************ Heidelberg Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 8 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 11, 2017
Lord's Day 8
Scripture Readings come from Belgic Confession Article 9
"Our Faith in the Triune God"
Remember our theme as we look at the Catechism this year? Our theme is "sound doctrine." What is sound doctrine? Sound doctrine is correct doctrine, accurate doctrine. It is doctrine that is based upon the truths of God's Word. Sound doctrine conforms to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God. Therefore, it is doctrine you can rely on and depend on and trust.
The Catechism is sound doctrine. The Catechism is sound doctrine because it is doctrine based upon the truths of God's Word. Rest assured, dear people of God, that you can rely on and depend on and trust what the Catechism teaches.
We need sound doctrine today. We need it so bad. We need sound doctrine to correct, rebuke and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction. We need sound doctrine because men today do not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. We need sound doctrine to encourage the saints in the truth. We need sound doctrine to refute those who oppose the truth. We need to teach our children and youth what is in accord with sound doctrine.
I Saving Faith
A Last time, in Lord's Day 7, we looked at what sound doctrine tells us about saving faith.
Remember what saving faith does? It joins us to Christ and all His blessings.
Remember where saving faith comes from? It comes from God. It is the gift of God.
Remember what saving faith is? It is a confidence that God loves me. This is always first and most important. Not that I love God but that God loves me.
Remember what is the content of saving faith? The content of saving faith is everything that God reveals in His Word. Saving faith turns to the Word of God. The Christian believes that Word, accepts that Word, and applies that Word to his life.
B Sound doctrine tells us the content of God's Word is summarized for us in the Apostles' Creed. Therefore, sound doctrine tells us that saving faith must believe what we find in the Apostles' Creed. If you don't believe or can't believe what is in the Creed you cannot possibly be a Christian. Anyone who denies any of the articles of that Creed has no right to call him or herself a Christian.
A quick overview of the Creed tells us that sound doctrine believes the doctrine of the Trinity. The Catechism asks how the articles of the Creed are divided. Notice the answer:
God the Father and our creation;
God the Son and our deliverance;
God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.
Saving faith believes the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine is so basic and so fundamental that we include it in our name. We are Trinity United Reformed Church. At the back of our weekly bulletin we explain we believe in the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Why do I emphasize this? Because there are those who oppose the sound doctrine of the Trinity. Because men's itching ears do not tolerate sound doctrine. Because men turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. Have you heard of the Jehovah's Witnesses? Of course you have. They have come to everyone of our doors. Did you know they do not believe Jesus is the eternal Son of God? Did you know they do not believe God is triune? Itching ears. Myths. Same thing with the Mormons. They also do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity. Itching ears. Myths. And, of course, the Muslim faith does not accept the Trinity either. Itching ears. Myths.
Sound doctrine teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. Saving faith accepts this teaching. In fact, saving faith must be able to say, "I believe in the triune God." Or, to put it another way, "I know the triune God is my God."
II The Mystery of the Trinity
A When we speak of the Trinity, we are dealing with a mystery. But we need to understand what this means. In the Bible, a mystery is not something mysterious, it is not something magical, it is not something shallow and superficial, it is not something secret. In the Bible, a mystery is something man cannot know on his own. In the Bible, a mystery is something that needs to be revealed to us. By God. Through His Word and Spirit.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. Meaning what? Meaning it is simply impossible for man to discover this in the same way as Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity, in the same way as Newton discovered the Theory of Gravity, in the same as Copernicus discovered that the sun rather than the earth is at the center of our solar system. The use of the scientific method does not lead us to discover the doctrine of the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. Meaning what? Meaning it needs to be revealed to us. Meaning God needs to reveal this doctrine to us in His most holy Word. And, the Spirit needs to guide us as we study the Word.
B The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery. As the early church studied the Word, the Spirit led her to conclude that God is indeed triune. It took almost 300 years to get to this point; at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. the church officially declared for the first time that the Bible teaches God is triune.
From the Belgic Confession we read the Scriptural proof texts for the Trinity: Genesis and "let us make man in our image"; the baptism of Jesus, the great commission, the conception of Jesus, the apostolic blessing.
The point? God has revealed Himself. Through the Word and Spirit He has revealed Himself to be triune. Through the Word and Spirit He has revealed to us the mystery of the Trinity. Sound doctrine teaches and saving faith believes the Trinity.
III I Believe in God
A Notice, in the Apostles' Creed, how sound doctrine begins: "I believe in God." This is a declaration that God is. As God declared to Moses, "I am Who I am." God is. He exists.
Over against this positive confession of the Christian Church stands the negative confession of the world which says God is NOT. That's the confession of Atheism.
You have all heard of Atheism. The Atheist says there is no God. I think of Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, and Communism. Atheism is nothing but an attempt to get rid of God. Atheism is not new and Atheism is not recent. A thousand years before the birth of Christ, King David speaks about the Atheist:
(Ps 14:1) The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.David says Atheists are fools. They are dumb and foolish.
Certain people immediately come to our minds with the mention of the word "fool." People like the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Maxwell Smart, Tim Conway, and Don Knotts. Do any our children and youth even know any of these names? Anyways, these fools are all rather harmless creature, basically well-intentioned and innocent. All of them arouse pity and amusement. But this is not the case with the fool in the Bible. The fool in the Bible disregards the Word of God. The fool in the Bible is on the road to hell. Unless they repented, Marx and Lenin are in hell.
B Many people today are what I call "Practical Atheists." Practical Atheists pose a greater danger to the church than do just plain regular Atheists. They look and sound harmless. Like the Atheist they disregard the Word of God. They know there is a God but they live like He does not exist. They know there is a God but they lie and cheat and steal and commit adultery and disobey authority and abuse alcohol and participate in gay marriage. They know there is a God but they don't repent and believe. They know there is a God but He has nothing to do with their day-to-day life. They know there is a God but they don't worship Him. They know there is a God but they don't pray to Him or read His Word. Many of our neighbors are practical atheists.
Even worse than "Practical Atheists" are "Religious Atheists." These atheists are to be found in the church. Like plain atheists and practical atheists, they also disregard the Word of God. They know there is a God but what He says does not apply to their church or their life. I am afraid that some people in front of me this morning are either practical or religious atheists.
The Bible teaches that all atheists are fools.
C Sound doctrine teaches and saving faith believes "in God." God. Singular. Not gods. But God. "I believe in God." That is, I believe in one God. I believe God is one.
The pagan religions say that god is many. Pagans have a god for everything. There is a god for rain and a god for sunshine. There is a god for health and strength. There is a god for peace and there is a god for war. There is a god for prosperity. There is a god for fertility and for harvest. There is a god for everything; and all these gods have their own minds, their own will, their own desires, their own purposes, and their own power. These gods are not one. They are divided. They are divided in mind, will, desire, purpose, and power so they all war with one another.
God is one. That is what sound doctrine teaches and proclaims. That is what saving faith believes. Yes, He is Triune. But He is also one. This is part of the mystery of the Trinity. Meaning it needs to be revealed to us. Meaning God needs to reveal this doctrine to us in His most holy Word. And, the Spirit needs to guide us as we study the Word.
(Deut 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Practically speaking, what does it means that God is one? There is no other being that is also God. He is not divided. He is supreme over all. There is no dualism either. There is not a big God and over against Him a little god that we name Satan. I am not denying the existence of the Devil but don't ever make the mistake of thinking He is God's opposite and equal. The Devil is not a god. Because God is one. There is no other. As we read in Isaiah:
(Isa 45:5-6) I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, (6) so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.
(Isa 45:18) For this is what the LORD says-- he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited-- he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other.
(Isa 45:22) "Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.
(Isa 46:9) Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
IV One God, Three Persons
A Sound doctrine says, "I believe in God." Saving faith says "I believe He is triune. I believe He is one. I believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And I believe there is but one God."
The world, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, and the Muslims all tell us this is a contradiction. The sound doctrine of the Catechism, however, rightly tells us this is how God has revealed Himself in His Word. Of that there can be no doubt. We've looked at these teachings in the Bible. We've seen these teachings in the Bible. "I believe in God."
B Sound doctrine teaches and saving faith believes "These three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God." Notice the word "persons." God is not impersonal. God is not simply a power. God is personal.
That God is personal means He is a rational, thinking, moral being. God has a mind and a will. God possesses everything that belongs to a rational, thinking, moral being. God can say "I." Animals are beings, but they cannot say "I" because they are not rational, thinking, moral beings. Men and angels are rational, thinking, moral beings so they can say "I." God is personal. He is a rational, thinking, moral being with a rational, thinking, moral nature.
C God is one, but He exists in three persons. In the one nature of God there are three persons that say "I." There is in God one life, but that one life of God is lived by three. There is in God one will, but that one will of God is willed by three. There is in God one love, but in that one love of God there are three that love. There is in God one mind, but in that one mind of God there are three that think. There is in God one desire, but in that one desire of God there are three that desire. In the one nature of God, there are three that live, will, love, think, desire.
God is one, but He exists in three persons. Three equal persons. All the attributes of God are equally the attributes of all three persons. In that respect they are identical.
And yet they are distinct. They are known as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So sound doctrine speaks of God the Father and our creation, God the Son and our redemption, and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification. But, but, we are not to think that the Father alone creates, the Son alone redeems, and the Spirit alone sanctifies. That would separate God. Everything is the work of the one God. All the works of God are such that they are of the Father, through the Son, and in the Spirit. It is so with the work of creation, the work of redemption, and that work of sanctification. They are all the work of all three persons.
Sound doctrine says, "I believe in God." Saving faith says "I believe God is one. I believe God is triune." Because that is how God has revealed Himself.
It is not enough to merely agree to this with our mind. We must also believe it in our heart and soul. That is, it should lead us to praise and worship God.
What is the greatest moment in your life? Perhaps you will say it is the day you got married, or the day you graduated, or the day you scored the winning goal, or the day your team won the trophy, or the day your got your dream job, or the day your baby was born. Let me tell you what should be the greatest moment of your life. The greatest moments in our lives are those in which we spontaneously praise the Lord. How stirred I am those times when the walls and ceiling seem to be in the way of our singing. In such moments we begin to understand we were created, saved, and sanctified for God's praise. Then we understand that real living is praising our triune God.
A teacher was drilling his young students on the Westminster Catechism. The first question in the catechism is "What is the chief end of man?" The answer being "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." One youngster seemed quite sure of himself as he anxiously waved his hand for recognition. When the teacher called his name he proudly blurted out "The chief end of man is to glorify God and annoy Him forever!"We don't want to annoy Him; we want to glorify and enjoy Him! Forever! We want to glorify and enjoy Him Who is One and Triune!
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