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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
Preached At:Reformed Church of Mangere
 South Auckland, New Zealand
Title:Coming Down
Text:CD 2 II:1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


(Reading: Canons of Dordt II; John 3:1-21)


Coming Down





“For God so loved the world...” Could there be any other words from the Bible as well-known as these? And what other phrase would sum up the gospel in such a nutshell? John chapter 3 verse 16 is universally known!

Friends, which words but “For God” tell us where it all began? Which words but “For God” speak so clearly that it’s His Word, His Plan, and so we can only be His People?

This is looking up! This is precisely the point made in the First Head of Doctrine in the Canons of Dordt. That’s the U in T.U.L.I.P..

And, interestingly - and for us very helpfully - the way that John 3:16 develops is also the way the Second Head of Doctrine flows. Listen: “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son.”

So, by using John 3:16, let’s understand the L in T.U.L.I.P.. The L that stands for Limited Atonement. Or, as it it’s entitled in our version of the Canons of Dordt, THE DEATH OF CHRIST DEATH & THE REDEMPTION OR MEN THEREBY. 

Before we go further with this, though, let’s set the scene with this illustration: Boys and girls - and older folk too - think of the person who puts a lot of preparation and work into a present for your birthday. He or she has taken the time to find out exactly what you would like.

I know with some of you kids it’s not so hard to know! I mean, you let everyone know!         

Anyway, they make up that present themselves. They make sure it suits you down to a tee.

And then they wrap it up so carefully, in your favourite wrapping! It has to be just right — in everything!

Then, it’s your birthday! No more sleeps! You don’t have to wait anymore. It’s your special day.

But you know straightaway that this day was special to that person for many days before your birthday. I mean, look at that present! It’s so... perfect! Everyone sees that!

What an incredible pre-planned love! Because that person wanted something special for you, they carried it around in their thoughts and actions long before you knew a thing about it!

One question pops up though. In fact, it’s a question that pops up a lot. For people sincerely ask, “Why did God only do it for some, and not for all? Why doesn’t He love all people this same way?”

There are even those who call themselves “four-point” Calvinists because they just cannot accept this one part of the Canons - this one letter in TULIP. They’ll confess unconditional election, they’ll believe in total depravity, and irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. God does all that.

But they cannot stand the thought that Christ’s atoning work was designed and done only for the elect. Why should only some get that present?

Those Christians will even refer you to John 3:16. They’ll say that “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son” doesn’t fit in with this. How - they protest - can you preach the Gospel to all people without bias, declaring that “God loves them and Christ died for them,” when, in fact, God only loves the elect, and gave Christ as an atoning sacrifice for them, but not for others?

Let’s learn what our answer is by going through the rest of John 3:16, and the articles of the Second Main Head of Doctrine.


Article 1

We turn to Article 1. And, congregation, having accepted God’s Will in the First Head of Doctrine, we must believe that it’s true. We acknowledged that God is thoroughly consistent. Though He’s supremely merciful, He’s also supremely just.

The phrase, “For God so loved the world,” can also be understood as “For God so loved despite the world.” I don’t mean this as a translation but as a way to help understand the meaning.

Why? Well, God set out a punishment if man ate of the fruit of a certain tree.

Remember? It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And that punishment still remains. Like the good parent He perfectly is, He has to be fair.

Genesis chapter 3 vividly sets out the consequences of the crime after describing it happen. This is where those haunting words are spoken to Adam: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (v19)

And, yet, in the same chapter which has this ultimate disgrace, there’s also the most precious promise. For in verse 15 of Genesis 3, the serpent is told, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is called, in Latin, the ‘protoevangelium’. ‘Proto’ is the first, like in prototype. And ‘evangelium’ is the gospel - as in evangelism. Thus, ‘the first announcement of the gospel.’

But, you know, there’s an even earlier point in that chapter where God was giving of Himself. Because what did the LORD do when He knew that Adam and Eve had sinned. Did he let them go - write them off?

No way! He went looking for them. He called out to Adam, in verse 9, “Where are you?”


Article 2

So we are brought, in Article 2, to where our only hope lies. It’s only in God Himself! He came down! He was utterly humiliated, completely washed out, exactly so that we would be exalted and made as new!

Don’t ever let the message of the cross dim in your heart and life. It was your Lord who bore your just judgment on Calvary’s cross. In the well-loved words of Isaac Watts:

     “When I survey the wondrous cross,

          on which the Prince of Glory died,

      my richest gain I count as loss,

          and pour contempt on all my pride.

     See, from His head, His hands, His feet:

          sorrow and love flow mingled down.

      When did such love and sorrow meet,

          or thorns compose so rich a crown?”


Are these your words, too? Because then the words of comfort Jesus said to His disciples, are yours also. As our Lord describes what He must go through, He concludes in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


Article 3

Indeed, Article 3 declares “the infinite worth and value” of Christ’s death. He did come - and He did overcome! Here John 3:16 comes into its own, “For God so loved the world he sent his one and only Son...”.

Dear friend, don’t ever become so lost in yourself that you don’t think that anyone could ever love you. Jesus has loved enough to love the whole world!


Article 4

Why can we trust that it has such power to save? Because, in the words of Article 4, Jesus Christ was “not only really man and perfectly holy,” He was “also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.” He had to be! Only the perfect God-man could satisfy God’s justice. Only He could bear that wrath and curse of God “due to us for sin.”


Article 5

Continuing the use of John 3:16, we confess in Article 5 the open invitation of the gospel. “For God so loved the world.” The world! Here lies our motivation for mission.

As we have come to know by hearing the Word, so we respond by helping others to hear that Word, too. God’s grace compels us!

Then it’s no surprise that the many of the major mission movements in church history were begun by Calvinist Christians. Whether that was by the apostle Paul, the pilgrim Puritans to the American Indians, William Carey to India, or the evangelical Anglicans to New Zealand and Australia, or the Presbyterians to the Pacific Islands.

Knowing that it’s God’s Will sustains us far more than any temporary emotional reaction. Indeed, one of the major difficulties with faith missions today is their dependence not on the response of genuine faith, but on their emotional pull. There’s so much emphasis on what people feel, and what people have experienced.

One example of this can be seen with Pentecostal mission groups of our time. They send young people into a particular place for a few weeks allegedly converting and healing thousands. Meanwhile the local missionaries who have worked faithfully in those places for many years suffer severe set-backs to their gospel work as a result.

You see, those young people may go back to their churches with incredibly exciting stories! But the local missionaries are left trying to deal with people who aren’t actually healed and converted. In fact, people who are very angry against Christians!


Article 6

And we continue, with Article 6, to use John 3:16. This time, it’s the next phrase. The phrase so many Christian miss. The phrase which says, “that whoever believes in him.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You see, it’s not everybody who will be saved. Though Christ’s work has to be sufficient enough to save all mankind, it’s only for those who believe. The call comes to all, but not all respond to the call. And it’s absolutely their choice!

You see, the Arminians were misrepresenting the Reformed position. They said that since we believe only some will be saved it meant unbelievers couldn’t be blamed for not believing. This means unbelievers can’t be held guilty. What they were really trying to imply, though, was that we believe Jesus didn’t do enough. He didn’t die for everyone.

If we accept this criticism, though, we also give up on Divine Election. It’s God’s plan that Christ is fulfilling. And if that plan can’t save everyone, then the Reformed faith is nonsense. God can’t do it then!

But unbelief is exactly that - unbelief. They don’t want to believe. In spite of either God’s special revelation in His Word being proclaimed to them, or His general revelation witnessing to them in creation, they deny Him.

Congregation, there won’t be anyone on Judgment Day who will say, “I wanted to believe in Christ, and be saved, but Christ’s sacrifice wasn’t enough. I missed out!” For if he honestly wanted to believe he would have faith.


Article 7

And what is this faith? Could we have here something which comes from us? Does it depend on our decision? Is it something we have to do?

Of course not! It comes by grace, through and through! Article 7 confirms the Bible’s teaching here. As Ephesians 2, the verse 8 till 10, states, “For it is by grace you have been saved - through faith - and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

That’s pre-planned love! He thought of you! And not ‘you’ in plural, as in everybody anyhow - but you!

This brings in that caring picture of the Good Shepherd seeking our His sheep. This speaks of that one out of the hundred.

Ninety-nine are safe and sound. Statistically speaking, is it worth the risk?

Indeed it is - the ultimate risk! Precisely so that you could be placed in His sheep fold and enjoy His peace and protection forevermore!


Article 8

How special are you to Him? Article 8 is perfectly clear: “ was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross... should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation and language, all those, and only those, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer on them faith...should purge them from all sin...faithfully preserve them... and even to the end, should at last bring them, free from spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence for ever.”

This is very special! What should you do for the Lord? Simply think of what He did for you!


Article 9

Then think, congregation, how special that makes us altogether before Him! So special that He joins us together into His own spiritual Body, called the Church. That’s what we are joined to visibly in our local church - right here! This is the teaching of Article 9.

This means no one of us can say there isn’t a church good enough. Nor can anyone say there isn’t the right flavour for them in that huge smorgasbord of religious choices out there. God promised there would always be His Church. And so Article 9 echoes God’s Word, “there may never be found wanting a Church composed of believers, the foundation of which is laid in the blood of Christ; which may steadfastly love and faithfully serve Him as its Saviour (who, as a bridegroom for his bride, laid down His life for them upon the cross); and which may celebrate His praises here and through all eternity.”

We must be joined to this church. We must be committed to the local body of Christ. And that church must be where Christ is preached! Not one which focuses on what men do and can do. Simply on what God has done and still does in the hearts and lives of His people today.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’

Friend, God promised it, Jesus did it - do you believe it? Amen.




Let’s pray...

O Lord, our God, How precious this knowledge is of Your love to us. You went through the greatest amount of planning and working to make us Your special people!

We cannot begin to thank and praise You enough. And yet we must, because we know that to live apart from You is death; only in You, through Your Son, do we have eternal life. Please bless us now in Him.

And if there be any among us, Lord, who have not come to that faith, would you so move in their hearts to make them see their desperate need. They need You - right now!

Through Jesus’ saving name, we pray, Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was:

(c) Copyright 2001, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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