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Author:Rev. George van Popta
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Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
Title:The Keys
Text:LD 31 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading of Scripture: 1 Cor 5
Reading of text: LD 31
Songs: Ps. 66:1,2,3; Ps. 81:1-5; Hy. 55:1,4,5; Ps. 150; Hy. 53
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

To get into a country, you must meet certain conditions. Recently a number of families and individuals have come from different parts of the world-from other countries-to Canada to study at our Theological College. They had to meet certain conditions to get visa to enter the Dominion of Canada. Each country has certain requirements to get in.

In that respect the kingdom of heaven is no different. What is required is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. One must by faith accept the promise of the gospel, and then live a life of faith. As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 5, Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. It is only by faith in Christ, the Lamb of God who was sacrificed on the cross, that one enters the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven has keys. Two keys: the preaching of the holy gospel and church discipline. By the faithful exercise of these two keys the kingdom of heaven is opened to believers and closed to unbelievers. When a person by true faith accepts the promises proclaimed in the holy gospel, he gains access to the kingdom of heaven. When a person rejects the gospel and its demand to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, then, through church discipline, he is expelled from the kingdom of heaven.

I proclaim to you:


This good news: 1. Proclaimed; 2. Rejected; 3. Defended.

1. Paul wrote that Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. He is referring, of course, to the Passover Lamb we read about in Exodus 12 & 13. You know how it went. The LORD God was determined to bring his people out of Egypt to the land he had promised them. Pharaoh king of Egypt would not let God's people go. Through Moses God told Israel to slaughter a lamb. They were to smear the blood on the door frames of their homes. To go into their homes. That night the angel of death would fly over Israel and strike every firstborn child. But the angel of death would "pass over" all the families that were protected by the blood of the lamb. The Passover Lamb.

That tenth plague convinced Pharaoh to let Israel go. The slaughter of the Passover lamb opened the kingdom for Israel. It led to their exodus from the evil empire of Egypt and to their entry to the Promised Land-to, you could say, the kingdom of heaven.

However, they had to believe. When God through Moses said that the blood of the sacrificed lamb would protect them, they had to believe that. They had to slaughter a lamb and smear the blood on the doorframes of their homes. If they did not believe and do what God had commanded them, then the angel of death would kill their firstborn as well. It was a matter of faith and the obedience of faith.

As Paul taught us, the Passover lamb of the OT foreshadowed Christ, the final Passover Lamb of God. Paul had proclaimed the good news in Corinth according to the command of Christ. He called the congregation to faith in Christ. To believe the good news of the Passover Lamb that had been sacrificed.

This is the mandate Christ has left the church: the mandate to preach the gospel. The ministry of word and sacrament. We speak of the Great Commission. Just before the Lord ascended to heaven, he left the church with this task: (Mat 28:19 NIV) ... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. ...

You see that the Lord Jesus Christ did not leave the church with a healing ministry; or the ministry of casting out demons. He left us with a ministry of the word and the sacraments. This needs to be reflected in our worship services.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is present in the worship service: present and speaking to us. He speaks to us in the Word and in the sacraments. Yes, as we come together in worship, we have fellowship with one another. That's important. But more important is that we have fellowship with God. We are here, first of all, to listen to him as he speaks to us the good news of what he has done for us in Christ, through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments.

This is for all the members of the congregation. Also the children. Even the babies. A baby is brought into church to receive holy baptism. Then it is several years before that child is brought to church again where it needs to learn to sit still and listen. That's OK, but parents, don't wait too long! The children belong as well. Let us not expand the nurseries. Let us not go down the "during-worship-service-Sunday-school" path. Let us rather see the nurseries as a temporary place for the babies to be until they are old enough to come here-here where they belong.

That mom or dad needs to take a toddler out of the service for a moment-to the washroom or to discipline the child-that is not disturbing. Oh no. How could it be disturbing to see parents faithfully teaching their toddlers to sit under the preaching of the gospel, and to believe the gospel! What is disturbing is when people older than toddlers read the bulletin during the preaching, or sleep, or carry on a whispered conversation with their neighbour. That's disturbing-to other worshipers, to the preacher, but worst of all, to God. Disturbing to God!

We all need to sit faithfully under the preaching of the gospel, to learn the gospel, and to believe it. For all who believe the gospel the kingdom of heaven is opened. The preaching of the gospel works like a key. It opens the door. You can enter.

Do you accept the promise of the gospel? Do you believe it? The gospel that your sins are forgiven because of Christ's death on the cross? Then heaven is open for you.

If you do not accept it in true faith; if you, rather, reject it, then that same preaching closes the kingdom of heaven for you. If you do not believe then the wrath of God rests upon you.

If some Israelites had not believed what Moses had said... if, when he told them, that they had to sacrifice a lamb and smear the blood on the doorframes of their homes in order to be kept safe from the destroying angel... if they had said: "Yeah right, Moses. We don't believe you. We don't believe in a destroying angel or in the protection of the blood of a lamb."... if they had said that, they would have experienced the wrath of God when the destroying angel came over the land that night. And so today, those who reject the gospel will experience the wrath and eternal condemnation of God.

2. The good news rejected.

The gospel is rejected by unbelief and hypocrisy. There was some major unbelief and hypocrisy going on in Corinth. We read about it in ch. 5. In Corinth Church a man was living with his father's wife. You need to read between the lines a bit, but likely the woman was his stepmother. The law of God forbade this. The law was very clear that a man was not to lie with his father's wife. Lev. 18 declared that to be one of the things that were detestable to God and that defiled the land. In the NT context, it defiled the church.

It was bad enough that this member of the church was living with his stepmother. But on top of that, the church did nothing about it. They tolerated it. They were proud that they could handle it. They were proud of their liberty. They had so badly distorted the gospel of free grace that they had room in their theology for such activity. For someone who was living so contrary to the law of God.

This was a rejection of the gospel. Christ, their Passover Lamb, had been sacrificed. And yet they let the yeast, the leaven, of sin remain in their lives.

In the Bible, yeast or leaven, is often used as an image for sin. Just like yeast works its way through the batch of dough, so sin left unchecked works its way through the congregation. Exodus 12 teaches that the Israelites were to eat unleavened bread at the Passover meal. That evening when they sacrificed the lamb and smeared its blood on the doorframes of their houses, they were to eat the meat of the lamb, and also to eat unleavened bread. The bread was not to have any leaven, or yeast, in it.

Paul alludes to this. Since Christ the Passover Lamb had been sacrificed, how could they allow the leaven of sin to keep working its way through the congregation? They were rejecting the gospel. Rejecting Christ. Not only the man living in sin, but the whole congregation tolerating this sin.

Paul says they were being insincere. That's another word for hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy is acting. Role playing. Pretending to be a faithful and obedient child of God while, in fact, you are living in sin. This church member living with his father's wife was guilty of hypocrisy; and so was Corinth Church by happily allowing it.

The message is that the kingdom of heaven is closed for those who reject the sacrifice of Christ. For those who live as though the Passover Lamb had not been sacrificed. For those who allow the yeast of sin to continue its work in their own lives, and in the life of the congregation. The kingdom of heaven is closed for those who say: Oh yes, we know what the Bible teaches about such matters, but, you know, we are so enlightened that we can handle things the Bible condemns.

What about us? Do we live in the full recognition and acknowledgement that Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed? Now is the time for unleavened bread. Now is high time to sweep every last crumb of leavened bread out of the house. Now is the time to remove sin from your life. Now is the time to quit play-acting. Now is the time for sincerity and truth.

Oh, no one can look into your heart. No one but God and you, that is. God can look into your heart. And so can you. You know what is in your heart. In your life. Are you effectively rejecting Christ who was sacrificed on the cross by how you live? The warning is there. It is real. It must be heard by all. The warning that the kingdom of heaven is closed for unbelievers and hypocrites. That the wrath of God and eternal condemnation rests upon those who reject Christ-crucified. Unless and until they repent.

3. Good news defended.

Paul said that rather than be proud of how they could handle what the Bible called sinful, Corinth Church was to expel from their midst the man living guilty of immorality. They were to hand him over to Satan. By his lifestyle he had chosen for Satan and so they were to hand him over to Satan. To exercise church discipline. To excommunicate him. And not to associate with him anymore. If a man calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral, they were not to associate with him. Not, says Paul, to eat with him. Eating a meal with someone is a form of fellowship. You are saying that this person is your friend. Expel the wicked person from among you; don't associate with him; don't share a meal with him-that's what Paul said.

The church has the task of exercising spiritual discipline over its members.

All discipline starts with self-discipline. We must discipline ourselves. Christ calls us to live disciplined lives.

Then there is mutual discipline. We must discipline one other. To warn and admonish each other when we step out of line. We must do so not arrogantly but in a brotherly manner.

But if mutual admonitions do not bring forth the fruit of repentance, then the elders of the church become involved.

Do we yet understand the role and task of the elders? Do we have sufficient appreciation for their responsibility? As Heb 13:17 says: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them ...

When you make a public profession of faith, the fourth thing you promise is " submit willingly to the admonition and discipline of the church, if it should happen ... that you become delinquent either in doctrine or in conduct?"

A very disconcerting thing is that some times, thankfully not usually, but sometimes when the elders want to speak to someone about his doctrine or conduct, he does not make himself available. It becomes a cat and mouse game. That's a grievous thing. The elders are shepherds, not sheep dogs.

Or, what you hear some times, is that the elders only have an opinion. They admonish from the Word of God, and they hear: Well, that's just your opinion. No. The elders of the church do not just have opinions. They speak with authority in defence of the gospel of Christ.

This does not mean that an elder, or minister, or a consistory, can never be wrong. Not at all. And you can respectfully state your case and enter into dialogue and discussion. Of course. But never forget that the Lord Jesus Christ has given the elders a weighty task. To lead and guide the congregation. To exercise church discipline. To admonish the sinner. To expel from the congregation the immoral, the unbelieving, the chronically disobedient, the unrepentant. To expel them in defence of the gospel. And to keep the leaven of sin from allowing to have its destructive way in the midst of the congregation.

Several members of this congregation are the objects of such admonition and nearing the point of expulsion. A member of this church will be expelled next Sunday unless he indicates to the elders this week that he will repent and begin to change his life.

To expel the wicked is not an easy or happy thing to do, but it is necessary. For the glory of God. For the welfare of the congregation. And to call the sinner back to repentance one more time (the ultimate remedy).

For there is a way back. As there was a way back for the prodigal son, so is there for those excommunicated from the church of Christ. As QA 85 says: They are again received as members of Christ and of the church when they promise and show real amendment.

Beloved, Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed. That's the gospel. Let us defend that by church discipline. Let us be self-disciplined. Let us guide each other and be faithful in disciplining each other-warning and encouraging one another. Let us submit to the guidance, encouragement and admonition of the elders.

Let us never reject the good news. Either by choosing to live apart from Christ and in sin, or by hypocrisy. Let us, rather, believe the proclamation of the gospel of Christ and live accordingly. Faith, and then the obedience of faith.

Then you may know that the kingdom of heaven stands open for you. The gates, wide open.

It may be hard to get into some countries. You may need to undergo medical tests and have all sorts of paper work, passports and visa in place. But it is not hard to get into the promised land. It is not heard to gain access to the kingdom of heaven. All you need is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe that God has forgiven all your sins for the sake of Christ's merits. And enjoy a full and free access to the kingdom of heaven.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta

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