************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 20 ************
By: Rev. Robert Godfrey
This sermon was preached on November 22, 2009
Belgic Confession Article 20
"Justice and Mercy of God"
The Last number of weeks Pastor Dieleman has proclaimed the truth of Jesus Christ as we find him in Holy Scripture. The truth of Christ's coming, that is the truth of Jesus Christ's incarnation; the truth of Jesus Christ's human and divine natures. We have heard the redeemer proclaimed time and again. We have been told who he is, and by and large these truths are known and accepted in the holy catholic church. While they are mysterious concepts, these statement of who Christ is are held by all those who bear the name Christian
Now we are turning to a part of the Belgic confessions that is a little more ‘up for grabs.' In the next seven articles we begin to look at Christ's accomplishment of redemption and the application of that redemption to us. Here we find the first of these articles, and it is the concept that God's plan of redemption meets the fact that God is both perfectly Just and perfectly merciful. We see this 1st by examining the Justice of God in Redemption and 2nd by examining the Mercy of God in Redemption.
I. The Justice of God
First we'll take a look at the justice of God, and this is probably the more important of the two. At least it's more important for us to examine because it is the more misunderstood and ignored of the today
A. Today's Church
We hear many in today's church say "I believe in a God of love." "The God of Justice ended in the Old Testament." That statement reflects nothing new. It was the same heretical view of Marcion way back in the 2nd century! We also hear that well known phrase, "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."
All these statements reflect the same fact; We are afraid to offend. You may notice that our call to worship came from the end of Hebrews chapter 12. Hebrews 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, I often use this call to worship, but I'm sure many of you noticed something different. This evening I read the entirety of v. 29 as well, "for our God is a consuming fire." I must admit that I often leave that out because it can be rather disconcerting, but it is the truth. Our God is a consuming fire. He is a God of justice.
We see the indifference toward God's justice, or indeed the hiding of God's justice all over the face of Christianity today. We need look no further than our Praise and Worship to see this sad truth. Recently I looked at the lyrics to each song in an Album that claimed to have the Top 25 praise songs of 2009. In so doing I found that 14 of the songs dealt with the theme of Mercy or Salvation of God. 13 of the songs also dealt with God's Sovereignty or Glory. 8 dealt with the theme of worship itself. 2 mentioned sin. Only 1 made any mention of God's Justice. In the song "In Christ Alone" we find the line, "The wrath of God was satisfied."
God's righteousness and justice are almost never mentioned in the praise and worship being sung in our churches today. This is a far cry from the songs that God has give to us…the Psalter. The word of Judgment or justice alone appears in 25 different Psalms, and that theme is found in many many more. The demands of God's justice coming against His enemies, the enemies of Israel, and at times Israel itself appear again and again throughout the Psalter.
We also see the neglect of God's justice coming from so many pulpits in today's churches. One of the most popular pastors of the day, Joel Osteen, defined God's justice as "making wrongs right." Now that may not seem like a bad definition, but then he goes on…
"We deal with a lot of people who have gone through relationship breakups...they weren't being treated right. But God's justice can be, he's going to bring somebody great into your life at another time. You can't see it now, but you're going to be happier than you've ever been before. It can be in the financial area too."
This is complete and utter confusion as to what justice means. Justice should bring to mind; law books, a courtroom, truth, punishment, rulings, etc…
B. Our Text (Exodus 34:7)
"Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."
Here we are given a picture of our just God. He punishes the guilty, he demands payment, and all this can be traced back to our first father Adam. He was cast from the Garden and told to dust you will return.
C. Our Confession
In our confession this evening we're told two things;
First, Justice demands payment for sin. In this article we're told that God is "very just" In Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 11 we're told that "His Justice demands that sin committed against his supreme majesty be punished with the supreme penalty – eternal punishment of body and soul."
Second, Only Christ can make payment. This article goes on to say that "God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin." And Heidelberg catechism question and answer 18 states, "And who is this mediator – true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous? Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God."
This understanding of the justice of God is vital. Without it his mercy means nothing. But with a proper Biblical understanding of God's righteous judgment, his mercy has far greater meaning. So with that let us turn to consider the Mercy of God.
II. The Mercy of God
A. Today's Church
Now we turn to the other side of the coin… mercy. The church is great with mercy. The church is happy to talk about love, but this begs the question. Does the church today really understand what the Mercy of God is all about???
Unless we really understand fully what Christ has done, we can't understand the mercy of God. We need to understand the Justice of God to understand the Mercy of God. With that in mind we turn to our text.
B. Our Text (Exodus 34:6-7)
This text is so wonderful because it has this understanding of mercy, a mercy that is in the light of God's justice. It stands in the face of the heresy of Marcion, and any who would try to say that the Old Testament is about Justice and the New Testament is about Mercy.
Listen to these words:
"The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."
Now think of this context. The Golden calf is only two chapters removed! Yet, God is speaking of his great mercy to his people. This statement is so precious to the people of God. This statement appears a number of times to the people of God. It served almost as an ancient creed to them, much like we have creeds and confessions today.
C. Our Confession
In our confession this evening we find phrases like: "Poured out Goodness and Mercy on Us", "Giving us his son to die by a most perfect love", and "Raising Him to Life For Our Justification." It is Christ's satisfaction of justice that means grace and mercy for us!
As Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 60 so beautifully states, "God grants to us the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ." This really means that we are granted two things. First, we are granted complete forgiveness. We are seen as those who have never sinned in the sight of our Father in heaven. Not only that we are seen, secondly, as those who are completely righteous, as those who have been completely, totally, perfectly obedient just as Christ was.
Beloved, to understand the justice of God without mercy leaves you with no hope. To understand the mercy of God with no justice leaves you with no need for mercy. So we must understand the God is both perfectly Just and perfectly Merciful. That is why He sent His Son, so that His justice might be satisfied, and that mercy might be poured out to all who believe.
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