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Author:Rev. Steven Swets
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Congregation:Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church
 Abbotsford, BC
Title:Christ our Righteousness
Text:LD 6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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

Scripture Reading: Genesis 6:1-12 and Romans 5

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 4

Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

            You all have a problem. That might not be how you want a sermon to start out, but this is a fact that we all must recognize and understand. This problem is sin. We are in a serious situation because of our sin. This is what the first section of our catechism is dealing with. Lord’s Days 2, 3, 4 are all answering objections that people have to the situation of sin. But, people oftentimes ask these questions and seek answers from their experience or from this world. It must be God’s word that guides us in seeking the truth about our spiritual situation. This is the subject taken up by Lord’s Day 4. It is an answer to the question, “How did we get ourselves into this sinful predicament.”

            The three questions and answers of the Lord’s Day are similar to three objections that might be raised in light of the justice and the righteousness of God. His condemnation comes down upon all humanity, this is where we must begin, and then we can start to see how very great our God is in His plans. Our theme this afternoon is God is just in requiring perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience from his creatures. So, what happened?

I.                    He created man good

II.                  Man Sinned

III.                God must punish sin

I. He created man good

            QA 9 is extremely important to understand. If we start off wrong, if we view sin improperly, it will lead us to have a tainted view of God and a lessened view of the work of Jesus Christ. Just as a doctor must properly diagnose a problem in order to prescribe proper medication, so we must properly diagnose the problem is sin. The complaint is this: God is unjust if he demands that we keep and obey his law. We are unable to do that and therefore it is wrong for God to ask us to.

            To phrase the question in a way that might be easier to picture, this is a very important concept for the children to be able to grasp. If God asks us to do what he asks us to knowing that we are unable, it is like God asking us to fly. Well, that is ridiculous, nobody here has wings, we aren’t birds. But, what if God created us with wings. What if God gave us the job when he made us, that every day we would have to fly up to a high cliff and bring something back to him. And also imagine that God said not to go to any of the other cliffs otherwise we would lose our wings. So, here we are, with wings, having to fly every day to the cliff that God appointed to retrieve something for him. If we fly to any other cliff we will lose our wings.

            Guess what happens. One day, we get curious and someone tells us that there is something great on another cliff, so we fly over to it. We have done what God had told us not to do, and now we must be punished. The punishment is that our wings are taken away. The next day, we wake up without wings and God says, go fly up to the cliff and retrieve the object for me. But, we can’t do it. Our wings are gone. We can no longer fly. There is no other way to get to the cliff, we can’t climb or jump, etc. So, we turn to God and say, that isn’t fair. Our wings have been taken away. You can’t ask us to do what we cannot do. God’s answer, I made you with wings, I gave you a job, I told you not to go to any other cliffs otherwise you will lose your wings, and now the demand is still the same. But, we can’t do it. This is what our sin has done.

            God tells us to obey his law, to keep his commandments, love God above all and our neighbour as ourself, and we have the boldness and audacity to respond like Q. 9 responds. But that’s not fair. Is it?

            God created man good. Genesis 1:31 says, and God saw all that he had made and it was good. God created man with the ability to keep the law. Just like in our illustration, we have been created with wings, able to fly up to the cliff, but we forfeited that. God created us with the ability to keep the law. We had all that we needed. We had a true righteousness and holiness, isn’t that what you saw from L.D. 3? We were created to know God, love God, and live with him in fellowship, but we thought we could be smarter than God. We were created with the ability to keep the law. By we, I mean Adam and Eve. We, haven’t been given that opportunity.

            Realize that Adam and Eve were created with a free will. They could freely choose to keep God’s law or they could choose to transgress it. When they sinned, they forfeited that free will, their will became bound to sin and they could no longer do any good on their own. This is, to go back to the illustration a moment ago. They broke the rules and lost their ability to fly. The demand is still there, but they have forfeited their very ability to meet the command that God gives. God created them good, but sin happened.

II. Man Sinned

            Our confession points out that it was because of temptation by the Devil that there was occasion to sin. Does that mean that man is off the hook, it isn’t Adam and Eve’s fault, it is the Devil? Eve tried this argument on God after Adam blamed it all on Eve. Oh, to be sure, the Devil also held guilt because of his temptation of Adam and Eve, but the responsibility still fell upon Adam. Our confession calls this reckless disobedience against God and robbery from all the offspring Adam and Eve would have. We have been robbed by our first parents. What did they steal from us?

            They stole from us, by their sin, an ability to keep the law of God. All that was truly good, that we possessed in creation has been stripped away from us. Our ability to keep the law, our free will, our true communion and fellowship with God, our true love in relationships, especially as husband and wife. Every difficulty we face, every argument we have, every unholy thought, look, or deed springs forth from original sin. Everyone who is born is born with this original sin. This is what we confess when we present our children for baptism. That we, along with our children, are conceived and born in sin and are subject to all misery, even to condemnation itself. That is important. That is foundational.

            Today people want to tweak our understanding of sin, to minimize it, to look for some good among the bad. Don’t do it. Sin is transgression of God’s law which is a reflection of God’s character. Sin is nothing less than rebellion against God, our creator. This is the reckless disobedience that QA 9 was referring to. Our catechism, just like the book or Romans begins by explaining the immensity of our sinfuleness. One of the most beautiful passages of scripture dealing with the work of Jesus Christ begins with our sin in Romans 5:12ff. We have to understand our sin, in order to begin to hope to see a possible solution to our deadly predicament. We must face up to our sin, acknowledge it, see God’s punishment and justice and then we can hope to look at the end of a passage like Romans 5. If you pass up your sin too fast, you will end up receiving a cure for a disease you never even knew you had, not all that helpful is it. That cure, is Christ, the one we must hold in high esteem. So, what is the result of our sin?

III. God must punish sin

            So, man has sinned. He has transgressed God’s law. God created Adam in a state of righteousness and gave Adam the command in the garden, “you may not eat of the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” Adam and Eve ate. The result was that they were cast out of the garden. An angel was placed at the entrance of the garden to ensure that they would not return. But, there was more to the punishment. God told Adam that if he ate of the tree, he would die. Well, did Adam die when he ate? Yes and no.

            He was allowed to live, outside the garden, but he began to physically die, every day he lived was a day closer to his death. The sand in the hour glass began to run. But spiritually, when Adam and Eve sinned, they killed themselves. They separated themselves from God, they committed spiritual suicide. They aroused the anger of Almighty God. Question 10 of our catechism asks (read QA 10).

            Two types of sin are mentioned in that answer. First, there is the sin that we are born with, we call this original sin. This is not something that we have done, this is who we are, we are sinners. Adam and Eve plunged their posterity into depravity and that is what we are born with. David said, “in sin my mother conceived me.” Ephesians 2 calls us “by nature, children of wrath.” Answer 10 says that God is terribly angry with this sin.

            But the second type of sin he is also terribly angry with, this is the sin we personally commit. This is what we usually think of when we think about sins. These are those things that are a transgression of or a lack of keeping God’s law. We do something we should not do or we do not do something that we should do. These sins God punishes them now and in eternity.

            The standard of God’s law is the same for all people, but the punishment is different depending on whether the sinner is elect or reprobate. God always deals with his people covenantally. So for instance, doesn’t it seem that thought he world is continually sinning that God isn’t punishing them for their sins? In part this could be true. It could also seem to be true that it seems God punishes his people more quickly now. In order to understand this, we must understand the justice of God.

            Brothers and sisters, in Christ, all of our sins are forgiven. If you believe, you can have full confidence that your sins are forgiven. If this is the case, our relationship with God is very different than someone who has not received the forgiveness of sins. To us, God is a father. God loves us, cares for us, nourishes us, chastises us. Chastises us? Yes. This is what the scriptures mean when they say in Ps. 32, “I will teach you the way that you should go.” This is what it means when Psalm 23 says, “your rod and your staff they comfort me.” God is continually drawing us near unto himself. “The tender love a father has, for all his children dear.” The scriptures paint a beautiful picture of God and a loving and caring and patient father. This is what he is to us, not to everyone.

            What is God’s relationship to the unbeliever? One of enmity and hatred. QA 11 doesn’t minces words (read). It is a horrible things to fall into the hands of an angry God. He will punish sin. Here is what is preached from pulpits around the country today. God love everyone. He hates the sin maybe, but he loves the sinner. More accurate is, he loves his people, because they are the bride of Christ and are united to him, but the reprobate, God, those who will never believe, God has no love for them as moral creatures. All God can see is their sin, their stomping on the law of God. We must love our neighbour as ourself, and our neighbour is whoever we have contact with, both believer and unbeliever, we do not know who is reprobate, but we must show love to all. But, God will not. This is his doing, He is sovereign God. He will punish the wicked, in body and soul for eternity. There will be no mercy for the unbeliever, there will be no relenting, there will be no end to the punishment. This is where the end of the first part of the catechism leaves us, no grace. Well, almost no grace.

            We can see something in QA 11. God is certainly merciful, but he is also just. We know from the scriptures that God is always perfectly just and yet perfectly merciful. A couple of biblical examples ought to suffice.

            Think of the flood. The flood was God’s judgement upon the world. Genesis 6:5-6 says...God’s very own creation was living in revulsion of their creator. God was going to punish the world for its wickedness, he would show his justice, but he also showed his mercy. Verse 8, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” God showed his grace to his people, Noah, and his family, while punishing the rest of the world.

            In Genesis 19, God punishes the wicked Sodom and Gomorrah, and yet spared Lot and his family. In the Red Sea crossing, God brought the Sea back over on top of the Egyptians after his own people crossed on dry ground. Even in David’s own life, we can see the chastising grace of a father, who reminds David of the consequences of His son (taking of his sons life) and yet, maintains the covenant with him.

            And the greatest picture of the justice and mercy of Almighty God is at the cross of Jesus. God sovereignly pours out his wrath and anger and hatred upon his own Son, because of our sin, thereby earning and gaining for us, righteousness and life. We saw in our scripture reading the great comparison taking place between Adam and Christ. Adam was a picture, a type of Christ that was to come. All it took was one transgression of God’s law to plunge humanity into depravity and despair, but through one man, even the God man, the free gift is greater than the offense. Rom. 5:19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience man were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” That man is Jesus Christ.

            One might ask, but isn’t God also merciful? Yes, but he is just and he always is just, but you will not understand the mercy of God, if you do not understand the justice of God. God does not just forget sins, he punishes them. So, the question before us, is will sin be punished in us, or have they been punished in Jesus Christ. Verse 21 “sin reigned in death, even so grace might reighn through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Someone’s going to suffer for what we have done, will you pay, or will Christ. That is the mercy, but also the justice of God. Confess your sins and believe in the One who can save us from the supreme penalty. May we confess with Job, “I know that my redeemer lives.” Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Steven Swets, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Steven Swets

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