s power and the working of his mighty strength. Paul cares deeply about these sheep in Ephesus and so he prays deeply and eagerly for them.

He prays that they would know God’s power, “his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Where was that power most vividly displayed? Tell us, Paul. It was when God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms. Christ was exalted by God over everyone and everything. God has appointed Christ Jesus as number one.

Then in verse 22, we read that “God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Having been seated at God’s right hand, Christ is head over everything. We know that includes the church. In fact, Colossians 1:18 is a sort of parallel passage and Paul says there that Christ is “the head of the body, the church.” Ephesians 1:22 tells us that he is head over everything for the church. So, we could say, Christ is head over the church for the church. His power is not a raw power for the sake of power. His power, his rule and dominion exist for those whom he rules. His rule benefits us.

Now let’s just pause there for a moment. Consider that. The King of the universe sits at God’s right hand and rules over everything for the church. For you. Who are we to deserve such a privilege and blessing? Seen in the light of what his Word says about our fallen condition, it’s a humbling thought. Just as humbling as considering why the Son of God himself would suffer and die for us rebels and ingrates. We are so unworthy, but Christ has done it. He didn’t stop at the cross. He didn’t stop at the empty tomb. He went on to heaven to rule the church and all things for those he has redeemed. Doesn’t that stir up praise and adoration in your heart? Jesus Christ is number one for you. Why? Because he loves you and, most importantly, so that you would praise God and enjoy him forever!

The Catechism draws this out more when it lays out the way in which the glory of Christ our head at God’s right hand benefits us. We confess that there are at least two benefits. The first is what the Holy Spirit of Christ does among us. He pours out heavenly gifts upon the members of Christ. We’re going to deal with this in more depth when we get to Lord’s Days 20 and 21, so I’m going to be brief on this benefit. The Catechism here is paraphrasing Ephesians 4:7-12. There Paul quotes Psalm 68:18 and applies it to Christ, “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” Some of those gifts are described in Ephesians 4 (apostolic and prophetic gifts, evangelist gifts, pastoral gifts) and some of those gifts are described elsewhere in the New Testament. The important thing to note is that the gifts are there. As a ruler, as the Head of his Church, Christ does not keep his riches to himself. In this way, Christ is very much unlike most earthly monarchs. Our Queen is said to hold personal investments of several billion dollars. She owns jewels worth hundreds of millions of dollars. She has some 310 residences, including five castles. She does not share her wealth with us poor plebes. For one thing, it wouldn’t be practical and for another thing, earthly monarchs simply don’t do that (it sets a bad precedent). Christ is different. He’s very generous with his gifts and openly shares his spiritual wealth. We are so rich with this King!

Not only are we rich, we’re also safe. We confess that with his power, “He defends and preserves us against all enemies.” He is a ruler with a hand of power and heart of love. He has authority and dominion and might to do whatever he wants. And he uses that power for the good of those whom he’s bought back from the sinful way of life. We’re safe with him. What this comes down to here is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. We find that doctrine explained most fully in the last chapter of the Canons of Dort. In Article 8 of Chapter 5 of the Canons, we confess that it is the grace of the Triune God that preserves the elect. About what the Son of God does, we believe that “the merit, intercession and preservation of Christ cannot be nullified.” Listen to the beautiful words of our Lord Jesus himself in John 10:28, “I give them [the sheep, the elect] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” The preservation and protection of Christ cannot be nullified! Cannot be brought to nothing or even minimized in any way! What a Saviour!

We have many enemies. The devil, the world, and our own flesh don’t stop attacking us. They’re powerful enemies. The devil is said in 1 Peter 5 to be a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The world woos us with its distractions and promises of happiness. The remnants of our old nature beckon us to come back and rebel against God. These enemies are not to be underestimated. At the same time, we must never underestimate the power of Christ our King and defender. With all those enemies facing us, we have one stronger than all of them put together. So, when faced with our enemies, we don’t look to ourselves and our own strength. Instead, we fix our eyes on King Jesus our defender and preserver. We cry to him for mercy and help in our hour of need. He has promised to hear and to help.

Christ is the head of the Church and this fills us with praise and brings wonderful benefits. And confessing this also leads our lives in a certain direction. We not only look to Christ in our struggles and afflictions, we also esteem him and his Word for our lives every day. If Christ is the head of the Church and we’re members of his church, then Christ’s Word rules supreme for us. In a time when people don’t like having authority over them, we’re called to be counter-cultural. Believers set aside their own wills and humble themselves before the Word of God. If the Word says that they’re to live their lives in a certain way, then, relying on God’s help, they do that. No questions asked, no grumbling, no complaining. He said in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Christ is King and we follow what he says because we know that he is the King, we love our King, and we’re filled with thankfulness to our King. He’s number one and then it naturally follows that his Word is number one for our lives.

His authority not only extends to his reign over the church and all things. It also means that he is the appointed judge of all people. We confess that the Christ sitting at the right hand of God is going to come to judge the living and the dead.

Now the Catechism asks a strange question in connection with that. “What comfort is it to you that Christ will come to judge the living and the dead?” Normally, we don’t associate the word “comfort” with “judgment.” Hopefully it never happens to any of us, but if you’re ever brought to court and charged with a crime, “comfort” is not going to be one of the words going through your mind. So, here too, we would not dream of comfort in connection with standing before the Judge of heaven and earth.

Unless….unless we knew the verdict ahead of time. Unless the verdict had already been decided and announced. And for us who believe, it has. Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” As the Catechism puts it, he has removed all the curse from us. That means we’re right with God and so on the Day of the Lord, we have nothing to fear. In fact, instead of fear, we can have comfort.

We don’t know when Christ will return as judge. In Matthew 24:36, he said that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” But we do know that when he returns, it will be good for us, it will be for our comfort, for our benefit. There are three things promised that make it so.

In the first place, there will be vindication for God’s people. Vindication means that God’s people will be publicly announced to be in the right. There are two aspects to that vindication. In the first place, we can think of all the sorrow and persecution that we’ve endured in this world. Now in our particular situation, we don’t really find much persecution. But this is about all of God’s people and many of them are persecuted and have been persecuted in the past. The vindication promised is not just about us as individuals, but also about us as God’s people as a whole, all of God’s people from the beginning of the world to its end. All those who have endured distress and persecution for the sake of the gospel will be publicly vindicated on the last day. We see that vindication illustrated in Revelation 18. In that passage, Babylon stands for all that opposes Christ. She’s brought to ruin. And then in verse 20, “Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.” When Christ returns, the whole world, everyone who has ever lived will see that the Christian cause was good, right and noble. Everyone who ever persecuted believers, from Nero to Hitler to Stalin to Mao Tse-Tung, to Kim Jong Il and everyone in between will be shown to have been wrong and to have been opposing the King of the Universe. The truth will come out in public and we will rejoice. That’s the first aspect of this future vindication.

The second aspect is with regards to the lives of God’s people. We read in Revelation 20 that the books will be opened and everything that has ever been said or done will be publicly exposed. That includes everything that has ever been said, thought and done by you and me, by believers. It will all be laid open. You might hear that at first and wish that it wasn’t so. Do you want everything you’ve ever said and done to be made public for the whole world to see? But God’s Word says that it’s going to happen. For unbelievers, this will result in their final judgment. They will have reason for fear. If any of us here this afternoon are not fully trusting Christ, hear this warning and repent and believe. But for us who do believe, this opening of the books is nothing to be afraid of. It will not result in humiliation or condemnation. Because when the books are opened and your thoughts, words and deeds are laid bare for all to see, you can say, “Yes, I did all that. It’s true and I don’t deny any of it. But I have a Saviour. His Name is Jesus Christ. He has paid for all of my sins and wickedness with his broken body and shed blood. His perfect obedience is mine.” Because of Christ, you will be vindicated. Though many of those present at that day will have seen your evil deeds and mocked you, though they mocked the gospel and said things like, “Those Christians, they’re no better than us” – Christ will vindicate you. It will be made known to all people who have ever lived that, despite your sins and wickedness, you are right with God because of Christ. And you know what will happen because of that? All of God’s people and the angels will together praise him and make much of him forever!

So the promise of vindication gives comfort when we confess that Christ is coming to judge the living and the dead. But there is also the promise of justice. That promise is captured by the Catechism when it says that “he will cast all his and my enemies into everlasting condemnation.” As far as Christ’s enemies are concerned, the Bible is clear. No one in the entire Bible spoke more about hell and warned about hell than Christ himself. In the verses right before what we read from Matthew 25, we hear the Lord Jesus speaking about the master of the wicked servant -- the master cutting that servant to pieces and sending him to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth – a reference to hell. There will be justice – Christ’s enemies will get what they deserve.

But what about the mention of our enemies here? Does that mean that Christ is going to destroy that kid at school or on the bus that’s always picking on you? No, we can’t go that direction. “All his and my enemies” – there’s no difference here between Christ and us. For the purposes of the Catechism, we’re one and the same. In QA 51, we’re members of Christ. We are united to him. His enemies are our enemies. Think of Psalm 139 where David speaks the same way in verses 21 and 22, “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” David says that God’s enemies are his. It’s the same way here. Those who have deliberately set themselves up against Christ and his church – they will be condemned to hell. 2 Thessalonians 1 speaks directly about that. Verses 6 to 10 read:

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

This is a promise of justice and it gives us comfort in a world of injustice. I recently read a book about several modern-day martyrs. The author of the book noted that in each case, the person or persons responsible for the martyrdom were never brought to justice. But some day that will change. There will be justice and we can take consolation in that. Revelation 18, in the passage I quoted a moment ago from verse 20, the Lord Jesus even says that we will rejoice in that.

So, to review: we have a promise for vindication and a promise for justice.

The third thing promised is glory for all God’s people. When Christ returns and his people are vindicated, we will be taken with him into heavenly joy and glory. That means we’re going to be living in God’s presence forever on the new heavens and new earth. We have something truly wonderful to look forward to! We’ll look at the wonders of what all that involves in more detail when we get to Lord’s Day 22.

So, what we confess about Christ’s returning to judge the living and the dead is not meant to frighten us, but to comfort us. And that comfort, that hope we have, also leads our lives in a certain direction. Think of what we read from James 5. Knowing that Christ is coming as the Judge, we are to be patient and stand firm in our faith. Knowing that the Judge is standing at the door, we’re told not to grumble against each other. Why not? Because grumbling and complaining about one another doesn’t fit with who we are as redeemed people. It doesn’t show the fruit of faith. It’s not part of our identity in Christ. If the Judge comes and sees people who have no part in him, they will be condemned. So, we’re called to be patient and to stand firm in our faith and then that faith will also produce the fruit of love and peace in the church.

Then we also have that Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. The lesson there is so plain and simple that all of us can understand it, “Therefore, keep watch because you do now know the day or the hour.” This is not hard to understand. The message is loud and clear. Believe in Christ today and be ready for his coming. He could come tonight or tomorrow, or it may still be thousands of years away. Whatever the case may be: be ready! And even if he doesn’t return, your time to meet him still could come at any moment. You may be driving home from church this afternoon. Are you ready? Beloved: “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Look for his coming, be ready for it, and pray for it.

Oh, there’s so much to say on this subject. The Bible is full of teaching about what still lays ahead. Some of it is clear, some of it is less so. But we know at least one thing for certain: Christ will return and he will judge all men. We also know that he rules right now. God’s number one has the authority right now to rule and with that same authority he will also judge.
Let us pray:
Gracious God and merciful Father,
We are grateful that you raised Christ our Saviour and made him to sit at your right hand. We praise you that he is the head of the Church through whom you rule all things. We’re thankful for the Holy Spirit and the gifts we receive through him. We rejoice in the power of our Saviour by which we know ourselves to be safe. Thank you also for the comfort of knowing that he will come again to judge the living and dead. We pray that he would come quickly with our vindication, with justice and with glory for all those who are yours. We ask for more grace so that we would constantly fix our eyes on Christ our Lord, knowing that he is on our side, that we are right with you through him. Help us to hear your Word and regard it as authoritative for our lives. O God, give us your mercy so that we also are merciful to one another, that we would not grumble against each other. Finally, O Lord, help us so that we would all wait with eager expectation for Christ’s return. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus! AMEN

* 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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