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God's Word Faithfully Preached from the Pulpit

Heidelberg Catechism LD 6: The Mediator and the Gospel – Part 2 (Genesis 3:14-15 and Hebrews 1:1-2)

In the previous Vesper services, we looked at our spiritual depravity, the justice of God, and finally our mediator—Jesus Christ.

  • Lord’s Day 2 & 3 — Our total depravity as a result of Adam’s sin. Our entire nature became so corrupt that unless the Spirit regenerates, we cannot do anything good and righteous before God and even towards others
  • Lord’s Day 4 — God’s justice is perfect that he would not let sin go unpunished. And since sin is against his supreme majesty, the penalty is also supreme—which is eternal punishment of body and soul
  • Lord’s Day 5 (Deliverance) — Because man is the one who sinned against God, man should bear the penalty. But we cannot pay for it ourselves, for we even increase our debts to God. And no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s wrath and satisfy his perfect justice.

    How can we be delivered? Through a mediator who is both a true, righteous man and powerful God.
  • Lord’s Day 6 — This mediator is Jesus Christ, himself. Who, being the eternal Son of God, took on the human flesh to be like us. So that in his human nature, he would bear our guilt, suffer and die on our behalf as payment for our sins. And in his divine nature, he would powerfully endure God’s wrath until God’s justice is satisfied. And he continues to be our Mediator, keeping our reconciliation with God secure until the end.

    Q. 18. Jesu-Kristo “para sa ating ganap/kumpletong kaligtasan at katuwiran.”

Lord’s Day 6, Q. 19

Tanong: Paano mo ito nalalaman?

Sagot: 

Ang banal na ebanghelyo ang nagsasabi sa akin.
     Ang Diyos mismo ang unang nagpahayag nitong ebanghelyo sa Paraiso;1
     nang kalaunan, ipinahayag Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng mga banal na ninunong lalaki (patriarchs) 2 at propeta 3
     at ipinahiwatig Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng mga pag-aalay at iba pang mga seremonya ng kautusan;4
     at sa wakas ay tinupad Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang sariling minamahal na Anak.5

What is the “gospel?”

  • The gospel is the good and joyful news, the doctrine of Christ manifested in the flesh as the Messiah—the promised Savior (Luke 2:10, 11). It is the doctrine which God revealed immediately after the Fall, which promises and announces that by the free grace and mercy of God, all those who repent and believe in the Mediator are delivered from sin, death, condemnation, and the wrath of God and at the same time obtain righteousness and eternal life.
  • The gospel is not about how we are converted and our lives transformed. Rather, this good news is God’s plan of redeeming sinful men in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Now, if we will recall, Lord’s Day 2, begins with the question: “Paano mo nalalaman ang iyong pagdurusa (misery)?” And the answer is, “Ipinapahayag ito ng kautusan ng Diyos (Law).” But here in Lord’s Day 6, Q. 19, we learn our deliverance and our deliverer through the gospel. Hence, we see here that the gospel differs from the law.

Outline

  • The gospel differs from the law
  • There is only one gospel of salvation
  • This gospel is by the work and faithfulness of God

A. THE GOSPEL DIFFERS FROM THE LAW

The gospel and law are both from God, and there is something revealed in each concerning the nature, will, and works of God. But there is a great difference between them:

  1. In how they are revealed

The law is written in the hearts of each and every person since creation (Romans 2:15). God has revealed that man has moral obligations since the start. “Death reigned from Adam to Moses…” (Rom. 5:14). (Death is a result of sin against a moral obligation). You don’t need a written tablet of the 10 commandments to know what is right and wrong. That is why everyone is without excuse (cf. Rom. 1:20).

The gospel is not known naturally, but divinely revealed to the Church alone (the elect alone) through Christ, the Mediator, and the illuminating work of the Spirit. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). If we came to understand God’s salvation in Christ, “flesh and blood has not revealed it” to us but the Spirit alone.

  1. In the kind of doctrine they teach

The law teaches what we ought to be, and what God requires of us, but it does not give us the ability to perform it. The law gives us the standard of becoming righteous before God, but it doesn’t help us to be righteous. It only tells us what we should be.

The gospel teaches us in what manner we can attain to what the law requires. For it offers the promise of grace by having Christ’s righteousness imputed to us by faith. And in that way, Christ’s righteousness becomes ours and we become justified before God as if we ourselves perfectly obeyed his law.

The law says, “Pay what you owe,” “Do this, and live.” The gospel says, “Only believe,” “Repent and believe.”

  1. In their promises

The law promises life to those who are righteous in themselves and could fulfill perfect obedience. “He who does them shall live by them” (Lev. 18:5).

The gospel promises life to those who are justified by faith in Christ, on the basis of Christ’s perfect righteousness applied unto us by faith.

However, the law and gospel are not opposed to each other in this respect. For although the law requires us to keep the commandments in order to have eternal life, it does not exclude us from life if another performs the law for us (as explained in previous sermons). Only perfect obedience to the law leads to life. But since we cannot perform it, the way of satisfaction is through another—not ourselves. And this, the gospel shows to us.

We are saved by works, by obedience to the law… not our works and obedience, but the work and obedience of Christ.

  1. In their effects

Without the gospel, the law is the letter which kills, brings death. “For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). Yes, it gives us the knowledge of our moral obligations towards God and what we need to be (i.e., righteous). But since it doesn’t give us the ability to perform it, it only finds fault and condemns our righteousness. It only leaves us in our guilt.

But the gospel provides life. For through the gospel, the Holy Spirit regenerates those who are dead in sin and works faith and life in the elect. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). Because we are now justified in Christ and reconciled with God—as the gospel declares to us—the Spirit reminds and enables us to live in righteousness according to God’s will.

Clarification: As Christians, we don’t disregard the law.

The law reveals our sinfulness and hopeless in ourselves, and points us to the gospel, to our deliverer—Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:24, the law as “guardian” or “tutor”). Then, the gospel, having revealed to us our salvation by grace through faith in Christ, points us to the law to know how we can live in gratitude and worship to God. As Christians, we obey God’s law not in order to be righteous, but because we are already made righteous and reconciled with God by grace.

The bottom line of this difference between the law and the gospel is this…

If we are to rely on the law and our obedience to the law in order to become righteous before God—we are nothing but under a curse. “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse…” (Gal. 3:10).

What does it mean to be cursed?

Numbers 6:22-26:

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD life up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’

To be under God’s curse is this:

“The LORD curse you and abandon you; the LORD turn his face away from you and crush you; the LORD pour down his judgment upon you and give you wrath.”

But Paul continues to give us the gospel:

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13).

On that cross, Christ bore our sins before the Father and cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was abandoned by the Father, he was crushed, he received God’s wrath on our behalf… “so that we might receive God’s promise through faith” (Gal. 3:14).

May we never trust in our works and obedience to the law. For living under the curse of the law guarantees the eternal curse of God, but living under the gospel—trusting in the finished work of Christ—guarantees the blessing of eternal life.

[TRANSITION] Now, since the law does not save, how are those who lived before Christ came saved? Are they saved in a different way from that by which we are saved?

B. THERE IS ONLY ONE GOSPEL OF SALVATION (ONE WAY UNTO SALVATION)

Heidelberg Catechism LD. 6, Q. 19

Ang banal na ebanghelyo [na ito]…
     Ang Diyos mismo ang unang nagpahayag nitong ebanghelyo sa Paraiso;1
     nang kalaunan, ipinahayag Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng mga banal na ninunong lalaki (patriarchs) 2 at propeta 3
     at ipinahiwatig Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng mga pag-aalay at iba pang mga seremonya ng kautusan;4

There’s only one gospel in both the Old Testament and New Testament. Those under the law as well as those under the gospel are saved and reconciled to God only through faith in Christ, the only Mediator (cf. Galatians 3:9 “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith). 

The gospel was not fully and clearly revealed in the Old Testament as it is in the New, but God revealed to them everything they need to know gradually. There was still a joyful announcement of the benefits of the Messiah that was to come, sufficient for the salvation of the ancient fathers.

Hebrews 11:13 – “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar…”

Christ himself said that “the prophets and kings” desired to see him (Luke 10:24), and even “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad” (John 8:56).

The people of God in the Old Testament were saved by nothing else than the promised Messiah and all the benefits in him. They were never saved by works or obedience to the law.

  • In the Garden of Eden, God already promised that from the seed of the woman shall come the one who shall crush the head of the serpent, someone who shall make a fatal blow upon Satan.
  • In the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God promised to them that through their offspring shall God’s blessing come even to other nations of the earth (Gentiles). They were not perfect men, but God chose to bless them and their future offspring.
  • During the time of Moses, and while Israel observed their temple worship, God provided types and shadows that reminded them that God is holy, and they cannot pay for their sins. As Hebrews 10:1-2 explains, these types and shadows are not capable in themselves to save sinners, but only pointed to the true realities that they signify (i.e., Jesus Christ and his ultimate sacrifice).
  • During the time of the prophets, God continued to promise Israel who were exiled and ruled by other nations that a remnant shall remain until the coming of the Messiah, the Prophet, who shall lead and reign over them in perfect righteousness and give them deliverance.

That’s their object of faith—not in themselves but in God’s promise of their salvation through the future Savior. 

Although “Jesus Christ” himself is not yet known to the Old Testament believers, he is the substance of the entire biblical history. 

That is why we see Christ in all of Scripture. Whenever we read Scriptures, we don’t focus on how to “be like Abraham,” or “be like Joseph,” or “be like David.” (Although we definitely learn from their moral lives). But we don’t isolate the people and events of Old Testament Scriptures from the over all context of God’s redemptive plan. In every book, every person, and every significant event and institution in the Old Testament, we will see how God foreshadows the coming of Christ and the work that he was to fulfill.

And yes, the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that Christ finally fulfilled what God has promised from the beginning:

 at sa wakas ay tinupad Niya ito
          sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang sariling minamahal na Anak.5

Hebrews 1:1-2

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”

We must understand, however, that Christ is not only the final and ultimate prophet who gave a clearer revelation of God than all the prophets before him. He himself is the God’s revelation. In Christ, the prophecies and promises of God since the beginning has been realized and fulfilled.

In that way, the hope of Old Testament believers was fulfilled. Their faith was not in vain. And for the New Testament people, the gospel is now made clearer to us than ever before.

So there is only one gospel of salvation, one deliverance, one deliver—then and now. Those who lived before Christ came were saved by grace through faith in the coming Messiah. They put their hope in God’s promise that one day, the Messiah will come to save them from their sins and bring them to the glorious presence of God. Those who live after Christ (include us) are saved by grace through faith in the Messiah who has already come. We put our hope in God’s promise in the Scriptures that when Christ came, he already fulfilled the law, paid our sins in full, and reconciled us with the Father.

[TRANSITION] Now, what do make of this truth? What does this all reveal about God and his work?

C. THIS GOSPEL IS BY THE WORK AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD

Heidelberg Catechism LD 6, Q. 19 shows the gradual unfolding of the gospel from the time of Adam ‘til the coming of Christ. God made sure that the promise of salvation didn’t stop in the Garden of Eden, but that the plan of redemption shall continue throughout all the generations of his people.

And so we see that the entire plan and history of salvation of mankind is fulfilled by the great power, grace, and faithfulness of God.

Take for instance, the gospel revealed in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned, God intervened for them.

(ILLUSTRATION: A parent would willingly defend his child before his enemy or oppressor, even though he himself has a fault. [Tapos sa bahay na lang papaluin]).

Yes, God eventually brought upon Adam and Eve a punishment for their disobedience. But he didn’t say, “This is your fault. You fix this!” No, Adam and Eve witnessed God himself declares a war against Satan:

I will put enmity between you and the woman…”

And God himself declares the assurance of victory:

“He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

God is the one who will bring the solution, and all Adam and Eve had to do is believe in God’s promise.

Take another instance, how God established his covenant with Abram (Genesis 15). While Abraham was still childless and a sojourner, God promised that he shall have an offspring beyond number and he shall possess a land. Then Abram asked, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” (How can I know this for sure?)

God told Abram to bring animals and cut them in half. In the ancient times, when two parties make a covenant, they would cut animals and the people involved will pass through or around these animals—signifying that they should as the dead animals if ever they break the covenant.

While preparing the animals, Abram fell into a deep sleep. And after God told Abraham what is to take place, it says in verse 17:

“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram…”

The “fire pot” and “flaming torch” symbolized God himself passing through the pieces. Abram was asleep, and didn’t pass through the piece. But God did, as if saying, “Let me die or ceased to be if I do not fulfill what I promise to you.”

That’s how God fulfills his plan of salvation until the time of Moses, until the time of the kings, until the time of the prophets. It is always God faithfully doing his promise on our behalf.

… Until the day when “God gave his only begotten Son,” and Christ bears our sins on the cross, receives God’s wrath for our sake, and declares, “Τετέλεσται” — “It is finished,” “It has been finished,” “It stands finished.”

It is permanent. No further sacrifice is needed. At last, God’s people—those who looked forward to Christ and those of us who look back in history—could be free and put right with God forever.

The end of the matter is this, friends… 

If we will look at the entire history of mankind, the most important, most glorious, most amazing reality we see is not the development of human society or human thought, not the weak and imperfect men and women of God—but the absolute grace and faithfulness of God.

Friends, we learned this afternoon that there is nowhere else that we will know our salvation and our Savior than in the gospel message revealed to us in the Scriptures—from the Old until the New Testament. And we must be thankful that God continues to reveal this gospel to us until today. What a blessing it is!

So if you haven’t put your faith in Christ, “the only mediator between God and men”—let me remind you sincerely that no matter how hard you try—you can never be righteous by yourself. And apart from Christ, you have nothing but the curse and wrath from God. God has already fulfilled his salvation. And as you hear the gospel preached to you, Sunday in, Sunday out—do not harden your heart. Repent and believe God’s promise, turn to Christ as your only Mediator, and your sins shall be forgiven.

And for us who believe, if we lose heart by the troubles of this world and the weaknesses of our sinful flesh, how else can we find strength and comfort for our souls than to keep going back to this gospel? Preach the gospel to yourself. Keep repenting and keep believing in Christ. And let us find comfort and strength in the finished and secure salvation we have in our Mediator.

Keep preaching the gospel to yourself, until God finally reveals to us our full, perfect, and glorious redemption in the end which Christ himself promised in his Word. Our covenant-making God is the covenant-keeping God. God is faithful. He will do it. Amen.

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