Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #23

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 23 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 59 and 61.

Transition

This week, we have finally come to the “So what?” moment of the first half of the Catechism. So far we have learned a foundational understand of Christian truth and doctrine. We have worked our way through the Apostle’s Creed. We have learned about God the Father, Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Today, we have come to the point where the Catechism says, “So what?” What does all of this mean to me? It’s detailed, it’s organized and it is profound; but what good does all of this Christian doctrine do for me?

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 59: What good does it do you, however, to believe all this?

Answer: In Christ I am right with God and heir to everlasting life.

Last week, Heidelberg asked about how the doctrines of the Christian faith give comfort to our souls. This week it is asking, “Why does any of this matter?” and the answer has to do with one of the greatest and most important doctrines of our faith; the doctrine of Justification.

Justification is defined as an instantaneous legal act of God in which he (1) thinks of our sins as forgiven and Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us, and (2) declares us to be righteous in his sight.

Let’s look at an instance of this from a popular New Testament parable…

Luke 18:9-14  He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:  10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed1 thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.'  13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'  14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

Here we see Jesus use this term justified and we need to ask ourselves what he means by it. In context does it mean that this man had earned forgiveness based on his righteousness, No! Quite the opposite, he is declared to be righteous and is granted right standing before God over and against a man who was, practically speaking, more righteous. When Jesus says that this man went to his home justified, rather than the other, he means that this man was at peace with God, without respect to his own personal righteousness.

To justify means to make a legal pronouncement that the man in question is righteous before God and it is God himself that makes such a pronouncement. If you study this term very much at all you will read time and again that this is a legal/forensic[1] term and that it means the opposite of condemn. To condemn a man is to declare him evil and guilty of his crimes, but to justify means to declare a man righteous and innocent of all charges. In other words, when Jesus says that this man is justified, he is declaring the man cleared of any moral guilt and that he no longer deserves punishment for his sin.

Since our sin is removed, there is no longer a barrier between us and God. We are ready to be reconciled to Him and that means everything. By faith in Christ we are now right with God!

Question 58: How are you right with God?

Answer: Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.  

This answer is beautiful. This truth is the foundation upon which all of salvation stands. This answer, this truth, is the reason that why the work of getting the gospel right is so incredibly important.

How are you right with God? It is not the result of any one of us having achieved perfection through the law. It is not the result of our having overcome our sin on our own. Being right with God is purely and completely a work of sheer grace, where the perfect righteousness of Christ is credited to our account by faith alone.

Martin Luther famously stated that a true Christian is simul iustus et peccator, “at the same time, justified and a sinner.” The catechism is pointing this out when it says that even though my conscience accuses me of my unrighteousness, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ.

Until Christ returns, we will remain sinful saints. On this side of heaven, we will not experience sinless perfection. But praise God, our salvation doesn’t depend on our sinless perfection. Our salvation is based on the sacrificial death of Christ in our place, which removes our guilt. Our justification is rooted in the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is granted to us who believe.

2 Cor 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We have been given an alien righteousness, which is a phrase that theologians use to describe the fact that our righteousness is not our own, it comes from outside of us. Not from outer-space, but from Jesus.

Question 61: Why do you say by that by faith alone you are right with God?

Answer: It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.

The catechism is stressing the object of our faith, not just the presence of faith. In our culture today it is more appealing to have an ambiguous faith, an undefined faith; than it is to have a very specific faith. It is far more popular to be a spiritual person than it is to have a well-defined faith. But the faith that overcomes the world, the faith that alone saves, is a faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and risen Savior of the believing world.

To believe in Jesus means that you embrace that He is the eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. He is God in human flesh. To believe in Jesus Christ means that you entrust your eternal destiny and your right standing before God entirely to Him. It means that you believe in His substitutionary death on the cross for your sins. You believe that He paid the debt to God that you owe.

It is by faith alone because there is no other way to receive this. You can’t buy it, bargain for it, earn it, or steal it. It is to be received by the empty hands of faith. As needy sinners we bring nothing to the table but empty hands and when we walk away the thing that we cling to with all of our trust is not ourselves, but to Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 24 together and discuss questions 62 and following.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Forensic simply means that it is information used in and admissible in a court of law.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #22

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 22 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 57 and 58.

Transition

This week, we are going to finish up the section of this catechism that has us looking into the Apostle’s Creed. Today, I will be discussing the very last line that reads, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” So our topics will be our own personal resurrection and the eternal life that follows; what do we know about these things?

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 57: What comfort does the resurrection of the body afford you?

Answer: That not only my soul, after this life, shall be immediately taken up to Christ its Head; but also, that this my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.

Once again, Heidelberg is asking about how the doctrines of the Christian faith give comfort to our hearts and minds. This might seem like a small thing but it shifts the focus from our minds only and puts a little emphasis on our hearts. I think this is a good thing.

We should always be keen to ensure that what we believe (head) is sound and biblical and true. We need to know the truth of God’s Word. But we are also to feel that truth in our hearts. We are to know the truth and that truth will set us free. Part of that freedom is the unshakeable comfort that the truth brings.

In this case, the question relates to how the Bible’s teaching on the resurrection brings us comfort. This is a great question for us to consider because the thing that necessarily precedes any discussion of resurrection is death, and death is something that has brought fear and discomfort to humanity since, forever.

Death is the great equalizer. We will all face it and it has a near flawless record. Only a few men in the history of the world have ever cheated death; Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah the prophet, who was carried into Heaven on a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11). Then there was Jesus, but He didn’t cheat death, He conquered it.

But death is coming for all of us and the gospel that we believe give us comfort because it promises that just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so will we be.

1 Corinthians 15:50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I know this is a long passage, but it makes very clear that for those who trust in Christ, death is not the end. In fact, death will one day be no more. The curse of sin is death, but the day is coming when that curse will no longer have any claim on us. Christ’s victory will be our victory. His resurrection will become our resurrection.

This is a comfort to us because it means that we can face death with the confident knowledge that, “my body, raised by the power of Christ, shall again be united with my soul, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ.”

Question 58: What comfort have you from the article of the Life Everlasting?

Answer: That, inasmuch as I now feel in my heart the beginning of eternal joy, I shall after this life possess complete bliss, such as eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man; therein to praise God for ever.

Not only will our bodies be raised and forever united to our souls after death, but the resurrection will mark the beginning of eternal joy. What does that even mean? Eternal joy!

It’s hard for us to grasp what this means, and the Bible is quick to point that out.

“No eye has seen, nor ear heard,

nor the heart of man imagined,

what God has prepared for those who love him”

Death is not the end it marks the beginning of life in a way that we can’t fully grasp, because we can’t rightly imagine what God has in store for us. Time will be no more. Pain will be no more. Fear will be no more. Sorrow will be no more. Every experience, every relationship, every longing, every hope, every satisfaction will be perfect, and they will never end.

Kevin DeYoung tries to help us grasp what this might mean when he writes,

The blessedness of eternal life is like savoring your favorite food, drinking your favorite drink, laughing with your favorite friends; its like seeing your wife on your wedding day sparkling in her overpriced dress and grinning from ear to ear; its like holding a newborn baby or watching your grandkids play…It’s like all these moments (and all the others that I left out) – except these moments never stop and never wane.

But even more amazing than the reality of full satisfaction in everything forever; is the reality of being in the presence of God and worshipping Him in the fullness of His glory.

Imagine with me for a moment that there is someone you consider to be your favorite person in the world; perhaps an artist or an author, or an actor, or musician…a hero or heroine that you are a fan of. Let’s imagine that when it comes to this person you have a choice between one of two options:

Option A: You are allowed to go into a room that is filled with that person’s work. Books or art or movies or music. You have been given access to all that your favorite person has done and you are able to go in and to enjoy it, to share it with others and to keep it for the rest of your life.

Option B: You get to go into another room and spend the rest of eternity with that person face to face.

Eternal life with Christ is like Option B. To be face to face with Christ forever will be like having the best day of our lives every new day. It will be like the most precious, most delightful, most amazing, most satisfying, most encouraging, most awesome day and everyday will be better than the last. Food will have never tasted so good. Laughter will have never been so sweet. Every joy, every pleasure, ever moment will be more satisfying than we could ever imagine.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

A day will come when Christ will return and the veil of this world will be drawn back. King Jesus will have come to finish his work and establish His kingdom for all eternity. At that time he will initiate a resurrection from the dead, when all who have undergone physical death will be raised to stand trial in the courtroom of God.

Those who remain in unbelief and rebellion, who rejected Christ in life, will be called to account for their sin and according to Jesus they will be told, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is the second death.

But those made alive by the Holy Spirit, who were born again to trust in Christ by faith. The scriptures say that our robes, our garments will have been washed white by the blood of the lamb. When we stand to give an account for our sin before God, it will be clear that our sins have been paid for by the death of Jesus, “this he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

Death will be no more than a memory and even the bitterness of that will be wiped away.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 23 together and discuss questions 59 thru 61.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #21

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 21 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 54, 55, and 56.

Transition

This week, we are going to talk about the church, the gifts and the atonement.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 54: What do you believe concerning the Holy Catholic Church?

Answer: I believe that the Son of God through His Spirit and Word, out of the entire human race, from the beginning of the world to its end, gathers, protects, and preserves for Himself a community chosen for eternal life and united in true faith. And of this community I am and always will be a living member.

First of all, don’t be confused by the word Catholic here. This is not a reference to the Roman Catholic church but to the Holy Catholic church. Catholic simply means universal, so this is a reference to the universal church. The community of God’s people that is not defined by culture or ethnicity, but by a common faith in Jesus.

Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

The church was Jesus’ idea. In Matthew 16, He told Peter and the rest of the Apostles that He would build His church (ekklesia) and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. The church consists of those people who have been born again by the Holy Spirit to believe the Word of the Gospel. They have been gathered together out of all the peoples of the world to be the family of God on earth.

The Bible tells us that God planned this church, community of believers, before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4) that He sent His Son to ransom them from their sin, He adopted them, protects them and will preserve them in the faith until the end of the world. At that point, this community will enter into the eternal life that God has promised them.

And once you’re in, truly in, there is no way that you can lose your status. Our entry into the church is a work of God and He will continue His work in us until Jesus returns.

Rom 8:38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Question 55: What do you understand by “The Communion of Saints?”

Answer: First, that believers one and all, as members of this community, share in Christ and in all His treasures and gifts. Second, that each member should consider it a duty to use these gifts readily and cheerfully for the service and enrichment of the other members.

The first part of this answer points out that if you are a member of the church then you have a share in Christ and all of His treasures and gifts. To share in Christ means that we are united to Him. We belong to Him. He is our Redeemer, Lord and King. But He is also our brother and friend. All that He has been given by the Father is shared with us.

Gal 4:4 When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

The logic in this passage is incredible to consider but easy enough to follow. Because of Jesus we have been adopted into the Family of God. God is our Father too, and we have become fellow heirs alongside Jesus. All of Christ’s good gifts are ours, not because we’ve earned them, but because God’s grace has made it so.

The second part of the answer to question 55 causes us to consider how we should respond to this truth. Since we have a share in all of Christ’s blessings, we should take it as a responsibility to use our gifts and privileges for the benefit and joy of others, not just for our own happiness and comfort. Every gift that God has given to us in Christ is meant to be enjoyed first and shared second.

The gifts of God are not intended to terminate on us, they are meant to be shared with others.

Rom 12:6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Question 56: What do you believe concerning “The forgiveness of sins?”

Answer: I believe that God, because of Christ’s atonement, will never hold against me any of my sins nor my sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in His grace God grants me the righteousness of Christ to free me forever from judgment.

Question 56 is a great question and it is at the very heart of our understanding of the gospel as well as the Christian life. Forgiveness means pardon, it means to be released from an obligation. It means that a debt was being held against us, but that debt has been cancelled. What was the debt and how was it cancelled?

The debt that we owed we owed to God because we belong to Him and we have robbed Him of something. We have failed to obey our Creator. We have failed to properly glorify our God. We have rebelled against Him, His person and His law. We have sinned and the wages of sin is death. That is our debt, death brought on by our sin.

This debt was cancelled because someone else took our place. Jesus Christ took our place on the cross and died the death that we deserved. He paid the debt for His people in full to the point that He could say, “It is finished.” He took our sin upon Himself and gave us His righteousness, which he earned by never rebelling against the Father.

Christ atoned for our sin, He paid sins price, and therefore our sin will never be held against us. Even though we still have hearts that are corrupted by sin and we still struggle with sinful temptation and tendencies all of our lives, the debt has been paid and none of our sin will be held against us.

And just so we don’t get the wrong impression, this glorious truth of the atonement is a work of grace. We didn’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. But God, in His grace, has pardoned our sin and set us free from judgment forever.

Gratitude is easy to fake but hard to feel. Not until we see the gift is truly valuable will our gratitude be heartfelt, but when we understand the true worth of a gift, the gratitude we feel will be expressed. There is no more precious gift in all the universe than that of Christ’s precious blood and the ultimate expression of our thankfulness to Him is praise.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 22 together and discuss questions 57 thru 61.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #20

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 20 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 53.

Transition

This week, we have one question and it has to do with the Holy Spirit. Now, personally I think this is far too little time spent on the Spirit of God, but that is how the Catechism is laid out. Why do I think this isn’t enough time? You can probably answer that for me, I mean, after all this is the third person of the Trinity we are talking about.

Let me answer with a question, If you only had 3 hours to spend with the people you cared about most, what would you do? Would you talk about how much they mean to you? Would you reminisce about the time you spent together? Would you say all the things that you couldn’t bear to leave unsaid? You would probably do all those things and more, but One thing is certain, if you knew you only had 3 more hours to spend with the people you loved most, you wouldn’t waste your time. You would do all that you could to make that time count.

As we read through the gospel of John and come to the 14th chapter, we understand that Jesus has about 15 hours to live, but He will only spend about 3 of those hours with the 12. So, what does Jesus talk about in these final hours? For starters, He wants to comfort them. He wants them to know that God’s plan is right on track. They don’t need to abandon the gospel; they don’t need to seek salvation in any other way. They have put their hope in Him and nothing needs to change that.

But there is something else that dominates his final hours with the 12. He wants them to know that He is going to be leaving them but this is actually a good thing because when He leaves Someone else is going to come.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

John 16:7  I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; 11 concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

For the disciples, the coming of the Holy Spirit was good news, but for many of us it is still a pretty unclear subject. The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is the Cinderella Story of Christian Doctrine. He is the person of the Trinity that we seem to talk about the least. but this week we are going to focus our attention on Him exclusively. I don’t have 3 hours like Jesus, but in the next 15 minutes or so I want us to consider what we believe concerning the Holy Spirit.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 53: What do you believe concerning the Holy Spirit?

Answer: First, that He is co-eternal with the Father and the Son. Secondly, that He has been given to me personally, so that, by true faith, He makes me share in Christ and all His blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever.

The word for “spirit” in the OT is the Hebrew term “ruahk.” In the NT the word for spirit is “pnuema.” Both of these terms are used in other places to refer to wind or breath, as well as life, motion and activity. This has caused some, like the Jews, to think of the Holy Spirit as the impersonal force or power of God. Muslims teach that the Spirit of God is an angel sent to do God’s bidding. But the Bible is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is not an impersonal force, nor an angel; but rather He is the third person of our Triune God.

The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person by drawing our attention to the personal attributes that are ascribed to Him. The Holy Spirit grieves (Eph 4:30), He intercedes for us (Rom 8:26-27), He speaks (Mk 13:11), He creates (Gen 1:2) and He can be blasphemed (Mk 3:28-29). The Holy Spirit possesses wisdom and understanding (1 Cor 2:10-12, Isa 40:8, Psa 139:23), He acts according to His own will (1 Cor 12:11), and He is the One who sets apart men to special tasks of ministry (Acts 13:2, 4).

In the passage we read earlier from John 14:16, we see Jesus refer to the Holy Spirit as a HE.

V. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

The Holy Spirit is more than an impersonal force; He is a personal being. But He is also more than just a person, He is a divine person. In Hebrews 9:14, He is called the eternal Spirit. In Acts 5, when Ananias and Saphira lied to the Holy Spirit they are said to have lied to God. He shares in the immensity of God, the omnipotence of God, the foreknowledge of God, the omniscience of God and the Sovereignty of God.

The Spirit is God, like the Father and the Son. He stands alongside them as an object of worship. He is called the Holy Spirit because by His very nature He possesses the attribute of divine holiness. The Holy Spirit is God, but He is not the Father nor the Son. He is His own divine person equal in glory and majesty to the Father and the Son.

The first part of the Catechism answer addresses the person of the Holy Spirit but the second part addresses His work. One of the reasons that we focus more on the Father and Jesus, than the Spirit, is that this is the Spirit’s work.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Whether we realize it or not, the Holy Spirit draws our attention away from Himself and He directs our focus to Christ, He magnifies the Work and Word of Jesus. His task is not to highlight our subjective spiritual experiences, but to amplify our love for Jesus.

But, make no mistake, the Holy Spirit has been given to all who possess true faith in Jesus. The Spirit lives within us (1 Cor 6:19) and He makes His dwelling place in our hearts.

Gal 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

By faith, the Spirit makes us partakers or He helps us to share in the blessings of Christ. When I read this I can’t help but think of Ephesians 1 where Paul talks to us about the fact that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Then he goes on to outline for us what those blessings are.

We have been blessed by God in Christ because He chose us before the foundation of the world. He predestined us to adoption according to the purpose of His will. He redeemed us by forgiving our sins on account of Jesus. He has lavished us with grace, revealed to us mysterious things about God’s will for the world, and He has given us an eternal inheritance.

All of these blessings have been given to those who believe in Christ, but how did that happen? How did we become recipients of the blessings of Christ?

Eph 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Spirit sealed us with His presence. We heard the gospel, we believed in Christ, we received the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee that we will receive every blessing that God has prepared for us.

There is so much more that I could say about the work of the Spirit in us. But let me just list out a few things that He does in the lives of believers.

1. The Spirit convicts us and we read about this a few minutes ago from John 16:7-11. The Holy Spirit brings: conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment. For believers, we understand that the Holy Spirit has worked in us to convince us of our sins before God, of the righteousness of Christ that we need, and of the certainty that judgment will come.

This progression is the way we understand how God works in our heart and mind to draw us to saving faith in Christ. But there is more to this text. The Holy Spirit also brings this conviction of sin to the unbelieving world. The Spirit exposes sin. He puts a giant spotlight on it and causes the world to see the ugliness that they want to deny.

2. The Spirit converts us

John 3:3 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

In this conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus is talking about the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that causes us to be born again. This is the Holy Spirit’s work. He removes our blindness so that we can see our need of Christ. He breathes life into our souls and brings us out of our deadness to sin. He removes our heart of stone and gives us a living heart of flesh.

The Holy Spirit does this work in every believer and there is no genuine saving faith in Christ apart from this converting work of the Holy Spirit.

3. The Spirit comforts us. He bears witness in our hearts that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16-17), He groans within us and causes us to long for the day when Christ will return to set all of creation free from the curse of sin and death (Rom 8:23), He helps us in our weaknesses and intercedes/prays for us with groanings too deep for words, and He will sustain us in the faith making us more than conquerors until the day our Lord appears.

4. The Spirit teaches us

John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

This instruction had special significance for the Apostles but it is important for us as well. The Spirit of God reveals to us the things of God, the things that pertain to salvation and the Christian life.

1 Cor 2:11…No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.

5. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us

This should be no surprise to us, after all He is called the Holy Spirit and he works in us so that we will bear the fruits and become more like Jesus.

Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

6. The Spirit equips us

He fills us with courage, not fear. He fills us with wisdom, faith and joy. He grants us gifts that we are to use for the building up of the body of Christ. He empowers our service to God and to one another.

7. (And finally) The Spirit seals us for the eternal inheritance that we will receive when Christ returns in glory (Eph 1:13-14). Like those overpriced embossing seals that we buy so that we can stamp an impression on our books, the Holy Spirit has placed His seal upon us declaring that we belong to God and our place in His kingdom secure.

The whole of our Christian life is initiated, empowered, and sustained by the Spirit of God working with the Word of God to bring us into the presence of God. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible (2 Tim 3:16). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Gospel Witness, the Spirit works in us to accomplish the great commission. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no believers because our dead hearts would never come to life on their own. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Church.

The whole of our Christian life is dependent upon the Holy Spirit of God, the third person of the Trinity.

Let’s ask God to give us more of the Spirit’s presence and power in our lives. Let’s ask the Spirit to shift our sanctification into overdrive. Let’s ask the Spirit to pour out His power in our church and in our lives. Let’s ask the Spirit to convert our loved ones. Let’s ask the Spirit to make the church more loving, more faithful, more compassionate, more like Jesus.

 

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 21 together and discuss question 54, 55, and 56.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #19

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 19 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 50 - 52.

Transition

This week, we wrap up the section on Jesus Christ and next week we will move on to the Holy Spirit. But we can’t finish up our discussion of Jesus unless we talk about where He is now and when He will return. That’s the focus of the last 3 questions.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 50: Why is it added: and sits at the right hand of God?

Answer: Because Christ ascended into heaven for this end, that He might there appear as Head of His church, and that the Father governs all things through Him.

So, last week we talked about Jesus ascending into heaven because He had completed His earthly ministry. When Jesus ascended, He was actually receiving the reward of His completed mission. The Ascension of Christ marks the highest point of the Son of God’s exaltation. As He ascends into Heaven, to the right hand of God, He is entering into the glory that He has earned.

But Heidelberg is asking, but why was it important to point out that Jesus now sits at the right hand of God? Well, for starters this is the language of the New Testament.

Heb 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Notice the progression that we see in this passage. After making purification for sins, He sat down. This shows us that Jesus’ taking His seat by God the Father in Heaven was the restful reward for having done what He was sent to do.

You could think of it in this way; at the end of a long day of work most of us just can’t wait to get back home, to find our favorite chair, and to sit down to rest. When we sit down it is because our work is complete, at least for that day. Sitting down carries with it two ideas, the idea of rest and the idea of completion.

Jesus sat down because He had earned a well-deserved rest, but He also sat down because His work of atonement was finished. All that was necessary for His people to be saved was complete.

But why does He sit at God’s right hand? The right hand was the place of honor and power, which points to the reward Jesus received.

Eph 1:20 When he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

When Jesus took His rightful place at the right hand of the Father, He was taking His place as the Head and ruler of the church, the head and ruler over all creation. Jesus has taken up the position of divine power and authority that is far above any other power or dominion. His name is exalted above every name in the universe and from His position of exaltation He rules and reigns over all.

So, the language of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God is about His authority and rule, which is good news for believers. The one who rules among the stars is also willing to call us brothers and sisters…let’s think about that.

Question 51: How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us?

Answer: First, through His Holy Spirit He pours out His gifts from heaven upon us His members. Second, by His power He defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.

Now, I’m going to go back to Ephesians here because one of the benefits of Christ ascending into heaven is that He has sent His Spirit into the world to empower Christians for ministry, until He returns. We looked at this concept last week and found that it is actually a good thing that Christ has gone away from us. Jesus said in John 16, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”

Then if we can skip over to Ephesians 4 we see what that will mean

Eph 4:10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

What’s the point of this passage? Well, it tells us that we benefit from Christ’s ascension by the fact that the Holy Spirit is with us and the Spirit comes bearing gifts. In fact, every believer in Christ has been gifted in some way, or in several ways, to serve the Lord, the body and the world. In this way, Christ is actually still working in us and protecting us. By His Spirit, He is keeping us safe from all of our enemies.

Question 52: How does Christ’s return to judge the living and the dead comfort you?

Answer: In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me. All His enemies and mine He will condemn to everlasting punishment: but me and all His chosen ones He will take along with Him into the joy and glory of heaven.

The return of Christ, the second coming, is one of the most hoped for, longed for and prayed for events for the Christian. The church throughout all the ages has looked at what Scripture teaches on this and have longed to see the day of Christ’s return, the day when the work of redemption will reach its full consummation, the day when the Kingdom of God would be fully and finally established for eternity.

This day will involve numerous key events. First, the word that we see in Scriptures to describe Jesus’ return is the Greek term Parousia which means appearing. Jesus will appear in the clouds and it will be glorious to behold.

1 Thess 4:16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Why can believers have confidence that we will be caught up together with Jesus? Because we belong to Him. He has purchased us from Satan, death and sin, by His blood when He died on the cross. He promised that He would come again to receive us and that He would be with us forever after that point. So when He comes in the clouds, He is coming to rescue us for good.

But that is not all, His second coming will also mean judgment for His enemies and ours. On this day, final judgment will commence and all those who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ will face the wrath of God that they rightly deserve.

This may not sound very comforting to you, at least not the part about judgment on sinners. But the return of Christ will usher in the judgment of God upon all the sin and wickedness of unrepentant men, women, and demons.

The longing in our hearts for justice is a longing that God has placed within us and on that final day, true divine justice will be served. It is a comfort to know that one day all the wrongs in the world will be put right. It is a comfort to know that all the evil in the world will be accounted for and dealt with.

It is also comforting to know that for those of us who have come to see our sin and wickedness for what it truly is and have also fled to Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life; we will not face God’s wrath. Jesus has already received the penalty that we deserved. He stood trial in our place so that we could go free. And with Him be taken into the joy and glory of heaven.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 20 together and discuss question 53.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #18

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 18 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 46 - 49.

Transition

This week, we are talking about the Ascension of Jesus. The word ascend means to rise up or to go up, which is exactly what Jesus did while His disciples watched.

Acts 1:9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

This passage recounts for us the act of Christ’s ascension, the moment in time when He rose up into Heaven. But ascension means more than simply that He rose up. In Philippians 2 we learn that when Jesus ascended, He was actually receiving the reward of His completed mission. The Ascension of Christ marks the highest point of the Son of God’s exaltation. As He ascends into Heaven, to the right hand of God, He is entering into the glory that He has earned.

Phil 2:5 …Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is important for us to know that Jesus’ ascension is more than simply the way He ended His earthly ministry, it was also the point when He received the reward for His suffering.

Transition…

Now that we have a basic Biblical understanding of what happened in Jesus’ ascension and why it happened; let’s look a little closer at this doctrine and work through the questions that Heidelberg wants to throw at us.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 46: What Do you mean by saying, “He ascended into Heaven?”

Answer: That Christ, while His disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until He comes again to judge the living and the dead.

No mystery where this answer comes from, since I just read it a moment ago. But there is more that needs to be considered about the ascension than the basic fact that it occurred.

Question 47: But isn’t’ Christ with us until the end of the world as He promised us?

Answer: Christ is truly human and truly God. In His human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in His divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit He is not absent from us for a moment.

This is a great question and it is probably one that many of us have never thought about, at least not very much. Jesus promised His disciples that He would never leave nor forsake us. He promised that He would be with us until the very end of the age. Then just a few verses later, He left and ascended to Heaven. So how do we understand the apparent contradiction of His promise to stay followed by His leaving?

The way we answer this question is going to get into the theological weeds a little bit, but that’s the way it needs to be. We understand that Jesus has two natures; one divine and one human. He is the God-man and while it is true that His human nature is no longer present on earth, His divine Spirit is present.

Jesus actually prepped His disciples for this to happen and told that them it would be better, on the whole, when He was gone preparing a place for them and the Holy Spirit was present dwelling in their hearts.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment

Jesus’ physical absence does not mean that we are without the comforting, abiding and guiding presence of God. The Spirit of God is with us. The Spirit dwells within every true believer and the Spirit testifies to us about Jesus.

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

While Jesus, the second person of our triune God, is not physically present with us on earth at this time; His Spirit is very much present with us.

Question 48: If His humanity is not present wherever His divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?

Answer: Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity He has taken on, but at the same time His divinity is in and remains personally united to His humanity.

Just so we are clear, when Heidelberg mentions that divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is not referring to Jesus’ humanity. Jesus is a person with a resurrected body that is subject to the laws of space and time. We have no evidence of His physical body being in two places at once.

But the fact that He is part of our triune God means that He is at the same time beyond the bounds of those laws, having created them. The answer to how Jesus can be in Heaven and at the same time dwelling in the hearts of His people lies in the mystery of the Trinity.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ according to the apostle Paul in Romans 8.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

Where the Spirit is, there Christ is also. The unique unity of the Godhead is such that though they are distinct persons, they are still one. They are united in their divine essence and purpose.

Question 49: How does Christ’s ascension to Heaven benefit us?

Answer: First, He pleads our case in heaven in the presence of His Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, His members, to Himself in heaven. Third, He sends His spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The first way that Christ’s ascension benefits us is that Jesus is right now an advocate for us in the Fathers’ ear. He is praying for us, pleading for us, and defending us before God. Where Satan is ever the accuser of the brethren, Jesus sits at God’s right hand and He has our back.

The second way that Christ’s ascension benefits us is that Jesus represents humanity within the confines of divine space. One Scottish preacher has said, “The dust of the earth is on the throne of the majesty on high.”[1] In this, we have a sure pledge/promise that Christ will one day bring the rest of us with Him to heaven.

The third way the Ascension of Christ benefits us is that we have the Spirit dwelling in us as a down payment of what is yet to come. The Holy Spirit was not given to us in the fullness of His power. The day is coming when we will be changed by the power of God’s spirit to be transformed from a state of imperfection to a state of perfection. When that day comes, we will then be fit to come into the presence of God.

Just as Jesus was able after His ascension to come into the presence of the Father, so we too who believe will one day be made able to come into the presence of the Father. Until then, we have the Spirit in us who serves as a promise that looks forward to that great day that is to come.

Since our Savior King is in Heaven pleading for us, and since a representative for humanity is in Heaven guaranteeing our own entry, and since the Spirit of God is in us now awaiting the day of final redemption; we ought to live as people on a journey to Heaven. We ought to set our minds on things above. We ought to make it the goal of our lives to be heavenly minded. We should be faithful to Christ till the end while knowing that when the end comes, it will be far better than even our best life now.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 19 together and discuss question 50 – 52.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] Quote taken from Walter Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, pg. 87)

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #17

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 17 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 45.

Transition

This week, we are talking about something that is absolutely essential to the Christian faith, to the degree that if it is not true then Christianity is pointless.

1 Cor 15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

What we are talking about is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We call it Easter, which is an old English term identifying the Christian festival of the resurrection. I prefer to call it Resurrection Day because that cuts through all the cultural and religious confusion to get to the heart of what this day is all about.

We are talking about the historical reality that a first century Jewish rabbi named Jesus, who also happens to be the one and only Son of God, was crucified in Jerusalem during Passover week and then three days later he was raised from the dead.

We are talking about the theological reality that by His death, burial and resurrection we who believe have been saved from our sins and have been granted eternal life.

We are talking about the present reality that because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead we of all people have reason to live our lives with indestructible hope no matter how good nor how horrible the circumstances of our life happen to be.

We are talking about the supernatural reality that the founder of our faith went through death and came out the other side.

Today, we are talking about the resurrection of Christ and how it impacts our life and faith.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 45: What benefit do we receive from the resurrection of Christ?

Answer: First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which by His death He has obtained for us. Secondly, we also are now by His power raised up to a new life. Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.

The Heidelberg breaks down the benefits of Christ’s resurrection into 3 different parts. The first has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our relationship to God. The second has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our spiritual life at this present time. The third has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our future hope of being resurrected into eternal life.

But before we break all of these down, let’s try and understand what resurrection means and what it doesn’t mean. The word resurrection is not a common term in the OT, in fact, it’s not a very common term in the NT. When ancient religious people thought about life after death they didn’t think in terms of resurrection. Pagans believed in a spiritual existence after death but not a bodily resurrection. Many of the Jews, the Sadducees in particular, rejected the resurrection because they claimed Moses hadn’t said anything about a bodily existence after death. They were wrong, of course, and Jesus pointed that out to them in Mark 12:26-27.

Resurrection refers to something that happens to the body. Most religions identify that the soul will live on after death, but Christianity teaches that our bodies will be raised from the grave. The followers of Jesus might have lived long and happy lives if they had simply stated that Jesus lived on in the spirit after his crucifixion, but they didn’t. They taught that Jesus’ body was raised and brought back to life by the power of God.

They taught this because they saw it with their own eyes. They walked into the empty tomb just three days after they saw Christ die on the cross. They saw Jesus in the upper room, saw the scars in his hands and on His side. They touched those scars. They saw Jesus again on the shore in Galilee and they ate breakfast with him. They watched outside of Jerusalem as His body was taken up into Heaven right before their eyes.

When Jesus’ disciples preached the resurrection, they weren’t referring to Jesus’ soul being raised, or his spirit living on; they were claiming that His dead body had been raised to life. To the Romans this was nonsense and to the Jews this was a scandal, but the resurrection is at the heart of the gospel. In fact, this is the point of the first part of Heidelberg’s answer.

Our salvation depends on the reality that Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins but also that He was raised from the dead three days later. Here again is what the Catechism says, “by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which by His death He has obtained for us.” He has overcome death and made us partakers of the righteousness that He obtained for us.

One of the Apostle Paul’s favorite topics of discussion is the difference between the righteousness that we seek to earn by our obedience to the law of God and the righteousness that Jesus has earned for us by His obedience to God. In Philippians 3, Paul writes,

(I want to) be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Now why is it better for us to have the righteousness that comes through faith than to seek to obtain righteousness on my own?

Let’s do a thought experiment and imagine that you do 1 act of pure righteousness everyday of your life. 1 act per day done in obedience to the law of God that is not fueled by some selfish motive, or sinful ambition. 1 per day and I believe that is being crazy generous. I remember a stretch of years between high school and college that wouldn’t have produced anything to my credit. But let’s be generous and give ourselves credit for 1 good deed each day of our lives.

If we live to 80, that is just over 29,000 good deeds in a lifetime. But the math really doesn’t matter all that much, because for each good deed there is a counteractive bad deed.

We have to consider the other side of the scale. Can we assume 1 act of unrighteousness everyday of your life? Can we assume 1 lie, or 1 act of deception, or 1 angry thought, or 1 lustful thought, or 1 hateful thought, or 1 act of greed, or 1 act of pride, or 1 act of impatience, or 1 act of gossip, or 1 thought of vanity. 1 unrighteous act per day, which again is being generous. If it’s 1:1 then it is a wash and we have nothing to show for the entirety of our life. 

But this is just a thought experiment. The reality is that the numbers aren’t even close to being in our favor.

Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.”

Rom 3:20 For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight

The law cannot save us. Our imagined righteousness will never make us right with God. Imagine standing before God and having tallied up the balance of our good deeds and our sin, and then presenting that to Him as justification for why He should accept us. We have no chance of pleasing God in this way.

But now, I want you to imagine the righteousness of Jesus. I want you to imagine all of the righteous deeds that Jesus ever did on any given day. There is no need to subtract the unrighteous deeds of Jesus because there are none. He was tempted in every way as we are, but He was without sin (Heb 4:15). Now, which righteousness would you put your hope in?

Whose obedience are you trusting in? The resurrection of Jesus is evidence that when Jesus came before the Father, His obedience and His sacrifice was fully accepted. God raised Him from the dead because nothing remained. His righteousness paid the bill for all the sins of all who would believe. Our relationship to God rests not on our righteousness but on His and His resurrection gives us confidence that God accepted His offering in full.

Secondly, the resurrection benefits us today in that we experience new life in Christ. I want to read a passage from Romans 6 to help us understand the spiritual logic of the resurrection on our life as believers.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.

Freedom from the power of sin is not the only benefit of our new life according to the resurrection, but it is a key benefit. Jesus’ resurrection has fundamentally altered the hold that sin has on believers. It has fundamentally changed the way we view life and the way we live life.

Ray Ortlund writes,

Deep inside every one of us is a dimmer switch, like the one in your dining room at home. We’re born with that switch turned all the way down. There is darkness with us, and the switch is too deep inside us for us to reach inside ourselves and turn it on. But God is able to reach into us at that deep level. God is able to get inside our interiority and turn the lights back on, so that we come alive to God. In his great love and mercy, God can touch us deeply. And the new aliveness he gives is nothing less than the resurrection life of Jesus. It is total miracle. It isn’t part you and part God. It is all of God. It is the mercy and love of God raising the dead. You don’t have to deserve it. It is all of grace. You don’t have to cause it. It is all of his power. This newness of life is the gift of God. You just receive it, with the empty hands of faith.[1]

Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus will benefit us in the future.

Phil 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

This means that the resurrection of Jesus was only the beginning. Or like Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:23, Jesus’ resurrection was just the first part of the harvest, our resurrection will be realized when the rest of the harvest comes to maturity. As Jesus was raised so too will we be raised, all who trust in Christ.

Do we fully understand what it will be like to have resurrection bodies? No, but it will be far better than life now. We will be made like Him and that is enough for me.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 18 together and discuss question 46-49.

Conclusion…

If you want to learn more about Cornerstone Baptist church, you can find us online at Cornerstonewylie.org. You can follow us on Twitter or Instagram @cbcwylie. You can find us on Facebook at facebook.com/cornerstonewylie. You can also subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or google play to stay up to date on all the new content.

Thanks for listening.


[1] https://ortlund.net/message/how-does-the-resurrection-of-jesus-help-us-today/

Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day #16

Intro…

Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 16 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 40-44.

Transition

Today, we are talking about death and Hell. Particularly, we will be talking about Jesus’ death and whether or not he actually descended to “Hell.” Over the last 15 weeks of working through this Catechism, I have received more questions about this topic than any other. The Apostle’s Creed contains a phrase that is more than a little strange when you think about it.

Here’s the phrase in question…

I believe…in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; (here it comes) He descended into Hades; the third day He rose from the dead;

Now, you may already know this, but that little phrase, “He Descended into Hades (or Hell in some versions),” is the most contested line in the creed. What does it mean? It is true? Should we just leave it out or is there a way to understand this phrase that is helpful to Christians today? We will discuss that in a minute.

But for now, let’s get started this week by looking at question #40.

Lord’s Day Focus...

Question 40: Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer death?

Answer: Because, by reason of the justice and truth of God, satisfaction for our sins could be made no other way than by the death of the Son of God.   

The first few questions this week are fairly easy for us to answer and understand as they make plain what Christ accomplished for us when He died. Question 40 is asking why did our Messiah have to die? What was the point of it all and what did His death accomplish?

Jesus death was necessary because He had come to save us from our sins and the proper payment for sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death…(Rom 6:23).” But this goes back even further in Scripture, all the way back to Genesis 2. When God gave Adam the instruction about not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He issued a warning that if they did eat from its fruit they would surely die.

Death is the just penalty for sinning against the law and commands of God. So, why was it necessary for Christ to suffer death? Because God’s justice demands it. In order for Christ to save us from our sin, He had to die for our sin, and that is what He did.

Question 41: Why was He buried?

Answer: To show thereby that He was really dead.

This is perhaps the easiest question we will answer this week as it simply makes sense. A person is buried to show that they are dead, truly dead. Over the years, there have been some theories floating around among other religious groups that Jesus didn’t actually die. Some claim that He simply passed out and then later revived in the tomb and pushed His way out.

Even in the NT, there is evidence of early Jewish stories aimed to deny that Jesus died. You can read about this in Matthew 28:11-15. But the simple reality is that Jesus was buried because He actually died.

Here’s what the gospel of Mark says about it…

Mk 15:42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.

Question 42: Since then Christ died for us, why must we also die?

Answer: Our death does not pay the price for our sins. Rather, it puts an end to our sinning and is our entrance into eternal life.

This is a great question, but again there is plenty of Scripture at our disposal to help us answer this. Death is our entrance into eternal life. In 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Paul says, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Christ died in our place to pay the price for our sins, which means that our death is not paying the debt we owe to God. But death is necessary as it frees us from this world and allows us to enter into the eternal life that Jesus has purchased for us. But the catechism also points out that death is something to celebrate as it puts an end to our sinning.

As I grow older in my faith, and hopefully more mature and closer to Jesus, I have a deepening sense of my own sin. I see sinful impulses in my heart that I am ready to be freed from. I battle temptations that I would rather not have to battle. My flesh is weak and death will put an end to my struggle with sin and temptation.

Question 43: What further benefit do we receive from the sacrifice and death of Christ on the cross?

Answer: Through Christ’s death our old selves are crucified, put to death and buried with Him, so that the evil desires of the flesh may no longer rule us, but that instead we may dedicate ourselves as an offering of gratitude to Him.

This question and answer seem to have been pulled completely from Paul’s logic in the book of Romans.

Rom 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

And then more from Romans 12…

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

By faith, we are united with Christ in ways that we need God to reveal to us and that is exactly what Paul is doing in Romans. God is revealing to us, through Paul, the amazing connections that we need to draw from our relationship to Jesus. Not only have we trusted in Jesus but we have been united with Jesus in a death like His, in a freedom from sin, in a resurrection like His.

Therefore, understanding the awesome truth of how Jesus’ death has been applied to our souls and life, we should be all the more desirous to live the rest of our lives on earth as a living sacrficie of praise to Him.

But finally, let’s look at question 44.

Question 44: Why does the Creed add, “He descended to Hades?”

Answer: That in my greatest temptations I may be assured that Christ, my Lord, by His inexpressible anguish, pains, and terrors which He suffered in His soul on the cross and before, has redeemed me from the anguish and torment of Hell.

To make sense out of this question let’s talk about some history. The phrase “descended into hell” doesn’t’ appear to have been part of the earliest form of this creed. It occurs in only one version of the Creed prior to AD 650 and in that version the phrase was understood to mean that Jesus “descended into the grave.”

Personally, I think this is the best way to understand the phrase, but there is still a small problem and it has to do with the fact that the phrase just before it says that Jesus was “crucified, dead and buried.” So why would the Creed state that Jesus was buried and then add another phrase to say that same thing by pointing out that He also descended into the grave. I assume that you can see the dilemma.

But what is so bad about Jesus going into Hell? For starters, Hell is a place of punishment for sin and the NT understands that Jesus’ endured the punishment for our sins on the Cross. Since hell is a place of punishment this would mean that Christ’s death on the cross was not enough and that he thereafter needed to descend into Hell to finish the job. This idea doesn’t hold up to the rest of the NT teaching.

In fact, John Piper has argued,

“There is no textual basis in the New Testament for claiming that between Good Friday and Easter Christ was preaching to souls imprisoned in hell or Hades.”[1]

Piper goes on to argue that the church today should omit the phrase “descended into hell” because it causes too much confusion and it is not supported by the rest of the NT. But others, including John Calvin, have said that there is a way that we can understand this phrase so that it helps us.

Calvin would have us understand this phrase not in the sense that Jesus entered Hell in reality but that He entered it spiritually. Not only did Jesus endure the physical pain and suffering on the cross, but he also endured the pain and torment of separation from His Father.

Calvin writes, “Surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him not to be heard.” This can be a comfort to us because it tells us there is no hellish experience that we can have in this life where Christ cannot identify with us and offer us comfort as one who has made it through to the other side.

In other words, you can read this phrase and understand that Jesus’ death on the cross was more than physical, it was spiritual. When you remember this fact it can comfort you in your spiritual trials, knowing that you are loved and kept by the One who has faced something even worse.

Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 17 together and discuss question 45.

Conclusion…

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Thanks for listening.


[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/did-jesus-spend-saturday-in-hell--2