************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head II, Article 3-4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 30, 2013
Canons, Head II, Articles 3-4
"The Infinite Value of Christ's Death"
Here's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic.
A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the freezing North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.
She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.
Isn't this incredible? I ask this because thirty minutes earlier she would not haven chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things became worthless and worthless things became priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds.
We have so many valuable things. We could point to our money. We could point to deeds, insurance papers, coin collections, precious stones and other contents of our safety deposit box. We could point to our home or car. We could point to our sports trophy or class ring. We could point to our loved ones: a spouse or children, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a grandparent or grandchild. We could point to our church or Christian School. We could point to our faith, our hope, our love.
What do you value most, congregation? What is most precious to you? What do you treasure?
Last time, if you remember, I asked why God should let you into heaven. We said:
-not because of goodness
-not because of religion
-not because of good works
-not even because of faith
The correct answer?:
-because Christ's death satisfied the claims of God's justice
Today, we learn that this death of God's Son is "of infinite value and worth." Our Savior and His death and His blood is what we, as Christians, should value most.
I More Than Sufficient
A What makes Christ's blood so precious? We sing about the blood. We rejoice in it. But what makes it so precious? The Arminians say the blood of Christ is of infinite value and worth because He died for all men, obtaining redemption and forgiveness for all. This view says the infinite value and worth of Christ's blood lies in its universal application. This view says worth lies in quantity, in numbers. This is a worldly way of establishing worth.
As of June 2006 the world's most precious painting was Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I" when it sold for $155 million. In November of the same year it was replaced by Willem de Kooning's "Woman III" and Jackson Pollock's "No. 5, 1948" which both sold for close to $160 million. In April 2011 "The Card Players" by Paul Cezanne supplanted all others when it sold for $268 million.When it comes to paintings, quantity determines worth. However, when it comes to the blood of Christ, we never want to say that quantity determines worth.
We cannot forget that we are dealing with the second head of doctrine – the doctrine of limited atonement. Negatively, this doctrine says the work of Christ is not applied to all. Positively, this doctrine says Christ's work is applied only to the elect. This means, then, that the value of Christ's blood cannot and does not lie in quantity, in numbers, in its universal application.
B At the same time, we confess that the death of God's Son is "more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world." If God had chosen to save all men and all women, Christ's death would be sufficient to save all. Nothing needs to be added to His blood or sacrifice for this to be accomplished.
Christ's work is sufficient for all but it saves only the elect. Simply put, Christ's death does exactly what God intended it to do.
II The Only Sacrifice for Sin
Why, then, is Christ's blood so precious? Christ's blood is of infinite value and worth, says the Canons, because "it is the only ... sacrifice and satisfaction for sins."
Christ's blood is so precious because it is the only sacrifice for sin. Apart from Christ there is no other sacrifice for sin. Apart from Christ there is no other means of salvation. As Peter said to the Sanhedrin,
(Acts 4:12) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
This means that way back in eternity, before time and Creation, God did not have to make a choice. He did not deliberate on the question, "How shall I save sinful man?" He did not pick and choose among 5 or 6 or even 10 different options of salvation, finally deciding on the death of Christ as being the best. From eternity to eternity there is and has been and always will be only one way of salvation: the blood of Christ.
This further means that anyone who has ever been saved has been saved only through Christ. Whether we are talking about Adam, Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Rahab, Ruth, Peter, John, Paul, a believing parent or grandparent – they have all been saved only through Christ. He is the "mediator" says our Scripture reading. "Those who are called ... receive the promised eternal inheritance" only through Him.
Remember what Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No ones comes to the Father except through me" (Jn 14:6). Christ is our bridge, our only bridge, to heaven and the Father's throne. Only when we "walk over Him" do we receive forgiveness and eternal life. In fact, apart from Him there is nothing we can do, nowhere that we can go, no way that we can turn. Safety lies only in Christ. We receive forgiveness and eternal life only when we "walk over Him."
III The Complete Sacrifice for Sin
Christ's blood also is of infinite value and worth because "it is the ... entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins." Nothing needs to be added to the sacrifice of Christ. He is all that we need. He suffered all that was necessary to save us.
This means that those who try to add to the sufferings of Christ are sadly deluded. I think of those in Latin America, the Philippines, and elsewhere who allow themselves to be crucified on crosses. I think of others who crawl long distances on their knees, engage in prayer and fasting, beat themselves with whips, live in unheated cells, or even walk on hot coals. These people need to hear there is nothing we can add to Christ's suffering and death in order to be saved. I think of those who try to add their good works to Christ's suffering and death. I think of those who attend worship, enroll their children in Christian school, attend Bible study, or pay towards the church budget because they believe it makes them deserving of forgiveness and salvation. None of this is needed for salvation. Through Christ's death we get a complete salvation.
IV The Nature of Christ
A Why is Christ's blood so precious? Christ's blood also is of infinite value and worth because of the nature of Christ. He is unique, one of a kind. Says the Canons:
for the reason that the person who suffered it is ... not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit.The Canons find Christ's blood to be of infinite value and worth because He is true man, He is perfectly holy, and He is true God.
1 Can there be any doubt Jesus is "true ... man"? Hebrews 2 can say, "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity" (Heb 2:14). Every year, at Christmas, we celebrate the humanity of Jesus. Like every other human Jesus entered our world after being conceived and carried in His mother's womb. The Gospels present to us a picture of Jesus as man: He experienced hunger, thirst, anger, love, joy, sorrow, pain, and happiness – just like any other human. He even faced temptation.
The Christian religion maintains that God took on flesh, that "The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us ... full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). Compare Christianity at this point to the mythologies of other religions. A god-man is not an uncommon feature in ancient mythology; usually, though, it is a case of man becoming god rather than god becoming man.
2 Jesus is also "perfectly holy." No one before Him or since Him can claim this. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit, He did not inherit the guilt or pollution of original sin; it is because of this original sin that "we are conceived and born in sin" (baptism, old form 1). But Jesus was born without this indwelling sin. Furthermore, in spite of temptation, He kept Himself free of sin and fully obedient to God.
3 Finally, Jesus is also "the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit."
Can there be any doubt that Jesus is true God? Wasn't He called "Immanuel" – which means "God with us" (Mt 1:23)? Didn't a voice from heaven call Him the Son of God (Mt 3:17); 17:5)? Didn't the resurrection show that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God? The prologue of John's Gospel states this about Jesus: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (Jn 1:1,2).
B We are reminded here of the absolute uniqueness of the Christ: He is true man, He is perfectly holy, and He is true God. There is no one else like Him in all of Creation. He is one of a kind. Never before has such a person bled and died for sin.
The pages of the Bible are filled with the names and stories of those who died for sin. Think of Abel. Think of the people who existed at the time of the flood. Think of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah or the wife of Lot. Think of Rahab's friends and neighbors in Jericho. Think of the martyrdom of Stephen or of Peter or of Paul. All of them – dead. All of them – human. None of them – perfect or God.
"To be our Savior," says the Canons, it was necessary for the Christ Who died to be man, holy, God. Being man, holy, God, His blood was able to accomplish the salvation of the soul! Philosophy could not accomplish that. Nor art. Nor literature. Nor music. Nor science. Only the death of Him Who is man, righteous, and God can break the enslaving chains of sin and Satan. He alone can speak peace to the human heart, strengthen the weak, and give life to those who are spiritually dead.
V God's Anger and Curse
A Why is Christ's blood so precious? Finally, Christ's blood is of infinite value and worth, says the Canons, because it
was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and curse, which we by our sin had fully deserved.
His suffering and death are beyond any we have ever encountered. Yet, looking at Him without the insight of faith and comparing Him with others, one would say that other people suffered much more than He did. We hear much about the manger and the stable, but countless children have been born who did not receive the care He got. It is true that the threat of death hung over Him from the start, but from what we know, He had a good home in Nazareth, a good job in Joseph's carpenter shop, and a relatively quiet and happy life for about thirty years. At the end of His life He suffered cruel insults, humiliation, and pain, but many people have suffered more pain for much longer.
B Why, then, do we speak so much of His unique and bottomless sorrow? Because His suffering and death are unique. According to the Canons He suffered the wrath of God that should rest on us. We are talking here of our sin and His crucifixion. He is perfectly holy. He had no sin. Yet, God's wrath for our sin fell on Him and He was crucified.
The New Testament tells us that the curse of God rested on Jesus when He hung on the cross. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us," says Galatians, "for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree"" (Gal 3:13). In being crucified, then, Jesus shouldered the curse which lay on me.
Scripture makes clear that the ultimate authority to bless and to curse belongs to God. So, for example, it was God Who blessed Abraham and passed that blessing on to Jacob but not to Esau. In another instance, when Balaam tried to curse Israel, the blessed nation, he found out that no man can curse those whom God has blessed (Num 22-24).
The curse of God rested on Jesus when He hung on the wooden cross on Golgotha Hill. It wasn't only Pilate who sent Him to the place of execution. It wasn't merely the Jews who cried, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" It was also God. For it is God Who has the ultimate authority to curse and to bless. For three awful hours He hung in darkness, being forsaken by God. Remember His cry? "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" The curse of God was upon Him then. He bore the weight of God's anger against our sin.
Our Savior's blood – it is of infinite value and worth because it is more than sufficient to save all, because it is the only sacrifice for sin, because it is the complete sacrifice for sin, because of the nature of Christ, and because of the anger of God.
Our Savior and His blood – this is what we value most.
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