************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 12A ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on November 17, 2019

Belgic Confession Article 12A
Psalm 8
"The Creation of All Things"

When a couple learn they are going to have a baby they usually make all kinds of preparations. Clothes are bought or hand-me-downs are washed. The crib is put together. A new infant car seat is purchased. The stroller undergoes a tire check. The nursery is painted. Everything is made ready for the new baby.

God, too, made everything ready for man. He began by creating light, and then put order into all things. God separated the water and the dry land, created trees with different fruits, and laid down the grass and many beautiful flowers for man to enjoy. In preparation for man, God also put fish in the water and birds in the air -- fish with beautiful colors and birds with beautiful songs. He made every other kind of animal, including the tiny ants and bugs, some so small you can hardly see them. He made spiders and tarantulas, mice and hamsters, snakes and lizards. God also made the elephant and the hippo and the rhino and the giraffe. All of this was made for man to enjoy. When everything was ready, when everything was in place, God then created man and put him in the middle of the most beautiful part of the creation, the Garden of Eden. Just as preparations are made at home for the coming of a baby, so the Lord made everything ready for Adam and Eve.

Based upon the Bible, this is the teaching of Article 12 of the Belgic Confession of Faith. The Lord made everything ready for man.

I God Made Everything
A We took the grandkids to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. We saw flowers. We went into a butterfly pavilion; poor Alexander had his arm stretched out waiting for a butterfly to land on him; it landed on his grandmother instead. We saw dinosaurs. We saw hundreds of animals. We saw gems.
All things bright and beautiful,
all creatures great and small,
all things wise and wonderful --
the Lord God made them all.
We know that and sing that but there was no mention of this at the Natural History Museum.

Not only did the Lord God make everything, but He made everything good and beautiful. Drink in the beauty of flowers, butterflies, and the stars of the night-time sky. We need to look at these things and see the beauty of creation. We need to see the trees and smell the roses and take a trip to the Sequoias and drop in on Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Some 46 years ago I remember a dorm trip to northern Michigan. We came across a tree, a maple tree, covered with red and yellow and orange leaves, a tree that looked like it was on fire. Ruth saw the tree and screamed, "Look at the tree." Trees in Indiana, where she grew up, aren't known for their Autumn colors. We live in an age where people are trapped in cities and rarely see the beauty of creation. And, we live in an age where people look at their smart phone instead of seeing what is around them. Do not forget to explore the real, created world of God! All of God's wonderful creation shows His ability and might.
(Ps 8:1) O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

(Ps 19:1-2) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.

B Notice how Article 12 starts: "We believe." "We believe." It is an article of faith that God created.
We believe that the Father
created heaven and earth and all other creatures
from nothing,
when it seemed good to him,
by his Word --
that is to say,
by his Son.
What a beautiful statement. We believe God made everything. God. The universe and everything in it is not an accident, a collision of atoms, that somehow came into existence.

C We can never discover this truth from science. Science, even when done by devout Christians, cannot unravel the mystery that God, through Christ His Son, created out of nothing by speaking His word. No one can reveal this mystery for no one was there. The only witness was God Himself, and it is He Who informs us in the creation account of Genesis 1 and 2. The church believes what the Father has revealed.

In the debate about creation we need to remember there are limits to human understanding. Do not think the scientific method can ever fully penetrate the mysteries of God's creation activities. We are dependent upon God's revelation. We cannot go further than this, or have a higher authority than this.

It is at this point that the paths of faith and unbelief separate. This is where it becomes difficult for those who work in any branch of the sciences. We must either follow the revelation of God or must pursue the philosophies of man. What we need is a child-like faith based upon the word and promises of God. When this is missing, we become weak and easily troubled by doubts and fears.

As an example, one of the numbers the world keeps throwing at us is 15 billion. 15 billion years. The world says that's how old the universe is. We have heard that number over and over again for years. Then -- surprise, surprise -- the number got changed to 13.8 billion years. This summer a headline caught my eye: "The Universe Might Be 2 Billion Years Younger Than We Thought." The subtitle: "Hey, what's a few billion years between friends?" The new number now is under 12 billion years. Scientists caution that even this new number could be off by billions of years.

There is a reason that true science uses the word theory: The theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, the theory of evolution, and so on. True scientists know they don't know everything. They know their conclusions about the universe are but theories and over time new knowledge and information will come to light.

Now, there is science and then there are those who use science to push their political and social agenda. Those who use science to push their agenda need a universe that is billions of years old to support their view about the evolution of stars and planets and life. They don't want to consider that God made everything by simply speaking a word. They don't want to consider that God also made the laws of nature that science is based upon. They don't want God!

Here is another headline from a few weeks ago: "Meteorite Strikes Made Life On Earth Possible." The article went on to explain that the building blocks of life may have come from deep space. A meteorite picked up material from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent elsewhere in the Solar System and planted it on earth. Why is this easier for some to believe than what the Bible says?

We must be careful not to condemn science or dismiss it as godless and useless. That would be a great sin, for science and the knowledge of creation are gifts from the Holy Spirit. What science need to realize is that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Faith informs and directs our understanding of the universe. It is faith that grasps the power of God. It is faith that instructs us of God's power to create out of nothing. What riches are ours when we understand this! What comfort it gives us to know and sing "This Is My Father's World" and "God Moves in a Mysterious Way." And what joy it gives us to know and confess that the Father who creates is my God and Father because of Christ His Son.

II How God Made Everything
A Scripture indicates that at the beginning of time there was nothing; all was darkness and emptiness (Gen 1:2). This means there was total darkness and the absence of any form of life.

And then God made light, plants, trees, sun and moon and stars, fish, birds, and living creatures. There was nothing and then there was the universe as we know it.

How did God do this? We are told three things. First, based upon Hebrews 11:3,
We believe that the Father
created heaven and earth and all other creatures
from nothing,
The Catechism says something similar:
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who out of nothing created heaven and earth
and everything in them ...
Do you hear the common refrain? God created "from nothing, out of nothing." There wasn't a distribution warehouse out there somewhere. There wasn't a factory run by aliens. There was nothing. God created out of nothing.

B Second, the Bible makes clear God created by speaking. The most common refrain of Genesis 1 -- one we find nine times -- is "God said." God said, and there was light. God said, and there was sun, moon, and stars. God said, and there was fish, birds, and living creatures. God said.

The Hebrew word is "dabar." The form of the word in Genesis 1 is used only for the work of God. Its literal meaning is setting things in order, arranging them in a row. Ruth, for instance, laughs at me because when we eat french fries I arrange them on my plate from the biggest to the smallest; that is a form of dabar. Right now as I speak I am setting words in order; that is a form of dabar.

God speaks and He sets all things in order. God speaks and His speech creates life. God speaks and it is; He commands and it takes place. Who can understand this?

What God has done in the beginning He continues to do today: God's speech works in regeneration or re-creation. Just as darkness existed before God spoke, so it is dark in our hearts; by nature, there is no light in us. But God the Holy Spirit brings light through the Word.

I want you to realize the greatness and wonder of regeneration, of re-creation. It doesn't happen because we pray. It doesn't happen because we try to be good. It doesn't happen because of what we know or learn. It isn't something we do to ourselves. It isn't something we can do to ourselves. It needs to be the work of God. The darkness is gone only when God brings the light. It only needs one word from God. With this one word we who are dead become alive, we who are in darkness are in light.

C Third, the Confession, based upon the Bible, declares that the Word is the Son. You know how the Gospel of John starts:
(Jn 1:1-3) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was with God in the beginning. (3) Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
So the Confession has this to say:
We believe that the Father
created heaven and earth and all other creatures
from nothing,
when it seemed good to him,
by his Word --
that is to say,
by his Son.
By His Word. By His Son.

Now, most amazing of all, this Word, this mighty Creator who created out of nothing, took on flesh. The almighty Creator of heaven and earth took on flesh so He could suffer and die for our sins.

III Serving the Creator
A When did God create all things? The answer is also in article 12: "when it seemed good to him." Here we are stating that God is sovereign, carrying out His sovereign will. God was not playing around one day, sketching on a piece of paper or on a computer, and creation was an accidental result. Nor was God forced to create to reach His full potential as God. Nor did God create because He was lonely; God did not need to create us for the triune God is perfectly and fully satisfied within His own being. God created because that was His sovereign good pleasure.

B Why did God create all things? Why does He continue to look after His creation? Notice the absolutely marvelous thing that the Confession says about service:
He has given all creatures
their being, form, and appearance,
and their various functions
for serving their Creator.

Even now
he also sustains and governs them all,
according to his eternal providence,
and by his infinite power,
that they may serve man,
in order that man may serve God.

Every living thing -- Sequoias, cows, sea lions, flowers, humming birds, Canadian geese, ants -- is made and cared for to serve God. This is why Christians should be very concerned about caring for the environment. We don't care for the earth because we believe in the pagan idea of "Mother Earth." Nor do we care for this earth because we believe it is only through our feeble efforts that creation will survive. No, we care for this earth because it is God's and meant for His glory. It is the garden in which we live, grow, work, and play -- all to His glory and honor. Yes, the garden has lost much of its original beauty, but it is still a beautiful garden and it is still God's creation. The great goal of using and enjoying creation is to serve our Father. Have we learned to do that? Have we learned to use all things for His glory?

We see here, congregation, that the Gospel encompasses all of life. The Gospel is more than the saving of souls because that belittles its power, underestimates the grace of God, and takes away from the work of Christ. Has the glorious and wide perspective of the Gospel entered our lives?

God the Father, through His Son, is the creator of the world and of new life. This is the God and Father of whom we sing in our Confession. He created us. He re-creates us. He adopts us as His own dear children through Christ His Son. To Him be the power and the glory and the praise forever. Amen!
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