************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 19a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 17, 2017
Lord's Day 19
"Our Ruling Lord"
The Apostles' Creed organizes its material about Jesus under two main categories. First, it mentions events that show the humiliation of Jesus: conceived by the Spirit, born of the virgin, suffered under Pilate, crucified, died, buried, descended into hell. Second, it mentions those events that show the exaltation of Jesus: rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, seated at God's right hand, coming again to judge the living and the dead.
We continue our study of what the Heidelberg Catechism says about the Apostles' Creed. Let me remind you that what we are looking at is sound doctrine. It is sound doctrine because it is doctrine based upon the Bible. Therefore, it is reliable doctrine, trustworthy doctrine, doctrine you can believe. Men's itching ears want to hear other things. Pressure is put on pastors to preach other things. That is why Paul urged Timothy and Titus and all pastors to preach the Word -- that is, preach sound doctrine.
So what does sound doctrine proclaim to us today? Sound doctrine proclaims that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. What does this mean? Let's backup for a moment and look at the other stages of Christ's exaltation.
The resurrection shows Jesus to be the living Lord. He is not a dead teacher, He is not an unmoving example, He is not a lifeless reformer; rather, He is our living Lord in Whom we have righteousness, wisdom, life, and redemption.
The ascension shows Jesus to be the heavenly Lord. He changed locations, from earth to heaven. In Jesus, someone with our human nature, our flesh and blood, went to the bosom of the Father.
Today, sound doctrine proclaims Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. This step in Christ's exaltation shows Him to be the ruling Lord.
So, Jesus is the living Lord, the heavenly Lord, and the ruling Lord. Next time, when we look at His return, we will see that He is also the judging Lord.
I An Exalted Position
A Over the years I have had more questions about the exaltation of Christ than about the humiliation of Christ; people understand His suffering better than they understand His glory. There is a reason for this: in His humiliation and suffering Jesus is like us; He suffers like we suffer; He suffers in the flesh; living on this sin-filled earth we all know what it means to suffer. When Jesus is exalted, however, His is a position far beyond anything we can even begin to imagine. Who here can understand being seated far above all rule and authority, above all power and dominion, above every title that can be given?
B What is this position far above any other, not only in the present age but also in the one to come? Jesus' exalted position is at the right hand of God.
Scripture is full of the exaltation of Jesus at the right hand of God. It was proclaimed by David in Psalm 110. It was mentioned by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33), before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:31), and in his first letter (1 Pet 3:22). Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55). In his letter to the Colossians (Col 3:1) and in our Bible reading from Ephesians (Eph 1:20), Paul speaks of Christ seated at the right hand of God. It is especially the book of Hebrews which mentions this exalted position: five times we are told by the author of Hebrews that Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Heb 1:3,13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2).
II He Rules All Things
A If I told you I was picking you to sit at my right hand, that shouldn't impress you. However, if a ruler in the Ancient World asks someone to sit at their right hand, that means they are bestowing power and authority and glory and honor on that person; that means that person is being asked to rule in the name of the King or Pharaoh. We see this with Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. Both served as a kind of Prime Minister; both ruled in the name of the King; both were given power and authority and glory and honor.
Jesus is seated at God's right hand. Meaning what? This means, as the Catechism puts it, that the Father rules all things through Him.
Jesus is seated at God's right hand. Meaning what? Meaning He was given power and authority and glory and honor. Meaning Jesus, under God, is exalted to the highest position in all of creation. As we read in Ephesians 1:
(Eph 1:20-21) [God] seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, (21) far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.Jesus received the authority to rule over all creation; and, He received the power to exercise that authority.
We read the result of this in the Hymn of Christ that we find in Philippians 2:
(Phil 2:10-11) at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, (11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.Jesus is highly exalted. That's the message.
B Jesus is seated at God's right hand. It is really easy to get the wrong image in your mind here. It is really easy to get the image in your mind that there is a large throne on which the Father sits, and along side of it a smaller throne on which Jesus is seated. That is not the image we should have. Where is Jesus seated? Not beside the Father. But on the throne of the Father. Do you remember how John pictures this in the book of Revelation?
(Rev 5:6) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne ...The Lamb is on the throne of God.
C Jesus is seated at God's right hand. Don't forget, this is what sound doctrine proclaims about Jesus in the flesh. Jesus' divine nature cannot be glorified or exalted; He is God, after all, and as such His always is glory and honor and authority and power. Nothing can be added to His divine nature; His divine nature cannot be given more power and glory than it already has. You cannot add to His divine glory. So, the seating of Jesus at God's right hand is part of the exaltation of a human Jesus: He arose, He ascended, He is seated. Jesus, in the flesh, was like Joseph and Daniel. He didn't take the place of God. God did not abdicate or resign. Rather, Jesus in the flesh became ruler in God's name. His human nature sat on the Father's throne.
In Psalm 8 we read that God made man a little lower than the heavenly beings. That was man's original condition. He was destined to be crowned with honor and glory and to have dominion over all things. But then came the Fall into sin. Man deprived himself of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place man brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and impurity in all his emotions.
When a Jesus in the flesh was exalted to God's right hand Psalm 8 was finally fulfilled. That's the message of Hebrews 2. Finally, in Jesus, man has dominion over all the works of God's hands. God put Jesus over everything. God put all things under His feet so that there is no power anywhere -- no power of sin and death, no power of hell, no power of darkness -- that is not subject to Him.
When a Jesus in the flesh was exalted to God's right hand, His human nature was highly exalted. His human nature was made so glorious that He was able to exercise power and dominion over all of creation. So, when Jesus prayed, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (Jn 17:5), He is praying for His divine glory to be experienced by His human nature.
D This power and exaltation of a Jesus in the flesh has one limitation. It is an exaltation "until." It is an exaltation UNTIL His enemies are defeated. This is the message of Psalm 110 and 1 Corinthians 15:
(Ps 110:1) Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.
(1 Cor 15:24-25) ... the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. (25) For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
III He Is Head of the Church
A Sound doctrine proclaims Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God where He rules all things. Sound doctrine also proclaims this shows Jesus is head of the church. What does our Bible reading say?
(Eph 1:22) And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church ...
Jesus rules all things. However, it is the church and only the church that confesses Him to be King. And, it is the church and only the church that obeys Him as King. In all of life, the church wants to acknowledge His rule.
Jesus is head of the church. Which means the organized church must acknowledge He is head. We must follow His will and His Word, for instance, and install only men in church office. We must follow His will and His Word when it comes to what is taught from this pulpit. We must follow His will and His Word when it comes to how we worship.
Jesus is head of the church. I've said before that we are a generous congregation. People are quick to give to Word & Deed when there is a disaster. People are quick to help the causes of the Kingdom. People are quick to give to special causes and offerings. People are quick to give to the building fund or future maintenance fund. I am thankful for this. However, sometimes those who are the biggest givers also think this means they are the owners of the church, that they get to rule the church. Sound doctrine does not allow us to think this way because Christ, seated at God's right hand, is the head of the church.
Jesus is head of the church -- not just the organized church but also the church as people. Which means He needs to be acknowledged as head of our homes and master of our lives. We need to serve Him in the school. We need to serve Him in our work. We need to serve Him in the way we do business. We need to serve Him when we rest and relax. I love the Abraham Kuyper quote:
"There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” It all belongs to Him!
B Now here we have a problem, a big problem. According to our sinful nature we are slaves of the devil. According to that same sinful nature our every word and deed confesses that the devil is our lord. According to our sinful nature the devil is lord in the home, school, shop, office, truck, bus, and on the street. The world confesses that the devil is lord. The world pays homage to the devil as lord. That confession reaches its climax as the time of Christ's return draws nearer. The world will require you to show that the devil is your lord. You will be required to wear the sign that the devil is lord, or be killed.
C Regardless of what our sinful nature and what the world says, the devil is not our lord. Rather, Christ is our Lord. He is head of the church. His grace cuts the ties that binds His chosen people to the devil. Instead, He binds them to himself and to His heavenly throne. He cuts the ties of sin and makes us righteous. He cuts the ties of death and gives us life. He cuts the ties of darkness and makes us children of light. And He make us say, "Jesus is Lord."
Jesus is Lord. The church cannot acknowledge any other king. It cannot acknowledge the pope is king. It cannot acknowledge the minister or the elders are king. It cannot acknowledge the congregation is king. Jesus is king. Jesus is head of the church.
D Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. This shows He is head of the church. What does He do as head? Through His Spirit He pours out His gifts from heaven upon us His members. From the riches of His grace and from the storehouses of heaven He pours His gifts upon us. Why? So we can serve the members of the church. And, so we can serve the lost.
E Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. This shows He is head of the church. What else does He do as head? By His power He defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.
Shall we then be afraid? Do we have anything to fear? Let's go back to verse 22 of our Bible reading:
(Eph 1:22) And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church ...Did you catch that? God appointed Him to be head over everything. Why? God appointed Him to be head over everything FOR THE CHURCH. FOR THE CHURCH. FOR THE CHURCH. His rule over all of creation is for the church. His rule over all power is for the church. His rule over the angels of heaven is for the church. His rule over evil powers and evil men is for the church. His rule over the devil is for the church. There is no power so great but Jesus stands above it for the church.
In this life and on this earth we must go through trials and tribulations. But Jesus is Lord of everything. So when you come face to face with temptation, be not afraid. When you come face to face with persecution, be not afraid. When you come face to face with death and the grave, be not afraid. Be not afraid because He is Lord of everything for the church. For you. For me. For everyone who believes.
At Easter we see Jesus is the living Lord. At the Ascension we see Jesus is the heavenly Lord. Today, we see Jesus is the ruling Lord.
Jesus is the ruling Lord. That's what sound doctrine means when it confesses Jesus is seated at the right hand of God.
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