************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 20, 2017
Lord's Day 15
"The Crucified Christ"
"I believe in Jesus Christ." Lots of people say that. But what do they mean when they say that?
"I believe in Jesus Christ." As we continue our study of the Heidelberg Catechism and the Apostles' Creed, sound doctrine confesses that Jesus suffered and died on the cross. I know I keep saying this, but it is so important I have to say it again: what we have in the Catechism and Creed is sound doctrine -- reliable doctrine, trustworthy doctrine, believable doctrine -- because what is in the Catechism and Creed is based upon the Word of God.
"I believe in Jesus Christ." "I believe ... He suffered under Pontius Pilate." "I believe ... He ... was crucified." We have heard about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus so much that perhaps it no longer moves us. We have heard so much about the cross that it leaves us shrugging our shoulders as if it is no big deal. We have become too accustomed to the riches of God's grace. However, it is a big deal because the suffering and death of Jesus is the basis of our faith. In order to be saved you need to believe that Jesus suffered and died on the cross; in order to be saved you need to believe in the atonement.
I The Wrath of God
A Sound doctrine believes Jesus was crucified. Based upon our Bible reading from Galatians, this means Jesus was cursed by God. "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree" (Gal 3:13). Jesus was punished by God. Jesus experienced the anger of God.
The question is, how is this even possible? Are we saying God was angry with the Son Who is eternally in the bosom of the Father? Are we saying God was angry with the Son Who never committed any sin? If even Pontius Pilate declared Him to be innocent and pure and holy, how can God be angry with Him?
God was not angry with the Son! He has always loved the Son. Two times -- at the baptism and at the transfiguration -- the Father announced He was well pleased with the Son:
(Mt 3:17) And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Cf Mt 17:5)And, God remained well pleased with Him. God was well pleased with the Son even when He was suffering and dying on the cross.
B Sound doctrine says I believe Jesus was crucified. I believe Jesus was cursed by God. That is, I believe Jesus suffered the wrath of God, the anger of God, the hatred of God.
What causes the wrath of God? To answer that I want to look at what the Westminster Larger Catechism asks in its first question and answer:
Question: What is the Chief and Highest End of Man?God created man for His glory. God created man to enjoy God. God created man to taste and see that the Lord is good. God created man to acknowledge that God alone is the blessed one. That's why God created man.
Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for ever.
But man fell into sin. Man exchanged the truth for a lie. Man sought blessing outside of God. Man sought to enjoy life without God. Man believed the words of Satan rather than follow the word of the Lord. And this makes God angry.
The wrath of God is holy and constant. That wrath cannot cease as long as there is a creature -- any creature -- that opposes Him. And, any creature under that wrath is miserable and desolate. Remember what Christ cried out from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mt 27:46). That's what it means to be under the wrath and curse of God. Forsaken. Cut off. Despised. Abandoned. Facing hell.
Our age is too morally weak to believe in eternal damnation, but eternal damnation is reality. Hell is reality. Hell is as real as God is real. Every man, woman, and child -- unless they are saved -- are under the wrath of our holy God and headed towards hell. Sad to say, there even are churches and Christians who no longer believe in hell and eternal damnation. I've warned you before about Rob Bell and his book "Love Wins." It is billed as a book about heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived. Listen to what Bell says:
There are a growing number of us who have become acutely aware that Jesus’ story has been hijacked by a number of other stories, stories Jesus isn’t interested in telling, because they have nothing to do with what he came to do. The plot has been lost, and it’s time to reclaim it. [BELL IS TALKING ABOUT US, ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS. WE HAVE HIJACKED THE STORY OF JESUS. BELL CONTINUES BY SAYING]So what does Bell believe? Bell believes that every person ends up in heaven. Bell believes every person escapes the wrath of God. But it is plain not every person is saved. It is plain that many people leave this life as unbelievers and end up in hell.
A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven, while the rest of humanity spend forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. It’s been clearly communicated to many that this belief is a central truth of the Christian faith and to reject it is, in essence, to reject Jesus. [HEAR NOW WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT THIS, ABOUT THE HISTORIC CHRISTIAN FAITH.]
This is misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’ message of love, peace, forgiveness, and joy that our world desperately needs to hear.
C Sound doctrine says I believe Jesus was crucified. I believe Jesus was under the curse and wrath of God. But, but God was not angry with the Son. God could not be angry with the beloved Son. Instead, God was angry with what the Son shouldered. Instead, God was angry with what the Son took on. The loving Son bore the wrath of the loving God.
You know, we can look at the cross in terms of physical suffering. Like the Roman Catholics, we can emphasize the whipping, the crown of thorns, the pounding of the nails, the loss of blood, the thirsting, the failure of the heart. We can look at the crucifixion in terms of family. We can talk about the pain and loss of Mary or we can focus on how John took Mary into his home. We can look at the suffering of our Lord in terms of emotions: the hatred of the Pharisees, the hysteria of the crowds, the agony of Peter, the despair of Judas, the fickleness of Pilate. But especially when we look at the cross we need to look in terms of the wrath and curse of God.
This makes Christ's sufferings unique and special and one of a kind. There are those who mistakenly believe that what God has done to Christ He can do to them. But no mere man can bear the weight of God's anger. No mere man can stand under the curse of God.
II A Vicarious Atonement
A Sound doctrine confesses not only that Jesus was crucified under the curse and wrath of God but also that Jesus was crucified for me. He shouldered the curse which lay on me. He sustained in body and soul the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.
We have a word for this: the word "vicarious." Vicarious means in the place of. Christ suffered in the place of His people. Christ suffered what His people should have suffered. Christ suffered the curse of the cross in the place of His people. He shouldered the curse which lay on me. We are the guilty ones. We are the ones not living for the glory of God. We are the sinners while he is the Sinless One. Yet, He was punished in our place.
There is the story of a boy who was warned and warned and yet he disobeyed his parents. One day he was especially bad. At dinner that night, the boy looked at his plate. There was nothing but a slice of bread and a glass of water. He looked at his father's full plate and then at his father, but his father remained silent. The boy was crushed.Do you know what that father did? He took his son's punishment. It was a vicarious punishment. What the boy should have suffered his father suffered in his place.
The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy's plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son.
B Jesus suffered vicariously. I read from Isaiah 53 after the Law this morning. Let me read from this wonderful chapter again:
(Isa 53:3-6) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.Jesus suffered. Jesus suffered vicariously. Jesus suffered in your place and my place.
C Jesus suffered vicariously. Jesus took on my sin, my guilt, my shame, and the anger of God. For me. For you. He took on what separated us from God. He made atonement.
To make atonement is to bear an evil equal to the evil that has been committed. This Jesus did. He took away the sin of His people by bearing an evil that would weigh up against the evil committed by them.
Think about the sin and evil in the world, the guilt and the shame, and the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race. In North Korea if you worship anyone other than their dear leader you and the generation before you and the generation after you are thrown into the squalor of a concentration camp. North Koreans citizens are expected to spy on each other and to state their suspicions about each other; oftentimes this is followed by an execution squad. Citizens go without food and electricity just so the military can build nuclear weapons. All of this is organized evil and state-sanctioned evil. The vicarious suffering of Jesus is more than sufficient to make atonement for the sin and guilt of what is going on in that country.
Now consider the sin and evil in our land: abortion, gay marriage, drug abuse, abused and abandoned children, divorce, murders, drive-by shootings, gang warfare, slums, hunger, AIDS, theft, lies. The vicarious suffering of Jesus is more than sufficient to make atonement for the sin and guilt of what is going on in our country.
And don't think for a moment that you and I are above all this. Paul tells us in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So we too are stained with sin. The vicarious suffering of Jesus makes atonement for your sin and my sin.
In Jesus, then, we have a vicarious atonement. The cloud of evil that hung over us came down upon His head. All the wrath of God against our sin was gathered in one cloud and laid upon His shoulders. It was a vicarious atonement.
Sound doctrine proclaims the vicarious atonement of Jesus. His suffering and death was satisfying. His suffering and death satisfied the justice of God. His suffering and death satisfied the anger of God. Christ entered into the wrath of God with every drop of blood He gave. He did this willingly. He did this obediently. He brought a perfect sacrifice which was of infinite value.
D How is this possible? How can the suffering of Jesus actually pay for the sins of all His people? How can the suffering of Jesus be sufficient to pay for the sins of all?
The answer lies in what sound doctrine confesses about Jesus. Sound doctrine confesses that Jesus is the eternal, natural Son of God. So, He that suffered the vicarious atonement is the Son of God. He that suffered the vicarious atonement is the eternal Son of God Who took to Himself a truly human nature. He that suffered the vicarious atonement is the infinite Son of God. That is why His suffering is so deep. That is why His suffering is more than sufficient to sustain the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race.
Outwardly, the suffering of Jesus was no different than the suffering of many others. The difference is not in the outward suffering. The difference is this: that the suffering of Jesus was the infinite Son of God bearing the wrath of God in His human nature. The infinite Son of God gave infinite value to His suffering.
Sound doctrine proclaims and confesses and believes in the vicarious atonement of Jesus. The result? He set us free, body and soul, from eternal condemnation. He freed us from the severe judgment of God. He shouldered the curse which lay on me. He gained for us God's grace, righteousness, and eternal life. In God's sight our sins are gone, our guilt is gone, our shame is gone. The vicarious atonement causes us to believe that, although we remain sinners, we are children of God. It causes us to believe that, although we are unrighteous, we are righteous in God's sight.
Now, sound doctrine realizes we need to live like this is the case. We need to live as righteous people. We need to live as people set free.
(Col 3:12-14) Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (13) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
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