Saturday, February 19, 2011

Devotions and Hymn for Lord's Day 6

Lord’s Day 6b

Monday

The Contrast Between Law and Gospel in Scripture and the Heidelberg Catechism

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Romans 3:19-22a

Q&A 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism is vital in teaching us how to read God’s Word. The first thing it teaches is the distinction between the law and the gospel.

The law and the gospel are opposites when it comes to making us right with God. The law cannot justify us, that is, God cannot declare us righteous in his sight on the basis of our keeping the law. None of us has ever kept the law perfectly, so none of us can be righteous in God’s sight through obeying the law. But unlike the law, the gospel can justify us! God can declare us righteous in his sight by the gospel, if we believe it.

So the contrast between the law and the gospel looks like this:

• Through the law we cannot be justified or declared righteous in God’s sight.

• Through the gospel we can be justified or declared righteous in God’s sight, if we believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God.

Q&A 19 parallels Q&A 3 of the catechism. This is often missed. The writers of the catechism were deliberately setting up this contrast between the law and the gospel. Notice the parallel between Q&A 3 and Q&A 19:

Q. 3: How do you come to know your misery?

A. The law of God tells me.

Q. 19: How do you come to know this? (this refers back to Q&A 18 and
being set free and made right with God, i.e., justified).

A. The holy gospel tells me.

So through the law we come to know our sin and misery. But through the gospel we come to know the blessing of being justified or right with God.

In the passage from Romans 3 above, we see how Scripture makes this same contrast between the law and the gospel. In verses 19 and 20 Paul teaches us that the law makes us aware of our sin, and tells us that we cannot be justified or right with God through the law. But in verses 21-22a, Paul tells us that the gospel can make us right with God!

Discussion: What part of God’s Word tells us about our sin and misery? What part of God’s Word tells us about the blessing of belonging to Christ?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for both aspects of his Word: the law and the gospel. Ask him for his help in understanding his Word and ways with us.

Tuesday

Justification through Believing the Gospel, Not Keeping the Law

19 Q. How do you come to know this (comfort)?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Galatians 2:15-16

The contrast between the law and the gospel shows us that we cannot work our way to heaven. Being good is not the way to union and communion with God. Doing good is not the way to be right with God. Instead we are brought into fellowship and favor with God by believing the gospel message about his Son, Jesus Christ!

God’s Word can be divided into two parts: law and gospel. The law shows us our sin and our broken relationship with God. The gospel shows us how we can be right with God in spite of our sin against him.

Did you know that God’s word governs the whole universe? The Lord shows us right at the beginning of the Bible how he relates to his creation and us. Again and again we read, “And God said . . . and God said” (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 26, 28, 29). The Lord relates to his creation, including us, by his word. God creates and sustains the world by his powerful word (Heb. 1:3). Everything in the universe obeys his word. Scientists describe this obedience as scientific laws!

Human beings are the exception to this rule of obedience, because we have rebelled against God’s word. Our rebellion is so deep that we don’t even know we are in rebellion apart from God’s Word and Spirit. The law of God can open our eyes to this rebellion against the Lord, when the Spirit of God begins to use the Word to show us our sin, and God’s judgment against it. The Holy Spirit uses the law to open our eyes to our sin and misery.

But the Holy Spirit does not just show us our sin and misery. He also shows us the gospel and comfort! The Spirit shows us that despite our sin and rebellion, we can return to the Father through his Son. Jesus came to save sinners, and to die in their place. Our sin and rebellion was placed on him at the cross, so that his perfect righteousness might be placed upon us! We cannot return to God through being good or obeying the law, but we can return to him through receiving the Son he sent into the world for our salvation. When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are justified (declared righteous), not through the law but through faith in Christ.

Discussion: How do we reconnect with God? How does Genesis 1, with its repeated phrase, “God said,” teach us the way that God relates to his creation?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for the law which shows us our sin and misery and the gospel that makes us right with God through faith. Ask for the Lord Jesus Christ’s grace and strength to walk by faith in union and communion with him today.

Wednesday

Don’t Hide from the Lord, Hide in Him!

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Genesis 3:9-10, 15

Some people think that the gospel was not known in the Old Testament, but this is not true. Already in the garden of Eden, God began to reveal the gospel to Adam and Eve, who had rebelled against his word.

The gospel in the Old Testament was not as clear as it is now that Jesus Christ has come. The gospel in the Old Testament was pointing to Christ and promising Christ. But now that Christ has actually come and fulfilled all of the promises, it is much easier to understand the gospel message. But many Old Testament believers put their faith in God’s gospel promise and found salvation.

In the Scripture text for today, first, the Lord comes to the sinful couple with the law. The law reveals the condition of human beings before God. When the Lord says to them, “Where are you?” --- this reveals the purpose of the law: to show us where we are at in our relation to God. Because of sin and guilt, the human race is in the process of running away from God. People are hiding from the Lord because of their sin and shame. It is man’s rebellion against the Lord which constitutes the true cause of his problems.

The law of God reveals the human condition, but the gospel reveals it is safe to come out of our hiding places to return to God! In Genesis 3:15 the Lord points to the ultimate reason it is safe for us to come out of hiding: the woman’s offspring will crush the head of the serpent, even as his heel is bruised. This prophecy was fulfilled when our Lord Jesus went to the cross, and won a great victory over the devil. At the cross Jesus dealt a crushing blow to Satan. He bruised the serpent’s head, even as his own heel was bruised at the cross.

Jesus Christ came to die in our place. He took the punishment we deserved. The One who will judge us, has taken our judgment! What confidence we can have before God, if his own Son has died in our place to take away our sins! Instead of hiding from God, we can now hide in God’s Son, who died as our sin-bearer. Proverbs 28:13 says:

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.


Discussion: Was the gospel known in the garden of Eden or paradise? Do sinful people naturally seek God or run away from him? Why is it safe to come to God if we repent and believe in his Son?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for seeking and saving the lost (you), who are hiding from God because of their sin. Pray for an unbeliever you know, and ask Christ to seek and save him or her.

Thursday

The God who Speaks and Interprets His Own Works!


19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Notice what the catechism teaches us about God’s communication to us. The catechism says that “he [God] proclaimed it [the gospel] by the holy patriarchs and prophets.” The gospel is the message which God himself communicated to us in words through people like Abraham and Jacob (patriarchs) and Isaiah, David, and Daniel (prophets).

God communicates to us in words. The gospel comes to us in words. The Scriptures consist of words. Isn’t this amazing? God believes in words! The Lord God Almighty believes that truth can be communicated in words!

There are many people today, who deny that God reveals himself to us in words. Instead they say that God reveals himself in acts and deeds, but not in words. They say that God reveals himself in Christ’s death and resurrection, which are events, but not in words that tell us the meaning of those events. The church (they say) must interpret these events, because God has only revealed himself in these acts, but not in the words that tell us what these acts mean.

This is completely wrong. God speaks to us in the words he “breathed out” through his patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. These men spoke and wrote God’s words to us, and these words are preserved for us in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. We can know the meaning of God’s acts, such as Christ’s death and resurrection, because the Lord has told us what his acts in history mean through the words he spoke by his prophets and apostles. These words have been preserved for us by God’s providence, and he continues to speak to us through them, for his word is living, for he is the living God (Heb. 4:12).

Our God is not a silent God! He himself uses words as the Father, Son, and Spirit speak to one another in the loving relations within the trinity. An example of this is Genesis 1:26, when God says, “Let us make man in our image.” The triune God is a speaking God and we who are made in his image reflect his speaking by our use of language!

Thus, the triune God is the God who speaks to his image bearers in words, which we can understand and believe. The same God who acts in human history, also speaks to us so that we can know the meaning of his acts. He even speaks about the future before it comes to pass! Throughout the entire Old Testament, the Spirit is telling us through the words of the patriarchs and prophets about Jesus Christ, whom the Father planned to send for the salvation of the world!

Discussion: Does God reveal himself in both deeds and words? What would be the problem for us if God did not reveal himself in words? Does 2 Timothy 3:16 teach that the Scriptures are God’s words spoken or written through men?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for revealing himself in actions and in words. Thank the Lord for telling us what his actions or works mean. Ask the Lord for a deeper appreciation of the gift of his written Word.

Friday

The Gospel Pictured in the Old Testament

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Genesis 22:1-14

Our God is amazing. Not only did he prophesy about the coming of his Son in words, but he also portrayed it for us in words. Just as little children like books with pictures, so the Lord has pictured the coming of his Son for us, his little children, in the Old Testament. The Lord knows how helpful illustrations of the truth of the gospel can be for us.

Genesis 22:1-14 is a good example of how Jesus is portrayed in God’s law, which sometimes in Scripture is a reference to the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The first thing we notice about the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22 is the emphasis on the father and son relationship (note, how often the words father and son are repeated!). How hard it must have been for Abraham to even consider offering his beloved son, Isaac! But do you see how the father and son relationship between Abraham and Isaac pictures the Father and Son relationship between Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father?

When the young man Isaac, probably already stronger than his father, carries the wood up the mountain to the altar, we see a picture of Jesus carrying his cross to the place where he will die so that our sins can be forgiven. When Isaac meekly allows himself to be bound by his father and laid on the altar, we gaze upon the obedience of Jesus to his Father, as he voluntarily lays himself on the cross and the nails are driven into his hands and feet. When God stops Abraham from plunging the knife into his beloved son, we are reminded of the heavenly Father’s great anguish as he went through with the sacrifice of his beloved Son, so that our sins could be forgiven. And, when at last God provides a ram to be a substitute for Isaac, we see that Jesus Christ is our substitute, taking the judgment that we deserve because of our sins, so that we might never be judged and have God’s favor forever.

Throughout the Old Testament, God pictures the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ. Genesis 22:1-14 is just one of hundreds of examples. The God who knows the future showed us in words and pictures what would happen when his Son came into the world at the time he appointed.

Discussion: How do you think the animal sacrifices that the Law required picture Jesus for us? What do you find amazing about Genesis 22:1-14?

Prayer Starter: Thank the heavenly Father for not sparing his own beloved Son, but giving him up for us. Thank the Father that if he has given us the very best gift of his Son, then he will surely watch over our lives. Pray for those who are sick and suffering, and for those in need of Christ’s salvation.

Saturday

The Right Way to Read the Bible

19 Q. How do you come to know this?

A. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise; later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs and prophets, and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law; finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son.

Galatians 4:4-5

Finally, after all the preparations and promises, when everything was set and the time was just right, God sent his eternally, beloved Son into the world. Jesus came and fulfilled every Old Testament Scripture. This is why 2 Corinthians 1:20 speaks of Jesus and says, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” He came to fulfill all of the promises of God in the Old Testament. When he returns he will fulfill any remaining promises that deal with the new paradise promised, that is, the new heaven and earth.

Jesus told us how to interpret the Bible. Sometimes people will say things like “that’s just your interpretation of the Bible.” But the truth is that Jesus tells us how to interpret or understand the meaning of the Bible. Just as Jesus is Lord over every part of life, so he is also Lord over how to understand the Bible!

So what does Jesus tell us about understanding or interpreting the Bible? He tells us the Bible is about him! He tells us the Old Testament is all about his suffering and his glory. In Luke 24:25-27 he says:

"O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things
and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the
Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things
concerning himself."

Every part or section of the Old Testament is in some way related either to the suffering of Jesus or the glory of Jesus---either to his humbling himself to become a man to die in our place or his resurrection, ascension, and his coming again in glory. The Heidelberg Catechism is teaching us how to read the Bible in the Christ-centered way that Jesus himself taught us!

Discussion: How do the words promise and fulfillment point to the right way to understand the Bible? Why does it make sense for the Lord Jesus to tell us how to interpret the Bible? What two words in Luke 24:26 summarize Jesus’ ministry?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for his Word, and for its fulfillment in Christ. Ask the Lord for the help of his Spirit to better understand the Christ-centered way we should handle it. Remember those in need in your prayers, along with pastors, teachers, missionaries or Christians who proclaim God’s Word.

Hymn for Lord’s Day 6b

Jesus Fulfills the Old Testament Scriptures

To the tune of BUNESSAN (Morning is Broken http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/PsH/269 or http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/145). Based on Lord’s Day 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 19. Words: Bill Weber, 2010.

v. 1
Sent by the Father,
Jesus our Savior.
He fulfills Scripture, each prophecy.
He came to suffer,
then enter glory.
Said that the Scriptures, are about Me.

v. 2
God preach’d the gospel,
first in the garden
to our first parents, sin entombed.
He gave a promise
to give an offspring.
This One would enter a-virgin’s womb.

v. 3
Jesus was pictured
in all the Scriptures.
The law and prophets, He fulfills.
Each ceremony,
and ev’ry ritual,
fulfilling God’s Word just-as He wills.

v. 4
Jesus is wisdom,
Jesus is righteous,
more than the wise man, more-than the law.
Jesus is purer,
Jesus is holy,
more than the temple, fulfilling all.


v. 5
In Christ all wisdom,
in Christ all fullness,
in Christ we have life, perfect, complete.
Let us draw near Him,
let us so trust Him
that we might live lives, of-perfect peace.



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