************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head III-IV, Article 1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 18, 2013
Canons, Head III,IV Article 1
"Man's Great Fall"
Our home looks like it did 30 years ago: crib, stroller, baby bottles, bibs, diapers, change table, baby powder. Our home also sounds like it did 30 years ago: once in a while we hear baby cries and baby coos and baby grunts. I came home the other day and heard Ruth singing children's songs to Alexander (okay, I sometimes sing to him too but I don't sound near as good as Ruth). One of Ruth's songs that caught my ear fits tonight's sermon. It is the song "Humpty Dumpty." You might know the words:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wallHumpty Dumpty, for those of you who don't know, is an egg. When he fell, his shell broke into thousands of little pieces. And, as everyone knows, once an egg is broken, it can't be put together again.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.
Humpty Dumpty is a good image to keep in mind as we begin our study of the third and fourth heads of doctrine of the Canons of Dort. Humpty Dumpty on the wall is a picture of man as created in all his glory by God. And, Humpty Dumpty's great fall is a picture of man's fall into sin.
The heading to the third and fourth head of doctrine says, "Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs." The main subject of this section is the "T" and "I" of the acronym TULIP – total depravity and irresistible grace.
I Created in the Image of God
A Article 1 tells us about the original condition of man's nature. Like Humpty Dumpty, man sat on a wall of perfection and bliss and glory. The Canons remind us that "Man was originally created in the image of God." The Canons say this because of what the Bible says in Genesis 1: namely, that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them" (Gen 1:27). The image of God is not something added to man after his creation; it is not something that man becomes; rather the image of God is something that man is.
In contrast to this, there has been talk among some Christians that the image of God is something in process, that it is something man becomes or attains. To be fully human and in God's image, say these people, means to be a rational, thinking, breathing, consciously functioning individual. According to this viewpoint a baby in the womb is not fully human nor in the image of God because it is not a rational, thinking, breathing, consciously functioning individual. Let's extend this viewpoint to its rational conclusion. If the image of God is something you can gain, it is also something you can lose. According to this viewpoint, then, a quadriplegic, or someone who is comatose, or someone with Alzheimer's, or someone with mental disabilities can not be fully human nor in the image of God either – because none of them are rational, thinking, breathing, consciously functioning individuals. This kind of thinking is used to justify both abortion and euthanasia.
Based upon the Bible we want to declare: man was created in the image of God; he is this way at conception; he remains this way at death.
B In talking of the image of God in man, the Canons look at man's mind, his will and heart, and his emotions.
First of all, the Canons look at man's mind as created by God. It tells us man's mind "was furnished ... with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual." In the same way as yeast leavens a whole lump and causes it to rise, in the same way as spices work their seasoning through a whole pot of stew, so the true and blessed knowledge of God has permeated the whole mind of man.
As created, man's thoughts were focused on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil 4:8).
As created, man had an intellectual understanding of spiritual things – what we call head knowledge. But we all realize, I am sure, that this kind of knowledge is never enough. James indicates to us that even the devil and his hosts have such knowledge and shudder (James 2:19). So also included in the knowledge of God is a personal, living knowledge – what we call a heart knowledge. This is a knowledge in which man experiences God and His presence. As created by God, man did not merely know about God and spiritual things; he actually knew God Himself. Man had a living relationship with God in which he knew and experienced and confessed God to be the fountain and source of light, life, and everything good.
C Secondly, the Canons looks at man's will and heart as created by God. The will and heart are the center of man's being. It is out of the heart from which proceeds all of man's determinations, decisions, and desires. It is the heart that shows where a man really is at. If a man's heart is full of evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander then this is what will show up in his life. But if a man's heart is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control then this is what will show up in his life.
It is the heart that God is especially interested in looking at. Remember when Samuel went to the home of Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king in Saul's place? When Samuel saw tall and handsome Eliab he thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam 16:7). With God, it is the heart that counts.
As originally created by God, both the will and heart of man were furnished with righteousness. In other words, man, at the very center of his being, stood in perfect harmony with the will of God. It was his heart's desire to do God's will.
D Thirdly, the Canons look at man's emotions as created by God. As originally created by God man's emotions were furnished with purity. Think of the emotions man was created with: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. None of these were marred with imperfections. All of these were perfect in every way. Quite often we let our emotions be determined by those around us or by what happens to us. But Adam's emotions were pure, from the heart, without any thought of personal gain, or revenge, or evil.
E As created, then, man was furnished with a knowledge of God and things spiritual, with a righteous will and heart, with pure emotions. Quoting from our Scripture reading, man was "like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:24). Or, as the Canons put it, "the whole man was holy." As created, man was furnished with everything he needed to live with God and fully to enjoy Him forever.
When Ruth and I were about to get married we had to find a home. Our wedding was planned between the 2nd & 3rd quarters of seminary – not an ideal time to find a home. At that time our only possessions were a car, a desk, and dishes.In the same way man, as created, came fully furnished with all that he needed to live and work happily before God. In the same way as fish were made to swim and birds made to fly so man was made to live with God and fully to enjoy Him forever. That was man's original, created nature. Like Humpty Dumpty, man sat on a wall – a wall of perfection, bliss, and glory.
A friend in seminary told me he was leaving on an internship. He wanted to know if we wanted to rent a fully furnished home.
Just like that we were provided all that we needed to begin our life together.
II The Corruption of Man's Nature
A Man was like God. He was made in God's image. Man had it so good, so perfect, so wonderful. But then man fell into sin. He corrupted the perfect image of God in which he was created. Says the Canons, "... rebelling against God at the devil's instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts." Man was no longer holy in all his being. Like Humpty Dumpty, man fell.
In telling us what happened to the image of God the Canons again look at man's mind, man's will and heart, and man's emotions.
B First, the Canons tell us about man's mind. In the Fall man brought upon himself "blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind." In our Scripture reading, Paul can speak of the "futility of ... thinking,""darkened in their understanding," and "ignorance." Man is no longer able to think on what is good, perfect, wholesome, true, and right; instead, his mind is filled with lies, ignorance, and foolishness. He no longer knows God or the things of God. He cannot see the Kingdom of God. Man is a sinner whose deepest imaginations are evil. Man's brain produces a world of illusions so that man thinks of himself as pure when in reality he is guilty before God.
C Second, the Canons tell us about man's will and heart. In the Fall man has brought upon himself "perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will." Paul can speak of the "hardening of ... hearts." Not just in his thoughts, not just in his deeds, but in the very center of his being man is rebellious against God and the ways of God. He has a will that now delights in doing evil. God says, "Love Me." Man says, "I hate You." God says, "Serve Me." Man says, "I will serve myself."
I saw a new reality show on TV the other night. I think it is called "Restaurant Rescue" or "Restaurant Stakeout" or something like that.
The staff of the shows come in to rescue a restaurant that should be making money or more money.
Cameras were set up and it showed what was going wrong: employees stole bottles of hard liquor and wine, snuck out boxes of steak and shrimp, and let customers out the door without proper payment.
A manager was caught red-handed on camera. He denied he was stealing. He kept saying, "It is not what it looks like." He attempted to justify instead of repent of his behavior.
D Third, the Canons tell us about man's emotions. In the Fall man has brought "impurity in all his emotions." His pure love gets turned into adultery. His tender mercies turn into cruelties. His patience has become impatience. His understanding and care have become abuse and anger.
E As I said before, man was like God. He was made in God's image. Man had it so good, so perfect, so wonderful. Like Humpty Dumpty, he sat on a wall. Man was furnished with a knowledge of God and things spiritual, with a righteous will and heart, with pure emotions. How was it possible for such a creature to fall? That is the mystery of the ages.
Based upon Genesis 3, the Canons remind us of the instigation of the devil – how he led the first man and woman into sin. But it also reminds us that this fall took place of man's "own free will."
When we looked at the first and second heads of doctrine we were reminded over and over again that God is sovereign, God is supreme, He is in control. While in no way denying that, we also have to maintain that man – as created – had a real and true free will. Thus, it is not God Who is responsible for sin; man is. Man is responsible and accountable for his fall into sin.
A child asked a man to pick a flower for her. That was simple enough. But then she said, "Now put it back." Once certain things are broken or mutilated, they can never be replaced or mended. Once man fell into sin there was no turning back. Once man corrupted the image of God there was no way he could get the image back.
Man, as I said at the beginning of the sermon, is like Humpty Dumpty. Once we have fallen there is no way we can put ourselves together again.
The point of all this: man can't fix himself, he can't save himself; man needs a Savior. Only in Christ can we again be holy. Only in Christ can our minds, our hearts and wills, and our emotions be renewed. Only in Christ can we be (re)created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Based upon the Bible, the Canons are describing you and me. We all need fixing and we cannot fix ourselves. So, do you see your need for the Savior?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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