************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 4, 2009
Belgic Confession Article 14
Genesis 2:4-7; 3:1-7
"The Creation and Fall of Man"
"Who am I?" "Where did I come from?" "Where am I going?" These question have intrigued and haunted the mind of man for thousand of years. Remember when the running mate of Ross Perot asked these questions? And, then, on national TV we saw him lose his train of thought and cost Ross Perot any chance of winning the election.
Christians know that the Bible answers these questions. And, based upon the Bible we have a message to proclaim to the world in answer to these questions.
"Who am I?" I am "fearfully and wonderfully made." "Where did I come from?" I came from the hand of God and am made in the image of God. "Where am I going?" Because that wonderful image was shattered when man willfully fell into sin I am going to a place of eternal punishment unless I am saved by the blood of Jesus.
This is what we confess about the entire human race. In article 14 of the Belgic Confession we make a transition from what we confess about God to what we confess about mankind. We progress from theology to anthropology.
I The Height of Glory
A Friday's paper was filled with news about "Ardi." Maybe you saw it:
Ardi lived 4.4 million years ago in the woodlands of East Africa. She spent most of her time in the trees. She stood about 4 feet tall, weighed 110 pounds and had long arms, short legs and a grasping big toe that was perfect for clambering branch to branch. She ate in the trees, raised her offspring in the trees, slept in the trees.
But sometimes she came down to the ground, and stood upright. She could walk on two legs. She was, in a sense, taking baby steps on a journey that would change the world.
Ardi is the nickname given to a remarkable, shattered skeleton that an international team of scientists believes is a major breakthrough in the study of human origins.
In contrast to this, based upon Scripture, the Belgic Confession of Faith affirms that God created man:
We believe that God created man from the dust of the earth and made and formed him in his image and likeness–good, just, and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God.There you have it. We are not the result of thousands upon millions of years of evolutionary processes. We are not descended from single-celled creatures that progressed up the evolutionary ladder until one day one of our ancestors crawled out of the sea. We cannot point to tree-creatures, like Ardi, as being our forebears. We are the result of God's creating activities on the sixth day of creation.
B Not only did God make us, but we are the crown of God's creation activity. I can point to a number of things.
First, God made us "from the dust of the earth." Notice how closely our Confession echoes the words of Genesis, "the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground" (Gen 2:7). The dust of the earth is part of our finite world. This means man is subject to the laws of creation. He is subject to gravity and to the confines of space and time. And, like everything else in all creation, man is totally dependent upon God for it is only in Him that we live and move and have our being (cf Acts 17:28). Man is made from this dust! Why is this significant? Because of everything else in all of Creation we read that "God said ... and it was so." However, with man God did something different. God formed man from the dust of the earth. God is the potter and we are the clay (Is 64:8). It is amazing when you think of this.
Second, only into man did God breathe the breath of life – most theologians recognize that it was at this time that God give man a soul or spirit (Gen 2:7).
Third, man outranks anything else in creation – he even outranks the angels of heaven. It is man, for instance, and NOT the angels to whom God has given dominion over the earth (Ps 8; Heb 2:5-8). This is not popular language in some circles today; for instance, many environmentalists believe that man is no higher than the animals or even lower than the animals. But that is not what the Bible says.
Fourth, of everything in Creation only man was made in God's "image and likeness–good, just and holy; able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God." Why does the Confession describe the image of God this way, and where does this description come from?
Let's start off by looking at the word "good." At the end of His creating activity, God looked at everything He had made. Remember what He said? He pronounced it "good" – more than that, He pronounced it "very good" (Gen 1:31). The light is very good. The sky is very good. The dry ground is very good. Plants and trees are very good. The sun, moon, and stars are very good. Fish, birds, and animals are very good. And mankind, too, is very good.
Man in the image of God is also said to be "just" and "holy." This comes from Paul's description in Ephesians of the new or remade life that is ours in Christ. Paul is telling us that what Adam was before the Fall, we have become in Christ.
Lastly, man in the image of God was "able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God." In the Garden, Adam was completely able to keep the law of God.
Notice what the four points have in common? God. God made man from the dust of the earth. God breathed into man the breath of life. God gave man dominion over the earth. God made man in His image. God. God. God. As our Maker and Creator, God knows and recognizes our true worth.
Topic: ManJust like it took a lover of stones to recognize the sapphire's worth so does it take the Lover of Souls to recognize the true value of humankind. He knows our value because He made us.
Subtopic: Infinite Value of
Title: Hidden Value
A gem dealer was strolling the aisles at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show when he noticed a blue-violet stone the size and shape of a potato. He looked it over, then, as calmly as possible, asked the vendor, "You want $15 for this?" The seller, realizing the rock wasn't as pretty as others in the bin, lowered the price to $10.
The stone has since been certified as a 1,905-carat natural star sapphire, about 800 carats larger than the largest stone of its kind. It was appraised at $2.28 million.
I would like to go so far as to say that God made a covenant of life with Adam.
II The Depths of Depravity
A As made by God, then, man stood at the height of glory. It was from this height of creation, with the possibility of an even higher existence, that Adam fell. He broke the covenant and descended into the depths. The Confession describes the Fall this way:
But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence. But he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil. For he transgressed the commandment of life, which he had received, and by his sin he separated himself from God, who was his true life, having corrupted his entire nature.
How is this possible? How could man have possibly fallen into sin? How is the fall possible when man had it so good, was created so good, and personally knew the Source of all that is good?
The Confession does mention three things about man's fall into sin. First, we are told that man was naive and innocent about himself. Says the Confession
But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence.It was not until after the fall, when he knew about good and evil, that man knew the goodness that was his in Paradise. Strange, isn't it, that this is so often the case. So very often we don't realize how good we have it, how happy we are, until something happens to mar our situation.
Second, we are told that man "subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse." Here the Confession insists on the voluntary character of the first sin. Nobody outside of Adam and Eve can be blamed. No one was holding a gun to their heads. No one was twisting their arms. It was willful and free. On his own, man performed a reckless disobedience in the Garden.
Third, we are told that man performed his reckless disobedience when he lent "his ear to the word of the devil."
Topic: SatanSatan employed a similar device to ensnare the human race. He rang the bell of being like God. By listening to it, Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race into the jungle of sin and despair.
Subtopic: Arch Deceiver
Title: The Bellbird of Death
Lost in the jungle, a man sought desperately to find his way to safety. His strength was ebbing fast as the insects and stifling heat did their deadly work. Suddenly he heard what he thought to be a bell tolling in the distance. Believing he was nearing civilization, he struggled bravely onward; but he never seemed to draw closer to the sound. Finally he fell to the ground exhausted, never to rise again. The mysterious bellbird had claimed another victim!
Now, don't forget, man's fall into sin was entirely voluntary. Man, in other words, could have turned a deaf ear to Satan; he didn't have to listen to Satan. But he did. Satan approached Eve and aroused within her doubt concerning God's command:
(Gen 3:1) He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"These seeds of unbelief or doubt stimulated the lust in her eyes and prompted her to disobey:
(Gen 3:6) When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
How ironic are the ways of God. Man first fell into sin by giving ear to the words of the Devil. But it is also through the ear that man hears the Gospel of life and is reborn good, righteous, holy, and able to conform in all things to the will of God. The ear provided the way to death and destruction but it also provides the way to life. Here is a reminder – as the children's song puts it – to be careful, little ear, what you hear.
B What were the results of man's fall into sin? What happened because of man's moment of reckless disobedience?
The Confession, based upon Scripture, tells us the sad results of sin. First, by his transgression and disobedience, man "separated himself from God, who was his true life." As soon as they sinned our first parents, Adam and Eve, hid themselves in the Garden from the presence of God. From the very first sin a chasm existed between man and God.
Topic: SinSin produces a chasm between God and man that is deeper and wider than the Grand Canyon – a chasm so great that no mere man can possibly bridge it to reestablish contact with God.
Subtopic: Effects of
Title: The Grand Canyon
When you stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon you can hardly believe the view in front of you: a vast chasm one mile down, from four to eighteen miles across, and more than 200 miles long! People at the bottom look like ants. When Ruth and I were there in 1976, airplanes and even jets were flying hundreds of feet below us.
The chasm, the separation, between God and man we know as death – spiritual death.
Second, we are told that when man fell he also became subject to "physical death." Paul tells us that the "wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23). Before sin, death was not part of the human experience. But it certainly is now. Friday's newspaper is filled with death:
Doctor describes infant's autopsy
Longtime activist Blas Dias died September 22 at age 103
Indonesian quake toll at 1,100; thousands missing
Fury of waves leaves mud, misery in Samoa
The funeral services for 20 people are listed in the Obituary column
On account of sin every single person experiences physical death. Death is the final enemy
Third, we are told that when man fell he "corrupted his whole nature." Man is "wicked, perverse, and corrupt in all his ways." He has "lost his excellent gifts which he had received from God" – the gifts of being good, just, and holy, and able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. "All the light in us is turned to darkness" because of the fall into sin.
A quick glance through Friday's newspaper gives us ample examples of man's corrupt nature:
Authorities bust marijuana growers
Bigger rewards spur more tax-cheat reports
Smart testifies about 2002 kidnapping
Man will pay $45,000 pesticide penalty
We don't have to look in the newspaper or watch TV to see examples of man's corrupt nature. All we have to do is look at ourselves. Everyone of us, none excepted, are corrupt in our entire nature. And, those who live with us see that every single day.
The theological word we use for this is "total depravity." Every part of man has been affected and influenced by sin. No part of human life remains untouched.
The Confession sums up the disastrous results of the fall by saying that man is now a "slave to sin." Man is in bondage. He is in shackles and chains. Man is owned, body and soul, by sin.
If man is but a slave to sin, can we say he has a "free will"? The answer is a conditional "yes" and a big "no."
When man fell into sin he retained the freedom to make choices in accordance with the desires of his soul. He knows the difference between good and evil, virtues and vices. Yet, left to his own devices what fallen man always chooses is sin and evil. Left to his own devices fallen man never chooses for God and salvation. He chooses for sin and evil because that is the desire of his soul.
Topic: FreedomIn the same way, in fallen man it is sin and evil, not man himself, that is in control. No matter how hard we try, sin and evil plunges us straight ahead into the abyss of ruin and destruction.
Title: White-Water Rafting
On Memorial Day 1998 my family and I went white-water rafting on the Kaweah River. Now, I should mention that 1998 was an El Nino year with lots more water than normal rushing down the river. When we started out it seemed like we were in control of the raft. But then we came to the first rapids. Big waves threatened to engulf us. The water swirled around us and pushed and pulled at us. No matter how hard we paddled or even in what direction, we had no choice but to go through the rapids and down the river. You see, it was the river – not us – that was in control.
I want to end the same way as does the Belgic Confession – with the grace of God.
Man has fallen. Man has fallen from the heights of glory. Man has fallen from the heights of glory to the depths of depravity. However, all is not lost. Why? Because of God's grace. Apart from God's grace we can do nothing and remain in our sin, ruin, and misery. But by God's grace we regain in Christ what we lost in the Fall. By God's grace we seek Him from Whom we flee. By God's grace we are restored to life. By God's grace we hold every thought captive to and for Christ. As sinners who know their helplessness, we thank God for His grace and rest upon it totally.
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