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Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 13

25/07/2014

LORD’S DAY 13

Before you begin: Read Philippians 2:1-11

33. Why is He called God’s “only begotten Son,” since we also are the children of God?
Because Christ alone is the eternal, natural Son of God,(1) but we are children of God by adoption, through grace, for His sake.(2)
(1)Jn. 1:14, 18. (2)Rom. 8:15-17; Eph. 1:5-6; I Jn. 3:1.

In a recent inter-generational conversation with my granddaughter (aged 7) she pointed out to me that my Bible, laid open on the desk in the study was all ‘coloured in.’ I explained that it was marked, to highlight different themes in the texts, and annotated, to remind me of things that I had learned. She listened with great patience, and then asked, “Can I colour in some of your Bible?” “Of course you can,” I replied. “Which verses would you like to colour in?” The answer was swift in coming… “The verse that says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son!” There is no doubt that John 3:16 is probably the best known and best loved of Bible verses, and her mention of it gave me the opportunity to explain it to her. “Who was God’s only begotten son? It was Jesus!” “Yes!” Then came the inevitable question. “Grandad, what does ‘begotten’ mean?” So came the challenge. Explain the eternal Sonship of Christ in a way that a seven year old child can understand!

Actually the catechist does a fairly good job of that for us, and he does it by contrasting our Sonship (for we have already seen that God is our Father) with the Sonship of Christ, and he does it in the context of his lessons on the Apostles Creed, which says. ‘And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord’. He asks how we can say that Jesus is God’s only begotten son, when we too are sons of God. And the answer, of course, lies in the word ‘begotten’. There are two major doctrines presented to us in this question and answer:

1. The Eternal Sonship of Christ This doctrine is so important that it was the subject of one of the most important ecumenical councils in the early church, the Council of Nicea, in 325AD. Arius was the ‘Presbyter’ (preaching elder) of Alexandra – a sea-port in Egypt. He taught that before Jesus was born at Bethlehem, he had no existence. His ‘sound bite’ was: “There was, when He wasn’t” Because of this he believed and taught that while Jesus was God, he was a ‘lessor’ part of the Godhead, – adopted into it rather than there by right. So, Jesus couldn’t really be our Saviour, Just a good example for us to follow… Followers of Arius were called ‘Arians’ Nowadays there still are people who hold similar beliefs. They call themselves “UNITARIANS”.
The rest of the church worldwide were appalled at Arius’s teaching. But he had a cunning plan, …Make up nice catchy choruses with Arian beliefs, and teach them to the sailors down at the docks, and they’ll sing them all over the world – like sea shanties. And they did! Arius’s plan worked. Rome was the hub of the empire, all ships docked there, and soon the people of Rome were singing the songs and learning the false doctrines. Arianism was spreading.

The Emperor (Constantine) was NOT amused. He had a fragmented empire, and he wanted it united, and he too had a cunning plan. The church stretched right across the empire, – perhaps he could use the church to unite the diverse people-groups… but wait, this Arius was breaking the church up, just when he needed it united. Something must be done. He called all the leaders of the church together at a town called Nicea, to talk about Arianism. Attendees were 1800 Bishops from throughout the empire, including 1000 from west and 800 from east – none from Britain. No-one knows how many actually came, but it is thought that there was more Eastern representation than western. Among them were: Arius the Herisiarch, St. Athanasius of Alexandria, St Nicholas of Myra, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Eusebius of Caesarea (perhaps the first church historian)

At the conference, the Arians were devious, and continually challenged the meaning of Biblical terms. The Orthodox bishops introduced a new term: Homoousious. – it means ‘of the same substance’. Everything that God the Father is, so is God the Son. Nearest NT Greek is hypostasis. It means ‘the exact imprint’ in Hebrews 1:3 (Eusebius of Nicomena wanted to use a slightly different word, homoi-ousious. It means of ‘similar substance’. That was rejected.) Jesus, because He is ‘of the same substance’ as us, is our representative on the cross. Because He is of the same substance as the Father, he is sinless and holy, and so satisfies God’s wrath and demonstrates his love.

The Nicene Creed:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Back then to our catechism, and our instructor makes three important points about the nature of Christ’s Sonship.

* He is ETERNALLY THE SON. There never was a time when He wasn’t God’s Son, and there never will be such a time. Theologians speak of him as ‘eternally begotten f the Father’. ( John 1:14-18 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 15John testified about him and shouted out, “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.'” 16For we have all received from his fullness one gracious gift after another. 17For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known. NET Bible
* He is God’s NATURAL SON. He is the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, who is of the same essence as the Father and the Holy Spirit.
* NO-ONE ELSE holds this position. Jesus is unique. He is God’s ONE AND ONLY son.

So his Sonship is totally different from our Sonship. He is God’s natural Son, we are ADOPTED into God’s family.

2. The Adoption of Saints
What is Adoption?
How does God adopt us? Through grace! We do not deserve to be in God’s family and we cannot earn it. We are adopted by Grace alone!
What is His motive in doing so? For His Son’s sake.
Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God’s children. 17And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) – if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him. Ephesians 1:4-6 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will – 6to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son. 1 John 3:1 See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children – and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him. NET Bible

34. Why do you call Him “our Lord?”
Because not with silver or gold, but with His precious blood, He has redeemed and purchased us, body and soul, from sin and from all the power of the devil, to be His own.(1)
(1)I Pet. 1:18-19; 2:9; I Cor. 6:20; 7:23; Acts 2:36; Tit. 2:14; Col. 1:14.

Since we are not God’s children by natural birth, we are enslaved by our own, wicked natural father, the devil. He has us under his authority and he is a tyrannical, lying, evil father, who will bring us to everlasting damnation, and we are powerless to escape from his cruel grip.
We could not purchase our salvation by any material means, although many have tried. Giving to a church or to a charity or good cause cannot remove us from satan’s grip.

Jesus, god’s own natural Son, eternally begotten of the Father, came to set us free. John 3:16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. He came to:
* Redeem us and buy us back. Colossians 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
* To redeem us, both body and soul. Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
* To set us free from sin and the devil. 1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
* To make us His Own. We are his, his purchased possession, for ever and ever. 1 Corinthians 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. He owns us and he is our Lord. He has rightful claims over us, and as his people we readily acknowledge those claims to be true and good, and we bow to them.

Consider how he did this. Not with material devices, not with worldly coinage or currency, but with his own precious blood. 1 Peter 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

So Jesus is Lord. He is our Lord right now, as we willingly bow our knees before him in humble submission and acknowledge Him as Lord and King. He owns us, and we are his, and we respect his claims over us. The unconverted, Christ-rejecting world rejects those claim, but there will come a day when the whole of mankind will stand before him in his risen, eternal splendour, and will admit his sovereignty. Sadly, it will be too late.
Philippians 2:9-11 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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