Belgic Confession, Article 21: Christ Presenting Himself Before the Father
by Rev. Martyn McGeown, missionary-pastor of Limerick Reformed Fellowship (for the Covenant PRC of Ballymena, N.Ireland)
John 10:18: “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself …
Sometimes we think of Jesus as a victim upon whom God inflicted terrible sufferings. Some have scoffed at Christianity, calling it “slaughterhouse religion.” More recently, certain wicked men have accused God of “cosmic child abuse.” But all such objections to the Gospel of the cross are based on a deliberate refusal to see that what Christ suffered was voluntary. When we see the awful sufferings of Christ in Scripture let us never lose sight of that great truth.
Christ was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, but only because He willingly consented to His arrest and gave Himself into the hands of His captors (John 18:4-9). Christ was beaten, spat upon and mocked, but remember His words in Isaiah 50:6: “I gave my back to the smiters and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Christ was arraigned before the Jews and then Pontius Pilate, but only because He Himself permitted it. Christ was crucified and suffered the indignities and agonies of the cross, but only because He personally embraced those sufferings as part of the will of God.
All of this He sums up in John 10:17-18: “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” Indeed, Christ did not actually die until the moment determined by Himself. He could not have died one second earlier or later than the one appointed by the Father and to which He willingly submitted.
The Belgic Confession explains this in these words: “He hath presented Himself in our behalf before the Father to appease His wrath by His full satisfaction.” The Son of God, as it were, appeared before the Father and declared, “Here I am, send me.”
And we must be abundantly clear that the Son of God knew exactly the import of His words: “Send me, Father, and I will be born of a virgin, in humble and miserable circumstances. Send me, Father, and I will grow up in relative obscurity and poverty. Send me, Father, and I will preach thy Gospel, do good and keep thy Law, under which I will be born. Send me, Father, and I will be rejected by many, despised and abhorred by men, betrayed, denied and finally put to death. Send me, Father, and I will submit to the indignities of arrest, false imprisonment, a wicked, unjust, public flogging, rejection by the people in favour of a murderer, and finally the agony of crucifixion. Send me, Father, and I will bear in my own body the full weight of thy wrath against the sins of which my elect are guilty.”
The book of Hebrews sums it up, quoting Psalm 40, “Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God” (Heb. 10:7).
Something legal happened when Christ presented Himself before the Father. The guilt of all our sins was transferred to the account of God’s Son and He undertook to take full responsibility for what we had done and to do what we had left undone and had refused to do.
What amazing love is this! Praise Christ, our self-giving, self-sacrificing Saviour!
Rev. Martyn McGeown (Larisa)
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010; Providence PRC (Hudsonville, MI), Sept. 2021Website: www.prca.org/current/news/churches/usa-canada/providence-prc-hudsonville-mi
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