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The gospel of the Lord - the freedom of the Gospel

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The Gospel of the Lord

The freedom of the Gospel

Lord’s Day 19th October, Morning Worship, 9.30am

© Rev D Rudi Schwartz[1]

Bible Readings

Old Testament:                     Psalm 119:105-112

New Testament:                   Colossians 2:16-23


                1.  Praise:                              “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty”

                2.  Forgiveness of sins:        “God, be merciful  to me”

                3.  Thanksgiving:                   “Teach me O Lord the perfect way”

                4.  Response:                        “Almighty God, your Word is cast”

Main Points

1. Introduction
2. Jesus Christ – the only way to God
3. No one and nothing other than Jesus Christ
4. Stuck in the shadows of incompleteness
5. Worship in the Name of Christ only
6. Basic principles deprives one of freedom in Christ
7. Conclusion


1.     Introduction

My dear friends in the Lord Jesus Christ,

I was once requested to be present at a court hearing of one of our members.  It was a new experience. There are certain things one does in a court of law, and of course there are certain things one should refrain from.  What astounded me as one case after the other was presented, was that there were people who seem to visit these hearings on a regular basis, not because they are accompanying friends; they are there because of their clash with the law.

To people who disregard the law, the law becomes an enemy.  These people know the law of the land very well, but they chose to disobey and as a result the long arm of the law gets to them, they are charged and the same law becomes to them a source of limitation of their freedom.

As I sat in that court that day, I realised that I do not know much of the law of the land.  I know one has to travel on the left side of the road, and to stop at the red light, and give way to the ambulance, etc.  I also know that it is good to pay one’s taxes.  But I don’t know of how much alcohol one can drink before you could expect trouble with the law.  I also don’t know about the use of drugs, or what is not expected at night clubs, or how do behave when one is arrested by the police.

But what I did realise when I sat there that morning, is that the same law which gives me freedom is the same law that causes others to be locked away, their freedom taken away from them.

One example:  I find the law not to steal a wonderful freedom, because it protects me from others who would want to steal my property.  Others disobey this law, they steal, get caught and get locked up.

Let’s just use another way to understand what the law is and how we may enjoy having laws, because it gives us room to live. Just for one moment imagine a footy match without rules, or a tennis match without rules.  The players play on a field, clearly marked with lines.  The game must be played within those lines – and it is a good thing.  Just imagine someone taking the ball and run to play somewhere else!  The rules ensure joy and pleasure to play the game so everyone participating can understand what to expect.

2.  Jesus Christ – the only way to God

Christians live as Christians obeying the law of God.  This obedience will never be complete, but Christ to Christians is their freedom because He made right their disobedience against the law and stood in their place before the Lawgiver, to through his death and resurrection, He become their righteousness. The law in Christ, under Him and because of Him is their freedom.    He came to take away their punishment.  In this sense the Law of God to the Christian is the freedom from condemnation, giving him the freedom of being forgiven and the joy to live in a relationship with God.

But the relationship between God and the Christian is based on what Christ did, and only on what He did on our behalf.  This is what we referred to last week.  We then said that we refute the blasphemy of the Roman Church and those who adhere to the philosophies of Arminians who state that we need to bring to our salvation good works, or even a sort of saving faith as part of good works in order to be saved.  We agree with our fathers who framed the Belgic Confession (Article 22):

For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in Him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God— for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Saviour. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified "by faith alone" or by faith "apart from works."

3.  No one and nothing other than Jesus Christ

The Heidelberg Catechism, one of the key documents of the Reformed faith, asks this question:  “But why are you called a “Christian”?  The answer comes clearly:

Because I am a member of Christ by faith, and as such am partaker of his anointing,  that so I may confess his name, and present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him, and also that with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life and afterwards I reign with Him eternally, over all creatures.

But according to the Encarta Dictionary a Christian is someone who is showing qualities such as kindness, helpfulness, and concern for others.

We should in some way be flattered that the dictionary refers to Christians in this way, even if we not always live this way.  But there is a big problem with this definition.

 Even the Buddhist, the Muslim or the atheist can show kindness, helpfulness and concern for others.  The other problem we have with this definition of what a Christian is:  it describes things we must do because we are Christians.  But to most it also describes things people might do to become Christians.  This is a new condition, and if you do these things then God will make you his child.  And this way of thinking cuts at the heart of the Gospel:  the Encarta definition says nothing about Christ, about faith in Him as the only way to God and Him begin the only righteousness.

The Reformers were very clear as stood against the Roman faith:  the Scriptures alone, by faith alone, by grace alone, by Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

The Colossians were bombarded by the philosophies of their time, but their was one in particular which was aimed at the heart of the Gospel too:  Christ is not enough, you must add to what He has done.  Not Christ alone, it was Christ plus.  This philosophy would rob them of their freedom, and enslave them once again to human additions to the Gospel of Christ.  These people did not look at the law as freedom, they proclaimed a Gospel which would distract and deprive from the goal, and as such once again enslave the Christian to rules which might have the appearance of something valuable good, but it will have one end up in the pit of hopelessness without Christ.

Remember, either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in Him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely.

4.  Stuck in the shadows of incompleteness

The Jews who became Christians in Colossae, had a look at the Gospel of the Lord, and decided that it cannot offer complete salvation.  What about the works of the law?  What about the ceremonial law which required that one should eat and drink certain things on certain days and occasions?  What about those Sabbaths, e.g. of having the land rest after seven years of ploughing and sowing?  And what about travelling on these days, and doing work as described by the Scribes as they kept adding to the Ten Commandments until they ended up with 613 laws which our Lord condemned as man-made traditions?

They then reasoned this way:  what defines you as Christian is not your salvation in Christ alone, but what you add as if Him death and resurrection were not enough.

Good Presbyterians could easily argue the same.  The phrase I hear when I ask people about their relationship in the Lord is almost without fail, “I try my hardest to be good.”

No, a thousand time No!  This is not what Christ came to do.  Argue this way and we say that His death was not enough.  I have to add, and keep trying to be good.  Fact is, try for a thousand years, and you will still be trying.  We will never be good enough to be saved.  It is by faith in Christ that we are saved.  It is by Him that we are justified. It is by Him and Him alone that we are declared righteous.  It is by Him that we are adopted, and it will be by Him that God will hold us in his hand till the day He will return or we will go to Him.  To act otherwise is to try to add to the righteousness of Christ, and to declare before God that Christ was not good enough for you to be saved.  This is a serious sin.

In Galatians Paul writes:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:6-9)

All the laws of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ.  They were shadows, and to cling to them means to be stuck in the shadows, never to see light and freedom.

But to really enjoy this freedom is to get out of the shadows, even of false humility.  Why? Because a Christian is one who cannot otherwise but to cling to the cross of Jesus Christ.  To be Christian is to always remember how sinful we are and how far we fall short.  It is to always remember from whence we come.  David says he was saved from a slimy pit!  It is to remember that without Christ we are nothing!

The Pharisee was the one with false humility.  He could recite all the good things he did and look down on the sinner next to him and then thank God that he is not as bad as this filthy, dragged-in-by-the-cat sinner next to him.  His companion that day on the other hand had nothing to show as something good.  But under the awful load of his sin he could only do one thing:  call for mercy.  “Forgive me, for I am a sinner.”  Our Lord said of him that he went home a righteous man.

That’s why it’s hard to be a Christian.  We are always empty-handed if we stand in our own righteousness.  And this self-righteousness always has us in conflict with the Law, because there is no freedom.  But, there under the throne of grace, when I stand empty-handed, pleading only on the blood of Christ, and nothing of my own, I find freedom.  And this freedom binds me to become his slave and do his bidding.

5.  Worship in the Name of Christ only

 Some Greeks became Christians and joined the church in Colossae.  Some had been Gnostics and had this idea that God cannot be approached directly.  They understood it as if there was some sort of hierarchy to the throne of God.  You would pray through angels, be elevated yourself as you rise up in this mystic union with the heavenly beings and eventually you could pray to God directly because of your spiritual progress. 

But to these people the Name of Jesus was not sufficient and his atonement was not enough.  Here comes heresy again, and it looked so good!  People fell for it and some were taken captive as they were no able to defend their faith from the Scriptures.

And it came in other forms to the church.  I want to read to you a prayer I got from the internet, from a Roman Catholic site.[2]

But I must confess that I have not kept the vows and promises which I made to you so solemnly at my baptism. I have not fulfilled my obligations, and I do not deserve to be called your child or even your loving slave. Since I cannot lay claim to anything except what merits your rejection and displeasure, I dare no longer approach the holiness of your majesty on my own. That is why I turn to the intercession and the mercy of your holy Mother, whom you yourself have given me to mediate with you. Through her I hope to obtain from you contrition and pardon for my sins, and that Wisdom whom I desire to dwell in me always.

I turn to you, then, Mary immaculate, living tabernacle of God, in whom eternal Wisdom willed to receive the adoration of both men and angels.

I greet you as Queen of heaven and earth, for all that is under God has been made subject to your sovereignty.

I call upon you, the unfailing refuge of sinners, confident in your mercy that has never forsaken anyone.

There are prayers to angels too.  This one is to Michael:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the hour of battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil, May God restrain him we humbly pray and do Thou O Prince of the Heavenly Court, by the Power of God cast into hell, satan and all the other evil spirits who roam through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen[3]

What do we make of these things?  As Christians adhering to the Bible only, we understand that it distracts from the glory of Christ, minimising his effectual and complete victory on the cross.  We reject it as idolatry.

Of people believing in anything or anyone else apart from Christ for salvation and guidance in this life, the Bible declares:

He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. (Colossians 2:19)

When one loses connection with Christ, the Head of the Church, one loses everything.  Christ holds everything together, and losing connection with him is losing one’s place in the body of Christ, whom He bought in his blood.

6.  Basic principles deprives one of freedom in Christ

It seems as if man is wired to be under the control of something all the time.  According to what have heard from Colossians up till now, we understand that the Christian is under Christ, saved from sin and hell and Satan, living under the Headship of Jesus Christ who openly and publically defeated the devil and made a public spectacle of him.  Because of this decisive act of victory the charges which stood against us were nailed to the cross.  We now live under Him, for Him and because of Him.  His victory frees us from the bondage of sin, it takes us out of the darkness of the shadows of the ceremonial law of the Old Testament which could not give an eternal and lasting victory and therefore called to be fulfilled in the Son of God.

But as soon as the Christian rejects the freedom of the Gospel in Christ, he falls back to be a slave.  He makes rules and adheres to those rules in the hope that it will bring him favour in the sight of God.

Some then withdraw from this world and live in cloisters.  Others form church groups were they work themselves up in holiness, away from the so-called contamination of others who might call themselves Christians.  They impose on their followers one set of rules upon the other, none of which can be found in the Scriptures, but all of whom distract from the all-sufficiency of Christ. A strong leader becomes a sort of a pope to whom all listen, and out of fear for punishment, all that the leaders say is done without question.  Whether is means one has to rip out your car radio, not use mobile phones or computers, or disown your relatives for not being members of the same group.

What is done in the name of separation from the world seems to have the appearance of wisdom.  But it the Bible exposes it as nothing less than self-imposed worship, false humility and harsh treatment of the body.  It has absolutely no value for salvation.  Withholding oneself from all these things, and imposing rules and regulations for holy living, other than what the Bible says, is to be in the net of self-righteousness – it cannot save.  Only the blood of Christ can save.  Only in him is real freedom.

7.  Conclusion

Dear friends in the Lord, nothing else but the Lord Jesus Christ can guarantee freedom.  Self-imposed rules and holiness will take one back to court every week, only to be charged again, never to be free.

It is sinful to add to the salvation of Christ anything, apart from what the Word demands.  But our message this morning is:  commit to Christ, trust in Him only, rely on his grace only, follow him by faith only, and then – go into this world, made free.  If the truth sets you free, you will be free indeed.  AMEN.


[1]  Feel free to duplicate this file or quote from it.  The Name of the Lord be glorified!



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