************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 18 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 15, 2020
Belgic Confession Article 18
1 John 1:1-4
"The Incarnation of Jesus Christ"
In this article we encounter a central mystery of the Christian faith: the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the second person of the triune Godhead taking to Himself a truly human nature.
Let us never forget this is a mystery and a miracle. As of this month it is estimated the world's population is 7.8 billion people. Each person is different. Everyone possesses a unique character and characteristics. Even identical twins, although they may look remarkably alike, have their own distinctive features. But one thing everyone has in common is that they all have a mom and a dad. Apart from divine intervention, it is impossible for any human to exist without a biological mother and father.
The one exception to this is the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus only had a biological mother and not a biological father. Yes, we recognize Joseph as Jesus' earthly father. Yes, we recognize God the Father as Jesus' Father. But when speaking of His human nature we must say Jesus did not have a biological father. He was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary "without male participation."
This evening, we are looking at three points about the incarnation: first, the faithfulness of the Father; second, the love of the Son; and third, the power of the Spirit.
I The Faithfulness of the Father
A We start our first point mentioning that unbelievers say the incarnation of Jesus is nonsense; it does not make sense. How can a person be born without a biological father? Even test-tube babies, they say, require male participation. They conclude from this that the Bible cannot be true, that it is simply a collection of mythical stories. They say the same thing about Easter. How can a man rise from the dead? Death is final and nothing can change that! Even some who claim to be Christian talk this way. Hearing such things is very upsetting for true Christian believers.
One of the men we examined at Classis this past week told us of a minister in his former denomination who denies hell, who denies the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and who denies Christ is the only way; this minister remains a minister in good standing even after appeals to broader bodies. You heard me: the minister denies hell, the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and that Christ is the only way; yet, he remains a minister in good standing. It is terribly distressing to hear this.
You know, many of the truths of Scripture cannot be verified by science or by our senses or by human experience. But we believe them anyway. In spite of the world, in spite of liberalism, in spite of mocking and judgments by broader bodies, we continue to confess the truth, including the truth of the incarnation. We believe because we know we have a God who can do what we cannot do. He can make us better when we are sick. He is more than able to stop the coronavirus. He is able to give us a new heart. If He wills, there is nothing God cannot do! Don't let anyone persuade you otherwise. God is almighty, and He can do what we deem impossible.
B In this light listen to Article 18. "We confess ..." We dare to declare. We don't shrink back from what the world and liberals think is impossible. We confess the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature. We confess that God performed the seemingly impossible -- a child born without a biological father.
Let me remind you of what is said by Article 17. After man fell into sin and went into hiding, God revealed Himself to be a seeking and a saving God. God sought out the first humans and gave them a wonderful promise of salvation. God declared there would be two seeds, two lines of offspring -- the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. God promised that the seed of the woman would prevail and would crush the serpent's head. The human race, the wonderful crown of creation, would not be destroyed but would be saved. It would be saved by one of Eve's children, someone fully and completely human. In the presence of fallen man, before the throngs of angels, within the hearing of the devils, before the entire creation, God made a promise: the Word will become flesh!
C Do you know who believed the promise? The whole history of the Old Testament shows that the Devil believed the promise. So, from the very beginning the Devil has tried to stop the promise from being realized:
-Satan prompted Cain to kill Abel. Why? To get rid of the Messiah's blood line.
-Satan prompted the descendants of Seth to marry the daughters of men to stop the promised blood-line.
-Two times Abraham claimed Sarah as his sister rather than his wife. Two times Sarah was taken by a heathen king. Satan's intention here: to stop the promised blood-line.
-Satan tempted Abraham to have a child by Hagar. Why? So the child of the promise would not be born.
-Remember what Satan did in Egypt? The people of Israel were oppressed and afflicted -- the goal was to work them to death as slave labor. And, the midwives were commanded to kill the Hebrew boys at birth -- again to close off the chosen blood-line.
-Remember Israel on the way to the Promised Land? It was Satan who wanted Balaam to curse Israel -- to stop the chosen blood-line. Edom, the descendants of Esau, their own family, would not allow them passage. That was Satan at work. He wanted the chosen people to die in the wilderness.
-King Saul hated David and tried more than once to kill him. That was Satan at work trying to stop the Messiah's birth -- because the Messiah was to be born from the lineage of David.
-Haman in Babylon tried to wipe out the Jewish race. That was Satan at work.
-Who can forget wicked King Herod and how he killed the baby boys of Bethlehem?
Again and again and again Satan showed he believed. He believed God's promise of the seed of the woman. He believed God's promise of the incarnation. Satan believes when some in the church do not! Unbelievable!! That's why throughout the Bible we see the attacks of Satan to stop the birth of the promised seed.
D "So then we confess that God fulfilled the promise which he had made to the early fathers." This is the victory song of the church. Isn't it amazing and wonderful that despite all the opposition "God fulfilled the promise." Do you know why? Because of His faithfulness. The fulfilment of the promise has nothing to do with man's efforts.
God is faithful. God is faithful to His Word. God does what He promises. Abraham believed this promise, and he left his home and his people and his friends and it led him to a distant land. Through that sane promise people were called into a new life, sinners were reborn, and the Old Testament church was established. This same word of promise has also built the New Testament church.
The faithfulness of God to the word of His promise is beyond question. But do you know what we can question? Our response! Our faith! So let me ask: Do you throw yourself upon God's Word? Do you know that you are lost, a slave of sin, without hope, and that you cannot rescue yourself? Do you know and believe and confess that Christ in the flesh is your only hope?
II The Love of the Son
A Our second point as we look at the incarnation is the love of the Son. The Confession reminds us that "the Son took the form of a servant." He took. It was not given to Him. He took. It was an act He voluntarily performed. Jesus' incarnation is part of His will; He chose to be born in order to serve. To serve the Father's plan to defeat Satan and to save the elect. To serve the Father's promise. The Lord Jesus sent Himself. Before creation, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were in perfect agreement. In the covenant of Redemption the Son determined to assume our flesh.
Herein lies the mystery of godliness Paul speaks about in 1 Timothy 3:16. What a mystery it is: the Son "appeared in a body." He remained what He was -- the eternal Son of God, the second person of the triune Godhead. But He also assumed what He was not -- He took upon Himself a true human nature with all of its infirmities, assuming both a human body and a human soul in order that He might be a true man.
B Think about the human nature Christ took to Himself. It was not the glorious nature Adam had before the fall. As a man, Jesus never had the glorious liberty of Adam before the fall; He never experienced the joy of an unspoiled Paradise. Rather, Jesus assumed a human nature subject to the effects of Adam's fall. Although without sin, Jesus was born with the sin-weakened condition that we all possess. He was subject to suffering, infirmity, illness, flu, infirmity, death. He was like us in every way, except for sin. There was nothing glorious about His human body and human nature. Tired, lonely, sorrow, pain, betrayal, forsaken -- He experienced them all. Jesus was the Suffering Servant.
What a mystery this is! The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the beginning of His humiliation. We must understand this correctly. His humiliation is not a human nature; rather it is a sin-weakened human nature. This weakened servant stands in the place of Adam; He stands in the place of all His people, burdened by their sins, and became the focal point of God's wrath. From the manger to the cross, He who is Lord of all became a servant -- despised, rejected, and crucified.
C The reason, the only reason, for this is love. The love of the Son for His chosen ones so we can be saved.
Realize, congregation, realize that same love is for you. He invites you to come to Him. If you push Him away, if you won't bow before Him, if you continue to love sin more than salvation, then you hurt this loving Savior. Do you see the love of the Son? Do you accept the love of the Son? Do you confess the love of the Son?
III The Power of the Holy Spirit
A Earlier, we noted Jesus did not have an earthly father; He was conceived without male participation. We confess He was "conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit." This is our third point: the power of the Holy Spirit.
In contrast to what is said by liberals, the Bible makes clear that Jesus' birth was to a virgin woman who had no sexual relations. Jesus was conceived and born "without male participation."
Mary's virginity is so clear in Luke's gospel. The angel appeared to Mary and told her she would give birth to the Son of the Most High. Remember Mary's response? "How will this be since I am a virgin?" (Lk 1:34).
What was Gabriel's response? Did he say, "You are getting married and will then have a baby"? Is that what he said? Did he say she was going to have pre-marital sexual relations with a man? Did he say she would have a child by a surrogate mother? No! He said,
(Lk 1:35) The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.Great care must be taken to safeguard this truth. If we relinquish the truth of the virgin birth, we lose our Savior.
How did the Spirit do this? What exactly happened to fertilize the egg, to make the DNA divide and replicate, to cause a baby to be formed and then born? We don't know. It is a mystery we cannot explain.
But this we do know. The same power that created the physical life of Jesus is able to create new spiritual life within us who are dead in our trespasses and sins. When that life-giving power works in us, we can experience spiritual birth pangs that result in joy and everlasting life in the Lord.
B Article 18 ends with the rejection of an error. The error is the doctrine of the celestial flesh. This doctrine says Jesus could not have taken His flesh from Mary because all flesh is polluted. This doctrine says Jesus could not have had Mary's flesh and blood for that would have meant His corruption.
The doctrine of the celestial flesh says Jesus used the womb of Mary. He passed through her as water passes through a pipe. In the conception, the Holy Spirit brought everything from heaven He needed to form a human body. So Jesus became a man in Mary but not of Mary.
No, says the Bible. Jesus was truly human. Completely human. He was conceived completely human. He was born completely human. He suffered and died completely human.
Do you see congregation? Do you see the faithfulness of the Father, the love of the Son, the power of the Spirit? Have you run to His bosom and experienced His faithfulness? Is Jesus the lover of your soul? Has the power of the Spirit driven you to Him? Here is the Christ that saves us. Believe in Him and you shall be saved.
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