************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 1b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 24, 2019
Belgic Confession Article 1b
"God is Eternal"
We continue our study of the sound doctrine of the Belgic Confession of Faith this evening. We call it sound doctrine because it is based upon the Bible and not upon what man's itching ears want to hear.
Sound doctrine, I said last week, starts with God. If you get God wrong, or if God is not your starting point, then your doctrine is all wrong. So far, based upon the Bible, the Confession has told us three things about God's nature. First, that He is one. That is, there is only one God -- the God of the Bible, the God Who loves us in Jesus Christ. Second, that God is simple. That is, He cannot be divided into different parts. He is altogether God. Everything about Him is altogether God. Third, that God is Spirit. That is, He is different than us because He doesn't have a body.
I The Attributes of God
A Today, we go from the nature of God to the characteristics or attributes of God. God's will is that we "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 3:18). One way to do this is to study the attributes of God as He has revealed them in His Word.
Article 1 lists nine attributes of God for us: "eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good." I want to observe that theologians have distinguished at least 28 different attributes of God. The favorite attribute of God for most people today is love -- but the Confession does not mention love. Also missing are mercy, grace, omnipotence, holiness, perfection, omniscience, sovereignty, faithfulness, and others. The Belgic Confession, however, does include today's least favorite attribute for God -- namely, that God is just.
B The Confession, following classical theology, divides the attributes of God into incommunicable and communicable attributes. We confess that God has incommunicable attributes -- attributes that cannot be communicated, or given, to man or the rest of His creation; these attributes belong to God alone and clearly distinguish Him from all that He has made. God also has communicable attributes -- attributes that are communicated, or given, to man; with these attributes, man faintly reflects what God is like; with these attributes, man images God.
Each of the incommunicable attributes has a negative prefix: God is not time bound, He is eternal; He is not comprehensible, He is incomprehensible; He is not visible, He is invisible; He is not changeable, He is unchangeable; He is not finite, He is infinite.
Each of the communicable attributes are listed in the positive. They speak of God as having the most possible of the attributes that even humans possess. Samson, for instance, is mighty but only God is almighty. Solomon is known for wisdom but God alone is completely wise. Joseph brings good things to his family in Egypt but God alone is the overflowing source of all good.
C No creed, no confession, no person can fully describe God and say Who He is. To describe God is like trying to describe how a bird flies. You can talk about wings, muscles, feathers, and aerodynamics, yet all efforts fall short. Likewise, God outstrips and goes far beyond all human categories and terms.
When we speak of God we must do so with real humility and great awe and considerable reverence, yet we must also remember that God has revealed Himself to us so that it is possible for us to know Him. In fact, at the heart of the Gospel lies the fact that Jesus came to earth so that we might know the Father through Him. In Jesus we have been allowed knowledge of what God is like (Jn 14:5-9). This does not mean we know everything about God, or will ever know everything, but in Christ we do know God and have genuine and true knowledge of Him.
II God is Eternal
A I am planning nine sermons on the attributes of God as listed by the Belgic Confession of Faith. Today we will be looking at the eternity of God.
Let's start with the main Bible passages that teach this. In our Bible reading God revealed His eternity to John on the island of Patmos:
(Rev 1:4) John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,Is, was, is to come covers all time and more than time. Alpha - everything begins with God. Omega - everything ends with God. First and Last. He is for ever. Telling us what? Telling us God is eternal.
(Rev 1:8) "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
(Rev 1:17-18) When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
Listen to the phrase "for ever" in verse 6:
(Rev 1:6) and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
At the other end of the Bible, its first verse in fact, we read, "In the beginning God ..." (Gen 1:1). At the beginning of recorded history God was already in existence. From duration stretching backward without limit to duration stretching forward without limit, from eternity to eternity, God was and is forever.
It is no accident that the Apostle John started his gospel with the same words:
(Jn 1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.Telling us what? Telling us Jesus is eternal; therefore, we must conclude Jesus is God because only God is eternal.
When Moses was commissioned by God to go to the Israelites with a message from Him, Moses wondered what he would tell them if they asked him what God's name was. God's reply is most revealing:
(Ex 3:14) "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you."I AM signifies the real being of God. He is the original, the cause, the root, the great mover, the well-spring of all that there is. There is no time where God is not I AM -- because He always is.
Romans 1:20 tells us that God's eternal nature and His eternal power are revealed to us through His creation. All men see and understand this aspect of God's nature by the witness of what God has made. The sun and heavenly bodies continue in their orbits century after century. The seasons come and the season go in their appointed time; the trees produce leaves in Spring and drop them in the Fall. Year after year these things continue, and no one can stop them or alter God's plan. All of this is a witness to the eternity of God.
B Many people, especially children, have trouble understanding that God is eternal. You will probably recognize the following conversation as sounding like one in your own home. I just heard it again this past week:
"Mommy, who made me?"
"God made you, honey."
"Well, Mommy, who made the sky and the trees?"
"God made the sky and the trees. God made everything."
"Mommy, who made God?"
God is eternal. This means God never began to be. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth -- they began to be, but God Himself never began to be. God didn't begin to be. God didn't start out from somewhere -- God just is. Think of a wedding ring. Where does the ring begin and where does it end? All of you know there is no starting place and no stopping place to a ring. That's the way it is with God. He had no beginning and has no end. Nobody ever made God. God is; He always is!
The Hebrew, Greek, and English languages have all sorts of words for this attribute of God: eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end. All meaning the same thing.
God is eternal. Let's try to picture this. The oldest Sequoia tree is over 3200 years. Think about that. It was living when Lincoln was shot, when Washington crossed the Delaware, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, when the Saxons invaded England, when Jesus was born, when David was king, when there were judges in the land of Israel. Impressive, right?! But there was a day when that Sequoia began, the first day of its existence. And before the day, it was not. However, there was never a day or a time when God was not around. For generation after generation, the eternal God has been looking down on men of every tribe and language and people and nation. Generations come and generations go but God is always there.
God is eternal. Let's try to picture this another way. Go back to a time when there was no Visalia, when there wasn’t anything here but some Indians. Then go back before the Indians got here. Go back before there was a North America or any of the continents. Go back before there were planets and stars; they have all vanished away and there is no Milky Way, no anything. Imagine the throne of God and remove the angels, the archangels, the seraphim and the cherubim that sing and worship before the Almighty. Take them all away until there is no creation: no angels, no birds, no animals, no man, no sky, no mountains. Is there nothing? No! There is God. God lives. The Ancient of Days is.
C God is eternal. So what? Why is it important to my life that God is eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end?
First of all, it means our existence. If God were not eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end, then you and I would not exist; in fact, nothing would exist. Paul relates our existence to God when he says, "in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:24-28).
-In Him we live. The power supply for life is God. He is the author and the source of all life. His power to call forth life is what qualifies Him to be the Creator. In the words of the Psalmist, "It is he who made us and we are his" (Ps 100:3).
-In Him we move. Motion finds its ultimate stimulus in God. Without Him everything would be stagnant, immobile, static, inert. That which moves, that which is dynamic, finds its power in God. We move because He moves.
-In Him we have our being. It is because of His self-existence that we can exist at all. You and I exist in His power and by His power. We are because He is.
Why is it important to my life that God is eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end? Second, we look at the words of Jesus to John:
(Revelation 1:17b-18) "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.Jesus too is eternal, without beginning or end, self-existent. And He says, "Do not be afraid." John is with the One Who has the power of being, of life, of all existence, so he no longer has any need for fear.
We humans are afraid of so much: pain, sickness, cancer, death, bankruptcy, deformity, loneliness, rejection, unemployment, the unknown. Because our Savior and God is eternal, always there, always present, in His hands we have nothing to fear. My Savior holds the key and I can rest in His arms.
Why is it important to my life that God is eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end? Here is the third reason: we need an eternal God for our own immortality.
All the great Hebrew and Greek and English words that apply to God -- eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end -- applies to every man and woman and child who is a believer in Jesus. Because God is eternal we who believe in Jesus are immortal. If God were not eternal there could be no immortality and no certain future for anybody. We would merely be dust that for a while was human only to be swept away and forgotten. But because God is eternal, we have our home in God. We can look forward with calm restfulness to the time that shall be.
Because God is eternal we know we have an eternal home. Imagine, if you will, that God will take you to heaven but only for twenty or thirty years. What's the good of something temporary like that? But I accept for my own soul and for the souls of all the Lord’s children these wondrous words: eternal, everlasting, the Ancient of Days, forever, without beginning or end, unto perpetuity, world without end. I accept that ours is life everlasting. Why can we believe in our own immortality? Because God is eternal. That’s basic to the doctrine of immortality.
You need the eternal God for your eternity. You need the eternal God, for God is your tomorrow. You need the eternal Jesus Christ for Jesus Christ is your tomorrow. He is your guarantee of that which will be. He is your resurrection and your life. And when the sun has burnt itself out and the stars have been folded up like a garment, God will still be, for God is everlasting. And He takes His children who believe in His Son into His bosom, and they become everlasting.
God is eternal. The sound doctrine of the Confession of Faith tells us we all believe this in our hearts and confess it with our mouths. This is doctrine worth dying for.
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