************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 6 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 4, 2010
Q & A 6
"A Manufacturer's Defect?"
Last week we began to look at the first part of the Catechism, the part entitled "Misery." We learned that, like Cain, we have been exiled from the presence of God because of sin. We learned that though God created us to love, it is our "natural tendency to hate God and neighbor."
If you are without Christ, it is your natural, sinful tendency to hate. And, even if you do have Christ, hate is still your experience because of the continued presence of sin and evil in your life. The only difference is that in the lives of Christians, sin and hate and evil no longer have the final word or the only word.
The awful truth about ourselves is that we are hateful, spiteful creatures. To say this is to admit there is something wrong about us. To say this is to admit there is something defective in us and about us.
Who is to blame for this defect? Who has to take responsibility for our flawed nature? Is this defect something built into us? Until the Gulf of Mexico oil-well leak we heard news every single day about the Prius: gas pedal problems, brake problems, battery problems, steering problems, suspension problems, software problems. Is man like the Prius – with all sorts of manufacturer's defects?
I Can We Blame God?
A Q & A 6 asks if we can blame God for our defect. After all, He is the Maker. "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" Did God create us with the natural tendency to hate Him and our neighbor? Is God responsible for our misery? Did God use shoddy building materials? Did God use a defective mold when He fashioned man? Was God in too big a hurry?
Do you know who asks this question? Sinful man. Miserable man. Fallen man. This is sinful man's attempt to bring God down to the level of Toyota or General Motors. Like Toyota or General Motors, God needs to do a manufacturer's recall to fix the problem.
Do you know what a "lemon law" is? Many states and the Federal government protect consumers through this law if their automobile repeatedly fails to meet standards of quality and performance. For instance, a car must be replaced or a total refund given if the vehicle cannot be fixed in four attempts, or needs 30 days or more of garage repairs for a single problem in the first year. So, the question becomes, do we need a lemon law to protect us from God's workmanship?
B "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" Isn't this the excuse being offered for all sorts of things today? Alcoholics and drug addicts claim they were born that way. So do homosexuals. We all should be apprehensive about genetic testing – especially if it is done by the health insurance companies. They rarely have your best interests at heart. They want to see if your genetic makeup will someday result in cancer, heart disease, clogged arteries, and so on. Then, they either will drop you or charge you more. But notice the net result – God is being blamed for our problems because He made us that way.
Since we are on the subject of excuses, let's look at some of the favorite stand-bys. One of our favorite excuses for sin is to blame someone else. For instance, Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed Eve. How often don't we hear people playing the blame-game? Someone else is responsible for their sin and misery – an unloving spouse, a hard-nosed boss with unreasonable expectations, fellow employees who are unfriendly and unkind, dad and mom because of how they raised me. Notice what children often do? When children are confronted with wrong and asked who did it, it is that mysterious creature "not me" or "I don't know" who is blamed.
Let's go further. Some say it is written in the stars – your birth sign holds sway over your life. Others point to the environment – the ghetto, poverty, crime, harmful chemicals, an economic slowdown. And still others point to Satan – "the Devil made me do it."
Notice, we blame everyone and everything but ourselves. We refuse to take responsibility for our own actions. And, when it comes to assigning blame, we put God at the top of the list.
II Good and in His Image
A "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" Is there a manufacturer's defect? Should there be a manufacturer's recall?
Based upon the Bible, the Catechism's answer can be summed up in one word: NO. According to the Catechism, there are two biblical reasons for saying this: first, God created us good; second, God created us in His own image.
Do you know how often the word "good" is found in Genesis 1? It is repeated seven times:
(Gen 1:4) God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.It is no accident that the word "good" is repeated seven times – once for each day of creation. Seven – the number of fulness, the number of completion, the number of fulfilment.
(Gen 1:10) God called the dry ground "land," and the gathered waters he called "seas." And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:12) The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:16,18) God made two great lights ... to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:21) So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:25) God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
(Gen 1:31) God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
It is God Who saw that it all was good. God. The Maker. The Creator. He Who is perfect and holy in all His ways. He Who is the standard and sets the standard by which everything else is measured and weighed and judged. This perfect and almighty God is the One Who pronounces everything not only to be "good," but to be "very good" (Gen 1:31). Included in this pronouncement is man himself.
God looked at all that He made and He pronounced it "good" in the fullest possible sense of the term. His creation was designed in such a way that all the parts worked together and benefitted each another. His creation was abundant in variety and production. His creation was pleasing and beautiful to the eye. God's creation was perfect in every way.
God's creation was good. No mistakes in this creation. No shoddy workmanship. No flaws. No defects. No faults. God did not build in any evil, filth, sin, or pollution.
God's creation was good. Therefore, we cannot blame God for our sin and misery. We cannot blame God that people are so wicked and perverse.
B Verses 26-27 tell us the second reason we cannot blame God for man's misery. How did God make us?
(Gen 1:26-27) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness ... (27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him ...God made man in His image. The image of God in man speaks to what we are and what we do.
First, it says something about what we are. To be in the image of God, says the Catechism, means we are made "in true righteousness and holiness." We were created to be like God: pure, righteous, and holy. Not even the smallest taint of sin about us. Knowing only good and not evil.
Second, it says something about we do. To be in the image of God, says the Catechism, means to know God our Creator, to love Him with all our heart, and to live with Him forever. Our natural inclination, as originally made by God, is NOT to hate God and neighbor but to love God and neighbor.
Reformed theologians recognize that the Catechism could have said even more about what we do as image bearers of God. Look at verse 26:
(Gen 1:26) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."Do you see how man images God according to verse 26? God is the Ruler, the King, the Lord. God orders and rules the universe. Notice what God gives to a mankind made in His image: rule and dominion and authority over all other creatures. As rulers over creation we are like God, we image God. Think of how good and pure this rule must have been in the perfection of the Garden. We were earth-keepers rather than earth-destroyers, we exercised care over creation rather than shameful exploitation, we enjoyed rather than abused the Garden.
But there is even more to what we do as image bearers of God. Look at verse 27:
(Gen 1:27) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.Do you see how man images God according to verse 27? Somehow, in someway, we image God as male and female. Why did God make us "male and female"? Because Adam was all alone. No suitable helper was found for him among all the other creatures in creation (cf Gen 1:18). So God made woman – bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh – as a suitable companion and helper (cf Gen 1:23). The Bible talks here about the relationship between husband and wife. In the fellowship and companionship we experience as husbands and wives, we image the fellowship and companionship that exists among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In fact, every time we enjoy fellowship and communion with one another, we image God. God honors unity, peace, and harmony both in the world as well as in the church (cf Ps 133:1) for that images Him. In the beginning we enjoyed pure and peaceful fellowship with God, with one another, and with creation.
God created us in His image. So, then, we cannot blame God for man's sin and misery.
A God made us good and in His own image. There are two implications to this I need to touch on or I would be failing you as pastor.
The first concerns abortion. Abortion is so wrong because it kills what God has pronounced "good" and what God has made "in his own image." Killing a human is not the same as killing a chicken, a pig, or a cow – for none of these are made in God's image. Man was created in God's image to know Him, love Him, and live with Him. To abort or end a human life is to prevent it from doing what God created it to do.
B The second implication concerns evolution. What did God pronounce to be "good"? Something that crawled out of the ooze? Something that evolved from a slimy snail, to a snake, to a lizard, to a monkey, to a man? Did God have to wait thousands and millions and billions of years before he could pronounce man to be "good" and "in his own image"? Of course not!
What God pronounced "good" was not a work-in-progress. What God pronounced "in His own image" was not the result of thousands of adaptations and millions of years. What God pronounced "good" and "in his own image" was a finished product from the get-go.
The story is told of a king who summoned a master builder to make him a tower. The base of that tower was to be 12 feet by 12 feet. In that tower there must be stairways and hallways, an elevator to transport materials up and down, and a waterworks system. At the top of the tower he had to build factories. The walls of the tower were to be 3 feet thick and almost one mile high. Also, it must have the flexibility to sway in all directions without breaking.However incredible as it may seem, such "towers" have been built since the beginning of time. Take a close look, sometime, at a stalk of wheat. Scaled down, it has the exact same proportions as the king's tower. God has built an impossible building project with a humble stalk of wheat.
The master builder broke into a sweat when he heard the demand for this impossible building project. No one could possibly build anything to these dimensions and with these proportions.
It is simply impossible to imagine that something as complex as a stalk of wheat simply evolved. Likewise, it is even more impossible to imagine that man – something much more complex than a stalk of wheat – also evolved. As one wise-guy put it, it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in God.
IV Goodness and Image Distorted
A "Did God create people so wicked and perverse?" "No. God created them good and in his own image."
So, what happened? Sin. Sin is what happened. Misery is what happened. When man sinned, he destroyed the natural goodness of himself and creation. When man sinned, he distorted and twisted the image of God in which he was created.
B Does this mean man is no longer in God's image? Does this take away my argument against abortion?
What happens when you take a long, hot shower without proper ventilation? The mirror gets all steamed up and you can barely see your reflection, your image. And, what you do see is dim and distorted.That is what has happened to the image of God in man after the Fall: the image is dim and distorted but the image is still there.
C Let me end with the good news of the Gospel. What does Christ do to us and for us?
(2 Cor 5:17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!What is this new creation like? Go back to the image of the fogged-up mirror: the mirror is wiped clean so what you see is a clear reflection of God and of Christ. However, this is a work-in-progress as the Christian evolves from sinner to saint and all evil and the remains of sin are washed away.
We are flawed, deeply flawed. But we cannot blame God for God created us good and in his own image. There is no manufacturer's defect. No lemon law is necessary.
Because of Christ, we know we are being renewed. And, we know that someday we will again be pronounced good and it will again be obvious we are in His image.
In the meantime, we hang on to Jesus' promise: that He Who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (cf Phil 1:6).
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page