************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 1a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 17, 2019
Belgic Confession Article 1a
"The One Only God"
We begin our study of the Belgic Confession of Faith this evening. Belgic refers to what today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. I can say the same thing about the Confession that I said about the Heidelberg Catechism: it is sound doctrine because it is based upon the Bible rather than upon what the itching ears of man may want to hear.
I Doctrine Worth Dying For
In its first article, the Confession begins with a rather heady statement.
We all believe in our hearts
and confess with our mouths ...
To appreciate this we need to understand that during the sixteenth century the Belgic churches were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. Charles V was the ruler and he wanted all his subjects to submit to the authority of the Pope. To enforce this, he introduced the Spanish Inquisition into the Lowlands. All laymen who discussed questions about the faith or failed to report heretics or made insulting remarks about images of God, the virgin Mary, or the saints were to be put to death. When Charles died, his son, Philip II, proved to be even more fanatical in his devotion to Rome. Taxes were raised. The constitutional privileges of many cities were withdrawn. Heresy was more severely repressed.
The Confession was written to protest against this cruel opposition and to prove that people of the Reformed faith were law-abiding citizens who professed true Christian doctrine according to the Bible.
The Confession was sent to King Philip II. In a letter to him the Reformers declared that they were ready to obey the government in all things lawful, but that they would
"offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,"rather than deny the truth expressed in the Confession. As one commentator put it, "The Belgic Confession contains doctrine worth dying for." Many of its original adherents knew this by personal experience. Guido de Brès, the author of the Confession, was put to death as one of the many thousands who sealed their faith with their lives.
With this in mind, listen again to the opening words of the Belgic Confession of Faith:
We all believe in our heartsIt isn't just words. It isn't just thoughts. It is religion, truth, doctrine worth dying for.
and confess with our mouths ...
II There Is a God
A So what do we believe in our hearts? What do we confess with our mouths? What are we willing to die for? It starts with God. We believe there is a God. We confess there is a God. We believe and confess this over against atheism. Do you know what the Bible says about atheists? It calls them fools.
(Ps 14:1) The fool says in his heart, "There is no God."
How can anyone say there is no God? I ask that because this universe and everything in it is so unbelievably complex. But the atheist says it is all an accident.
All of the wonders around you are accidental. No almighty hand made a thousand billion stars. They made themselves. No power keeps them on their steady courses.It's all accidental. There is no God! Really? The fool says in his heart, "There is no God.
The sun stokes a fire just warm enough to sustain us on earth, but not hot enough to fry us, or cold enough to kill us. Who keeps the fire constant? No one!
Why does the earth spin at a given speed without ever slowing down or speeding up, so that we have day and night? Who tilts it so that we get seasons? No one! The earth gravitized itself to keep the oceans from falling off toward the sun.
The inexhaustible envelope of air -- only 50 miles deep -- and of exactly the right density to support human life, is just another accident.
The top few inches of our land just happens to have topsoil. The seeds for the first tree, flower, or vegetable just appeared.
Who put oil just deep enough in the earth to keep until we need it? Who made the deposits of coal and zinc and iron and uranium inside the earth? Nobody. It was all just another priceless accident.
No one devised the elements so we can have fire for cooking and to keep us warm.
Who showed a voice how to fly through the air on a radio wave? How does a picture leave an antenna, move through air in hundreds of dots, and come into millions of homes in precisely the right order to reproduce the picture? It just happens.
Clouds bring rain and shade. Who taught them how to vaporize, and pick up fresh water and carry it to places which need it? Is snow just a winter decoration? Or does it sit on mountain tops waiting for the warm spring sun to turn it into water needed for the streams and farms below? And why does it melt at just the right time for the young crops to drink? A very lovely accident.
A salmon will swim upstream to the place it was born to have its babies and die and it will jump up fish ladders to do it. How does a salmon know to do this? Why does a pregnant eel in Hawaii swim all the way to Bermuda to give birth to little eels? How can elephant seals dive a mile or more below the waves and remain submerged for up to two hours straight? Why do Sequoias naturally occur only along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet? Who planted the first Sequoia?
Insulin maintains a level of sugar in the human blood sufficient for energy, but, without it, all of us would fall into a coma and die. Who created insulin?
Do infants teach themselves to cry when they are hungry or hurt?
How does the ear hear? Are we to believe that the ear drum and the inner ear and the outer ear and the nerves that connect this to the brain are all accidental? How does the eye see? What connects it to the brain? How does the brain interpret what is sent to it?
Illnesses have specific symptoms. Why this warning? Why not many illnesses with identical symptoms? Or no symptoms?
Or, what about the miracle of new life? How is it that cells unite and split and keep on splitting until, in time, a baby has the proper number of fingers, eyes, ears, and hair in the right places and comes into the world when it is strong enough to sustain life? Who makes this happen?
B Is there a God? According to a Pew Research poll done of adult Americans in December 2017:
-80% believe in God; however, only 56% believe He is the God of the Bible
-48% of Americans say that God or another higher power directly determines what happens in their lives all or most of the time
-56% believe Jesus is God
-24% believe the Bible is God's Word
-37% attend church in a typical week
-55% pray to God daily
I suppose we should be happy that most Americans believe in God. But if this is the case, how come there is so much divorce, adultery, abortion, murder, drugs, and crime in our land? How come we allow gay marriage and the use of marijuana? You know what all this tells me? The majority of adults in our society claim to believe in God but they live like there is no God. This means they are practical atheists -- people who say "Lord, Lord" but do not do the will of our Father in heaven (cf Mt 7:21-22).
If there is a God than He is in charge and all thinking, loving, hoping, believing, planning, and living depend upon Him. If there is a God than all of life must be seen in reference to Him. If there is a God everything must be seen in His light and must be shaped by His will. If there is a God, we obey His commands, seek first His Kingdom and its righteousness, and live for His glory.
Practical atheism tries to do without God. It is busy -- so busy -- in our land trying to take God out of our schools, out of government, out of commerce, out of the work-place. Practical atheism says there is only one place and time for God: in the worship service on Sunday morning. Practical atheism tries to ignore God all week long.
Practical atheism is the biggest danger facing God's people today. It tries to get us to live without really and seriously thinking about God and Christ for days or weeks or months. It wants us to live and walk and work and breathe without God. It wants us to get so wrapped up in living a comfortable, well-fed, fashionable life that God and Christ rarely, if ever, enters the picture. Practical atheism wants us to treat God like a pilot treats a parachute: he knows it is there but hopes he will never have to use it.
C Is there a God? Guido de Brès in Article 1 of the Belgic Confession of Faith affirms that there is:
We all believe in our heartsContrary to the atheist the Confession of Faith says there is a God. Contrary to the practical atheist, Guido de Brès says belief in God involves heart and mouth. Against every fool who says in his heart "There is no God," we yell, "But there is." Against every fool who tries to live without God we cry out, "Don't ignore Him."
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
whom we call God.
We believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a God. But not just any God. We believe and confess the God of the Bible. We believe and confess the God Who reveals Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ.
III The Nature of God
A We believe in God but Who is this God we believe in? "Who are you, God?" Our Scripture reading tells us of the time Moses asked this question? He was in the desert when he saw a burning bush that was not consumed by the flames. As he came near to examine the bush God called his name and spoke to him. God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt. When Moses heard this he asked, "What is your name?" "Who are you, God?" (Exodus 3).
The Belgic Confession of Faith answers this question for us. It tells us three things about the nature of God: God is one, God is simple, God is Spirit.
First, God is one. The Confession affirms that there is only one God. In doing so, the Confession echoes the earliest creed of God's people:
(Deut 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
How many gods are there? Like the Bible, like the Apostles and Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, the Belgic Confession of Faith says there is only one God. The so-called gods of the nations are nothing; they are nothing but idols fashioned by the hands and minds of men; they cannot speak, see, hear, smell, handle, or walk (Psalm 115:4-8). There is only one God.
It is not politically correct to say this, but I will say it anyway: Allah is not God; Buddha is not God; the hundreds of Hindu gods are not God. The God of the Bible is God and there is no other.
B Second, God is simple. What does this mean? It means God is not composed of separate parts. Compare God to man. Man is not a simple being. We are composed of body and soul. God made the body of Adam and then He breathed into it a soul. At the moment of death the soul separates from the body; the body is put in the ground and the soul goes to be with Christ. By way of contrast, God is not composed of various parts. God cannot be divided up like a piece of pie, one part being the Father, another part being the Son, and a final part being the Holy Spirit; each person of the Trinity is 100% God. Nor can God be divided into love, justice, and holiness; the whole being of God is 100% love, 100% just, and 100% holy. God cannot be divided because He is simple.
Now, you may be saying, "What a strange doctrine to confess. Why spend so much time on something that appears to be meaningless?" The answer is that throughout church history, including today, many people pit the love of God against all His other attributes; as far as these people are concerned, the love of God is His most important attribute. The simplicity of God means there are no tensions among the different attributes of God. The simplicity of God means the characteristics of God cannot be played against each other. Yes, God is love; but, He is also just, holy, righteous, wrathful, and good. None of these cancel out any of the others. Unlike us, God is simple.
C Third, God is Spirit. As the Confession puts it, God is a "spiritual being." As Jesus says, "God is spirit" (Jn 4:24).
God is Spirit. Meaning what? Meaning He has no body. Meaning the Mormons are wrong when they teach and believe that God the Father is a glorified man with a body like ours.
God is Spirit. Meaning what? Meaning that God is different from us. There is nothing earthly about God, nothing creaturely -- except in Christ.
We all believe in our heartsIs this what you believe? Is this what you confess? Is this what you are willing to die for?
and confess with our mouths
that there is a single
whom we call God.
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