This evening we come to Article 26 which concludes another major section of the Belgic Confession, the section that affirms what we confess from Scripture to be true about the person and the work of Jesus. Articles 16 to 26 are all Christology or the study of Christ. Article 16 salvation is planned. Article 17 salvation is promised, Mother Promise Article 18-21 salvation is accomplished. Article 22-23 is our justification. Article 24-25 is our sanctification. The first paragraph of Article 26 offers a very brief summary of what we have already covered. Jesus the righteous (Article 20-23) became man (Article 19) having united in one person both the divine and human natures (Article 18) that we might have access to God. The person and work of Christ are all about reconciling us to the Father that we might have access to God again. We have moved from the discussion of Jesus’ glory in heaven before the incarnation, and from His humiliation being born a human, living, suffering and dying; to now consider His exaltation in heaven at the right hand of the Father as the chief intercessor for the people of God. Having once offered Himself for all in the sacrifice of Himself, He now offers Himself in prayer for all. Both of these offerings are the work of the priest. He offers the sacrifice for the sins of the people and he offers prayers to God for the needs of the people.
I know Him not. But Peter, He chose you to be one of His own disciples. I know Him not. But Peter, you were there when He healed your wife’s mother. I know Him not. But Peter, you were the one who said, “Lord, if it is you let me walk on the water” and you did, and when you almost drowned He saved you. I know Him not. But Peter, you were the one who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” and He said to you, “You are the rock on which I will build my Church.” I know Him not. But Peter, you were with Him on the mountain and saw His glory and said, “Lord, let us build shelters and stay here.” I know Him not. But Peter, you went out in His name and with His authority and healed and cast out demons and did miracles in His name. I do not know this man of whom you speak. But Peter, you heard Him say, “whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven; but whoever disowns me, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” I tell you. I do not know the man! But Peter, you were just in the Upper Room with Him, He washed your feet, you drank the cup. You lie! I swear to you, I don’t know Him. But Peter, you were just in the garden with Him. You drew a sword to defend Him and cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. May I be damned to perish in hell if I ever had anything to do with this man. I deny ever knowing Him. And the rooster crowed a second time. And the Word of the Lord that is sharper than a double-edged sword pierced his soul and cut him to the heart and he broke down and wept bitterly.
For our guests allow me a brief explanation. We are preaching through Mark’s gospel and we have come to the last couple of days of Jesus’ life which will conclude with the resurrection on Easter morning. The fruit of this is considering again who Jesus is and all that He suffered and did for us and for our salvation. Because of Jesus’ work we can have the hope of being a work in progress. Jesus overcame evil with good so that we also in His strength can overcome evil with good. Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. We encounter another one of Mark’s sandwiches, inserting one story between another one. We have a contrast here of the story of Peter’s unfaithfulness surrounding the story of Jesus’ faithfulness. We will save our business with Peter for next week and focus on the trial of Jesus before the Council of the Jews.
Why am I returning to this topic? Because this business of sanctification is a real challenge. We all know that we are all sinners, we have sinned and we continue to sin, we do what is wrong in the eyes of God. I am a sinner and you are a sinner. On the one hand it’s a relief to know that, to know that none of us are perfect, that all of us fall short of the glory of God, that none of us has any grounds for boasting or pride. On the other hand it’s cause for much heartache and distress almost to the point of despairing that we have so much sin remaining in our life. I hate how little progress I make in resisting temptation and sin. I freely admit that I am a chief among sinners. I find some comfort in those words of Paul. I appreciate his honest assessment of his own spiritual progress. The more mature he became spiritually, the more clearly he saw the depth of his own indwelling sin and depravity. Listen to this progression in three chronological verses from early in his ministry to the very end.
If you were a betting person and you were going to bet today, which way would you bet? Would you bet that the majority of sermons preached today would have a super bowl reference or not? Would you believe me if I told you that this afternoon while you are watching the game Christians are going to be persecuted? Not like in Rome, where Christians were killed in a stadium before big crowds, but persecuted the way Christians in America are persecuted today. Our faith is going to be mocked and ridiculed and made fun of and denied and betrayed all afternoon. Our faith will be mocked by the immodesty of the cheerleaders and commercials and halftime entertainers. Our faith will be mocked by the in-your-face appeals to greed and lust and pleasure in the advertising. Our faith will be mocked by all the passionate attention and focus on purely worldly interests and pursuits. So enjoy the game and the great competition, but don’t be deceived, don’t be drawn into the big lies that will assault all your senses and undercut your Christian values. Speaking of betrayals and denials and even a bit of immodesty, let’s turn to our text.
Articles 22-23 dealt with Christ’s work of justification. Article 24 dealt with Christ’s work of sanctification. Article 26 will deal with Christ’s work of intercession. So what’s up with this little article about OT ceremonies and laws? It doesn’t seem to fit, so why did Guido de Bres insert it? There was something going on in the history of that time that prompted de Bres to say something about Christ’s work on the cross being so perfect and complete that the OT ceremonies were fulfilled and obsolete. To understand the history we need to back up to the beginning of the church. Soon after Pentecost the church of Jesus Christ began to differentiate and separate itself from the Jewish customs and ways. Worship became much simpler. The trappings of temple worship were replaced with worship that centered on preaching, prayer, Lord’s Supper and fellowship. But as the centuries progressed new rites and rituals and ceremonies began to be reintroduced into worship. Fancy vestments, altars, images and icons. Before long additional sacraments were added. Then more and more emphasis was placed on the sacraments as the primary means of God’s grace and preaching began to take a back seat. By the time of the Reformation worship was exceedingly elaborate, full of much pomp and display. The attention of the people was drawn away from Christ to holy things, holy places, holy days and holy people.