Not Ashamed to Call Them Brethren
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 1 & 2
Reading: Lord's Day 13
Suggested Songs: 57:1-6; 80:1,4; 221:1-3; 398:1-4; 281:9,10
Sermon by Rev. Harry Van Dyken
Minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 21, No. 3
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation, beloved of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Royalty reaches out into nobility. Royalty is that important that its succession is almost completely linear, that is, it is carried on only in one family. The children of the prince and princess are no longer part of the royal family. They are nobi1ity. Royalty is not to be taken lightly! It is wonderful to be a child of a king, of a queen. Understandably, the royalty of this world does not reach out to bring others into the royal family. In fact, until fairly recently it was rare indeed that royalty married any one else except from another royal family. That is to say, royalty is, or at least has been, almost completely exclusive.
We have confessed that Jesus Christ is called Christ because of His appointment and His anointing with the Holy Spirit, and that this appointment to and qualification for office certainly included the royal office of king.
And I would have you note that this greatest of all royalty, that from which all other royalty derives its authority and its dignity, has instituted an adoption program which is world-wide in scope and covers all of history!
I take my theme from the scripture passage we have read, that is, from Hebrews 2: "Not ashamed to call them brethren." Please note with me that this confession of Jesus Christ, that is, the confession which He makes is:
1. Before God the Father;
2. As the only-begotten; and
3. For His purchased possession.
The question which the catechism poses comes as a bit of a surprise. One might well expect the question, "How can we be sons if Christ is the only-begotten?" But this question is turned completely around.: "Why is He called God’s only-begotten Son, since we are also children of God?" The confession is, once again, searching for an answer from the perspective of our experience. Certainly it is searching for an answer that comes from the Word of God, but at the same time, one that responds to the question that rises in the heart that has been assured of sonship. Since it is true according to God’s Word that every Christian is a child of God, how can God call Jesus Christ the only-begotten Son? There is no question as to whether God does this. The fact that God clearly does this in His Word is freely acknowledged. The question is one of harmonizing those two biblical facts — these two biblical givens.
The catechism asks a good question. It is a question that wants to know this Jesus Christ who is Jehovah Savior, to know this One of whom the angel said, "It is He!" It is a question that wants to know this One who is appointed of God the Father and anointed by the Holy Spirit to be our great Prophet, our only High Priest, and our eternal King.
As we consider this confession of our Savior before His Father, we note that He is the One who can never be refused. He is the only-begotten. The reference here is not to His birth by the virgin Mary. There is, indeed, a great miracle there. But here the confession is speaking of what the Word of God says about Him as the divine Son of God, the second person of the trinity. This is the One whom we confess to be eternally begotten. I have found that this is a term which is difficult to comprehend. The difficulty lies in the fact that we so easily turn things around from their proper order. We think about sonship in terms of man. Of course there is no man that is eternally begotten; no, not even Jesus Christ as the Son of man. The virgin birth is God’s great miracle which He wrought for the salvation of His people, but it is not in any way eternal begottenness. We must remember that the fatherhood of the first person of the trinity and the sonship of the second person of the trinity is not a reflection of human fatherhood and sonship. That is precisely where our problem comes. As a matter of fact, human fatherhood and sonship is a reflection, an imaging forth of divine fatherhood and sonship. The first person of the divine trinity is Father from eternity. The second person of the divine trinity is Son from eternity. You see, it is only human sonship, human begottenness, human birth that is bound by time. It is not possible for us to conceive of human birth that is not bound by time, birth that does not constitute a temporal beginning of a person. But do not forget that the human is not the original; it is a reflection. To turn this around is like saying that it is not possible for a man to speak because his reflection in the mirror cannot speak, and the man must match his reflection. Without exception, the original is incomparably greater than the reflection.
This eternal Son, says our confession, is the One for whose sake we are called sons by adoption. He is not ashamed to go to His Father and to plead our case. He is not ashamed to plead for the adoption of rebel sinners to be His brothers. You see, it would be understandable if He would say, "Keep them out of My inheritance as a son!" But we read in God’s Word that we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ!
When we realize that Christ is making a case for such brothers as we are before the face of His Father in heaven, we face the fact that adoption is a legal matter. This is true in human relationships only because these relationships are reflections of the relationship which exists within the trinity and the relationship which God has established with His children. And in the court of heaven we encounter a procedure that is quite different from the usual adoption procedures as established by the social and welfare agencies of our day. In the adoption work done by these agencies, a thorough search is made to determine if the home that desires to adopt is indeed worthy to receive the prospective adoptive child into its custody and into its family life. In the court of heaven a thorough search is made to determine whether or not the prospective adoptive child is worthy of such a home. And the demand is perfection. It takes a perfect child to fit into the perfect home of the heavenly Father. It takes a perfect brother to be received into the family with Christ as a brother. Yet the only-begotten is pleading for us before the Father, pleading that we may be accepted of Him into His home.
Would you notice with me that He is pleading in the right place? The final decision does not lie with some adoption agency, but with the Father!
And the One who pleads is the only-begotten. He is the One who said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I come again and will receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." Romans 8 stresses our adoption and all that it means. It is there that we find the statement quoted a bit earlier, "Heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ." It is there also that in the discussion of assurance and certainty of the eternal salvation of God’s children by adoption, that we are told that Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, "also maketh intercession for us."
You can feel the emotional intensity of His calling us brethren in reading what has been called His high-priestly prayer in John 17. Right from the beginning of that beautiful chapter, that beautiful prayer, we hear Him say to the Father, "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that the Son may glorify Thee; even as Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom Thou hast given Him, He should give eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ." Towards the close of this remarkable prayer we read in verse 22 and following, "And the glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them and Thou in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that Thou didst send Me, and lovedst them, even as Thou lovedst Me. Father I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world."
Here is the wonder, the intensity, the total effectiveness of the plea of the only-begotten Son of God as He pleads for his children who have no right or claim, and are totally unfitted for even a servant’s place in the home and family of God.
We must notice, then, how it is possible for this to be true. We see it as we consider that Christ is pleading for His purchased possession. It is of them that He says that He is not ashamed to call then brethren.
No doubt you have all read about a slave market at one time or another. There was a time when the selling of slaves was a rather common sight in certain parts of the world. In such a sale one could be certain that the buyers looked for slaves that could do the work for which they particularly wanted them. It is really unimaginable that a slave buyer would buy an old, weak, sick slave to do heavy field work. It is even more unlikely that such a buyer would pay a high price for such a slave. And yet, that is precisely what happened in the greatest purchase of slaves that has transpired in all of history. And it was a sale in which the slave-master had no desire at all to lose the slaves which were purchased.
Our confession says that we call Him Lord because, "He has redeemed us body and soul, from all our sins." Take careful note of the word redemption. Redemption is the purchasing of a slave for the purpose of setting him free. Man sold himself as a slave to sin, to Satan, to self, to death. However, man had no right to sell himself. For that reason the transaction had never truly been finalized. God Jehovah owned man and man could not gain a release simply by his own declaration. Jehovah still owns man, but God has allowed him to come under sin, Satan, self and death as slave-masters. And man has listened to their promises and believed them. So man continues to suffer the awful delusion that he is his own master, that he is going his own way, that he is determining his own destiny. But it will end in the awful realization that it was a great delusion. To wake up under the final, eternal, irrevokeable power of death and hell, of self and Satan, is an awful awakening. The Word of God abounds in warnings concerning this, making it very clear that there is no escape from it.
And if all of this is true, "Why do you call him Lord?" "Because He has redeemed me..." He came to the slave market and found slaves who were completely, entirely, and unqualifiedly unfit for service and chose to redeem them. That is, He chose to pay the price that Jehovah had set on them.
Please note that price is not silver or gold. The apostle Peter says this so beautifully in that glorious first chapter of his first epistle: "...knowing that ye were redeemed, not with corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ." The price the Father had placed on these unfit, unworthy slaves is an unbelievable sum. Their pricing is not determined by what they are. Their price is determined by what Jehovah made them to be — His image! For their covenant-breaking in Adam they owe the debt of eternal death, and they owe the debt of a perfect life. Jesus Christ came knowingly and purposely to pay that price for slaves who were totally unworthy.
Notice the extent of that redemption. It covers body and soul. This redemption is not just some so-called spiritual thing apart from the body. The fact is, Paul in I Corinthians 3 drives this home to the Corinthians when he says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man destroyeth the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, and such ye are." Again, and more specifically in chapter 6:19,20, "Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? And ye are not your own; for ye were bought with a price: glorify God, therefore, in your body."
Secondly, it is a redemption that delivers me from all my sin. It simply is not true that Christ has done a great part of the work for me, has paid the greatest part of the price, and now if I just bring that to completion it will be alright. It is true that we must fight against sin. But it is also true that we may rest assured that we are and always will be victorious in that fight. Sin has no more power over us. In Romans 6, Paul makes very clear that Christ’s death made us completely free from the power and dominion of sin. Our fight against sin is meaningful precisely because we may be sure of final and complete victory. Psalm 51 very beautifully, though agonizingly, tells us of that struggle with sin and its results. David wrote this Psalm after he had lost a particular battle with sin, a battle he lost because he proudly thought that he could master sin himself and use it for his pleasure. So he agonizes with God to undo the awful results of his sin. And the Psalm closes with the note of victory. He concludes with his prayer for the rebuilding of the church which had suffered because of his sin: "Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem."
It is good and necessary for us, church of Christ, to contemplate the awful results of our sins and to realize what those results mean for the church of Jesus Christ. Such contemplation brings us again to focus on what this battle is all about. It brings us to the realization that victory in this battle is only possible and is only accomplished from the awful fact of Christ paying the redemption price on Calvary’s cross. Now and again we may hear that there are sins from the which the blood of Christ does not free us. We are told that the power of such sins as drunkenness and homosexuality cannot be completely broken by the purchase price that Christ paid. It is claimed that some of the old power still remains. This simply does not fit with the Word of God as it is confessed here in the catechism. We repeat, "He has redeemed us...from all our sins..." I John 1 says it clearly, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Isaiah, in the first chapter of his prophecy declares, "’Come now, and let us reason together,’ saith the Lord: ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be like wool." The battle of sanctification remains for us to fight, but not against any sin that can still claim dominion over us!
"And He has delivered us from all the power of the devil." You all know the awful conclusion to the tragic attempt by Adam and. Eve to be equal with God. They listened to Satan and, in breaking covenant with God, they established themselves in a covenant of death with Satan. You recall the wonderful promise that was given by God as He placed the curse upon Satan: I will put enmity! And in that promise of enmity between the woman’s seed and Satan is contained the assurance of restored friendship with God. Yes, Satan will bruise His heel. But Satan’s head will be crushed. You remember the account of Job in the Word of God. You recall that Satan could go no further with Job than he was specifically permitted by God. Christ redeemed Job and delivered him from the power of the devil. Yes, God allowed Job to be tested by the temptation which Satan brought. But God, Job’s heavenly Father in Christ, kept Job as He held Satan strictly within the bounds which He had set. You can read of this also in I Corinthians 10:13, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." Satan has no claim, power, or dominion over me. Jehovah has broken that dominion completely through His Son Jesus Christ as He offered Himself on the cross and shed His precious blood for me.
Finally, then, He has made us His own possession. This brings us back, does it not, to question and answer 1 of the catechism, "What is your only comfort in life and death?" "That I am not my own but belong to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ." Unless we consider carefully, we may conclude that what we have here is simply a matter of trading slave-masters ¾ that it is like any other slave market. But then we have not considered that this glorious transaction has brought us back to the giver of life. This transaction has brought us back home to be with the Father! This transaction leads to the glorious wonder of adoption!
There is great comfort here, brothers and sisters. Read John 17. Read Romans 3. Read carefully the book of Revelation. In them you will hear Jesus Christ, the One who said that He was not ashamed to call us brethren. You will hear Him say that He will keep us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will keep His possession as precious in His eyes. He will not allow the gates of hell to prevail against the church, His church! His saints, His redeemed will be completely and eternally victorious in His victory and sit with Him on His throne.
Here is royalty indeed! He is not ashamed to call us brethren! He is not ashamed before His Father in heaven; not ashamed as the only-begotten of the Father; not ashamed of His purchased possessions. Thanks be to God for such a great redemption, such a wonderful transaction that sets me free and leaves me without doubt for time and for eternity. Amen.