************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 30, 2017
Lord's Day 5
1 Timothy 2:1-7
"We Need a Mediator"
I Sound Doctrine
A Because of Lent and Easter, it has been a while since we last looked at the Catechism. So let me remind you that what we have in the Catechism -- to quote from Paul in 2 Timothy 4 -- is "sound doctrine."
What exactly does Paul mean by the phrase "sound doctrine"? Sound doctrine is correct doctrine, accurate doctrine. Sound doctrine is not doctrine based upon feelings or political correctness or the issues of the day. Rather, it is doctrine that is based upon the truths of God's Word.
We must have sound doctrine. We must have sound doctrine or we perish. We must have sound doctrine for our children and youth. We must have sound doctrine or we as a church will slip into apostasy. We must have sound doctrine to protect the members of our church from false teachings. We must have sound doctrine or we slip into the feel-good Christianity promoted by the Health & Wealth Gospel, or the liberation theology promoted by many Latin-American churches, or the name it and claim it theology of the Prayer of Jabez, or the power of positive thinking of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller.
The Catechism is sound doctrine. The Catechism is sound doctrine because it is doctrine based upon the truths of God's Word.
B Let me also remind you of what sound doctrine has taught us so far. On this Preparatory Sunday I want to remind you that the sound doctrine of the Catechism starts with sin. Slowly, deliberately, step by step, it points out our corrupt condition. Remember the statement so many object to? Because of our corrupt nature we all have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor instead of love God and neighbor (Q & A 5). Furthermore, the Catechism has told us we are so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil unless we are born again by the Spirit of God (Q & A 8).
Who is to blame for this? Can we blame God? No, because God created us good and in His own image (Q & A 8).
Sound doctrine also tells us about the wrath of God, the anger of God, against sin and corruption and disobedience and rebellion. God is terribly angry about the sin we are born with as well as the sins we personally commit. The unchangeable justice of God demands that He punish sin (Q & A 10).
And, sound doctrine tells us that though God is merciful He also is just. One cannot divorce God's mercy from His justice. Because God's mercy and justice are one (Q & A 11).
The conclusion of sound doctrine so far is that our situation is hopeless. The conclusion of sound doctrine so far is that we are in a state of misery. As sinners we are alienated from God, separated from God, divorced from God, and deserving of eternal punishment in the fires of hell. On this Preparatory Sunday we must realize there is no escape from the judgment and wrath of God against our sin. God requires that His justice be satisfied. The claims of His justice must be paid in full (Q & A 12).
II Can Man be Saved?
A What can sinful fallen man do? What hope do we have? Is hell our only destiny? So, in my second point I ask, "Can man be saved?" Is salvation even possible?
There are certain things in life that cannot be saved. For instance, once you squeeze toothpaste out of a tube, you cannot squeeze it back in again. Once a balloon is burst, you cannot put it back together again. A glass jar full of pickles and sticky juice cannot be fixed if it falls to the floor and shatters. Is man like this? Is man beyond saving like toothpaste, balloons, and pickle jars? Is it the nature of man that he cannot be saved? Is man, perhaps, like the angels? When we read Scripture it seems it is the nature of angels that they cannot be saved once they have fallen. Is this also the case with man? Or, is it possible for man to be saved? Did God create man with the possibility of being saved? If so, this means God created man with both sin and salvation in mind.
We continue our study of sound doctrine today. Do you know what sound doctrine teach us on this Preparatory Sunday? It teaches us that though there is no escape from the judgment and wrath of God against sin there is rescue, there is salvation, there is deliverance.
B What, exactly, is salvation? Or to put it another way, what is it that we need to be saved from? We need to be saved from guilt. Let there be no doubt about it: man is guilty. Man has been tried in the divine court and the verdict has been pronounced. Man is guilty before God. Remember, man is called to love but instead his natural tendency is to hate. Man is called to do good but instead he is inclined toward all evil. Which means, dear brothers and sisters, that the best we do is not good enough to get us into the presence of God because God is only satisfied with perfection.
And, we need to be saved from judgment. Not just future judgment. But also the judgment that is already being imposed upon us. You see, we are under the wrath of God. We are born under the wrath of God. Meaning what? Meaning we are under a sentence of death. We fight death everyday: disease, disability, old age, surgery, accident, dangers, toils, snares, decline, cancer, heart attack, stroke. And for the future, if we are not saved, our destiny is eternal death in the everlasting fires and torment of hell. As sinners we are all under the judgment of God.
Now, what does salvation mean as we face guilt and judgment? Salvation means we are moved from a state of guilt to a state of perfect righteousness. There is no hope as long as we are guilty. Therefore salvation means that guilt needs to be canceled and a perfect righteousness needs to take its place.
Salvation also means that we are delivered from judgment, from wrath, from death, and into life.
III The Way of Salvation
A The Catechism is leading up to Jesus as the Mediator and Deliverer. The Catechism is leading up to Jesus as Savior. But before it does so, it explores whether Jesus is the only way of salvation. It explores whether there are other ways of salvation.
Are there other ways of salvation? That depends on how you define salvation. If man needs to be saved from ignorance, than all you need do is educate; then education is salvation. If the trouble with man is bad influences and bad examples, then all you need is better examples; then a good example is salvation. If the trouble with man is a lack of discipline, then all you need is a drill sergeant to impose some discipline; then discipline is salvation. If the trouble with man is addiction, then all you need is a rehabilitation program; then AA meetings are salvation. If the trouble with man is hunger and poverty, then all you need is social programs and government handouts; then socialism and communism mean salvation.
B But the Catechism, based upon the Bible, rejects all of these definitions of salvation. It reminds us that mans's problem is guilt and judgment and man's need is righteousness and life.
Can man save himself? Can man deal with the problem of guilt and judgment? Can man provide righteousness and life? Can man bring an offering, any kind of offering, that results in salvation? Can he bring offerings of money or time? Can he bring prayers and sighs and tears? Can he bring devotion and praise and worship? Can he bring sorrow and repentance? Can he bring anything that will result in salvation? Or, as the Catechism asks, "Can we pay this debt ourselves?" You know the answer: "Certainly not!"
C We can ask "Why not?" Why can't man save himself? Because, says the Catechism, our debt is too big. We are like the servant in Jesus' parable who owed the king ten thousand talents (Mt 18:21-35). To use today's language, we would say he was an ordinary man working at minimum wage who owed millions of dollars. Such a man can never pay his debt. And, neither can we because the debt is too big, way too big.
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper, realize that you have a debt with God, congregation. This is true for all of us. You. Me. Even our babies and little children. Our youth. Our aged saints. We all have a debt with God we cannot even begin to pay. We have a debt with God because of the sin we are born with as well as the sins we actually commit.
Why can't man save himself? Why can't man offer anything to God? Because the tree and its root are bad. It does bear fruit. Likewise, man also bears fruit. He is not dead. He is not a stone or a rock or a piece of driftwood. He is always active. He is a being that works and wills and thinks and desires and acts. As such, he is continually bearing fruit. Whether he is awake or whether he sleeps, he bears fruit. If a man lives ninety years, he bears fruit for ninety years. But as the tree is bad so the fruit is bad. Paul lists the fruit that natural man produces:
(Gal 5:19-21) The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
(Col 3:5) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
(Col 3:8) But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
It is a wicked, ungodly, devilish religion which tries to tells us that man can do something to please God. This is the case with all the other world religions; the Muslim, Confucius, Hindu, and Jewish faiths all wrongly declare that man can do something to please God. Those Christians who believe in a works righteousness teach the same thing. Cults like Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses are also guilty. But man can do nothing to please God and satisfy the claims of His justice. Man can only ever increase his guilt. Man is continually offering up fruit unto destruction.
And, even as it is impossible for man to save himself, it is equally impossible for another creature to save him (Q & A 14). If all the angels in heaven would die for us, they would not be able to cancel the sins of a single man. They are not able to bring the offering which God requires. If every person sacrifices a bull or a sheep, that too would not be able to cancel the sins of a single man. The reason is that the sin of man requires the punishment of man. God's justice demands that human sin must be paid for by human punishment. He that brings the offering must be man.
I repeat what I said before: There is no escape from the judgment and wrath of God against my sin! Think on that as you prepare for the Lord's Supper.
IV The Need for a Mediator
A So what is man to do? How can man be saved? How can man be delivered from guilt and judgment? How can man be brought into righteousness and life? We need to ask what Paul asks:
(Rom 7:24) What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
What we need is a Mediator and Deliverer. What we need is a Mediator and Deliverer Who provides rescue, salvation, deliverance.
That is sinful, fallen man's only hope. That is the only way to escape guilt and judgment. That is the only way to come to righteousness and life. We need a Mediator and Deliverer.
B So in its final question and answer the Catechism asks what kind of Mediator and Deliverer should we look for (Q & A 15).
He must be a man. That is, He must be human.
He must be truly righteous. A Lamb without blemish. Perfect in every way. Offering perfect love and obedience. Able to do every kind of good.
He must be powerful enough to bear the weight of God's anger in His humanity. That is, He must be God. Because only God is powerful enough to bear God's anger against human sin.
This is the kind of Mediator and Deliverer we need. This is the kind of Mediator and Deliverer we should look for. If we cannot find Him, there is no salvation. If we cannot find Him, we remain in our guilt and under judgment. If we cannot find Him, we do not gain righteousness and life.
What kind of savior are you looking for? A good teacher? A good example? A reformer? A liberator? A provider? A revolutionary? These are the saviors offered by the world. These are the saviors that wicked men run after. None of them do us any good. None of them offer salvation from guilt and judgment. What we need is a Mediator and Deliverer. What we need is the Lord Jesus Christ. He, and He alone, is the real Savior.
Sound doctrine says I need Jesus as Mediator and Deliverer. And, so do you. Come to Him this week as you prepare your heart for the Lord's Supper. Rely on Him. And enjoy the righteousness and life only He can give.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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