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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:Pulled Back from the Brink!
Text:BC 17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness

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: Genesis 3:1-24)


Pulled Back from the Brink!



Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ...


     Sometimes we hear of a last-minute rescue.

          It might be on the TV news.

              Or we read it in the paper or a magazine.


     That’s a time when it seemed all hope had gone.

          It looked like that person was gone for all money.

              He or she didn’t have a chance.


     Then, out of the blue, they’re saved!

          Perhaps it was by being dragged out of a blazing wreck or house.

              It could have been someone suddenly pulling them out of the water.

                   Or the medics managed to get the defibrillator going just in time.


     That person later tells of how they felt they had no chance of survival.

          Maybe they’d even resigned themselves to that.

              But most of them would have been in the most desperate state!

                   Then their lives really did flash before their eyes!


     They were pulled back from the brink!

          And that’s exactly what we who’ve come to believe in Jesus Christ have had happen to us in the most important rescue of all!

              As Article XVII declares, we had thrown ourselves into physical and spiritual death.


     It was not even something which happened to us.

          We did it ourselves!


     And despite all that God yet threw Himself in to save us.

          He had already planned to redeem a people of His own.

              Indeed, this is the story of Scripture.


     But, in particular, Article XVII is the story of the Old Testament.

          These 71 words in this Article sum up all 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

              This one paragraph expresses so succinctly the biggest part of the Bible.


     Congregation, God sees man in his misery.

          And He determines to save to Himself a special group of people.

              The people who are joined to Him through the covenant of grace.


     But I jump a little ahead of myself here.

          We need first to get the background picture right.

              In the words of a first aspect to Article XVII we must see that THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT FOR US.


     Remember, we were lost.

          We were gone for all money.

              We didn’t have any hope whatsoever!


     You see, God had laid out very clearly what man needed to do.

          He had given man every possible resource he needed to fulfil His will.

              There was no excuse for not doing it.

     But we blew it!

          Through our representative, Adam, we took the ultimate tumble.


     Congregation, the situation Adam was in before the fall into sin is what was called the “covenant of works.”

          It’s also called the “covenant of Paradise,” the “covenant of God’s favour,” or the “covenant of creation.”

              At that time this was what existed between God and the whole human race incorporated in Adam.


     When you break an agreement, though, everything changes doesn’t it!

          And it certainly did!

              Adam and Eve were at a total loss!


     They were literally caught naked.

          Genesis 3 verse 7 told us that was the immediate result: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”


     Now death enters the scene.

          And doesn’t it so much change the scene!


     In Matthew 10 verse 28 Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.

          “Rather, be afraid of the One who can kill both soul and body in hell.”

              So death is alienation from God who is our very life.


     What does this mean?

          Exactly this, dear friend: Sin has separated us from God.

              And every time you sin you again declare your independence from God.

                   In fact, each time you do that you say you are your own God!


     But what you actually do is showing then how dead you are.

          For to have life means to be in a right relationship with God and His whole creation.

              But apart from Him you’re not alive.

     No way!

          In the words of Ephesians 2 verse 1, this means you’re dead in your trespasses and sins.   


     When Article XVII speaks of us as in “physical and spiritual death” it does not mean we cannot do anything.

          You know you can do lots of things.

              But it does mean we live the wrong way, because we rebel against God and hate all He’s made.


     That doesn’t make us happy.

          Actually, despite all that mankind does to pretend he’s so happy, he’s the most wretched creature underneath.

              Article XVII is spot on when it says that man has “made himself wholly miserable.”


     Romans 8 verse 20 speaks of this.

          It says, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.”

                   So everything seems to be against man who, already miserable, makes himself more miserable by his futile running away from God.


     Now God did not remove the threat that He made in Paradise.

          But when man broke the covenant He did put the Mediator between Himself and mankind for the salvation of many.

              This is what’s called the “covenant of grace.” 


     Grace – that’s the word we see right at the beginning of Article XVII.

          For it’s there in describing God.


     But it’s also a word that has become rather meaningless.

          I mean, everyone knows the hymn, “Amazing Grace.”
              And a lot of people enjoyed that movie.


     But if you were to ask them what “grace” means it wouldn’t be much different to what the ancient Greeks thought it was.

          Because to them it was just human kindness or attractiveness.

              You know, as in “he had a certain grace about him.”


     But this “grace” could never be found in any of us.

          For in the words of our second aspect, GOD WENT OUT LOOKING FOR US.


     Here we come back to the beginning of this Article XVII.

          Because how many so-called Christians actually believe in this kind of God?

              In fact, don’t some believe quite the opposite?

     For God is someone who does their bidding.

          He responds to what they have in themselves.

              He realises just how gracious we are to include Him in on our plans!


     But you think about it.

          When in Scripture do you first get to hear about a Saviour?

              It’s verse 15 in Genesis 3, isn’t it?

     That’s the passage we read.

          That gives God’s first promise of salvation.


     What do you think, dear friend?

          Is that where you first get to hear about a Saviour?


     Isn’t it actually a few verses earlier God shows Himself that way?

          For what does verse 9 say?

              “But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”


     Doesn’t that put a whole different perspective on things?

          For this grace tells us that your saving relationship to God is prompted and preserved and perfected completely by God’s goodness.

              We owe all everything to Him who is as generous as He is great.

                   As Psalm 145 verse 9 declares, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”


     So it’s got nothing to do with anything in you.

          It’s not what you bring to the party that helps make it such a great celebration!



     Congregation, this is the biggest relief in the world.

          You think about it.

              You reflect on how many have serious problems about whether God’s willing to receive them in grace.

     They don’t feel that good inside.

          They know the awful things they do and they keep on doing.


     Now, they agree God may be gracious to others.

          But how much don’t they doubt his love for them!


     Thomas Chalmers once received a letter from such an upset person.

          He wrote back, “The truth is that your great error lies in making your comfort depend on the question, Do I believe? When you should make it turn upon the question, Is God willing to receive me for Christ’s sake?”


     Friend, you have to look away from yourself to God.

          Can you doubt His gracious character?

              Did Genesis 3:9 get it wrong?


     God went out looking for you – not the other way round!

          That’s what the gospel is.

              Don’t be bewitched like the Galatians were.

                   They were turning again to their own efforts – to what they thought they could do.


     For what did the apostle Paul say to them?

          In Galatians 3 verse 1 he writes, “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”



          That’s why we go out making our gracious God known to the rest of the world.


     This is where Guido de Bres is also clearly setting a line against various false teachers.

          For Servetus and the Anabaptists of his time wiped this whole understanding of the Old Testament.

              You will still come across their teaching in many churches today.

     Because they teach that the Old Testament wasn’t about the gospel at all.

          It is at best a history of promises God gave Israel for this life.

              They say it has no knowledge of Christ or eternal life.


     But the Gospel, out of which we live, was already revealed in Paradise.

          Israel definitely knew that salvation was through Christ.

              They longed for David’s greater Son.

     The message the angel brought to Zechariah and Mary immediately made them think of the promises to the fathers of old.

          Luke 1 verse 68 begins Zechariah’s song by singing, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and redeemed his people.”

              And Luke 1 verses 54 and 55 ends Mary’s song by saying of the Lord, “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”


     In this way we come to a third aspect in Article XVII.

          For now we see HIS PROMISE DECLARES HE FOUND US.


     Congregation, here we come to the last part of the Article.

          It’s there we find a direct reference to Genesis 3 verse 15.

              That verse has the words of God to the serpent, when He says, “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.”


     It is the first promise regarding the Saviour.

          It is the promise which sets the foundation for all other promises.

              In church history this verse has been known as the protoevangelium.


     Impressive word, isn’t it?

          This is a Latin word which means literally ‘the first promise of the gospel.’      


     But I also like what the Dutch have called this verse through the centuries.

          For they call it the moederbelofte.

              This means ‘the mother of all promises.’

     Because this is the promise which gives birth to all the other promises in God’s Word.

          This is the promise which speaks of the war between the seed of the woman and the seed of Satan.

              The seed of the woman would be victorious but would be injured by the power of evil.

                   So as through a woman came the fall so through the seed of a woman there must come the victory.


     The New Testament confirms this.

          In Galatians 4 verse 4, for example, we read, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.”


     Congregation, here we have the Gospel “in  a nutshell.”

          As Martin Luther says of this verse, “This text embraces and comprehends within itself everything noble and glorious that is to be found in the Scriptures.”


     What a verse this is!

          Because notice what God does.

              He puts the devil on notice.

     God won’t be robbed of His glory.

          And throughout human history He’s going to so work that one day He will completely annihilate the evil one.

              This is the major battle He won in His Son, Jesus Christ.


     It is as the apostle John writes in his first letter.

          For in chapter 3 verse 8 there he declares, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”


     The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, graphically describes this.

          In chapter 12 there a woman wrapped up with heavenly splendour is about to give birth to a male child who will rule all nations.

              There is a great and terrible dragon who stands  before the woman ready to eat that child as soon as its born.

     But the child is born and escapes.

          With his mother he goes into the wilderness prepared by God.


     Then there’s war in heaven.

          Michael and his angels fight against the dragon and his angels.


     The dragon is thrown out of heaven.

          And knowing his time is short, the dragon, also called there in verse 14 ‘the serpent,’ makes war against the seed of the woman.

              He bitterly fights against those who keep the commandments of God, and who hold to the testimony of Jesus.


     It’s no surprise that the Christian faith has realised the true worth of the promise.

          It’s in Jesus Christ that all the promises of the Old Testament are yes and amen.

              In fact, without Him you wouldn’t be here!





Let’s pray…  

     O Loving Heavenly Father,

          We thank and praise You for the precious gift of Your Son.

               He was the ultimate seed of the woman who once and for all defeated Satan.

     It’s because of Jesus that we are here today praising You.

          Please accept our deepest thankfulness.

              And may that gratitude shape us to be like our Saviour all the more.

                   In His 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.
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(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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