The Annual Meeting of the Huguenot Society 7th June, 2015) Scots Church, Sydney.
I am not of Huguenot descent. But let me speak today about the Huguenot heart.
Hebrews 9:26 Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
This text teaches two things:
1. Christ appeared once and for all at the end of the ages.
2. Christ put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
The word ‘unique’ comes to mind.
His coming was unique.
His sacrifice for sin was unique.
Pastoral Setting of Hebrews:
•Writer is anonymous
•He was a Jewish Christian leader.
•He was writing to discouraged Jewish Christians.
•So discouraged were they that they contemplated renouncing Christ being absorbed back into Judaism.
They had suffered economic hardship, loss of property, prison.
(Reminds us of Huguenot suffering).
•These Jewish Christians were headed back to the temple back to the priests back to the sacrifices
This was the pastoral setting of this book.
Hebrews is an early text
•Probably written in the 50s,
•One of the earliest texts of the NT.
The Writer reminds them that temple sacrifices for sins had to be repeated. So: because they had to be repeated they were ineffective.
Christ’s once only sacrifice was totally effective.
It was because he was the Son of God, without sin.
He was more than sufficient to atone for humanity’s sin.
Hebrews 10:11-14 Every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…he has perfected…those who are being sanctified.
John Calvin The great French scholar John Calvin understood this.
If Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins why are church priests repeatedly re-offering Christ as a sacrifice in the Mass?
Calvin also questioned:
•the adoration of relics;
•the intercessions of the saints;
•the superstitious belief in the omnipresence of miracles;
•prayers for the dead;
•the payment of indulgences to release imprisoned souls.
These too went by the board when Calvin examined them alongside the simplicity and purity of apostolic faith.
People were overjoyed to hear the gospel in their own tongue and to hear thoughtful pastoral teaching on the gospel.
Large numbers of French people came to Geneva to hear Calvin who taught daily at the Church of St Pierre.
In time French Protestants became numerous and represented by some estimates 10% of the population.
But the church authorities and the king reacted violently.
Religion and superstition sentimentally appeal to unthinking people.
Radical Protestant thought was opposed, even though it was a pure representation of apostolic faith.
During the final 30 years of the 16th century
•a purge of the French Protestants
•thousands massacred in Paris on St Batholomew’s Day.
In 1685 the king revoked the Edict of Nantes that forced about a quarter of the Huguenots into exile ? 250,000 including some of France’s most accomplished citizens
The suffering of the French Protestants was very great.
We are reminded of the sufferings of faithful Hebrews, as in Hebrews 11:
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
The suffering Huguenots were the heirs of the faithful Hebrews and the martyrs in early Christianity.
The suffering Huguenots are the precursors of the thousands of persecuted Christians today
The Huguenot heart believes the gospel and is prepared to suffer for the gospel
Question: If the Letter to the Hebrews is so clear how did the church get it so wrong?
It all went back to earlier centuries. Christians developed wrong ideas about ministers and sacraments. They believed that the Christian priesthood was a continuation of the Old Testament priesthood and that Christian clergy were re-offering Christ as a sacrifice for sins.
They did not understand the Epistle to the Hebrews. Otherwise they would not have allowed a return to superseded practices.
Calvin went back to the Bible. Including to the Book of Hebrews.
Christ offered himself as a sacrifice ‘once and for all’ (hapax).
We receive broken bread and out-poured wine with thankful hearts. These symbolize the broken body of Christ, his completed, saving work.
We say to ourselves, ‘He did it for me, once, at such great cost to him’.
John Calvin understood this.
So did the Huguenots.
Calvin, their fountainhead was a remarkable scholar
•trained as lawyer
•an accomplished classicist ? wrote commentary on Seneca (still in print?)
•wrote commentaries on 60+ books of the Bible
•wrote the majestic Institutes, a complete work of theology.
His meticulous commentaries make him the father of biblical commentators.
Which brings us back to Hebrews 9:26.
FIRST: Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages
Three English words once for all translate one Greek word h-a-p-a-x.
It appears a number of times in Hebrews.
His unique appearing brought the OT period to its end.
He appeared ‘once and for all’.
He supersedes and discontinues the era of temple, priests and sacrifices.
Christ brought all that to an end.
This is what the pre-reformation church did not understand.
This is what Calvin reaffirmed.
This is what Huguenots came to believe ? at great cost.
This is the heart of Huguenot faith.
SECOND: Christ has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
This is the message of Good Friday.
Men killed Jesus
-the treacherous Judas
-the opportunistic High Priest
-the vacillating Pontius Pilate
-the Roman death squad Men killed Jesus.
But Jesus also sacrificed himself.
It was the Father’s will.
Gethsemane reveals the Son’s agony in prospect.
The terrible cry from the cross reveals the agony in reality.
Christ came to pay the price for our sins, once for all.
To pay the price we could never pay.
We concern ourselves with our health, our finances, our appearances, our relationships. That’s what many TV ads are about. And these are important.
But there is something in life that is more basic, that undergirds everything else.
To be right with our Maker and Judge.
To know peace with God.
To know I am reconciled to God.
To know that God loves me.
To know that God wants to hear my prayers.
Life is a race with many hurdles. God is there to help us run the race and to help us over the hurdles.
The important thing is that we understand these great truths. Not only in our heads but no less in our hearts.
There are things in our past, which we may look back on with regret, even shame. Acts of unkindness. Cruel words. Dishonest dealings. Theft.
Ritual cannot remove the stain of sin from our hearts.
Good works cannot remove the stain of sin from our conscience.
Only the blood of the Son of God.
If I were of Huguenot descent it would be a matter of great pride.
But the really important thing is to have a Huguenot heart.
A Huguenot heart says to God:
Christ has appeared once for all at the end of the ages
to put away my sin by the sacrifice of himself.
It was for that sublime truth that the Huguenots suffered and died.