************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 14 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 9, 2020
Belgic Confession Article 14
"The Creation and Fall of Man"
On the outskirts of Colorado Springs, researchers have uncovered thousands of fossils showing how life on Earth revived in the aftermath of an asteroid impact 66 million years ago. The impact killed most dinosaurs and other life on land. The oceans rapidly became lethal after the impact, perhaps from storms of acid rain generated by the fallout, and it took 40,000 years for sea life to begin its recovery.
Taken together, the fossil record shows a time when evolution hit the reset button. Countless species vanished forever. Some plant and animal species rebounded relatively quickly. And, the number of diverse mammal species doubled, including the mammals that are humankind's ancestors.
You heard me right: humanity came about because of an asteroid impact 66 million years ago.
These findings were published by the National Academy of Sciences this past Summer.
I The Creation of Glorious Man
A The Bible offers another explanation for the existence of man. It tells us "God created man from the dust of the earth." According to the Belgic Confession of Faith, this is something "we believe." It is an article of faith. Here we say to the National Academy of Sciences, "You are wrong." Here we say to Charles Darwin, "You are wrong." Here we say to public education, "You are wrong." Here we say to the mass media, "You are wrong." Here we say to National Geographic, "You are wrong."
"God created man from the dust of the earth." This is something "we believe." It is an article of faith. Here we say to those Christian schools and Christian colleges that teach evolution, "You are wrong." Here we say to the churches that have caved in to the mindset of the world, "You are wrong."
"We believe God created man from the dust of the earth." We don't believe in evolution. We don't believe in theistic evolution either. Period.
B In Article 12 the Belgic Confession dealt with the creation of all things, especially the angels. In Article 14 the Confessions deals separately with the creation of man. The creation of man certainly deserves separate treatment because the manner of man's creation was different from everything else. All other things and creatures were called into being by God's spoken word. Genesis 1 repeats the same refrain over and over again: "And God said ... and God said ... and God said ..." But not with the creation of man. According to our Bible reading, the how of man's creation was different:
(Gen 2:7) the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.God formed man. After that wonderfully complex and beautiful body was put together, God breathed life into it.
God formed man. Formed. Deliberate and careful work is implied here. Like a potter making cups and jars of clay, God's creation of man was the ultimate artistic masterpiece. This leads the psalmist of Psalm 8 to ask,
(Ps 8:4) what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?We will be singing this psalm later in the service. The psalmist says this in adoration of his Creator. What a piece of work is man!
God formed man. Even after the fall there is beauty and nobility in the form of man. Now, try to imagine how beautiful it must have been when first created, before the results of sin could begin their ravaging work. And, try to imagine how beautiful it will be after the return of Christ.
C God formed man. "In his image and likeness," says the Confession based upon the Bible. "He was in honor." God created us with a mind, making us rational creatures who have the ability to reason, think, analyze, and make informed decisions. God also give us a will, making us moral creatures able to choose right over wrong. God made us "good, just, and holy."
God formed man. As created, man was able by his own will to conform in all things to the will of God. Try to imagine this: to will everything according to God's will! No other law was necessary except for that which was created in man. The Ten Commandments were not needed back then. The essence of man's created glory was that he was one with God; there was no disharmony, no broken relationship, no disobedience, no hiding from God, no denying of God. Adam and Eve experienced the maximum degree and amount of communion a creature could have with the Creator.
Furthermore, through man, the entire creation was at one with God. You see, man stood between God and the rest of the world. He was a servant to God and king on God's behalf over the world. Man was to develop and direct all creation to the glory of God. Placed in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were charged with a task that would challenge, but with which they would never grow weary or suffer defeat or frustration. They were the representatives of God, splendidly bearing God's image -- the kings and queens of the universe.
What glory man had! What immense glory was derived from being created directly by God, male and female, to function together as a team, standing side by side.
Man was so much and had so much. He had honor with God and from God. He was above all other creatures. He was even above the angels, including the fallen angel who tempted him. He stood above all things, except for God. We may even say he stood next to God. Didn't Adam walk with God as a man walks with his friend? Didn't they commune together? Isn't Adam called "the son of God" (cf Lk 3)?
II The Gifts Man Lost in the Fall
A Man was an innocent. Today, we might say he was naive. "But when he was in honor he did not understand it and did not recognize his excellence." Man did not know how good he had it. Man did not know how good he was. Man was not aware of his glory and honor as an image-bearer of God.
But when tempted to sin, man no longer regarded what he had; he rejected what was more, and chose what was less. Should we pity Adam? Should we feel sorry for him? NO! Adam's sin was deliberate, willful, conscious.
God was clear about His will, His command, and that the result for disobedience was death. God was so clear about that:
(Gen 2:16-17) And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; (17) but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."The opportunity for disobedience was so small -- think about it. Of all the trees in the Garden there was only one from which Adam was not to eat.
Why did God plant this one tree? So Adam could show willing obedience. Without that one tree, without the possibility to be disobedient, Adam would not have been able to choose between right and wrong, between obedience and disobedience. A choice, an alternative, had to be available. Adam did not need to make the wrong choice. In fact, everything was in favor of him making the right choice. The only conclusion we can reach, the one mentioned by the Confession of Faith, is that Adam willingly and consciously made the wrong choice: "he subjected himself willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse, lending his ear to the word of the devil."
B The result of Adam's disobedience? First, Adam and Eve became spiritually dead. Sin separated man from God. This was demonstrated by their hiding from God; Adam and Eve hid themselves from God, their only source of life. Adam and Eve, creatures made directly by God, the only humans who were not born, the only humans without a belly-button, would need to go through the birthing process, they would need to be born, in order to live. Or, to use the language of Jesus, their only hope for life was to be "born again" -- just like you and me.
Second, Adam and Eve also became subject to physical death. Not just the act of death itself, but also the process: disease, congenital disorders, aging, fragility, weakness. Why is the coronavirus wreaking havoc and fear around the world? Why AIDS? Why colds and flu? Why cancer? Why Alzheimer's and dementia? Because Adam became subject to physical death.
Third, not only did Adam and Eve experience physical and spiritual death, but there was also a curse on all creation: "Cursed is the ground because of you" (Gen 3:17). Because of Adam's fall, the entire creation, innocent though it was, was placed under a curse. Of course, it must be this way, for how can the curse be realized in the lives of Adam and Eve if they were allowed to linger in a beautiful, unspoiled paradise?
The commandment of life had been transgressed. The commandment is always a commandment of life. Even now, if we were to keep God's Law perfectly, we would live. The transgression of the Law is always unto death for it separates us from God who is Life.
Fourth, the Confession, based upon Scripture, says man "lost all his excellent gifts which he had received from God, and he retained none of them except for small traces ..." All is lost, congregation. We may look at this life and this earth and conclude things are still good but the fact is all is lost. Man is without God; man is godless.
But what about what remains of God's excellent gifts? What about the traces mentioned by the Confession? It is true man is still man; he has not become an animal. He has not lost the ability to think or to choose. But even when these traces are developed to their fullest, man is at best a faint shadow of what he once was. Man after the fall is like the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, which is all that is left of the once grand Temple; God no longer lives there -- it merely points to what used to be. Furthermore, we no longer know how to properly use God's gifts since sin corrupts and stains whatever we do.
Our true knowledge of God is gone; what remains is so little and so obscured it only leads us into all sorts of heathen religions. Our righteousness is gone; the sinner stands condemned by the Law of God; what remains is so perverted it only leads to self-righteousness. Our holiness is gone; we are no longer consecrated to God; what remains leads to legalism. "All the light in us is turned to darkness." We have lost all our good gifts. All is lost!
III The Freedom Man Lost in the Fall
A The Confession, based upon the Word, tells us man has also lost his freedom.
Therefore we reject everything taught to the contrary concerning man's free will, since man is nothing but a slave of sin and cannot do a thing unless its "given him from heaven." For who can boast of being able to do anything good by himself ...
We are not speaking of naturally good things such as eating, drinking, working, playing, sleeping. We are not speaking of civil good such as being honest, courteous, kind, gentle, helpful, patient. We are not even speaking of religious good, like going to church, reading the Bible, praying, singing, giving. Natural man can do all these things. We are speaking here of man's inability, in and of himself, to do any spiritual good. Man has lost the freedom to do good, especially the good of coming to God, of serving God, of living for God's glory, of obeying God. Man cannot do any of this.
Can any sinner, on his own, repent of his sin, believe in Jesus, and grow in the grace and knowledge of the Savior? Remember, man is dead. When is the last time you saw a dead person do anything?
B Many Christians are active in the Lord, busily laboring in His Kingdom, and this is cause for joy. Nevertheless, how many are painfully aware of their remaining rebellion against God and of their struggle against a flesh and will that are not always ready to do the Lord's bidding? Many claim to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, find their identity and self-worth in Christ, and speak of renewal. It is certainly a cause for joy when the renewing power of the Gospel restores us in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. And yet, I wonder how many confess their inability? How many painfully lament that the old nature constantly fights against the new nature? These are the experiences of God's people.
In our father Adam, we have fallen deeply. We have lost everything and our will has been entirely shackled by sin. The good news, however, is that restoration is possible -- restoration that is glorious, free, and total. Adam and Eve were told about this restoration in the Garden already when God promised the seed of the woman who someday would crush the serpent's head (Gen 3:15). Restoration is possible, congregation, through faith in Jesus.
Restoration is possible and yet, in this life, there is still struggle with sin and the effects of sin. But it is not an endless or vain struggle, for Christ has overcome.
I pray that God the Holy Spirit will so apply His Word that we seek life, freedom, and all that is good in Jesus Christ.
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