************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 19 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on May 24, 2020

Belgic Confession Article 19
Matthew 16:13-20
"Who is Jesus?"

Who is Jesus? You might wonder what kind of question this is. Everyone here, including our boys and girls, are able to answer this question. We know who Jesus is. And yet, it is not a strange question because the Lord Jesus once asked the same question of His disciples: "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Mt 16:13). "Son of Man" is Jesus favorite title for Himself so Jesus is asking, "Who do people say I am?"

Who is Jesus? At the time of Jesus all kinds of answers were given:
(Mt 16:14) Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus asked His disciples, "What about you? Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter spoke for all the disciples when he said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).

I An Undeniable Belief
A Who is Jesus? There have always been people, even preachers, who say that Jesus is but a good example to follow. They even claim He is the best example there ever was, and therefore God accepted Him as His Son. They say if we follow Him and do our best to be like Him, God will also accept us as His children. But this is not what the Bible teaches. If this is the truth about Jesus, such a Jesus is now dead and is not able to save us.

Who is Jesus? With Peter, the church confesses that the Lord Jesus is not just man but also truly God: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Who is Jesus? Truly God and truly man. A divine nature and a human nature at the same time. This is a necessary belief, a crucial belief, an undeniable belief. If we do not hold to this, the gospel itself is lost, covered under a thick layer of man's inventions and ideas. If Jesus is not God, He lacks the power to save us. If Jesus is not man, He could not have carried our sins upon the cross. Anything that detracts from these truths is the work of Satan.

B Jesus asks of us the same question He asked of His disciples: "Who do you say I am?" It is a question of life and death; our salvation depends, it literally depends, on our answer.

Who is Jesus? We must answer this personally. Each one of us must personally know Jesus to be human and divine. We must or we are not saved.

Who is Jesus? We must also answer this as a church. Far too many churches around the world are giving unclear answers to this question.

Who is Jesus? Individually and as a church we need to answer this question. We need to answer this against the attacks of Satan. Satan loves to sow seeds of doubt as he did with Eve in the Garden. He asks questions like:
-Can God and man ever be united in one?
-Is it possible to connect the infinite with the finite?
-Can the immortal become mortal?
-Can the Son of God die on a cross?
Satan throws these kinds of questions at us. He appeals to our logic, our thinking, our proud minds -- minds that want an answer for everything. When no logical answers are given, he wants us to conclude it must be impossible. The history of the church is full of people who come to such conclusions. That is Satan at work.

C Who is Jesus? The church's answer, based upon Scripture is laid out for us in Article 19 of the Belgic Confession of Faith:
We believe ...
the person of the Son has been inseparably united
and joined together
with human nature,
in such a way that there are not two Sons of God,
nor two persons,
but two natures united in a single person ...

As I said, this is based upon Scripture. The Bible clearly speaks of Jesus as God and as man. Paul writes about "the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised" (Rom 9:5). The Bible shows us a Jesus who forgives sins and raises the dead -- these are the works of God. It also shows us a Jesus who was born, grew up, increased in wisdom, and was tired and sad -- these are human characteristics. Moreover, it states these things about the same person. If anyone wishes to deny this, he must deny the whole of Scripture.

Who is Jesus? The undeniable witness of Scripture is that Jesus is God and man, a divine nature and a human nature, at the same time, in the same person.

II A Revealed Belief
Who is Jesus? "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Peter gave the right answer, but how did he know? He did not know this of himself. This is not his conclusion after studying the evidence. This is not what he was told by man. Jesus tells us why Peter knew, how Peter knew:
(Mt 16:17) Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.

Who is Jesus? Peter could not answer this of himself. It is impossible for man, any man, to answer this question. Because the answer is a mystery so great that no man can ever understand it. Let us admit there are many things about the Christian religion we have problems understanding. We can never quite understand who is Jesus, the Trinity, God's eternal decrees, and so on. You are wrong if you think someday you will understand it all; there will always be things you do not understand, regardless of your age or theological training.

Who is Jesus? This is not an easy question to answer. The people of Jesus' day knew Jesus was different and special, yet they still got it wrong. They saw His miracles, even the raising of the dead. When He preached, they listened because He spoke with such conviction and authority. Indeed, there was something special about Him. But, they also knew He was the son of Mary and Joseph, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth. They knew His brothers and sisters. They knew He received a normal education. They knew He was trained to be a carpenter. They reasoned He must be an ordinary human being, like all other human beings.

Who is Jesus? Someone special, yet someone normal. How do you join the two? How can you possibly conclude that the eternal Son of God took to Himself a truly human nature? How can you possibly conclude that He who was and is God became man? Truly God, truly man -- at the same time. One person, yet two distinct natures -- a divine nature, a human nature. How can anyone possibly reach this conclusion on their own?! They can't! It needs to be revealed to them by God! And, only God can cause us to believe this!

III Without Division and Separation
A Who is Jesus? Truly God and truly man, at the same time, in the same person. Without division and separation. Always God and always man.

The eternal Son of God has taken on our human nature and He is both forever. Forever. Forever. These two natures are so united together in one person that they are not even separated by His death. So, then, what He committed to His Father when he died was a real human spirit which left His body. But meanwhile His divine nature remained united with His human nature even when He was lying in the grave; and His deity never ceased to be in Him, just as it was in Him when He was a little child, though for a while it did not show itself as such.

Even now in heaven He is truly man, fully man, completely man, including the flesh of man. That's why we celebrate the physical ascension of Jesus' body into heaven. What ascended is a real human body. For some reason even people in the church don't get this. What ascended into heaven is a real, human, physical body. In heaven, at the right hand of God, is Jesus with our flesh and blood.

B The two natures are never opposed to each other. They are always in complete harmony. In marriage, husband and wife become one flesh. They understand each other, they know each other's likes and fears. They complete each other's thoughts and sentences. Yet, at times, they can stand opposed to each other. This is not how it is with the two natures of Christ.

The two natures of Christ are not like demon possession. Understand that the devil always tries to imitate the work of God. Attempting to be like the Son, he tries to unite himself to human persons; he wants to be incarnate, but cannot. The devil can take possession of a person, but he can never become one with that person. In those who are demon possessed there are two persons and two natures. That's why Jesus is able to cast demons out of persons. With the two natures of Jesus it is different. The Son of God can never be sent out of the man Jesus. It is impossible for our Mediator to be divided.

C Who is Jesus? One person, two natures. To that one person is ascribed both divine and human names, divine and human attributes. When Jesus claims to be the Good Shepherd or the light of the world, we cannot say this refers to one nature and not the other. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and we attribute this only to His human nature, we dishonor the godly attribute of love and compassion. The Jesus who stands before us in our preaching today is truly human and truly divine. He is the Word made flesh. He is God and man forever united. We can never divide and separate the two natures of Christ from each other.

The Bible does not explain this. We cannot understand it. But we are commanded and invited to believe this.

IV Without Confusion and Change
A Who is Jesus? He is God and man. We can never separate the two natures of Christ from each other. Also, we cannot confuse and change and blend the two natures of Christ.

The early church struggled with this. Eutychus, a bishop in Constantinople, declared that the two natures of Christ are blended into an entirely new nature. He spoke not of God and man, but of the God-man, someone who is half-and-half. His Jesus was neither fully God nor fully man. Such a mediator does not have the power to conquer death. Such a mediator does not die for us in the weakness of the flesh.

So, based upon Scripture, the Belgic Confession says each nature retains its own distinct properties:
Thus his divine nature has always remained uncreated, without beginning of days or end of life, filling heaven and earth.

His human nature has not lost its properties
but continues to have those of a creature --
it has a beginning of days;
it is of a finite nature
and retains all that belongs to a real body.
Jesus is one person, but He has two distinct natures.

B As I said, this is based upon Scripture. According to His human nature, Jesus increased in wisdom; but according to His divine nature, He is wisdom. Humanly speaking, Jesus is in heaven; but in divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit, Jesus is not absent from us for even a moment. Humanly speaking, Jesus was conceived and born; but in divinity, He is and was and always will be.

Who is Jesus? God has revealed to us He is one person with two natures. True God and true man. Without division and separation. Without confusion and change.

Why? True God in order to conquer death by His power. True man that He might die for us in the weakness of His flesh. What a Gospel! What a Savior!
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