************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head III-IV, Article 8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 8, 2013
Canons, Head III,IV Article 8
"A Serious Gospel Call"
I Three Questions
A Three questions. Every mature Christian should know the answer to three questions. These are the questions:
1. Are you saved?
2. Why are you saved?
3. How are you saved?
B The first question: Are you saved? Only you can answer this first question. I can't look in your heart nor can anyone else here this evening. Only you know if you truly love God. Only you know whether you truly believe that Jesus is your Savior and Lord.
If you aren't saved I implore you, give your heart to Jesus now. Say, "Jesus I love you, I worship you, I adore you." Think on the cross and the grave and believe Jesus died and rose for you. Do it, before the trump of Gabriel sounds, and the Lord descends. Do it, before you are called from this life by death. Do it, before it is too late and your soul is forever lost.
Are you saved? That's my prayer for every person here. That's my prayer for every member of our church family. That's my prayer for every person I come to know.
Are you saved? Do you believe in Jesus? Unless you can answer this with a resounding YES you should not be taking the Lord's Supper this evening.
C The second question: Why are you saved? This second question is easy enough to answer: you are saved to bring glory, thanks, and praise to God. Or, to put it another way, the goal of God's salvation is a gratefully obedient people.
(1 Peter 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
D The third question: How are you saved? In Ephesians 2 Paul answers this question for us: "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith" (Eph 2:8). Salvation is by grace and through faith. This evening, let's look a bit more closely at exactly what this answer means.
A How are you saved? Through faith. There is only one way to get that faith – by the operation of the Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel. Men, women, and children come to believe in Jesus only when they are confronted with the Gospel. Not a single person has ever been saved who has not in some way or in some form heard the Good News of Jesus Christ suffering, dying, and being raised to life again. In our Scripture reading Paul reminds us of the importance of the Gospel message. He says,
(Rom 1:16) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Today all sorts of churches act ashamed of the Gospel because they do anything but preach the Gospel. I hear about Halloween Parties, Wacky Wednesdays (instead of Youth Group, GEMS, and Cadets), Super Bowl parties, musical programs, a play or musical. All of this is an attempt to draw people in, but when they come they are not presented with the Gospel. There is only one way to faith – by the operation of the Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel.
B I would like to remind you of what we learned in the second head of doctrine about the desire of God. We learned that the Gospel "promise, together with the command to repent and believe, out to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people" (Canons II, 5). This is a teaching found throughout the Bible. Through Isaiah the prophet the Lord said: "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth" (Is 45:22). And in our age God has appointed ambassadors to go to the ends of the earth saying: "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). According to the Canons, "God makes known in his Word what is pleasing to him: that those who are called should come to him."
To put it simply, God wants the Gospel to be declared and sinners to respond in faith.
III Sovereign Grace
A How are you saved? Through faith – when I hear the Gospel. That's the first part of the answer. And, by grace – sovereign grace. That's the second part of the answer. Salvation is by grace and through faith.
What does it mean to be saved by grace? We can look at grace from man's point of view and we can look at it from God's point of view.
From man's point of view, grace means I don't earn salvation. This is a very important point because people think salvation is something they deserve or earn.
There was a time when Israel thought she deserved salvation. She believed herself to be so pure, righteous, and holy that God owed her salvation (Deut 7:7; 9:4-6). But Israel couldn't earn salvation. Don't forget, the Israelites were sinners. And, sinners earn nothing but hell.
We know better. Yet, like Israel, we also sometime try to earn our way into heaven. Members of the United Reformed Churches can so easily think they deserve salvation because they:
-are in church once or even twice each Sunday
-give $1,000 or more a year in donations
-give their children a Christian education
-don't shop or eat out on Sunday
-read the Bible and pray every dayHowever, no one in front of me can earn salvation because all of us are sinners. And, sinners earn nothing but hell.
Christian young people can sometime think they also deserve salvation. The might say or think this because they:
-go to Youth Group
-don't use drugs
-don't engage in pre-marital sex
-live in a Christian home
-respect parentsHowever, no young person can earn salvation because all of us are sinners. And, sinners earn nothing but hell.
Salvation is by grace and not by human works or effort or striving. This teaching distinguishes Christianity from every other religion of the world. Salvation is not earned; rather, it is by grace.
B Salvation is by grace. We can say something else about this from man's point-of-view. Grace means it is only God Who enables us to respond in faith to the Gospel. Grace means God works in us so we repent and believe. Grace means it is God Who regenerates us and gives us faith.
You see, we all are sinners. Whether I am talking about Israel, or about you and me, we all are sinners. And sinners are dead in sin. We aren't merely dying, we are dead. We aren't merely drowning, we are drowned and at the bottom of the sea. Which means there is no life in us. There is no ability or inclination to repent and believe.
We need Jesus calling us even as He called Lazarus. Remember how Jesus stood outside the tomb of Lazarus and called, "Lazarus, come out!" When Jesus called, Lazarus did come out.
Lazarus is a picture of every sinner. We are dead. Jesus needs to call us and work in us or we remain dead in our sins.
C Salvation is by grace. From God's point of view grace means only those are saved whom God has chosen to save. They are not saved because they are any better or more deserving – don't forget, they are sinners and sinners deserve only hell. Rather, they are saved only because God of His free good pleasure has chosen them to be saved.
IV A Serious Call
A We say salvation is through faith but we also say salvation is by grace. We say the gospel must be proclaimed so people can respond in faith but we also say only those are saved whom God chooses to save. We say the church must preach Christ to all but Christ's work is not applied to all. We say all must respond in faith to the call of the gospel but no one can respond to that call on their own.
This raises a BIG question: is the call of the gospel well-meant? If only God's chosen ones can repent and believe when they hear the gospel, how can God call all to repent and believe? If only those can repent and believe whom God works in, how can God call all to repent and believe?
I've mentioned before that we have a grand-dog. Her name is Lola. Lola was recently involved in an accident with a truck so she now hops and runs on three legs.Is God like this when it comes to the gospel? Does He dangle the gospel of salvation before people it is not meant for, before people who can not possibly attain it?
We have special treats for Lola. Usually we hold them over her head and she needs to jump to get them. To do that right now is cruel and unusual punishment.
B Article 8 of the third head of doctrine of the Canons of Dordt tells us the offer of salvation is a well-meant gospel offer. Three times it uses the word "serious." The call of the gospel, we are told, is a serious call. It is a well-meant call.
In what way?
In the Gospel God calls all men to come to Him. And God is serious about it: God does want all to come to Him.
In the Gospel God calls all men to come to Him in repentance and faith. And God is serious about it: only those can come before Him who do repent and believe.
In the Gospel God says He hates sin and is angry with the sinner. God is serious about this too: all who don't repent and believe end up in everlasting hell fire.
In the Gospel God says that anyone who comes to Him He will never cast out. God is serious about this too: all who do come to God in repentance and faith are granted rest of soul and everlasting life.
C The Gospel call is a serious, well-meant Gospel call. How serious? How well-meant?
Let's go back to our good friend Lazarus. When Jesus called, Lazarus was given the grace to hear and respond.
Think of Lydia. Paul proclaimed the Gospel to her and her family. "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:14).
Think of the Philippian jailor. Or the thief on the cross. Or the crowd on Pentecost Sunday. The Lord calls and they repent and believe.
Our confidence, congregation, our confidence on this Lord's Supper Sunday is not in ourselves. It is never in ourselves. Instead, it is in God and the work of God. It is only the power of God that brings men and women to faith. It is only the work of God's Spirit through the Word which brings the dead to life and gives them rest of soul and everlasting life.
So, as we eat and drink, let our confidence be in the God of all grace and all mercy.
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