************ Sermon on Nicene Creed ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 27, 2012
Nicene Creed 04
"We Believe in God the Maker"
"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible" (Nicene Creed).
"We believe that there was once absolutely nothing. And nothing happened to the nothing until the nothing magically exploded (for no reason), creating everything and everywhere. Then a bunch of the exploded everything magically rearranged itself (for no reason whatsoever), into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs" (Internet blog).
This is not only two opposing viewpoints on man's beginnings but this is also two opposing viewpoints on the existence of God. On the one side we have God and the doctrine of Creation; on the other side we have Atheism and the theory of Evolution.
Do you believe in God Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth? Or, do you believe we are just the result of chaos in space; did we arrive via the long chain of events caused by who-knows-what and who-knows-where?
Look around you! Right now! Who but God could create so many unique individuals? Not one person in the world is exactly the same one. Not one. Nor is any flower exactly the same as any other flower. Nor is any snowflake. Try as I may, I cannot imagine so much beauty coming out of nothing.
So is it possible that God the Father almighty is the Creator of all things? Yes, it is possible. And I believe it. With my whole heart I believe it. I believe that God created this world and that someday He plans to make it new again. I believe God made you and me and every other person. And, I believe if He can make us He can also remake us as saved creatures.
Furthermore, the opposite viewpoint that we are an accident of nature is almost impossible to contemplate. I want you to think, for a moment about Charles Darwin.
Charles and his wife, Emma, had a little girl who was the joy of their lives. In her fifth year, however, little Annie Darwin fell ill. Despite the best efforts of the doctors, she died.Do you know what death does? As we see with Darwin, death highlights the failure of non-Christian world-views to provide meaning and purpose for human existence.
The Darwins' grief was profound and deep. Charles was inconsolable. Twenty-five years later he wrote that the thought of her still brought tears to his eyes. Those of us who are parents can empathize with Darwins' anguish and grief.
But anguish and grief doesn't make sense if you believe in evolution. After all, little Annie Darwin is but proof that only the most fit survive. From Darwin's evolutionary point-of-view, Annie should simply have been added to a long list of "nonsurvivors."
I Maker of Heaven and Earth
A With the church of all ages we believe in God, the Father almighty. With the fathers of the Council of Nicea we further believe this God is the "maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible." He has created not only everything we can see, but even the things we cannot see.
God is the Creator or Maker. This distinguishes God from His creation. The creation is not the Creator – as evolution would have us believe. And the Creator is not the creation – as pantheism would have us believe. The Creator and the creation are different and distinct from each other. As for man, here is a reminder that we are creatures, made and formed by God. We are creatures whose very existence and every breath depends upon God.
God is the "maker of heaven and earth." The heavens and the earth did not exist eternally with God. Rather, God created all things by the word of His power out of nothing. All things have their origin in the creation of God.
B God is the "maker of heaven and earth." Our status as creatures and God's status as Creator are basic to Christianity. Indeed, much if not all that Christianity teaches flows like a fountain from the basic doctrine of creation. This is the fundamental starting point. Thus we discover that if God is the Creator and we are His creatures we owe Him all the honor, obedience, and worship that is due Him as the Almighty Creator. Thus we discover that it is sin to give Him anything less than honor, obedience, and worship. Thus we discover that we need saving. Thus we discover that we cannot save ourselves but need a Savior. Thus we discover that He Who made us can also remake us. Do you see how it all ties together and flows together?
C God is the "maker of heaven and earth." It should strike us immediately that God didn't need to create us. In fact, He didn't need to create anything. In the eternal communion of the trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit were self-sufficient. They had each other to love. So, when God created the heavens and the earth, it wasn't because He was lonely or bored.
God is the "maker of heaven and earth." This means the act of creation was an act of love. This further means man's creation was God's first outward expression of kindness and love towards humans. Consequently anyone who refuses to acknowledge this reality does not merely deny his Maker; rather, this person participates in open rebellion to God.
D God is the "maker of heaven and earth." The phrase "maker of heaven and earth" finds its basis in the very first words of Scripture:
(Gen 1:1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (cf Ps 115:15)
By no means, however, does Scripture conceive of God's creative power as being limited to the distant past or as being fully described in Genesis 1 & 2. Psalm 104, for instance, celebrates creation as a wonder that God performs every day. Continuously God summons and controls the forces of nature, establishes and maintains the boundaries of the universe, calls into being and nourishes the plants and creatures of the world. God does this not once but always:
(Ps 104:27-30) These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. (28) When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. (29) When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. (30) When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
Further, Scripture clearly understands the deep connection between God's power to create the world and God's capacity to save. We see this often in the Psalms, for instance. The Psalmist says:
(Ps 115:15) May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.The prophet Jeremiah puts it this way:
(Ps 121:2) My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Ps 124:2) if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us ... (4) the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, (5) the raging waters would have swept us away ... (8) Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
(Ps 146:5-6) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, (6) the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them--the LORD, who remains faithful forever.
(Jer 32:17) Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you ... (19) great are your purposes and mighty are your deeds. Your eyes are open to all the ways of men; you reward everyone according to his conduct and as his deeds deserve.
In the Psalms and Prophets and elsewhere too, God's work of redemption is naturally linked with God's almighty work of creation. The sovereign God Who made the heavens and the earth is also the God Who saves sinners. The almighty power of God as Creator is lovingly directed to men who need Him. Keep this in mind as we confess God as Maker.
In the New Testament, God's continuing capacity to create is expressed above all in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (Rom 4:17-24). For Paul, the resurrection of Jesus is so radical that it can only be termed a "new creation" (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15). Christ is the "last Adam" (1 Cor 15:45), Who is the "new man" (Col 3:10) by Whose image all other humans are measured and into Whose image the Spirit is to shape believers (2 Cor 3:17-18).
The Bible ends, as you know, with the description of the new creation, a new heaven and new earth.
(Rev 21:1,5) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea ... (5) He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."
God is the "maker of heaven and earth." I hope you realize we are not confessing just a long ago event. Above all, we are confessing a constant and present activity of God. We need to think of the Genesis 1:1 phrase "in the beginning" not in terms of time but in terms of cause. God is the cause, the root, the beginning of everything. And, He continues to be the cause, the root, and the beginning as He continues to be involved in creation activity.
II Maker of All Things Visible and Invisible
A Take note of the next line of the Creed. God not only is the "maker of heaven and earth." He is also the Maker "of all things visible and invisible."
Why is this phrase added? Isn't it enough to confess God as the Maker of the heaven and earth?
These words are based upon Scripture. Listen to the words of our Scripture reading, for instance:
(Col 1:16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.
The words "visible and invisible" are not redundant and unnecessary. I say this because it is possible to understand the Biblical expression "heaven and earth" in ways that do not include everything that exists. This, in fact, is the case with our old friend, Marcion, whom I mentioned in an earlier message about the Creed.
Marcion, if your remember, was bothered by the problem of sin and evil. His solution? He solved the problem of evil by distributing power between two gods and two realms of being. Material being is evil and spiritual being is good. The creator God of the Jews, described in the Old Testament, is responsible for everything physical and evil. The God of Jesus, described in the New Testament, has nothing to do with material reality, but is entirely spiritual and good. Marcion, and his followers, did not confess one God Who created everything.
In using the phrase "all things visible and invisible" the Creed therefore takes aim at Marcion and those like him. It makes the language of Genesis 1:1 more precise by making clear that God has made absolutely everything that exists. Not only things unseen but also the entire range of material reality comes from the one God.
B God is the "maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible." It all comes from God. Now, do you remember what is Scripture's verdict on all of this? Scripture pronounces it all to be very good (Gen 1:31).
Meaning what? Meaning that no part of creation is to be rejected. You may realize that Paul was forced to respond against those who would prohibit marriage and the eating of certain foods on the assumption that this results in pollution. Paul said,
(1Tim 4:4-5) For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, (5) because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.This clarification remains pertinent even today because there are Christians who believe that matter – especially the body – is somehow evil. As expressed in the Creed, the church has rejected any idea that matter is evil and only spirit is good.
To the contrary, we as Christians have sanctified marriage and the begetting of children, in opposition to those who believe that only virginity pleases God. We do not say that the celibate life is holier than the married life. And, we do not declare that the spiritual is superior to the physical.
C God is the "maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible." The meaning of these words is totally different for us as compared to the Christians of the early church. Unlike the early Christians, we have peered into the heavens and seen the farthest off stars. With electronic microscopes we have seen particles too small to see with the human eye. We have examined the human body and know all about child development. We know all about germs and viruses and electrons and electricity. We use technology to control the forces of nature. We conquer disease and are advancing on death itself.
It is fair to say that to a certain extent ours is a world that dismisses the spiritual side of life. It started with people questioning the existence of angels and demons, principalities and powers; these are viewed by many as superstitious nonsense. Then the immortal soul was lost, replaced by mind. Life is looked at from a purely naturalistic and scientific point-of-view.
But we confess God has made both a physical and a spiritual side to life. Whether it is visible or invisible, whether it is material or spiritual, it has all been made by God. We, therefore, reject a world defined on the basis of matter alone. We reject a world run solely on the basis of measurement and manipulation. We reject a world-view that thinks eating, drinking, and making merry is all that is important. Instead, with the church of all ages we confirm the truth stated by the Creed that God is the "maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible."
This is my Father's world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world,
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas –
His hand the wonders wrought.
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