Advent 1 – The Need for the Messiah

Selected Scriptures

You can keep your Bibles handy. We are going to refer to some selected Scriptures this morning as we go along. I’m interrupting the series on Romans and Malachi for until after the Advent season. Here’s the reason – and it’s not without controversy: We find ourselves in that time of the year that we call Advent in the liturgical calendar, and I know that many people in our reformed circles are uncomfortable with the liturgical calendar. They feel you should just continue wherever you are in the Word over what they call Christmas time. I call it Advent time. It’s that time in the year when in the West we used to remember the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think it’s a sad thing that we lost that. It was the Gospel woven into the warp and woof of daily life in Western Society, and I think it’s a sad thing that we lost that. I think it’s time that we regained that. The time of reformers has not stopped and we don’t have any Luthers and Calvins around. We certainly have some who can say something here and there, and I think this is an important thing to say. So over the next three weeks up to Christmas day, we’re going to be considering together a brief topical, what I call an Advent series. We are going to consider three things in that time: The need for the Incarnation –why was it necessary, the nature of the Incarnation – what was it like, the need for the Messiah – why was the Messiah necessary? Do you know why the Messiah was necessary? We’re going to talk about the need for the Messiah. Then the nature of the Messiah – what is He like? Who is He? And then the Nativity of the Messiah – the birth of the Messiah – His Incarnation on Christmas day. We’re going to be speaking about that. And in speaking about the need for the Messiah, I’m going to highlight to you three things why the Messiah was necessary this morning: The glory of God necessitated the Messiah, the grief of man required the Messiah and the gift of Life required the Messiah. When we look at the nature of the Messiah next Lord’s day, Lord willing, we’re going to look at His holy Divinity, His human descent – how He came through David, and His humble descent – how He came down humbly. And then on Christmas day, we will look at the Nativity of the Messiah and consider three things: His mother, His manger and His mission. So this is from now until Christmas day and I hope that you’ll be around for all of them.

This morning then, a topical message on the need for the Messiah. Why was the Messiah needed? Why did He come at all? Why did God slay Him before the foundation of the earth; this Lamb without blemish? Why did God do that? Why did God consider that necessary even before He’d created us? What did He see that we didn’t see? When we ask that question – normally when you ask people: ‘Why was a saviour needed – why is a saviour necessary at all?’ We do what we always do, and here’s what we do. Your wife knows it in your house and your husband knows it and your children know it and your parents know it: we begin where we always begin – we begin with ‘me’. I needed a Messiah. Me, us, people – we think of people! And I want to say this morning when we talk about why was the Messiah necessary, we must not begin with us, because the first thing that necessitated a Messiah is the very purpose of our existence – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

  1. The Glory of God

    The first thing that necessitated a Messiah is the glory of God. God knew that we would sin and fall short of that glory and that’s in the first place for His own Glory why He slew that Lamb before the foundation of the world, and why He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish. You’ll see why I say, it’s God’s glory. You may say it’s because of God’s love. That’s part of God’s glory. What is the glory of God? I want to look at the splendour of it this morning – the singularity of it (there is nothing like it) and the sin against it. That’s what necessitated the Messiah: the splendour of the glory of God, the singularity of the glory of God and the sin against the glory of God. That’s what necessitated a Messiah in the first place. So if we need to understand that, we need to speak about the glory of God this morning and I’m shaking in my legs having to do that. Knowing who I am, how dare I speak about a God such as this? How dare I? How dare I even take His Name on my lips in prayer? It’s as I prayed earlier on. I do it only because it’s His will, not because I deserve it. Let’s consider:

    (i) The Splendour of the Glory of God

    What is Glory? We need to find some simple explanation. I like what Dr John Piper says in a very simple sentence. He says God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness, the radiance of His manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections. That’s the glory of God. Let me say it again. Let me tell you what His holiness is: It’s His all-together-otherness – He’s all together other. There’s no one and nothing like God. No one as pure, no one as beautiful, no one as holy, no one as unblemished as God. That’s His holiness, and His glory is what shines from that holiness – it’s the radiance of His holiness – of His altogether otherness. It’s the radiance of His manifold (that means many and many-faceted – that’s what manifold means – it’s not just many, it’s many and many-faceted) – infinitely worthy and valuable perfections! And we fell short of it. We talk about God’s glory endlessly, don’t we? We should know what we’re talking about a little bit more and it’s very difficult to define. But we need to try. I like Dr John Piper’s definition of it. But the reason why it is so important is because in the Bible, we don’t know of any truth that is more fundamentally pervasive than God’s zeal to be glorified. That’s God’s main concern. That means His zeal for us to think, so to feel and so to act as to make Him look as glorious in our lives as He really is and by doing that we don’t add to His glory – we just vaguely reflect it. So we want to make His glory shine and that’s why we needed a Messiah. We want to make it visible. He tells us in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” That’s the purpose of it.

    So the goal of our lives should be so to live that when people know us well enough they would [not] say ‘oh, what a great guy. What a great woman. What a great kid’, but ‘God is glorious!’ Not Peter is glorious or Freddie is glorious, but God is glorious! And I believe Dr John Piper again is right when he says that is probably why God allows us to sin as much as He does – just so that we can see who we really are when we get too big for our boots. Let me tell you, I speak from personal experience. When you get too big for your boots, God will bring you down because He will share His glory with none other! So we want to make God’s glory shine – we want to make it visible. But what is it? It’s the going public of His infinite worth. The holiness of God is the infinite value of God – the infinite worth of God – when that gets out there and into public, in creation, the heavens are telling the glory of God and human beings are manifesting His glory, because we’re created in His image and we’re trusting His promises so that we make Him look gloriously trustworthy.

    (ii) The Singularity of God’s Glory

    So God’s glory is the radiance of His holiness, the radiance of His manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections. And we see them in what we call God’s attributes. Now, what are God’s attributes? They are the things that make us able to understand Him as much as we can learn about God from the Scriptures. And I like what Millard Erickson did in his Systematic Theology or his Christian Theology when he divided God’s attributes into two categories. There are two things that we can know about God, and everything else we can know about Him falls in those categories. Here they are, and you need to know it! Two things about your God. And you children, you listen up now! There are two things you need to know about God. God is GREAT! And you need to find out how great He is. And why do we say He’s great and I’m going to try to tell you. Secondly, God is GOOD! And you need to find out why we say God is good and what attributes tell us that He’s good and I’m going to try to tell you. So those two things: God is GREAT and God is GOOD. Amen!? What makes Him great? Well, there are his attributes of greatness. And here they are: Spirituality (God is a spirit), Personality (He’s a person), Life (He’s alive), Infinity (there are things about Him that are without end) and Constancy (He never changes).

    A. His Greatness

    a. God’s Spirituality
    Scripture clearly tells us that God is spirit. Jesus tells us in John 4:24: “God is spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” And we also see it in the many references to His invisibility (John 1:18, 1 Timothy 1:17, 1 Timothy 6:15-16). We cannot see Him, and one consequence of God’s spirituality is, He doesn’t have the limitations that we have that are involved in a physical body. He’s not limited to a certain place at one time. That makes Him able to be present everywhere. That’s one of His attributes of greatness – His spirituality.

    b. God’s Personality
    Where do we learn that God is a person? In the great statement to Moses. Moses wonders how he should respond when the Israelites will ask him the name of God who has sent him. And God says to him: “I AM. Tell them ‘I AM’ has sent you.” God is, and He is The Great I AM. And it makes Him great! He’s a person. Not only is God a spirit, but he’s a person and thirdly, unlike the book that I have in my bookshelf at home by some little atheist who wrote ‘God is dead.’ – I think he’s since passed away by the way – but:

    c. God has Life
    God has life – He is characterized by life! Jesus says: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” not I give the way, the truth and the life – I am! His life! And we see it in Scripture in different ways. Even in the statement that He is, when He says “I am”. He’s a living God. Scripture doesn’t argue for God’s existence, it just assumes it. And let me tell you something – you should too! Don’t sit around and wait until somebody convinces you that God is, and that God is alive. Scripture never does that. Scripture merely assumes the existence of God, and you should too.

    d. God’s Infinity
    There’s some things about God’s Infinity that we need to know. He is infinite. Nothing can limit Him – space cannot limit Him – time cannot limit Him. That’s why He is eternal. His eternality is part of His infinity. He is the forever God! In fact, He is beyond forever because He is outside of time, and in time. Don’t let it worry you too much if you cannot get your head around this. Just get a glimpse of it. This is the God whose being necessitated the Messiah. This is what you need to learn. He is everywhere and He is always. He is eternal and He is omnipresent, we say in theology.  He is always and He is everywhere. But not [only] that – He is also unlimited – infinite in His wisdom and His knowledge. We call it His omniscience – He knows all things. And He is Almighty – He is infinite in His power. God’s omnipotence is part of His infinity. Can you see how rich the infinity of God is? For finite human beings like you and I this we need to understand as people this morning. Lastly in His attributes of greatness is:

    e. His Constancy
    Here’s good news. His constancy – in theology we call it His immutability. God never changes – not in any aspect of His being. I’m talking to you about your God this morning, my congregation. This is the God we serve! He is a spirit. He is, and He is The Great I AM. He is the God of life and is infinite in space and time – infinite in His power – infinite in His wisdom and knowledge – and He never changes. That’s the greatness of God.

    B. His Goodness

    Then we come to His attributes of goodness, which are part of His glory. There’s His moral Purity, His Integrity and His Love. Those three things are what make God good.

    a. His moral Purity
    His Holiness, His Righteousness and His Justice – that’s part of His moral Purity. He’s nothing like you and I who run around cheating and crooking and stealing and doing what we shouldn’t be doing all the time. There’s not a glimpse of that in God. He is all together perfect in His Holiness, in His Righteousness and in His Justice. That’s what makes Him good in the moral sense, but He’s also good in:

    b. His Integrity
    We see three things about that: He’s genuineness – God is authentic – God is genuine – He is as He pretends to be, and when He makes you a promise, He will always keep it. God is genuine. He’s the real deal – unlike us – we’re a bunch of phonies and we get it right even more nowadays when we can hide behind masks. I wish it could be a full-face one like in Sharia law. By the way, I feel like I’m living in Sharia law. I have great sympathy with women who have to live in that. Now you know what it feels like, don’t you? But God is genuine. He is as He is. His veracity – that means His truthfulness and His trustworthiness – God always speaks the truth and He is always real. That’s His veracity. Thirdly about His Integrity is His faithfulness. He never gives up. He’ll never let you down. He’ll never back out of your life. You’re the one who backs out of His life. He will never back out of yours. He is faithful.

    c. His Love
    The third aspect of His goodness [is] His love. You need to understand how certain things about God fit into His love. Here’s the first thing: Benevolence. We have a benevolence ministry in this church. When we see somebody is in need we try to help them. God is the benevolent God, and His benevolence is part of His glory. He saw our greatest need and He thought ‘I must supply that need’, and He saw that the only thing that can supply that need, is somebody who takes away the penalty of sin, the power of sin, the problem of sin, the presence of sin! And without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. And He saw the need before I was born – in my life; before you were born in yours. And so loved the world in His benevolence that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Can you see? God’s benevolence is part of His glory and His glory necessitated the Messiah. His Grace and His Mercy [are] aspects of His Love. Grace is when He gives you the good things that you don’t deserve. Mercy is when He withholds from you the bad things that you do deserve. His Love does both! By His Grace, which is an aspect of His Love, He gives you the good things that you don’t deserve – life and breath and everything. By His Mercy, He withholds from you the bad things you do deserve. That’s an aspect of His Love. Another aspect of His Love is His persistence. He just keeps on – He’s the ‘Keep on going’ God, isn’t He? He never gives up!

    It’s all these things: this God who is a spirit – this God is The Great I AM who’s the God of Life, who is infinite in His wisdom, infinite in His power, infinite in His knowledge, infinite in His existence, infinite in space and time, and who never changes – all of which make Him great! This God, who is altogether holy, who is righteous, who is just. This God with integrity, who is genuine and who can be believed and trusted, who is faithful. This God of Love with His benevolence, His Grace, His Mercy and His persistence. This God with that glory is what necessitated the Messiah. Why do I say that? Let’s first see about the singularity of God’s glory. Can you see already? No one else can have that glory! Can you see no one has it? It’s singular – it’s unique – only God has it.

    Why did that necessitate the Messiah? Because of:

    (iii) The Sin against God’s Glory

    What happened there? Here’s what happened: And I hope you cringe when I say it. I do. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All – all have sinned – every one of us! You sinned this morning before you got in the car. You sinned when you opened your eyes. You probably sinned while you were dreaming. All have sinned! What did that bring about that necessitated a Messiah? It made us fall short of the glory of God. It’s so time we stopped walking around like big deals, driving around in our big motor cars, living in our big houses and just parading like we mister and misses glory. We fall short of the glory of God! That’s why Christmas – that’s why the Nativity – that’s why Advent – that’s why the Cross – because we fall short of the glory of God, and the sin against His glory necessitated a Messiah.

  2. The Grief of Humanity

    It necessitated the coming of the Messiah. And the cause of that grief – do you see the grief around about you? Do you see it? I see it! I saw it as a detective. I’m seeing it again as a detective while I’m a pastor. I got in my car on Friday night to go and buy an ice cream at the garage (I like Woollies ice cream just for those of you who are thinking about Christmas presents and so…) and I got in my car, I said I’m going to go to the Woollies food stop down Solomon Mahlangu [street]. In front of me there was a motorcycle down Solomon Mahlangu here, you’ll see it. Some kind of animal crossed the road. I don’t know what it was – a rabbit or a cat – furry thing. A guy with a motorcycle went over this animal and instinctively swerved out, right in front of the oncoming car – smacked him head on – probably a son on his way home, or a dad on his way home, a husband on his way home. The whole front of the car was taken away – it went into the ditch on the side. I praise God that our medical services responded that quickly. Some of you will have heard the helicopters I think. But I saw the grief of humanity! I couldn’t see where I was driving for weeping. I didn’t want ice cream anymore, wondering: the family has not even got the news yet! All of it is the result of sin – and a God who loves – who wants to bring us into His glory. That’s what necessitated this Messiah. I got to the garage and as I turned into it, a black man with a bottle of Black Label [beer] fell right in front of my car. He actually touched my car. You know what I responded with? Anger! And so I thought I’m going to give him a sermon, and it’s one that I won’t preach in my church. So I pulled off to the side, and I got out of the car and I was ready to just let him have it. And being half Irish, you can know what it would have been. He looked at me and he said to me in Afrikaans with his bottle in his hand: ‘Askies baas!’ He called me baas [boss]! ‘Askies baas! Help my baas, ek wil nie drink nie.’ ‘Help me, I don’t want to drink.’ Shall we help him congregation? Shall we help him? The grief of humanity necessitated the Messiah because of sin. The cause of our grief is sin. Its consequences:

    (i) Separation and Suffering – separated from God, separated from one another. Now, it’s become law that we separate from one another. I want the hugs back! Only God can bring it to us. Separation and suffering – what is its cure?

    (ii) The only cure is salvation in Jesus Christ – the Gospel! And that’s what necessitated this Messiah. What is that Gospel? It’s the Good News that Jesus died and rose again, He reigns as Lord and Saviour, He promises forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all those who repent and believe. What do we have to repent of? What do we believe? Are you a true Christian? Are you really one? Are you the real deal? Do you want to be? You can! Repent and believe!

    So it’s the glory of God, the grief of humanity that necessitated this Messiah.

  3. The Gift of Life

    (i) Its Giver
    God is the Giver of Life that necessitates the Messiah. There can be no life apart from Him.

    (ii) Its Goodness
    Life can be good for us too. God gives us spirits too. We are persons too, we have life. The difference is we are finite and we change, but in life the goodness of it too – we too can enjoy His holiness, His righteousness, His justice, His genuineness, His trustworthiness and truthfulness, His faithfulness, His benevolence, His Grace, His Mercy and His persistence. That’s what makes life good.

    Let me tell you something. You’re persisting in something anyway. You have staying power – you have persistence. You’re persisting in your bad attitude, you’re persisting in your addictions – whether it’s alcohol or drugs or tobacco or whatever – you’re persisting in it – you’re getting it right fine. And that’s not what you ought to persist in! You need to persist in clinging to this Messiah that God sent – who makes you a man and a woman of Holiness, of Righteousness and Justice, of Integrity with Genuineness and Veracity and Faithfulness, of Love with Benevolence and Grace and Mercy and Persistence. The goodness of life necessitated the Messiah – the glory of God, the grief of humanity, the goodness of life.

We’re coming up to Christmas time. The children are looking forward to their presents, aren’t they? Don’t go be wicked and tell them that Santa Claus is social distancing this year just to save money, please dad? They’re looking forward to it. I want them happy. Do you want them happy? I want them to see the greatness and the goodness of God, and God for His glory in that goodness and greatness. That’s what necessitated the Messiah and sent Him to us. Our grief, too [baby crying] – we are reminded by it by every weeping – whether it’s someone small or someone big, and the goodness of life, because only in Him will we have life and we will have it abundantly. This Advent series – do you want to know what to do to be saved – as Spurgeon said: ‘Do? You want to do something? There’s nothing you can do. You want to do something? – faint into the arms of Christ! It’s all you can do.’ May God give us the grace that we do it!