************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 3 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 12, 2017
Lord's Day 3
"Adam and Me"
A number of years ago there was a fire in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The fire was not overly big. It didn't last overly long. What makes it newsworthy is that Cleveland's river was on fire. The river was so polluted that a hand dipped into the water came out black and gooey. The pollution was the result of oil and chemical spills, sewage, run-off, and trash. To restore the river, the source of the pollution needed to be found and cleaned.We fallen sons and daughters of Adam are similarly polluted. And, as with Cleveland's river, the source of the pollution needs to be found and cleaned.
As I said the last two weeks, the Catechism summarizes sound doctrine for us. Sound doctrine is correct doctrine, truthful doctrine, doctrine based upon the Bible. Last week sound doctrine told us that in order to live and die in the comfort of belonging to Jesus we need to know we are unable to love God and neighbor. We need to know our natural tendency is to hate.
Today, sound doctrine goes the next step and asks how we got this way. What is the source of our corruption and pollution? And, is it possible to clean it?
I Don't Blame God
A Lord's Day 3 asks whether we human beings have always been corrupt and polluted. "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" Did God make us this way?
Notice the Catechism's assumption. Man was created. By God. Man did not evolve. Man is not an accident of nature. We have been made and planned by an Almighty Creator. That being the case, did God create people so wicked and perverse? Can we blame God for man's corruption and pollution? Can we blame God for man's failure to love? Can our hate be blamed on God?
The actual answer to this question is short. "No." "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" Absolutely not! Don't blame God for man's predicament.
B To further explain this, the Catechism points to what is said in Genesis 1: namely, God made all things "good" in the beginning. God, being God, cannot make anything that is corrupt. Whatever is made by His hands is perfectly good. Sound doctrine says God made us "good."
But now another question: Could not God have created man so it was impossible that we fall? God is the Creator. God is completely wise and good. Meaning it was entirely God's business how He created us. We must proceed from the fact that God has the authority to create us the way He wanted to; and, the way He created us is right and good because He is God.
C Not only did God made man "good" but God also made man "in his own image." Again the Catechism is looking at what is said in Genesis 1. Not just some of us but all of us: male and female, young and old, in the womb and outside of the womb, able bodied and disabled, red and yellow and black and white. We are all made in His image. Liberal churches and liberal ministers and liberal professors say God put His image on human type creatures that were already on earth. But that is not what the Bible says. That is not what sound doctrine says. The image of God is not something man became; instead, this is what man is as made by God.
Sound doctrine further says we are more like God than anything else in the physical creation. Which means that to see God we don't need to look first at mountains and trees and flowers and sunsets and animals -- though we do see God in all of this. To see God in creation we first of all and especially look at ourselves as God's image-bearers.
Man was made in God's image. Man looks like God, he talks like God, he has a mind like God, he has a will like God, but all in a creaturely way. The whole man, body and soul, God so formed that he was a reflection of the nature of God. His very unrighteousness shows that he ought to be righteous -- like God. His very unholiness shows he was created to be holy -- like God. He was not simply created to know God; he did know God. He was not simply created to love God; he did love God. He was not simply created to live with God; he did live with God.
Man was made in God's image "for his praise and glory." This means we didn't live for ourselves, we lived for God. This means our relationship with our neighbor was for His praise and glory. This means how we looked after ourselves was for His praise and glory. This means our stewardship over creation was for His praise and glory. This means God was our preoccupation. God was the center of our thoughts. God was the focus of our work. It was all about God.
Man was made good and in God's image for His praise and glory. So we can't blame God for man's corruption and pollution.
II Blame Adam and Eve
A So who is to blame for man's corruption and pollution? Asks the Catechism: "Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?" Here is the answer: "From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise."
Again, I want you to notice the assumption of the Catechism. The Catechism assumes, in line with what the Bible says, that there was a first man and a first woman. These two, created by God, are the parents of the human race. Our DNA traces back to them, not to apes, not to monkeys, not to frogs and fish and little crawly things in the oceans. As I was preparing for this message an advertisement caught my eye. It showed an 18 year old asking questions:
ADAM AND EVE ... REALLY? I'll be honest with you. It all sounds like a fable ... Like someone got tired of thinking about a rational explanation for good and evil.True doctrine says every human is a descendant of Adam and Eve. True doctrine says Adam and Eve were real people in a real garden. True doctrine says Adam and Eve were the parents of the entire human race.
B Where does our corrupt human nature come from? True doctrine says blame Adam, blame Eve, blame our first parents. True doctrine says our misery comes from "the fall." This is what orthodox Christians, true Christians, biblical Christians have said throughout history.
I dare say everyone here is familiar with the story of the fall as we find it in Genesis 3. So I will mention only a few of the most important points in the account.
First, we should note that the actual temptation of the serpent was for Adam and Eve to become their own gods, to be like god. Of course Satan is a deceiver and fails to mention they already were like God as image-bearers.
Second, we see that disobedience shattered our relationship with God, each other, ourselves, and creation. Man has been marred by corruption and pollution. Man is still made good, but we have a hard time seeing it. Man is still in the image of God, but the image is blurred. Man's created purpose is to still live for God's praise and glory, but often we live for ourselves. So what happened right after man fell into sin? He hid from God. He cast blame on his wife. He was expelled from the Garden. Thorns and thistles were now one of the fruit of the soil. Do you see the brokenness? As I said to the boys and girls, life was no longer perfect. There was sin, pain, crying, death, sickness, tears.
The third thing we see is that our gracious God promised to one day destroy the Tempter and the power and presence of sin.
So where does our corrupt human nature come from? It started with the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. So, blame Adam. Blame Eve. Blame our first parents.
III Blame You and Me
A Where does our corrupt human nature come from? We can't blame God. We can blame Adam and Eve. And, we need to blame you and me.
When God created Adam, He created man. He created man in distinction from the angels. The angels He created individually; man He created organically. Each angel was individually formed and created by God. But God created only one man and in that one man He created the entire human race. Out of that one man all the human race organically developed. And, in that one man God created all human nature. Therefore, when that one man became corrupt all men became corrupt.
There is no rugged individualism here. No man stands by himself. I am not a beautiful and unique snowflake. I am part of an organic whole. My nature and my being flow from a common ancestor. I am of the same organic and decaying matter as everyone else.
And so sound doctrine confesses that we and our children are born in death. We bring forth children into death. Our children are born dead. So often people say that children are sweet and innocent; but that is not reality. Our babies are born in sin and corruption. The fall has so poisoned their nature and your nature and my nature that we are born sinners, that we are born into death. So as things now stand we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil and cannot see the kingdom of God. A child born this way is a child of hell. It is part of an organic whole. It is part of the fallen human race.
B Our organic union with Adam not only means a common corruption but also a common responsibility. This is the teaching of our Bible reading from Romans:
(Rom 5:12) Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--Did you hear that? In Adam "all sinned." In Adam all are guilty. In Adam all are condemned.
How could Adam's sin condemn us to death? Adam is our organic head, our federal head is another term we can use. God has established Adam as the representative of everyone who is in him. Since he was our representative, we share in the consequences of his actions. His guilt and condemnation are imputed to us -- God counts it to our record.
It is not true that I am only responsible for what I do. You are responsible for what I do, and I am responsible for what you do.
We see this principle all across the board. For instance, if I preach false doctrine instead of sound doctrine and you tolerate it, you are also responsible for my false preaching. If Congress declares war on Iran or North Korea, the whole nation is at war.
So then Scripture teaches that God made all men responsible in that one man. Including you and me. Every human creature was in the first man. And, when the first man rebelled, we all rebelled in him as if we had done it ourselves.
So who is to blame for my corruption and pollution? Not God. Adam is. You are. I am.
IV Credit Christ
A "Not fair," you may say. "It isn't fair that I am found guilty and treated as guilty in Adam. It is ridiculous to punish me for Adam's sin."
Well, then, something else also is not fair and true either. Those of you who paid close attention to our short Bible reading from Romans know what I am about to say. Even as we are guilty in one man, so we are righteous in one man. As the guilt of the one man Adam is imputed to all that are in him, so the righteousness of Christ is imputed to all that are in Him. If it is not true that we are responsible for what Adam did, then redemption is not true, the cross is not true, and there is no possibility of salvation. Listen to how Paul says this:
(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.
Sound doctrine says I am guilty in Adam. Sound doctrine likewise says I am righteous in Christ.
B And yet there is a difference. I add my own guilt and sin and shame to Adam's. But I have no righteousness of my own to add to what Christ has done. I deserve punishment and hell and judgment but in no way do I deserve righteousness and life. I play a role in my judgment. I have nothing to add to my salvation. I can give the credit only to Christ.
C Furthermore, everyone is guilty, corrupt, and fallen in Adam. But not everyone is righteous in Christ. Only those are righteous in Christ who are born again by the Spirit of God.
These people are in Adam and they are in Christ. They are corrupt, they are wicked, they are perverse, they are inclined toward all evil. And they are wholeheartedly willing and ready to live for God's praise and glory. In Christ they are being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator (Col 3:10). In Christ they are being recreated to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph 4:24). In Christ they stand in a right relationship to God, neighbor, themselves, and creation.
In Adam. In Christ. This means we are deeply divided people. Sin abides in us. But so does righteousness.
We look forward to the time the division is ended. We look forward to the time when death and sin are vanquished. We look forward to the time when all that we are is good and in His image.
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