************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 28, 2018
Lord's Day 23
"The Value of Sound Doctrine"
Q & A 59 asks, "What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?" To believe what? To believe the doctrines declared by the Apostles' Creed: the Trinity, Creation, Providence, the Names of the Mediator, His office of prophet and priest and king, His state of humiliation and exaltation, the Holy Spirit, and the work of the Spirit in the church. What good does it do you and your children to believe all this?
In 2 Timothy 4 the Apostle Paul uses a phrase that sums up all of these teachings: sound doctrine. What exactly does Paul mean by the phrase "sound doctrine"? Sound doctrine is correct doctrine, accurate doctrine, reliable doctrine, trustworthy 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.
In his letter to Timothy Paul writes that men do not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
Are things any better today? Men still do not put up with sound doctrine. Men still gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. Men still turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
"What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?" What good does it do you and your children to believe all this? For you and your children, what is the good, the profit, the benefit of believing sound doctrine?
Many churches and pastors believe there is no good, no profit, no benefit in believing sound doctrine. And the adjectives they use say it all. Instead of the word "sound" they use words like "dry, abstract, boring, unnecessary." All of this is dry doctrine, abstract doctrine, boring doctrine, unnecessary doctrine. They say we and our children should not bother ourselves with dusty, old doctrine. So you won't hear doctrinal sermons from those pastors. And covenant youth are not taught the Catechism in such churches.
So, what is the good, the profit, the benefit of believing sound doctrine? Here is the answer: Through believing ALL THIS you are made right with God. Through believing ALL THIS you and your children are made right with God.
I The Wicked are Justified
A Do you know what is the most striking teaching of sound doctrine? That it is the wicked who are made right with God. Wicked men and women. Wicked boys and girls. Wicked infants. That is the teaching of the Catechism based upon our Bible reading from Romans. Sound doctrine tells us the wicked are made right with God. Or, to use the language of Paul, the wicked are justified; they are credited with righteousness.
Paul uses the word "wicked" in Romans 4:5. The word "wicked" is used often in the Bible for those sinners who openly and consciously sin against God; as a result they are enemies of God. Throughout the Catechism we are identified as those wicked sinners. Listen to what Q & A 60 puts into our mouths as the personal confession of our lips.
It starts by saying we have sinned:
-I have grievously sinned against God's Commandments
-I have never kept any of the commandments
The Catechism also mentions our sinful nature:
-I am inclined toward evil; that is, evil is not just something I do, it is also something I am
The Catechism uses the word "all" to indicate the seriousness of our sinful condition:
-I have grievously sinned against all God's Commandments
-I am inclined toward all evil
The Catechism doesn't use the past tense. We do not confess that we used to be wicked:
-I am still inclined toward all evil
The conclusion? I am one of the wicked. Right now I am one of the wicked. Right now you are one of the wicked. Right now our sons and daughters and infants are one of the wicked. Even though I am a believer I am one of the wicked. This is the confession made by a child of God. This is the confession that must be made by a child of God to live and die in the joy of the comfort of belonging to Jesus. I am one of the wicked. This is our confession because we know we have a natural tendency to hate God and neighbor.
B The Catechism based upon Romans 4:5 tells us that God "justifies the wicked." This is shocking. If you have any sense of justice this should deeply shock you. Because what do the wicked deserve? The wicked do not deserve justification. Those people who hate God and disobey God and are enemies of God, we people who hate God and disobey God and are enemies of God, deserve only damnation and punishment and judgment.
What sentence do you expect from a judge in an earthly courtroom? A man comes before the judge. "How do you plead?" "I am guilty, your honor!" "Of what are you guilty?" "I am guilty of breaking the law." What would you think if the judge says, "Okay. I will let you off this time"? We would be outraged by this. If the judge is a righteous judge the sentence can only be punishment.
God justifies the wicked. That is the teaching of sound doctrine. That is the teaching of baptism: we sinners are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. We call this the Gospel of grace. It is unexpected. It is undeserved. It is shocking. The Catechism says, "without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace."
II The Basis for Justification
A God justifies the wicked. The wicked are declared to be right with God. The wicked are declared to be righteous.
When you hear the word "righteous" you must always think of a standard, a rule, a measurement. To be righteous means one has qualified. Think of the skating trials for the Olympics. How does someone qualify to go to the Olympics? They need to be measured and evaluated according to style and difficulty.
What is the standard or rule or measurement for righteousness? The standard or rule or measurement for righteousness is the Law of God. Does the person measure up according to the Law of God? It isn't a question of whether the person is nice. It isn't a question of whether he is good to his wife, his children, his cat and dog. Rather, does he keep the Law of God?
B The Law of God demands two things. The Law of God demands obedience. And, the Law of God demands punishment for disobedience.
God justifies the wicked. God declares the wicked to be righteous. Think of what this means. This means the wicked measure up according to the standard of God's Law. This further means the wicked are not punished. Listen to how the Catechism puts this:
-it as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner
-it as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me
The verdict of the divine Judge is that we have never sinned. My criminal record has been removed. As far as the Law is concerned I have been perfectly obedient. As far as the Law is concerned I will not be punished.
Now, if you know yourself, you know this can't be right. Surely there is some mistake. Someone must have mixed up the files or lost my record. How can my criminal record with God be blank? How can it be said that I measure up? How come I am not punished?
C God has not made a mistake. God has not found a legal loophole. Has the Law of God been kept? Has it been kept perfectly? Yes, but we did not keep it. Has sin been punished? Yes, but it is not us who are punished.
God declares me righteous because of Christ. "God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ." That is, Christ kept the Law in my place. And, Christ suffered the punishment of the Law in my place. Quoting from Psalm 32, Paul explains this in Romans 4:7-8.
(Rom 4:7-8) "Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him."Our sins are covered by the robe of Christ's righteousness. Our sins are punished in Christ.
Don't ever make the mistake, congregation, of thinking the only thing about Christ that counts is His suffering and death. Don't ever make the mistake of thinking we are saved only because of the events between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Don't ever think we wicked are declared righteous only because of the crucifixion of our Lord.
Christ's life is as important to our salvation as His death. The 33 years of obedience prior to the cross are necessary. What was Christ doing for 33 years? He was working as Savior. He was doing what we sinners cannot do: He was loving God and neighbor! He was loving God and neighbor in our place. Every act of obedience performed by Christ was a stitch in the beautiful robe of righteousness He was fashioning for us to someday wear.
III The Benefit of Justification
A Christ kept the demands of the Law. He suffered its penalty. Remember the question of the Catechism: "What good does it do you ..." What is the good, the profit, the benefit?
Here is the first one: "In Christ I am right with God." Righteous. Justified. I, who am wicked. I, who deserve punishment. I am right with God. Wow. In Romans 5:1 Paul uses the word "peace." "We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." We who are enemies of God, have peace with God. We who deserve God's judgment, have peace with God. He is not at war with us anymore and there is harmony between God and us. There is peace because all barriers to peace have been removed.
B Here is the second benefit: "In Christ I am ... heir to life everlasting." When we think of life everlasting we need to remember the words of Jesus:
(Jn 17:3) Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.Eternal life is the blessing of knowing God and fellowshipping with God in Christ.
IV Faith and Justification
A We end with faith. Sound doctrine says we must "believe all this." Sound doctrine says we and our children must "believe all this." Sound doctrine says I am right with God, justified, declared righteous, "only by true faith in Jesus Christ." Sound doctrine says we need "to accept this gift of God with a believing heart."
We need to have faith. Through the Word and Spirit we need to bring our children to faith.
But don't make the mistake of saying we are saved by faith. I ask students in Pastor's Class, "Why should God allow you into heaven?" I buzz their answer as wrong if they say, "Because I believe in Jesus." Hear what the Catechism says about this: "It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me."
There are those who think God accepts our faith in place of keeping the law. They think of faith as a kind of good work that satisfies the requirements of God. But my faith has no value in the sight of God. "It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me."
There are those who say faith produces the fruit of righteousness. And it is this fruit of faith that pleases God. "It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me."
We need to have faith but faith does not save us. "Only Christ's satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God."
B So what is the role of faith? What does faith do? Faith is the instrument. Faith is the instrument the Spirit uses to join me to Christ and all His blessings. But this is not from ourselves. This is not our decision. It is the gift of God, the act of God.
Let me give an illustration to help you understand the place of faith in the life of the Christian. If you were to ask me how the lights in this building come on, I would point to the wires and tell you that when I turn the switch on electricity travels to the light bulbs by means of the wires. It is not the wiring that makes the lights burn, but the wiring is the instrument that conveys the current first into the building and then to the bulb. Similarly, faith does not save us; rather, it is the instrument -- the only instrument -- by which the Spirit joins us to Christ and all His blessings.
Faith to the Christian is like a magnet to steel. It attracts us to Christ and to the Word of God.
But, again, this is not from yourself. It is the gift of God.
Don't forget we are talking about sound doctrine. Sound doctrine declares that God justifies the wicked so that they are right with Him and an heir to life everlasting. Sound doctrine declares God justifies the wicked on the basis of Christ. And, sound doctrine declares that faith is the instrument God uses to join us to Christ and all His blessings.
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