************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 20 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 29, 2010
Q & A 20
"Are All Men Saved?"
A certain woman has a son. The son is a drug user. Reading between the lines, it appears the son shows no sign of faith and none of the fruits of repentance. Yet, this woman believes her son still is saved. Is she right in thinking this? Is she right in thinking that when Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead, her son has a final chance to repent and believe?
Doesn't everyone want to believe this? Is there any parent here who doesn't want to believe their son or daughter is saved? Is there any parent here who believes their child is lost and beyond God's grace?
Let's go a step further? Is there any person here who doesn't believe they are saved?
I meet lots of unbelievers. I talk with lots of unbelievers. When asked, everyone of them believes they will be saved by the God they don't believe in. Are they correct in thinking this?
In Q & A 20, the Catechism answers these questions for us.
I All Men Are Not Saved
A Do you remember how King David captured the city of Jerusalem? I just love this story. The Jebusites, who lived there, boasted to David that their city was so well built and fortified that even the blind and the lame could keep him out. Jerusalem was built at the top of a hill; it had thick, high walls all around; it had massive well-built gates. But David took the Jebusites by surprise. In the center of Jerusalem was a walk-in well which went down about two hundred feet at a forty-five degree angle. At the bottom was an underground stream which flowed under Jerusalem and came to the surface outside of the city. David and his men swam against the current, under the ground, to the well. From the well, David and his men walked into the city and defeated the surprised defenders (Cf 2 Samuel 5).
At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem still had secret entrances like the one David used. So, there were two ways to enter Jerusalem: through the big, main gates used by most of the people OR through small, hidden gates known only to a few and used by spies, scouts, and secret messengers.
B Jesus used the idea of two gates or two ways into the city of Jerusalem to bring a message. In Matthew 7:13-14, the wide gate and broad road are symbolic for the way to hell. The small gate and narrow road are a symbol for the way to everlasting life with God.
Jesus brings almost the same message in Luke 13. According to Luke, Jesus' message was in response to the question, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" (Lk 13:23). Another way to ask the same question is the way the Catechism asks it: "Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?"
Notice, the Catechism compares Christ to Adam. This is a fair comparison when you realize that the Bible pictures Jesus as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45). Remember what we learned about the original sin of Adam: that all men are lost in Adam, that all men fell into sin in Adam? Is it possible that as in the first Adam all die, so in the second Adam all will be made alive (cf 1 Cor 15:22)?
C Before saying anything else, let me tell you about the desire of God. Listen to what is said by both the prophet and the apostle:
(Ezek 18:32) For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!In other words, God desires all people to be saved.
(2 Pet 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (Cf Is 45:22; 2 Cor 5:20; 1 Tim 2:4)
Because God wants all people to be saved, what is the church supposed to do? We, the church, have a God-given mission to the lost. God has given to the church and to every believer a command to "go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28:19). So let me ask, "Are you obedient to this command? Do you witness to others about Jesus?"
D God may wish for the salvation of all people, and we are commanded to proclaim the Gospel to all, but this may not lead us to teach or believe universal salvation.
First, did you hear what Jesus said about the small gate and narrow road in our Bible reading? "Only a few find it." Not many. Not all. A few. Remember what Jesus says in Matthew 22:14? "For many are invited, but few are chosen." Based upon Scripture, the Catechism says "No." "No. All are not saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam."
Second, did you hear what Jesus said about the wide gate and broad road? "Many enter through it?" Many. Not few. Not some. But many. Jesus wants us to think of life as a journey. On a trip, most of us usually want to take the easy way; that's why freeways were invented.
In the summer of 1976, Ruth & I served a church in New Mexico. At the end of the summer we decided to visit Ruth's aunts in the Los Angeles area. After our visit we took the Pacific Coastal Highway from LA to San Francisco. For the first couple of hours we oohed and aawed about the seascapes and vistas. After that, we got really tired of taking corner after corner and curve after curve and going through village after village so we got on Highway # 101.Most people make a similar decision when it comes to life. They decide to take the easy way.
Again, did you hear what Jesus said about the wide gate and broad road? "Many enter through it." Aren't these about the saddest words in the Gospels? Sad, because our sinful hearts naturally pick the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction. Sad, because our sinful hearts would sooner pick life without Jesus than life with Jesus. Like Ruth and I on the way to San Francisco, our human hearts get tired of taking the small gate and narrow road that leads to life.
To be a disciple of Jesus is NOT easy. Remember what Jesus Himself said?
(Mt 16:24) If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.How many are willing to do that? According to Jesus, not many. It is much easier to not be a disciple of Jesus – nothing demanded and nothing required. The road to hell is very smooth and very easy and you get there by doing nothing. It is much easier and much more comfortable to live a life without Jesus than to live a life with Jesus. Don't forget, the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to life!
This says something to how we live right now, doesn't it? If we find life with Jesus to be easy, something is probably wrong. Either we are like little children or we have sunk into the apathy of the comfortable pew. The fact is, congregation, that life with Jesus was never meant to be easy – it is the narrow gate and bumpy way. Those who get eternal life, by grace, are those who travel the hard path; they are those who have the courage and the faith and the conviction to break away from the great majority who take the easy way and thereby reject Jesus and the life of discipleship.
Many enter through the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction. Very few enter through the small gate and narrow road that leads to life. Meaning what? Meaning NOT everyone is saved!
E Now, in this light consider the Catechism's answer. "Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?" "Are all men saved?" "No," says the Catechism. "Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings."
Who are saved? Only those who have true faith. Not those who merely think they are saved. Not those who pretend to be Christians. Not those who point to the faith of their parents or grandparents. Those are saved who have true faith, who enter the small gate and narrow road.
II Salvation is Totally an Act of God
A How come only a few people find the gate and the road that leads to eternal life? How come the majority of people miss the gate and the road that leads to eternal life?
Based upon Scripture, the answer is to be found in the song we are going to sing after this message:
My Lord, I did not choose you, for that could never be; my heart would still refuse you, had you not chosen me.
Or, consider the words of this song:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;
it was not I that found, O Savior true;
no, I was found, was found of thee.
Our Bible reading is part of the Sermon on the Mount. Too often we see this sermon as nothing but a New Testament version of the Ten Commandments. But behind and underlying and surrounding this sermon is the grace of God. So, when Jesus tells us to "Enter though the narrow gate," we are to see the grace of God at work behind the scenes. It is that grace which cultivates our heart and soul the way a farmer works his land. It is that grace which creates in us the desire and ability to enter through the small gate and narrow road. It is God's grace which allows us to find the gate and the road that leads to life.
B "Are all saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?" "Are all men saved?" As I already mentioned, we wonder about the salvation of ourselves and our loved ones. We poor, sinful, miserable creatures tend to look at and answer this question from a man-centered point-of-view. The Catechism's intent is not a man-ward but a God-ward point-of-view. So, the real question is this: "Does God save all men?" "Does God save me?"
Seen this way, the question really gets turned around, doesn't it?! Salvation is not up to me. Salvation is not based on me. Salvation is not dependent upon me finding the small gate and narrow road. Instead, salvation is a work of God. It is totally a work of God.
C "Does God save all men?" "No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings."
Think about grafting. It is a wonderful process. It is a necessary process.
When I drive or bike through the countryside around Visalia, I marvel about the walnut groves. I tell visitors to look for the knob at the bottom of the trunk. That knob indicates the walnut tree has been grafted onto a healthy root system.It is the same way with being grafted into Christ. It is God Who acts on us. It is God Who does the grafting. It is a gift of His grace and an operation of His Spirit; it is not something we can take credit for or have pride in (cf Rom 11:17f). Our permission and will are not required. In other words, salvation is totally a work of God.
Now, does the walnut tree have any say in the grafting process? Does grafting require the walnut's permission and blessing? Of course not! Grafting is something that happens from the outside. Grafting is always done by a third party. Grafting is something that is imposed. Branches do not graft themselves onto a trunk; rather, grafting is something done to them. How the walnut tree feels or acts is immaterial.
III Grafted into Christ
Who are saved? Only those are saved who "are grafted into Christ." Let me emphasize the last two words: "into Christ." Only those are saved who are grafted "into Christ." Or, to put it another way, only those are saved who are united with Christ.
We can never underestimate the importance of being "in Christ." To be "in Christ" is central to the Christian religion. In Christ we have died to sin and in Christ we have been raised to righteousness and new life (Col 2:11,12; 3:1-4). In Christ we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). In Christ we have been chosen before the creation of the world (Eph 1:5). In Christ we have been predestined to be adopted as sons (Eph 1:5). In Christ we are given grace (Eph 1:6). In Christ we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7). In Christ we know the mystery of God's will (Eph 1:9). In Christ all things reach their fulfilment (Eph 1:10). In Christ we are chosen (Eph 1:11). In Christ we hope (Eph 1:12). In Christ we hear the word of truth, the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13). In Christ we receive the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13). And, in Christ our inheritance is guaranteed (Eph 1:14).
How important is union with Christ? How important is it to be grafted into Christ? As long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from Him, all that He has suffered and done for our salvation remains useless and of no value to us. All that Christ is and all that Christ does is nothing to us unless we become one with Him.
Union with Christ, my brothers and sisters, underlies our salvation. We are not saved until we have been made one with Christ, and we remain saved only as long as we remain in union with Christ. Which is why it is so important to believe in Jesus or to have faith in Jesus. For, it is only by true faith that we are grafted into Christ.
Roman Catholics and Lutherans teach that this union with Christ is physical when we take the actual body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But our union with Christ is spiritual or mystical rather than physical. It is something God works in us through faith.
"Are all men saved through Christ just as all were lost through Adam?"
"No. Only those are saved who by true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his blessings."
No. Only those are saved who enter through the narrow gate.
Which makes me ask, which road are you on? Through which gate are you entering?
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