A Communion Sermon 4/2/2017


God’s Supreme Authority and our need for Salvation

Genesis 2:15-17; 3 (Entire); Psalm 130 (Entire)

AUDIO FOR THIS SERMON CAN BE FOUND HERE

While I had mentioned last week that this week would be part 2 of what we began on the “Spheres of Authority” – I had forgotten that this week would be our quarterly communion morning. So we’ll have to put part 2 off until next week.

That said, I am grateful for the way this providentially worked out. It gives us an opportunity to see another extremely practical way our understanding of the nature of God’s authority and those authority structures He has given us, play out in real life.

Look at this brief side-trip as a means to illuminate some of the necessary foundational concepts behind the entire study.

I would like to do that briefly as we consider it in light of the Lord’s Table today, in 4 Biblical ideas.

  1. Only God has the authority to DEFINE sin.
  2. Only God has the authority to DETERMINE the just penalties for sin.
  3. Only God has the authority to DECLARE that He will accept a substitute in place of our suffering the personal consequences of sin.
  4. Only God has the authority to FORGIVE sin against Himself.

All of this, necessarily takes us back to the Garden of Eden.

And in each of these, we will see how we challenge those things which belong under God’s sole authority, and try to govern them ourselves.

 

  1. Only God has the authority to DEFINE sin.

In our text in Genesis we see in 2:16 that God Himself sets the parameters for what is sin and what is not.

Genesis 2:16–17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Now in a very real sense, the tree and its fruit were secondary to the true issue: God was telling Adam and Eve, by virtue of His sole authority, what constituted sin.

To obey His command, was right. To disobey His command – was sin.

It was that simple then, and it is just that simple still.

What God communicates as His will is what defines sin. And nowhere in Scripture does He ever hand that prerogative over to any other creature.

Not man. Not angels. No one.

Deuteronomy 4:5–8 “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?”

But we are still trying to usurp God’s authority to define sin for ourselves today.

So society says it can declare what is and isn’t sin:

Homosexuality isn’t a sin – It’s just an alternative lifestyle, or even God ordained in the way I was born.

Abortion isn’t a sin – We re-define human life and value.

Neglect of God’s house and cause isn’t sin – we are free to worship Him (IF we worship Him at all) any way we choose.

Greed isn’t sin – seeking wealth is virtuous, even a Christian one.

Pride and arrogance aren’t sins – but self-esteem rules.

Rampant divorce and remarriage isn’t sin – God wants me to be happy.

But the Bible still presents God as the one who rules in this area: Matthew 28:19–20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Or in Matthew 17:1–5 On the Mount of Transfiguration: “Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them… 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

But both the Devil and Adam and Eve sought to redefine what constituted sin for themselves.

First the Serpent questions God’s decree: Genesis 3:1 “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Then Eve inserts her own modification: Genesis 3:2–3 “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

Then the Serpent outright contradicts God’s determination: Genesis 3:4-5 ”But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Not only won’t you die – you’ll be the better for it!

Not only is disobeying God not sin – it has positive virtue to it. It has its rewards.

Don’t call it sin – call it stepping into your full potential.

Only God has the authority to DEFINE sin.

  1. Only God has the authority to DETERMINE the just penalties for sin.

In Genesis 2:17 God tells them His penalty for sin: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Which, as we’ve already seen, the Serpent just outright contradicts: Genesis 3:4 “But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

And we continue this same line of reasoning every time we think in terms of little sins and great sins.

Now there are certain degrees of sinnING, just as a person who has an incurable and fatal illness may experience different stages of the illness. But sin, it remains fatal, no matter what stage of its ravages we may be experiencing at any given moment. And it is just so with sin.

As for the penalty of sin, the Scripture is unequivocal: Romans 6:23a “For the wages of sin is death” – period.

And some argue, “but all they did was eat some fruit.”

NO! What they did was tell God where to get off. That they had the authority to say for themselves whether or not their sin was so bad and what its effects ought to be.

In following the deception of the Enemy – they had determined that not only would defying God not result in death – it would actually elevate them!

God alone can say what sin deserves, and no amount of trying to reason down our sin to something that deserves less than eternal death is valid.

There is no amount of self-justification that can somehow stand in the judgment day by saying: “But it was only…” Or “this is unfair.”

He has made His pronouncement, and it cannot be argued with.

 

  1. Only God has the authority to DECLARE that He will accept a substitute in place of our suffering the personal consequences of sin.

As the account in Genesis demonstrates, God alone could provide the means for covering their nakedness and shame.

What happened immediately after Adam and Eve sinned? Genesis 3:7 “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”

But their attempt to deal with their own sin was rejected.

And after fully confronting them with the reality of their sin and its consequences, we read: Genesis 3:21 “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”

And this is where all man-made religion enters. For we refuse to submit to His righteousness, and invent our own means.

Romans 10:1–4 “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Refusing to submit to God’s righteousness, we too invent endless ways of our own creation to deal with sin.

Personal bargains with God -forgive me and I’ll…

Invented rites and rituals.

The performance of good works to feel better about ourselves and so imagine God is placated about our sin by means of them.

In effect God said in the Garden, “No, you won’t die today in the fullest sense of all death – I will spare you for a time, and I will show you how something or someone will have to die in your place in order to cover your shame.”

And from that point on – through to Abraham’s call to sacrifice Isaac and God providing for Himself a sacrifice with the ram caught in the thicket –

And on into the types and shadows of all the sacrificial rituals God imposed upon Israel.

In them, they and we are being reminded over and over and over that He MUST provide for Himself, some substitute to die on our behalf – or we all must suffer the full penalty of our sins.

All of this pointing ahead to Jesus even as Hebrews 10:5–7 “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ”

Hebrews 9:24–26 “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Isaiah 53:1–12 “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

 

  1. Only God has the authority to FORGIVE sin against Himself.

It is one thing for God to say He is satisfied with the death of Christ on our behalf, and so to dismiss the charges against us and to free us from the penalty of eternal death for our sins.

But it is quite another altogether to FORGIVE us our sins, so that we are reconciled to Him as to recover our lost relationship, and to enter into and even deeper and more glorious one.

But we try to challenge His rightful place and authority here too.

First some simply don’t want to think about it. God just doesn’t care. He is such a non-entity and so uncommitted to anything, He doesn’t need to forgive, He just loves us anyway.

Or, “Nobody’s perfect” – so God just accepts that and there’s no need to actually seek true one-on-one forgiveness.

Or once again, the rise again of man-made religion where were look to a person, a priest or some other to utter the words: “I absolve you.”

And then there is the modern mantra? Don’t worry about God’s forgiveness, we need to forgive OURSELVES!

All of which diminishes the wonder and glory of God’s true forgiveness.

Adam lost his position as God’s vice-regent in the world.

But in salvation, we are not just restored to a former position, we are adopted into the Family and brought into the most intimate relationship that can be had.

This is the function of true forgiveness, past mere satisfaction – as though that were not enough.

And it may have been enough for us. A criminal who has been acquitted of a horrible crime may be content to know he or she will not be prosecuted, and take the chance to run as fast and as far away as possible so as to have the whole matter just forgotten.

But the grace of God is not content to just find our sins remitted and atoned for.

God’s aim in Christ is not just to set us free from our debt, but to bring us close to Himself. To reconcile us to Himself. To draw us nearer than we ever were, and to make us a part of His own family.

Hebrews 2:10 “For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Matthew 26:26–29 “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

And in this way, we come to the communion table to sit at the family table.

To acknowledge that we not just forgiven, but we are home for dinner. Home to fellowship, and break bread and rejoice and laugh and weep and draw nearer and nearer.

Both to the Father, and to all that are His – and now ours – in Christ.

  1. Only God has the authority to DEFINE sin. And according to His Word – ALL have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.
  2. Only God has the authority to DETERMINE the just penalties for sin. Which He says over and over – is death. Both physical, and eternal in separation from Him and torment.
  3. Only God has the authority to DECLARE that He will accept a substitute in place of our suffering the personal consequences of sin. And He has set before us Jesus as the propitiation – satisfaction for our sin.
  4. Only God has the authority to FORGIVE sin against Himself. And in Him, in Jesus, extends to all who trust in Christ – the full forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to Himself.

If you have repented from setting your own standard in place of God’s perfect holy standard…

If you have agreed with God’s assessment of what your sin truly deserves, seeing it demonstrated in the death of Christ at Calvary…

If you have embraced His only acceptable sacrifice for your sin – the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross in your place…

And if you have sought and received forgiveness of sins from Christ as your Saviour…

This table is for you. Welcome home – come and dine.

Glory!

If any of the above are missing for you, then do not come unless they are put to right right now before His throne.

Else you will eat and drink judgment to yourself.

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