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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:Our redemption reveals a great and praiseworthy God!
Text:LD 5 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 29
Hymn 1A
Psalm 36
Hymn 61
Hymn 63

Readings:  Isaiah 59, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Text:  Lord's Day 5
* 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,


As you know, God has many attributes.  In its first article, the Belgic Confession lists many of these.  For example, we confess from the Scriptures that God is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable and infinite.  That’s just part of the list.  It’s good that we reflect and meditate often on these attributes of God.  Scripture encourages us to do that very thing.  For instance, in Jeremiah 9:23,24, God says, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me.”  Knowing God is not only recommended, it’s also necessary.  John 17:3 tells us that knowing God is the essence of eternal life.  Speaking prophetically of those Jews who would oppose the influence of the Greeks, Daniel said that “the people who know their God shall be strong and carry out great exploits.”  That’s in Daniel 11:32.  We find ourselves engaged also in spiritual warfare, we have to constantly do battle with the unholy trinity of the world, the devil, and our own flesh.  To be strong in this battle the knowledge of God is essential for us too.


So, last week as we considered Lord’s Day 4, we reflected on God’s justice.  Many today don’t care to reflect on the fact that God is just.  But Scripture reveals it and so we believe it.


Today as we come to Lord’s Day 5 we can move on to consider some of the other attributes of our God.  And we’re going to do that in relation to our redemption.  Lord’s Day 5 is the first Lord’s Day in the second part of the Catechism dealing with our deliverance.  It’s concerned with how we may be delivered from the temporal and eternal punishment that we deserve.  Temporal refers to punishment in this life and eternal refers to what happens after we die.  Apart from Christ we deserve punishment both now and forever.  But is there a way out?  The Catechism follows the teaching of the Bible and tells us, yes, there is a way.  Out of his own character and attributes, God makes a way.  In this we see much reason to give praise and adoration to our God.  Reflecting on his attributes is not an intellectual exercise, but a devotional one.  We want to bring greater and richer praise to the God who saves us.  And so this afternoon I preach to you God’s Word with the theme:


Our redemption reveals a great and praiseworthy God!


We’ll consider the connection between our redemption and his:


1.      Mercy

2.      Wisdom

3.      Power


In Lord’s Day 5, we’re dealing with the question of how salvation can be possible.  The first thing we need to note is what we’re saved from.  Question 12 nails it when it speaks about escaping punishment.  Whose punishment, whose wrath are we escaping?  What or better: who are we saved from?  The biblical answer is that we’re saved from God.  We’re saved from God’s wrath.  Paul said it in Romans 5:9, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!”  We are saved by God from God’s wrath.  Our problem is a holy God.  Our solution must also come from God.


God is holy and just and he will not compromise those attributes.  He demands satisfaction for his justice.  Payment must be made to the God who has been greatly offended by sin.  We human beings are unable to make that payment.  Instead, we’re constantly racking up more indebtedness to God.  Even when an unbeliever goes to hell, he will never fully pay for his sins.  He will spend eternity making the effort, but he will never succeed.  A sinner in hell will always be at the beginning and will never be near the end.  Hell is an eternal beginning.  Sin is so offensive to God and so pervasive in human beings that hell must be an eternal punishment.  So, human payment for sin is ruled out. 


Our situation would be grim if God left it at that.  Thankfully, it was not God’s will that the entire human race should perish eternally.  Last week, I referred to Ezekiel 18:23 and it’s worth repeating:  “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the sovereign LORD.  Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”  It was God’s will and good pleasure to make a way for redemption, to make a way so that a certain number would be bought back from the sinful way of life inherited from their forefathers.     


In this we see the mercy of our God.  He has compassion on us, his heart is inclined towards us.  In Psalm 103, we read that the LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.  In Psalm 36, David speaks of God’s unfailing love, that its value is priceless.  In the well-known passage of John 3:16, we’re reminded that it was God’s love that brought Christ into this world.  And God’s love and grace are intimately connected to his mercy.  God’s mercy makes a way for us to be saved from what we deserve.


That way is found in those two words of the Catechism, “through another.”  Payment must be made either by ourselves or through another.  In his wisdom, God has devised a way so that his justice is not violated, but yet his mercy can be shown to the human race.  This wisdom was revealed in the Old Testament in passages like Isaiah 53:11 when God said that the Messiah would bear the sins of many.  When he said that, he was saying that it was possible for a substitute to take the place of sinners.  God’s wisdom in this had also been revealed in the sacrifices of the Old Testament.  He had allowed the sins of the people to be ceremonially transferred to bulls, sheep and goats.  They would ceremonially take the place of God’s people, pointing ahead to the substitution that would be made by Christ on the cross.  Already in the Old Testament, God had made it clear that payment could be made by another.


Human thinking rebels against this wisdom.  For human beings, the natural inclination is that if you personally racked up a debt, you should personally pay.  In fact, normally you want to pay because it’s a matter of pride to be able to do so.  With regards to our debt to God, it is impossible for us to pay.  The debt keeps growing by the minute.  But God offers an alternative, and this is the only way that the debt can be paid:  someone else has to do it for you.


The wisdom of God says that you cannot do it, but someone else can and someone else must if you are to escape punishment and be again received into favour.  You have to accept that.  That involves an admission of our helplessness, weakness and inability.  That involves humbling ourselves before God.  This is where human pride gets in the way.


In 1 Corinthians 1, the apostle Paul contrasts the wisdom of God with the so-called wisdom found here on earth among people.  He points to the cross of Christ and Christ himself as the revelation of God’s wisdom.  Greek unbelievers regarded the cross as offensive because it was a shame to die on a cross.  Jewish unbelievers regarded the cross as offensive because a crucified one had been cursed by God – and who would ever have thought that the Messiah would be cursed by God?  It was inconceivable.  No right-thinking Jewish person would accept that the Messiah went to the cross to be their substitute and pay for their sins in their place.  That was pure foolishness! 


Today too, unbelievers still regard the cross as foolishness.  The idea that someone else has to do it for you is unacceptable.  It damages our pride and leaves us with empty hands.  A religion that says that you’re helpless and unable to contribute anything is repulsive to most people.  At least religions like Islam and Judaism make room for human effort.  They can be said to respect human dignity.  They fit with the human idea of what is wise when it comes to religion.  The cross is still foolishness to Greeks and Jews.  But it is still the wisdom of God – payment must be made through another who takes our place.  The question now is whether or not we accept that wisdom and embrace it. 


Some time ago on the White Horse Inn radio program, Rod Rosenbladt described a study that had been done some years ago among American Lutherans.  They were asked whether they thought they were going to heaven and on what basis.  The vast majority were fairly certain that they were heaven-bound, but they also believed that it was because they were good people who did good things.  People said things like, “I served in the church, doing this and doing that.  I was involved with the choir, with this or that outreach program.  I made big donations to the church building project.”  On paper, most Lutherans believe that payment has to made through another, through Christ alone.  The Lutherans have confessions and this doctrine is in their confessions too.  But yet practically speaking, this study showed that many believed that what we do somehow contributes to our salvation. 


But, loved ones, let’s not pick on the Lutherans.  Some time ago, we had a couple of people come to our door.  They weren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses and they weren’t Mormons.  They were Christians and they were doing the Evangelism Explosion program that had been developed by Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and D. James Kennedy.  You can always tell someone is using Evangelism Explosion because the conversation usually begins with the same question:  “If you were to die tonight and if God were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?”  I answered their question and then told them that I was a pastor of the local Canadian Reformed Church.  They said that they’d encountered quite a few people from our church as they’d been going around.  How would you answer if somebody asked you that question:  “If you were to die tonight and if God were to ask you why he should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?”  Would your answer be based on what you’ve done?  Or would it be based on what Someone else has done for you?  Do you embrace the wisdom of God in the substitutionary work of Christ?  Do you believe that he is your substitute who made the payment that you could never make?  To escape the wrath to come and be redeemed, you know what the answer has to be. 


So, now we’ve considered God’s mercy and his wisdom.  Last of all, we want to also explore briefly his power and its relationship to our redemption.  When we speak about God’s power, sometimes we call that his omnipotence.  Omnipotence means that God has the ability to do anything he wills.  So, by his mighty power God created man out of the dust of the earth.  By his power, God created man in his own image.  God’s mighty work of creation is a testimony to his strength and ability.  Now if God is able to do that mighty work of creation not only with regards to man, but all things, wouldn’t we also expect God to be able to make a way for his fallen creation to be redeemed and restored?  That’s what we would expect.


Yet there have been those in the history of God’s people who doubted his ability to redeem.  In chapter 59, Isaiah speaks prophetically of a time when God’s people would be in exile and would wonder about God’s power to save.  The exile into Babylon was a great tragedy for the Jews.  Separated not only from their home land, but also from the temple, this was a disaster of unimaginable proportions.  After it began to sink in, people wondered what happened to God.  Did he forget about them?  Did he forget about his promises?  Then they would read Isaiah 59 and know that the arm of Yahweh their God is not too short to save.  They would know that God would rise up and work salvation for his people.  He would be the Divine Warrior who would fight for those he loves, even though they rebelled against him.  He would come to Zion and bring redemption through the Messiah. 


You see, loved ones, God not only has a heart to save, he not only has a plan to save, but he also has the power to save.  As the Catechism says, we need a Redeemer who can sustain God’s wrath against sin and deliver others from it.  We need a Redeemer who is more powerful than all creatures who can rightfully take our place and make the payment that we can’t.  In other words, we need a Redeemer who has the power of God, who is in fact God himself.  To be saved from God, to be saved from God’s wrath, we need God himself to come in the flesh with power. 


Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled with the coming of Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul calls him not only the wisdom of God, but also the power of God.  Through him all things were made, and through him all God’s people will be redeemed.  You cannot stop the one who is more powerful than all creatures.  He is God omnipotent, mighty to save.


So in our redemption and the groundwork for it we see God’s mercy, wisdom and power revealed.  What do we do with that?  Loved ones, all these things show to us how God is completely deserving of our praise and adoration.  When a husband thinks about his wife’s many good qualities, how can his heart not well up in love for her?  Similarly, when a child of God thinks about his Father’s many good qualities and attributes, how can his or her heart not be lifted up in praise?  Our God is merciful – make much of him for that in prayer and in song and in your daily life.  Our God is wise beyond our understanding – lift him up and praise him for that with everything in your being as often you reflect on it.  Our God is powerful to save – magnify his worth in your homes as you worship him with your families and by yourself.  God is worthy of our praise not only today as we gather for worship publicly, but as we serve him from day to day.  We have a God whose greatness is unsearchable – “unsearchable,” that means that his greatness is unfathomable, you’ll never stop being in wonder of God. 


If we would be more impressed with God, if we would be more smitten with him, surely that would have an impact on so many aspects of our lives.  Isn’t it true that so often our thoughts of God are so little, so trifling, so seldom?  What if we were to spend more of our time meditating on the attributes of God and less time on things that matter nothing for eternity?  Wouldn’t that have an effect on our relationships with others, on our family lives?  Wouldn’t that have an effect on our marriages?  What if we searched the Scriptures to know our God better so that we could love him and praise him for all he is and all he has done?  Would that leave the way we do our school work or the way we work at home or in the workplace untouched?  I can hardly believe that it would.  If we could be more impressed with God and his attributes, wouldn’t that lead us to greater care in how we use our spare time, greater discernment in how we entertain ourselves?  You know the answers and so do I.  To truly know God is to love him and to forsake all other loves.


What can we do but cry out to God and ask him for more grace?  For the work of his Spirit.  What can we do but listen to his voice in his Word?  He says, “My child, do you want to know me?  I’m speaking to you on the pages of Scripture.  Everything you need to know about me is there.  Hear my voice and you will be impressed with me and it will show.”  AMEN.




Our Father in heaven,


We praise you for making a way for our redemption.  We praise you for your mercy, for your priceless unfailing love, for giving us a way out through Jesus Christ.  We praise you for your wisdom, giving us the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross.  O God, we adore you for your power revealed in our Saviour – that he is the one more powerful than all creatures, the one who could take the burden of your wrath against our sin.  We pray that we would all rest and trust in his perfect satisfaction for us and in our place.  We pray, O God, that you would also give us more grace so that we may know you better.  Please help us with your Word and Spirit, to be more impressed with and we pray that our lives would reflect that.  Help us to make much of you with everything we are and everything we do.                             

* 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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