************ Sermon on Canons of Dort, Head III-IV, Article 2-3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 15, 2013
Canons, Head III, IV Articles 2-3
"Like Parent, Like Child"
In looking at Article 1 we talked about Humpty Dumpty. We said Humpty Dumpty on the wall can represent man as created in all his glory by God. We said Humpty Dumpty's great fall can represent man's fall into sin. And we said that, like Humpty Dumpty, once we have fallen there is no way we can put ourselves together again.
Today, we want to talk about Humpty Dumpty's children – the descendants of Adam and Eve.
I The Spread of Corruption
A We all know the influence – for good or bad – that parents can have on their children. You know the saying: "Like parent, like child." As we look at our own children most of us have to admit that this is generally true. We tend to raise children who are like us in many ways: our mannerisms, our speech, our attitudes, our method of doing things, our values, our attendance at worship." Like parent, like child."
Unfortunately, as I mentioned this morning, parental influence can be bad too. Did you know that most of those who physically abuse children were themselves physically abused as children; children of alcoholics quite often become alcoholics themselves; many girls who are sexually abused end up becoming prostitutes; and, children of addicts often become addicts themselves – some of them even before birth. One news reporter put it this way:
The shrill, piercing cry, almost inhuman in its intensity and tone, sears its way into your conscience. Once you've heard it, you can never forget it. The sound is made by a baby only one day old. But this is not a normal child; it is screaming for a "fix" because it was introduced to life "hooked" on drugs! The loud, disturbing scream means that the pain and ordeal of withdrawal are already taking place. This little one became addicted when the woman carrying it used drugs.Again we see the truth of the statement: "Like parent, like child."
B In looking at Article 1 we examined the original condition of man's mind, his will and heart, and his emotions. We said man's mind, as created by God, was focused on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Phil 4:8); he had both a head and a heart knowledge of spiritual things. We said both the will and heart of man, as created, were furnished with righteousness; it was his heart's desire to do God's will. And, we said man's emotions of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control – as created – were furnished with purity; all of these were perfect in every way. Man, as created, was "like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Eph 4:24). Or, as Article 1 of the Canons put it, "the whole man was holy."
But then man fell into sin. He corrupted the perfect image of God that He was created in. Says Article 1 of the Canons, "... rebelling against God at the devil's instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts." In their place he brought upon himself the very opposite of the gifts.
Today, the Canons tell us that "Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. That is to say, being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children." "Like parent, like child." Or, as Genesis puts it, "Like begets like." A fallen man produces fallen children. A corrupt man fathers corrupt children. In other words, every person who has ever lived and who will ever live end up exactly the same as Adam and Eve: they end up with Adam's pollution and Adam's guilt and therefore deserve God's wrath.
In the whole history of mankind there has been only one person Who did not end up with Adam's pollution and Adam's guilt. As we all should know that exception is Christ Jesus. He was not born corrupt because His natural Father was and is the holy God and because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
C "Fallen man produces fallen children." This tells us something crucial about the character of sin. Sin is not just an outward act done by man; it is not just the wickedness and evil that is found out there in the world (POINT AROUND THE WALLS). Rather, it is found in these wall and in this heart (POINT TO THE HEART); it is a part of man's very nature. Turn your attention, for a moment, to the guests of the state behind prison walls. They aren't sinners because they are rapists, murderers, and thieves; rather, they are rapists, murderers, and thieves because they are sinners. Sin is part of their nature. And, sin is part of our nature too. We aren't sinners because we lie, swear, and commit adultery; rather we lie, swear, and commit adultery because we are sinners.
But – and here is the Gospel – for those who are in Christ the opposite is also true. We aren't righteous because we visit the lonely, help the poor, and are involved in the church and kingdom; rather, we visit the lonely, help the poor, and are involved in the church and kingdom because we are righteous in Christ.
In regard to sin, then, the truth is this: Like parent, like child. Sin is part of our fallen nature, it is part of our inner being, it is part of our makeup. Corrupt/sinful parents procreate corrupt/sinful children.
This is what the Bible teaches. Yet, many Christians disagree with the opening line of Article 3: "all people are conceived in sin and born children of wrath." These people point to little children – to innocent babies like Hailey Lynn van't Zelfde, Wouter Johannes Vander Goot, and Anna Lynn Danzeisen – and ask how can God possibly condemn them.
In Article 3 the Canons remind us again that a baby or an adult is not a sinner because he sins; rather, he is conceived and born a sinner. Sin clings to him from the very beginning of his existence. Therefore, all of mankind are "born children of wrath."
D How does this corrupt nature get passed from Adam and Eve to all of their descendants? The Pelagians mentioned by the Canons think they know the answer. They teach that sin is extended to mankind only by way of imitation. All children sin because they come into a world in which they are surrounded by a multitude of bad examples for them to imitate.
According to the Pelagians, sin is a matter of the environment, the social structure, the setting. They say that children, by nature, are born good or neutral. Create a perfect environment in which to raise children and we will end up with a good adult. Eventually, a good environment will lead to a perfect society.
Today, this philosophy underlies and controls all of public education and most social policy. The planners and educators strive to change the environment in order to change the child, the welfare queen, the homeless, the prisoner, the alcoholic, the oppressed minority. They have tried this for upwards of 60 years in this country. They are confused and dismayed that during that time things have gotten worse rather than better. They forget sin is not a matter of the environment, it is not a matter of imitation; rather, it is part of man's very nature.
You have all heard of George Zimmerman – the man in Florida accused of being a vigilante, Caylee Anthony – the baby killed by her own mother, Aaron Hernandez – the football player indicted for murder.
Do you know what is the most astonishing thing about any of these cases? The most astonishing thing is that we are astonished by them. Our reaction, the press's feeding-frenzy, and lawyers' posturing reveals how deluded we are about the most damaging myth of our age: that man is good, and that with technology and education we can achieve a perfect society. So we regard George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony, and Aaron Hernandez as dreadful irregularities.
We have forgotten the truth of man's sinful nature. Therefore we are shocked when people are charged with the most hideous of crimes.
E This gets us back to the question of how does the corrupt nature get passed from Adam and Eve to all of their descendants? To tell you the truth, we don't really know. Different explanations have been put forth, but none of them are totally satisfactory. What we are left with is something like this: sin, pollution, guilt, and evil almost seem hereditary. Though we know of no responsible chromosome or gene, it certainly acts hereditary. I like to say that we all come into the world with what I call the "S" chromosome – "S" standing for sin.
Of course, we don't really have a genetic defect. But we do come from Adam by birth different than Adam came from God by creation. And as a result, every descendant of Adam has a sin problem.
F At the same time, some of you might say that this doesn't sound fair or just! Why should we be polluted and guilty because of Adam and Eve? Why should we end up with Adam's slavery and Adam's guilt? Why should we be given an alien sin and an alien guilt that properly belongs to another?
We can't pretend to understand how or why we get Adam's pollution and guilt, but we do have to believe it because this is the teaching of the Bible in our reading from Romans 5. Paul says:
(Rom 5:12) ... sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin.Romans 5 teaches that we are all considered sinners in Adam; we are all condemned in Adam; we are all guilty and polluted in Adam.
Rom 5:15) ... many died by the trespass of the one man.
Rom 5:16) The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation ...
(Rom 5:17) ... by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man ...
(Rom 5:18) ... the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men ...
I admit again, this doesn't sound fair. Why should we be counted guilty because of another's sin?! But in the same way, we who believe are considered righteous in Christ. That too does not sound fair. Why should we be counted holy because of another's righteousness?! Yet, we are.
II Total Inability
Article 3 can be summed up in two words: total inability. All people are "unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin."
Most people tend to overestimate their goodness and underestimate their sin. First, we tend to overestimate our goodness.
A couple of years ago my cycling group was resting in Three Rivers before heading back to Visalia. Another cyclist joined us. He told us his name was Robert. He looked lean and fit. None of us gave him another thought.What am I saying? Compared to most people in Visalia our cycling group is composed of very good climbers. But compared to Robert Gesink we are just amateurs. I am saying that goodness depends upon the standard you use. When we measure our goodness against rapists, murderers, child molesters, alcoholics, and drub abusers then we look good. But we are using the wrong measure. Measured against God and Christ and even the holiest of men our goodness is not so good.
Did you know there are seven climbs – some bigger than others – between Three Rivers and Lemon Cove? When we hit the first hill we never saw Robert again. Not because he was behind us but because he was so far ahead. Robert could climb like a billy goat and he left us in his dust.
It took two weeks before we realized we had cycled with Robert Gesink who was fifth overall in that year's Tour de France.
Second, we tend to underestimate our sin. We live in what some have called a "Christian town." Half or more of the people out there – maybe half or more of the people in here too – don't think they sin all that much, certainly not enough to deserve God's wrath: they don't lie or cheat or steal or hurt anyone. Furthermore, they point to the good they do, good that makes them think they are worthy of heaven: they help their neighbor, go to church once in a while, and put a few dollars in the offering plate.
If you are part of this group, you will be shocked before the judgment throne of God. For our goodness is not as good as we think it is – in God's eyes it is worth nothing. And our sin is worse than we think it is – in God's eyes it makes us worthy of hell.
What is the point of all this? Man is so corrupt that he is totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil. He has fallen – totally – in the first Adam. He can be delivered only by the grace of God, the blood of Christ, and the power of the Spirit.
You might say: "That makes man nothing, even less than nothing." I reply: "Exactly!" God's grace is only for those who are nothing and less than nothing. This way God's name and grace is magnified.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page