************ Sermon on Belgic Confession Article 15 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 16, 2020
Belgic Confession Article 15
A major problem we face today is pollution. In the past twenty or thirty years this problem has received more attention than ever before. I am glad that we are encouraged to recycle. I am glad the government pushes us to use vehicles that get better mileage. I am glad I have solar panels on my house.
At the same time, this issue has been hijacked by the new/old religion of the twenty-first century: worship of the environment. Led by its self-appointed high priests, Al Gore and friends have either convinced, shamed, or simply scared millions to worship in their temple. According to them, climate change is our original and collective sin, and global warming is our universal punishment.
Despite the excesses of this new/old religion, we have to admit pollution is a bad thing. It is a general result of the fall into sin; the earth has been cursed as a result of sin, and this is evidenced in man's failure to carry out God's command to care for the earth.
I The Pollution of Original Sin
A Tonight, though, we look at another kind of pollution. Because of original sin, inherited from Adam, we are polluted, we are born corrupt. The core or heart of every person is spoiled. Because of sin we have lost all the good gifts God has given us. Because of sin we are totally unable to do any good. Because of sin we are unable to please God.
The Lord not only sees our glossy exterior but He looks right through everything and sees internal corruption. He sees the heart and it is a heart that does not love Him, a heart full of sin.
Some years ago Lake Erie, the smallest of the Great Lakes, was so badly polluted that it was declared to be dead. Despite this declaration, it still looked as beautiful as it did when I was a boy and we had church picnics by its shore. On a hot summer's day the water looked just as inviting as ever. The fact remained, however, that normal marine life, plants and fish, were dying off. Because of some pollutants, the entire lake was affected.
Similarly, you may have seen potatoes that look good on the outside -- shiny skin, not a spot on them -- yet when you cut them open, you find the insides brown and rotted. My uncle had an entire field of the biggest potatoes he had ever grown, but they were rotten inside.
These are examples of what Article 15 is talking about -- the pollution of original sin. Man can look good on the outside but on the inside he is polluted like Lake Erie or rotted like the potatoes I mentioned.
B The confession emphasizes that the pollution of original sin is even experienced by little "innocent" babies. Why does Article 15 make this abundantly clear? As we grow up we see the bad things we do and we know we are sinners, but what about the little baby? An infant does not use bad words or stick out his tongue to Mom when she is not looking; he does not take things that are not his. Is that baby really a polluted sinner? On the other hand, why is it that children learn bad words more quickly than Bible verses? It is because the inside of the heart is polluted, full of sin. I am telling you infants are already polluted in their mother's womb. As David says,
(Ps 51:5) Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.When we are born and in our natural fallen state, we are just like the potato or Lake Erie. It looks good on the outside, but inside it is not; in due time the sin and ugliness will show itself.
C When Adam fell into sin, he made himself rotten to the core, polluted. We are infected with the same corruption, the same spiritual rot, that he had. This is something "we believe." It is an article of faith:
that by the disobedience of Adam
original sin has been spread
through the whole human race.
We are corrupt to the core and there are no exceptions. As Paul explains by his quote from Psalm 14 in Romans 3, "There is no one righteous, not even one." Sin did not stop with Adam. Rather, as Paul writes in Romans 5:12, "Death came to all men, because all sinned." All are conceived and born in sin. Everyone of Adam's descendants, the complete human race, is corrupt.
This pollution, this corruption, does not arise from the external; that is, we are not infected by being in contact with others. That's what happens with potatoes or fruit. Imagine a bag of good potatoes with a rotten one in the middle. You leave on vacation and you come back and the entire bag is rotten. The bad potato infects the others by touching them. But that is not how it is with man. No, we are spoiled from within. Even before birth we are fallen, corrupt, polluted. Sin did not enter our lives because we saw wrong examples, as the Pelagians say. Of course, bad examples are never good because we tend to take up the sins of those around us. But a bad example is not the cause of sin. Pelagius, whose views are condemned in the last statement of Article 15, taught that we sin by imitation. This fourth-century monk believed that man is born with a clean slate, morally neutral, and that children become sinners by imitating bad examples. The Bible teaches we don't fall into sin by imitation; we sin because our core is corrupt, polluted; we sin because we are sinners.
D What is original sin? What is its essence? Article 15 describes it with three different phrases. First, it calls original sin a "corruption of all nature." Our entire human nature is corrupt. There is not a single part of our being that is exempt. And, except for Christ Himself, there is not a single human person who is exempt.
Second, original sin is also called "an inherited depravity." We must understand this properly. Heart disease, diabetes, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other inherited diseases are tied to only a specific part of the body: the heart, the pancreas, blood vessels, bones. But original sin infects every part of us.
Third, original sin is also called a root: "the root which produces in man every sort of sin." Our root is radically corrupt, and therefore no good fruit can grow on the tree of our life.
E We know and accept this only by faith and through the operation of the Spirit. The man and woman of the world don't believe this about themselves. Instead, they describe themselves and those around them as being basically good. But those with true faith know they are sinners in all that they do. They know this applies not only to hard-core criminals but also to churchgoing people. If we are not convinced by the Holy Spirit, we fall into self-righteousness. So, by faith we say with David, "I am born in sin."
Have you learned this to be true? Do you accept the teaching that you are conceived and born in sin? Does it strike terror in your heart, driving you to seek salvation in Christ?
II The Imputation of Original Sin
A The Confession uses the word "imputed" as it talks about original sin. Original sin is imputed to God's children, and to all others as well. To impute means to charge to someone's account. When mom gives her daughter a credit card the daughter is being told to buy what she needs and to impute it, charge it, to mom's account. Imputed. Adam's sin is imputed to our account.
How did this come about? Why did God charge the guilt and debt of Adam to you and me? What do we have to do with Adam's sin? Is it fair that all people suffer for Adam's guilt? Why should the children of Adam be charged with the sin of Adam? The answer is that Adam is the father of us all and we have all sinned in him. Adam is our federal head. He is the head of the human race. Think if there was a declaration of war by President Trump against North Korea. Because President Trump does this as our federal head, this means all the citizens of the USA have also declared war on North Korea. Similarly, Adam's declaration of war against God becomes every man's declaration of war against God.
B Before you say this is terrible keep two things in mind. First, if you were in Adam's place would you have done any better? The honest truth is that all of us would have fallen just like Adam fell. Second, imputation from the first Adam leaves open the possibility of imputation from the second Adam. As we are in Adam, so we are in Christ. From the first Adam we are imputed guilt and pollution. From the second Adam we are imputed righteousness. All who are in Adam -- that is the entire human race -- fell with him. All who are in Christ -- that is all those united to Him by faith -- receive life. That's the whole point of Romans 5:
(Rom 5:19) For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
C Imputation, my brothers and sisters, is a necessary and altogether beautiful doctrine. To see this, go back to the image of the rotten potato. You can try to cut the rotten portions out of the potato, but more than likely the bad taste still remains. That is how it is with us. The core is bad.
What are we to do? Obviously, we cannot fix ourselves. Nor can the guilt and pollution of original sin be removed by the water of baptism as Rome teaches. What we need is a new heart, a new core. What we need is imputation: our guilt imputed to Jesus and His righteousness imputed to us.
Do you believe this? When you publicly confess faith before God and the church, you affirm this truth! Yes, Adam's guilt has been imputed to us but -- even more amazingly -- Christ's righteousness has also been imputed to us. Because of this, ours in Christ is a firm hope and a sure joy.
III The Struggle with Original Sin
A In this life and on this earth and in this body original sin is "not abolished or wholly uprooted." The proof of this is "that sin constantly boils forth as though from a contaminated spring." What a vivid image: sin is compared to water from a contaminated spring. The water from such a spring can only be contaminated. In the lives of us humans, original sin is such a contaminated spring. The result can only be sin that constantly boils forth. Original sin remains the fountain and root of sin. The pollution remains.
So what has Christ done? What has His imputation accomplished? The removal of guilt. I am forgiven.
B The guilt is gone. However, the pollution remains. So we cry with Paul, "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:30). This should be the cry of us all. If your continued sin does not bother you, if you are not personally familiar with the struggle against original sin, I have to seriously question your profession of faith. If you do not struggle with sin, but instead argue that you are baptized or that you are part of the covenant or that you are a decent person, you prove that the arrows of God's Word have not penetrated to your inmost being.
All of us, congregation, all of us need to be humble before God and confess our lost condition. All of us need the uncovering work of the Spirit revealing our sin to us. All of us need God's strength and God's power and God's grace at work within us.
C The guilt is gone. The pollution remains. But our struggle with sin is not an endless struggle, for Christ has overcome. The promise of redemption immediately followed the fall. Against the black background of the fall sparkles the glory of redemption accomplished at the cross.
May God the Holy Spirit apply this Word so we believe our guilt, our pollution, our sin. May God the Holy Spirit apply this Word so we believe in the Savior and His imputation. May God the Holy Spirit apply this Word so we find freedom and joy in Christ and worship God in this life.
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