************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head II, Article 2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 23, 2013
Canons, Head II, Article 2
"The Satisfaction Made by Christ"
I We Can't Satisfy God's Justice
A You have died. Angels take you through a long tunnel. You come closer and closer to a dazzling bright light. At the center of the light is a throne. On the throne is Almighty God. His voice thunders out,
"Why should I let you into heaven? You are a sinner. You have sinned against my infinite majesty. Justice requires you should be punished with both temporal and eternal punishments. Justice requires you should be punished in body and soul. You can't escape these punishments unless satisfaction is given to my justice (Canons II,1). Why, then, should I let you in?"How will you answer? What will you say?
"Well, God, I try to lead a good life. I'm basically a pretty good person. I don't hurt anyone. I certainly don't deserve hell. So that only leaves heaven."
This is how many of our neighbors would answer God. Perhaps there are some here who would give this answer too.
Here is another answer: "Well, God, I am very religious. I go to church every Sunday (or even twice every Sunday). I read the Bible and pray every single day. I give more than my share to the church budget. I am active in the church and kingdom. I'm a member of youth group. I go to young adults. I am in the consistory. I teach Church School. I attend Coffee Break and Bible Study. I love spiritual retreats and conferences. I support the Christian School. Don't you think I deserve to get into heaven?"
This is how many church members are tempted to answer. Perhaps there are some here who would give this answer too.
Here is another answer: "I go out of my way to do good to people. I visit the sick. I bring food to the mourning. I give money to the poor. I help out if someone needs help."
Again, this is how many are tempted to answer. Perhaps that includes some here this evening.
Or, how about this answer: "God, I believe in Jesus. I have faith in Jesus. You got to let me in because of my belief."
To the discerning ear, this sounds like the best answer so far. Maybe you think this is the answer you would give.
B If you give any of these answers, I'm afraid God's answer to you is "NO! I won't let you in!" God's justice must be satisfied. But, says the Canons, "we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God's anger" (II,2). Neither goodness, nor religion, nor good works, nor even faith, is able to get you into heaven. Nothing you do is able to satisfy God's justice. There is absolutely nothing which sinful men and women can do that can satisfy the wrath of God.
During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba. One day Colonel Teddy Roosevelt came to her, wanting to buy food and medicine for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him any.Similarly, salvation is a gift. If it could be bought at an auction, millionaires would compete for the purchase and most people would be excluded. If it could be won in an athletic contest, only the most physically fit would gain it. It if was awarded to the smartest, people would spend all day reading the encyclopedia. But God's forgiveness is free, by grace. Nothing we can do will ever earn it. Salvation is never up to me. Always it is up to God. That's why even my faith can't save me – because then salvation is up to me. But it isn't and it can't be.
Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!"
A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood -- the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be freely given.
In his letter to the church at Galatians, Paul speaks to this matter.
(Gal 3:1,3) You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified ... (3) Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?Paul reminds us how foolish it is to try and save yourself. Paul reminds us how useless it is to try and satisfy the demands of God's justice.
C We all know why we can't save ourselves. We all know why we can't satisfy God's justice or deliver ourselves from His anger. It has to do with our sin. We are so lost in sin, so mired in the mud and clay of evil, that the good we do isn't good enough. It is like trying to use fool's gold to buy a car.
I have a gold bar here (HOLD IT UP). It looks like gold. It weighs the same amount as gold. It even is marked like it is gold. In today's prices this 6 oz bar is worth about $8000. But when we took it to an assayer he smiled and told us it was worth nothing. It is a lead bar covered with gold-colored paint. Because of sin, that's what our goodness, our religion, our good works, and our faith are worth – they are worth nothing. As a means of salvation they are valueless in God's sight.
Not only are we lost in sin but we also increase our guilt everyday. We not only are bankrupt, but each day we sink further and further into debt (H.C. Q & A 13).
There is a curious shrub that grows in Africa. It is known as the 'wait a bit' bush. It is covered with barbs that resemble fish-hooks. People who get too close find themselves ensnared by the tree. The more they struggle, the worse it gets. People have been known to get stuck in the bush and die.That's what sin is like – it traps us more and more and deeper and deeper. On our own, escape becomes impossible.
The Law of God demands perfect obedience of us in thought, word, and deed, during every single moment of our lives. To break even a single stipulation of God's perfect Law, as James says, is to be guilty of breaking every single commandment (James 2:10). God's passing mark is perfect obedience. He is not going to grade for eternal life on a curve!
And, the penalty for not making the grade is death, eternal death.
II The Mercy of God
We can't escape, but we can be delivered. According to the Canons, "God in his boundless mercy" provides this deliverance.
By His mercy God Himself does what we are totally unable to do: by His mercy God satisfies the claims of His justice.
Furthermore, God displays His mercy though we do not deserve it at all. While we are still sinners, – sinful, fallen – God shows His mercy to us. As the Apostle Paul puts it:
(Rom 5:8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.God's mercy is for undeserving sinners. God shows mercy to undeserving sinners. This shows us the extent of His grace and love and mercy.
III Christ's Satisfaction
A How does God show mercy? What does His mercy lead Him to do? According to the Canons,
God in his boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.In His boundless mercy God gives Christ.
This reminds us again of the relation between God's mercy and Christ (cf I,2). It is NOT a case that God is merciful to us BECAUSE Christ died for us. Rather, it IS a case that because God is merciful to us Christ died for us. God's mercy comes first. God's grace is foremost.
Or, to relate this to the first head of doctrine, we see that a decree to elect sinners to salvation necessarily leads to Christ's death upon the cross.
B Christ is described by the Canons as a "guarantee." The Latin original here can also be translated as "surety or bail." This makes me think of a bail bondsman. He posts bail for a suspect. By posting bail he guarantees that the suspect will show up in court on the specified date. By posting bail he assumes responsibility for the suspect. It used to be that if a suspect failed to appear in court, the bail bondsman was tried and punished in the criminal's place. So quite literally, he put his own life on the line.
According to the Canons, Jesus is our guarantee, our surety, our bail bondsman. Before the judgment seat of God He assumes the responsibility and punishment for our sins.
C In this work as "guarantee," Jesus "was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross." It was for us. As the Apostle Paul puts it,
(Gal 3:13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."
Of course, Christ did not actually sin in our place. Christ was and is and always will be perfectly righteous and holy; it was and is and always will be impossible for Him to sin and fall from righteousness. These words have to be understood judicially and not ethically. They have to do with Christ's legal status before God and not with His actual status. Legally, Christ took on our sin and guilt and shame and curse. Christ, in effect, said, "Here am I. Treat me like the guilty one. Give me the punishment he or she deserves."
The theological word we use here is "vicarious." Vicarious means "in our place, in our stead." Many things in our society are vicarious. There are parents, for instance, who live their lives through their children. Their children will be the star of the team or the A+ students they themselves never were. There are countless bored women who live out their deepest fantasies through soap opera stars. Many arm chair athletes live out their dreams of glory through the action on the field or court. Some people even live their life through criminals. All of this – vicarious living.
Legally, before God, Jesus took on our sin, our guilt, our shame, our curse. So God treated Him as if He was the sinner of sinners, the guilty of the guilty. His suffering was vicarious suffering.
D In doing this, Jesus "satisfied" the claims of God's justice. He made satisfaction for us before the throne of God. This means our sin is covered, our debt is wiped out, our guilt is removed. Our sins are paid for by Christ. So, we have nothing to fear before the judgment throne of God.
This gets us back to the question God asks when we stand before His throne: "Why should I let you into heaven?"
-Not because of goodness.
-Not because of religion.
-Not because of good works.
-Not because of faith.
They all are like this gold bar (HOLD IT UP) – valueless as a means of salvation!
Well then, what is the correct answer? "Because of Christ, because He satisfied Your justice in my place."
Praise be to God because of Christ!
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