************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 33-34 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 7, 2010
Q & A 33-34
Hebrews 1:1-9; 2:10-15
"I Believe ... God's Only Son, our Lord"
"I believe ..." says the man and woman of faith. "I believe in God, the Father almighty." "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord." This comes from the Apostles' Creed. Remember, when we are looking at the Apostles' Creed we are looking at the summary of the Gospel. And, we are looking at the content of true faith.
When we compare the Creed to the Catechism we see right away there is a difference in emphasis. In the line before us this evening, the Creed tells us Jesus' relationship to God: He is God's "only Son." And, the Creed tells us Jesus' relationship to us: He is "our Lord." Instead of focusing on these relationships, however, the Catechism focuses on their effects.
A The Creed confesses Jesus to be God's "only Son." It talks this way because that is how Scripture talks. Don't forget that though the Catechism is a man-made document it uses and quotes and paraphrases the language of Scripture; this is not a man-made teaching in front of us this evening. So, listen to what Scripture says:
(Jn 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.See and hear all the emphasis on Jesus as God's "only Son"?
(Jn 3:18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
(1 Jn 4:9) This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
The Apostles' Creed emphasizes Jesus as God's "only Son" to counter the pagan Roman and Greek teachings about Jupiter/Zeus who was believed to have had numerous sons and daughters. By way of contrast, the one only true God has only one Son.
Now, consider our Scripture reading from Hebrews 1. Jesus is the "Son" Whom God "appointed heir of all things" (Heb 1:2). To Him God said,
(Heb 1:5) "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"?
Think of how exalted Jesus is as the Son of God. Hebrews says,
(Heb 1:3) The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
B Now, notice what the Catechism does with this Biblical teaching. It affirms the teaching of the Creed and the Bible when it states that "Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God."
From here, though, the Catechism hastens to add what was important to the churches of the Reformation: that we are also God's children, "adopted ... by grace through Christ." Don't forget, the burning issue at the time of the Reformation in the 16th century concerned the doctrine of salvation and not the doctrine of Christ.
How important is this teaching that we are also God's children? Important enough that this is already the second time it is discussed in the space of a few questions and answers (cf Q & A 26, 33). And, it is mentioned again when the Catechism looks at the first line of the Lord's Prayer (cf Q & A 120).
C There are two ways that children get to be members of a family. One way is to be born into a family. Usually, this means we end up looking like and acting like our parents. Young people, want to know what you will probably look like when you are 40 or 50? Take a look at your parents.
Another way to join a family is by adoption. When someone joins a family by adoption, they need to realize their parents must have wanted them very much because the parents had a choice and chose them. It only takes nine months to have a baby but it can take years and thousands of dollars to adopt a child. Adoption is never an accident and it never just happens; it is always a free, loving, intentional choice.
This doctrine of adoption is not one that we easily think about. It has often been neglected in texts books of systematic theology and in most of the church's confessions. People can tell you clearly what they believe about justification and sanctification; but, will give you a blank look when you inquire about adoption.
For instance, I am sure everyone here can tell me that justification rests on a legal image. The scene is a courtroom. The verdict is guilty. And, yet, the Judge treats us as if we have never sinned nor been a sinner.
The same thing with sanctification. I am sure everyone here can tell me this raises the image of cleansing and purification, of washing.
Properly understood, adoption is one of the most precious, heartwarming, and practical of all our theological beliefs. It invites us to consider the amazing privilege that is ours that we should be called the children of God (1 Jn 3:1). The image it raises is that of family, of father and mother. It points us to the joy and assurance that is ours when we are received by a Father Who loves us and become part of a family that wants us.
Whether it happens through adoption or though birth the result is the same: a child enters a family. Whether it happens through adoption or through birth, both experience the love and devotion of the parents, both can say "mommy" or "daddy," and both are full members of the family with full rights and privileges as a member of the family.
In God's family we are adopted rather than natural born children. Christ alone is the natural Son of God. And, like all adopted children, we have full rights and privileges in the family: we can call God "Abba" or "Daddy" or "Father" (Rom 8:15). As adopted children, we always have a place we can call home, a place where we can find comfort and security and love. As adopted children, we are heirs – "heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17).
D All adopted children are adopted by grace. They are chosen to enter a family. It is always a free, loving, intentional choice. No orphan can choose and say, "That is the family I am joining." It just doesn't happen that way. Notice how our adoption as children of God happens? It too happens by grace, and through Christ. We don't choose whether or not we become God's children and join God's family. It is God Who does the choosing, not us. We don't become God's children by a do-it-yourself or a decide-for-yourself religion. It is all of grace. It is all the result of God's choosing, God's election, God's foreknowledge and predestination.
E Think of what adoption says about us. Doesn't it mean that we are orphans? When you see the pictures of orphans in Sudan and Ethiopia and Haiti, does it ever occur to you to say, "That is me. I am an orphan apart from Christ."
The biblical doctrine of adoption begins with Adam and Eve. Remember what we looked at this morning? We looked at their sin in the Garden. We looked at how they became outcasts – from God and the Garden. The Catechism uses the word "misery" to describe this.
But God was not content to leave us. He is the Father Who looks for His long-lost children. He is the Father Who welcomes them back into the family. In fact, He has chosen them to be part of the family. He adopts them as His children in Christ.
F Think about the two things we have been told: Jesus is God's Son and we are God's children. Think about this. What does this say about our relationship to and with Jesus? Jesus is God's Son and we are also God's children. Doesn't this mean Jesus is our brother? Jesus is God's son and we are also God's children. So, what does Hebrews says?
(Heb 2:11) Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. (Cf Heb 2:17)Jesus is our brother. Jesus calls us brothers; and, we can add, sisters. And, we can call Him brother.
Why? Because we are all part of the family of God. God is Father. Jesus is our brother. And, we who believe, we who have been adopted, are His brothers and sisters.
A "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son." The Creed continues with "our Lord." "I believe in Jesus Christ ... our Lord." Do you know what this confession meant to the Christian of the first century A.D. It meant persecution, imprisonment, loss of job, loss of business, even death. People were killed by the thousands. They were torn apart by lions and whipped by gladiators. All for confessing "Jesus is Lord."
B At the time the Catechism was written, the Lordship of Jesus Christ was not an issue anymore. As I already said, the chief issue at the time of the Reformation was not the doctrine of Christ but, rather, the doctrine of salvation.
So, notice what the Catechism does when it talks about the Lordship of Jesus Christ: it turns immediately to the cross and the blood. That cross and blood does two things to those who confess Jesus as Lord: it has set them "free" and it has "bought" them. Why do we call Jesus "our Lord"? Because He has set us free and has bought us.
Notice, how Christ does this: NOT with "gold or silver, but with his precious blood." God in Christ rejects the ways of the world. God does not buy freedom with money or goods. God does not use the sword and the shield. God buys us and sets us free with the precious blood of Christ.
C The blood of Jesus sets us free. Which means what? Which means, says the Bible, that we are prisoners, that we are in shackles, that we are slaves. Slaves of sin and under the tyranny of the devil – that's what we are. And, the only way to be free is by the blood of Christ on the cross.
The blood of Jesus also buys us. Which means what? That we belong to Jesus. Just as surely as Southern slaves were bought and sold and belonged to their masters, so we have been bought and sold and belong to Jesus. How totally do we belong? We belong to Jesus body and soul, in life and in death.
The blood of Jesus sets us free and the blood of Jesus buys us. Meaning what? Meaning He is our Lord. We want to serve Him Who died for us. We want to thank Him Who went to the cross for us. We want to live for Him Who paid the blood-price for us.
Think of what we have learned about our relationship to Jesus. As God's "only Son," Jesus is our brother. As the One Who bought us, Jesus is also "our Lord." Doesn't this sound confusing? How can He be both brother and Lord? [Cf Mt 22:41-45 for something similar with Jesus as both the son of the David and Lord.]
We are confused because of the workings of the modern family. In the modern family, all children are equal and are treated as being equal. But, this was not the case at the time of Jesus. In Jesus' time the oldest brother was – under the father – the lord of the house. He was honored and obeyed, even by his mother. Younger family members served him. His was the birth-right. He received the bulk of the estate upon the father's death.
Jesus is this older or oldest brother. He is the One we are to honor and obey. He is Lord.
He is Lord. He is Lord. Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Now remember, we are talking about the content of true faith. We are talking about the summary of the Gospel. So, what does true faith confess? "I believe." "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord."
"I believe I, in and with Christ, am a child of God." "I believe Jesus is my Lord."
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