************ Sermon on Revelation 5:12 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on October 25, 1998

Revelation 5
Revelation 5:12
"Worthy is the Lamb"

"Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb." That's what we have been hearing tonight. The churches of the Reformation declare the worth of the Lamb. "Worthy is the Lamb."

I want to tell you that it was not always this way. There was a sad time in the church's history when the Lamb was not front and center. There was a sad time in the church's history when the Lamb took second place or was in a close tie for first place. I am talking about the decades around 1517 when Martin Luther protested the abuses of the Church of Rome; at that time he was forced to nail his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. We are gathered together this evening as daughters and sons of the Reformation that he started. And, contrary to any church which proclaims any other kind of Gospel we say and sing, "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb."

I What is Not Worthy
A "Worthy is the Lamb." We say that contrary to those who say, "Worthy is human obedience and human works." That was and is the teaching of the Church of Rome and others who think their works and their obedience can save them.

In response to this I have to say that most people tend to overestimate their goodness and underestimate their sin.

B First, we tend to overestimate our goodness.
I am an avid cyclist my wife uses the word obsessed. I consider myself pretty good at it. For instance, about 6 weeks ago I went just under 24 miles in one hour and I wasn't going downhill either. This is the greatest distance I have ever gone by myself in one hour. Compared to most of you I would say I am a good cyclist.
A couple of days ago I was looking through the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1994 Book of the Year, page 291). I read about a cyclist who broke the world record for the distance covered in one hour (now remember, I went almost 24 miles). He went 32.25 miles with a self-built bike that included parts from a washing machine (it wasn't the motor) and a handlebar section from a child's bike.
Suddenly I don't look so good, do I?
Do you know what this tells me? This tells me that goodness depends upon the standard you use. When we measure our goodness against rapists, murderers, child molesters, and abusers then most of us look good. But we are using the wrong standard. Measured against God and Christ and even the holiest of men our goodness is not so good.

C Second, we tend to underestimate our sin. According to a poll in last week's issue of Newsweek, 85% of all Americans think they will end up in heaven; the same poll indicates that only 52% think President Clinton will end up there. Do you know what this tells me? This tells me that most people don't think they sin all that much, certainly not enough to deserve God's wrath.
I was talking to someone about Christ and salvation. "Hold it, I don't need saving."
"Why not?"
"I'm not a bad person. I'm basically faithful to my wife. I work hard for the boss. I love my kids."
I jumped. "So you haven't always been faithful to your wife?" He slowly nodded.
"Have you ever taken anything from the office without permission? Have you ever left work a few minutes early? Have you ever goofed off at work?" Again he nodded.
"Have you ever exploded at your kids without a good reason? Have you ever had a big argument with your wife?" Again he agreed.
I read James 2:10 to him: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."
I gently told him that by his own admission he is a sinner, a bound for hell sinner, a sinner in need of Christ and salvation.
This man suppressed what the law told him and underestimated his sin. There are thousands upon thousands who do the same thing.

D I need to tell you that there are churches that specialize in underestimating sin and overestimating good. Their members even prefer it this way. One man said, "Every other church talks about sin. This one doesn't." One woman said, "I don't want to leave feeling bad about myself; I want to leave feeling good." These people are wrong and their churches are wrong!

"Worthy is human obedience and human works." No. Never. Instead, "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb."

II The Measure of Worth
A "Worthy is the Lamb." That is the refrain of the churches of the Reformation. We confess that our works and obedience are NOT worthy. We confess with John in Revelation that the Lamb is worthy.

In today's world worth is measured in different ways. Some measure worth in terms of dollars. They look at Bill Gates and his fifty billion dollars of wealth and talk about his worth. [Others, I suppose, look at his buggy software and think Bill Gates is not worth much at all.] Our world also measures worth in terms of athletic skill. They look at Mark McGuire's home-runs, at Michael Jordan's baskets and rebounds, at Brett Favre's touchdown passes, at Wayne Gretzky's goals, at Mike Tyson's knock-outs and say these guys are worth a lot. Our world measures worth in terms of beauty and appearance. So Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio (he played the lead in Titanic), and Cindy Crawford are worth a lot. Our world measures worth by position and power. So President Clinton or the President of General Motors are worth a lot.

B By the world's standards Jesus wasn't and isn't worth much. For instance, He doesn't have a big bank account like Bill Gates. Nor was He noted for athletic ability; Scripture contains no record of His skill in the Colosseum throwing the discus or the javelin or wrestling opponents to the ground. Nor was He known for His handsome appearance; in fact, Isaiah 53:2 gives us a picture of an "Ugly Christ."

In spite of this, the churches of the Reformation say with the apostle John, "Worthy is the Lamb." Obviously, we measure worth a different way. We measure worth with a different measure.

"Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb." What a surprising image. If you remember from the Scripture reading, John wept because no one was found worthy to open the scroll. Then one of the elders said to him, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah ... is able to open the scroll." So John looks up expecting to see a Lion. Instead, he sees a Lamb. When we think of majestic creatures we think of lion, not a lamb. Or, we think of a ram with big curved horns, or a bull, or a tiger, or a bear, or an eagle. But John sees a Lamb (vs 5-6). What a surprising image.

C "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb." Why is He worthy? The very next phrase tells us: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain." He is worthy because He was slain.

Here we get to the heart of the Gospel. Here we get to the heart of the Reformation. What is worthy? NOT our works and obedience. What is worthy is the Lamb Who was slain.

The picture of a slain lamb is a common one in the Old Testament. At the Passover, when God delivered Israel from Egypt, each family took a lamb without blemish and killed it and sprinkled its blood on the doorposts of their home. That night, the Lord passed through the land of Egypt to slay the firstborn son in every household, except those that had been sprinkled with blood. Every single year after this Israel had to kill a Passover lamb and celebrate the Passover Feast.

The picture of a slain lamb is also central in the great prophecy of the Suffering Servant found in Isaiah 53. Isaiah saw One Who is despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows, Who would redeem His people by suffering for their transgressions and iniquities.
(Isa 53:7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
Did you catch that? The Suffering Servant is like a lamb. A slain lamb.

It is John the Baptist who brings together the image of the slain lamb and Jesus. In a passage you have already heard from the choir, John says:
(Jn 1:29) "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Jesus is the Passover Lamb without blemish. Jesus is the Suffering Servant. Jesus is the Lamb Who was slain. Jesus, the Lamb, suffered and bled and died upon the cross. Jesus, the Lamb, was buried in a grave.

D You all should know this. You have heard it a hundred times, a thousand times, perhaps ten thousand times. But here it is again: The Lamb was slain in our place. Turning again to the words of Isaiah 53:
(Isa 53:5-6) 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 was the Lamb slain in our place.
Topic: Christ
Subtopic: Became Man's Substitute
Index: 3361
Date: 1/1998.101
Title: Law in Tokyo

There was a law in Tokyo around the year 1900 that no foreigner could take up residence there unless he had a "substitute." There were natives who hired themselves out for this purpose. If the foreigner broke any law, the substitute suffered the penalty for it, even if the penalty was death.
Jesus, the Lamb of God, is our substitute. He took our place. He paid the penalty on our behalf.

He did this for our sins. To save us. To redeem us. To forgive us. Or, as John the Baptist puts it:
(Jn 1:29) "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
This is something we can't do. This is something we can't earn. There is a song that says it so well:
Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul.
Now what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God.
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my awful
(P.H. # 260)
There is nothing I can bring. There is nothing I can do. There is nothing I am. For don't forget, my works and my obedience are not worthy. In fact, I am worthy ONLY for hell and punishment and eternal condemnation and the fires that never go out. But Jesus can do what I cannot do because He is the perfect Lamb Who was slain. So, "Worthy is the Lamb."

"Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy is the Lamb." Not me. Not my works. Not my thoughts. But the Lamb Who was slain. He is worthy! "Worthy is the Lamb."

III Worthy to Receive Power, Wealth ...
A "Worthy is the Lamb." That word "worthy" is interesting. We are to think of one of those old-fashioned scales that used to be in grocery stores. A customer comes in and asks for 5 pounds of sugar. So in the pan or tray on the one side the grocer places a five pound weight but because there is nothing on the other side the scale is out of balance. He then adds sugar to the pan or tray on the other side until the two sides are in balance.

On the one side of the scale is the Lamb Who was slain. But the scale is out of balance. To balance the scale something needs to be poured into the pan or tray on the other side. Do you know what that something is?

We find the answer in our text. Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain, says John, "to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." That's what balances the scale. The Lamb Who was slain is worthy of this; He deserves this; He has earned this; He has paid for this with His blood and His life.

B Notice, the angels mention seven different things. The number seven is not accidental. The number seven is the number of perfection, the number of wholeness and fullness. The seven items tells us that nothing is lacking, nothing is wanting, in what belongs to the Lamb. The seven items together indicate the wonder and majesty of the Lamb.

Who is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise? Gathered together this evening as daughters and sons of the Reformation we know who is worthy:
Not us. Not our works. Not our thoughts. Not our prayers.

Who is worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise? Gathered together this evening as daughters and sons of the Reformation we know who is worthy:
"Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" Worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb, Who was slain. Worthy is the Lamb Who died for us, in our place, upon the cross. Worthy is the Lamb.

"Worthy!" "Worthy!" "Worthy!" He is worthy. "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" (Rev 5:13). Amen!
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