This sermon was given on November 24, 2016 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
We know him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.
This article of the Belgic Confession is an important one because it establishes how we can know the God that was talked about in the first article of the confession. To know this God we experience him from two sources. These two sources are commonly known as general revelation and special revelation.
General Revelation is what is revealed to us through what we see in creation. As the confession states it is "before our eyes". There are many things that I think of when I think of general revelation. The beauty of a tree as it's leaves bud anew in spring. The sun setting over the horizon on the prairie. My children when they were newborns grabbing my big finger with their tiny little hands. These are the types of things that can show us that there is a God who is a grand designer who put the world together and upholds it by his power. We can also observe this majesty of God through the lens of a microscope when we see the complexity of cells or through the telescope lens when we see just how vast and complex the universe is.
The Belgic Confession points us to Romans 1:20 that tells us that all people can see these types of things and therefore all of humanity is without excuse. This passage in Romans helps us to understand that deep down everyone knows that there is a God because he has made himself clear to us in the way that he has ordered the universe. The Apostle Paul tells us that even though we all know this deep down some people suppress this truth in unrighteousness. This is not a place for us to have pride that we are somehow more righteous or open to God because we believe. Instead these verses in Romans 1 should drive us to praise God for taking our fallen minds that were dead in sin and bringing us to life so that we are able to see the majesty of God in creation and understand who he is.
This faith that we have to understand God and his work in creation points us to special revelation. Special revelation is what God has revealed to us about himself in his Word. While we can see and learn much about God by looking at his creation we cannot know of the saving work of Jesus Christ on our behalf in the majesty of a slow prairie sunset. We need a word from God in order to know that. That is why special revelation is so important. It informs us who this God of creation is and how he has made himself known to us. In his word we learn how creation fell into sin and how since that time God was working to restore creation back to himself through the work of his Son. Without us hearing this Word and God giving us the gift of faith we would not know God's saving work in Christ and we would be lost and without hope.
It is important to note that when the Belgic Confession talks about how we know God it points us to two things that are outside of us. We do not know God because of anything inside of us but we are dependent on God coming to us. As sinful and fallen creatures we need a Word outside of us because what is inside of us in broken by sin. God comes to us from outside of us and he rescues us. In this way he renews our minds with the gift of faith. Only then can we hear and believe this good news that comes to us about the God who is gracious and merciful and saved us by the work of his Son taking on human flesh, living a perfect life, dying for our sins, and rising again that we may have everlasting life.
This also protects us from those who would claim to speak in the name of God and wish to deceive us. We know God through creation and his Word. We do not need to succumb to the person who tells us that "God told me". God reveals himself to us through his Word and the message of salvation that we read there is sufficient for our salvation and all that we experience in life. This revelation from God is what unites the universal church with our church in the small town of Edgerton. God's Word is our only source and it contains the gospel that we proclaim to a world that needs to hear it.
This sermon was given on Sunday November 20, 2016 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
Article 1: There is Only One God
We all believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God -- eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty; completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good.
In the Sound of Music Julie Andrews sang "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start". That is not only a good way to start a classic song from a musical, it is also a good way to start a Christian confession. There is no better place to start than with a statement on God and the basic essence of God. The Belgic Confession begins by stating that we believe with our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God. This is an important statement because it helps us to clearly understand what it is that we are talking about. The confession will dig deeply into who this God is but at the beginning of it all we know that there can only be one God.
This immediately helps us to see that we are not polytheistic and believe in multiple gods. It also makes it very clear that we are not atheistic. We believe that there is a God. This is without confusion but there is a word in there that might make us somewhat bewildered. It says that God is a simple, spiritual being. I think that most people would agree that the last thing that we would call God is simple. If anything, most people are concerned that their understanding of God is too simple. What does the confession mean when it says that God is a simple spiritual being? This does not mean that God is not complex or hard to understand. Instead, it means that God cannot be divided. He is also not all of his attributes put together. We don't believe that the formula love + grace + mercy + wrath + omnipotence + omnipresence + holiness + righteousness + power = God. God is all of those things but they come from his being a particular being with those attributes, not the other way around.
This is important because if we make God the sum of his attributes we end up with a God who is not personal. If God is merely those forces, he becomes more like the way in which pagan religions speak of God. As we will see further down in the Belgic Confession, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is a personal God and not a transcendent "force" that is out there some place. He is the God who is. As this article of the confession says he is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all that is good. Those things come from him. He is God and he is good.
This seems rather simple for us but this is truly an important distinction to have. I met someone once who taught her children to pray to the moon because to her, god was in the moon. This person claimed to be a Christian, but that is not the Christian view of the creator at all. The creation and the creator are separate. He holds all these things together but God is not the moon. He is not the trees.
We praise God because he is the one who made us and the one who holds all things together. The question that this logically turns to is then how do we know this. I have made quite a few bold statements about the nature of God. How do I know they are correct? Is this simply my opinion or is there a way in which we can know this God who is. Next time we will be looking at Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God.
Sermon delivered on November 13, 2016 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
Sermon delivered on November 6, 2016 at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN.
The Righteousness of Faith
This sermon was delivered at First Reformed Church in Edgerton, MN at the community evening Reformation Sunday service on 10/30/2016.
We are starting a series of posts on the Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession is one of the historic confessions of the Reformed Church in America along with the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort. While the Belgic Confession is more than 400 years old it still has great value to all the Reformed Churches, including our congregation here in Edgerton.
The Belgic Confession was put together by Guido de Bres. He was a pastor in the Reformed church in the Netherlands. Born in 1522, de Bres was born five years after the Protestant Reformation was started by Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. De Bres studied under John Calvin in Geneva. The Belgic Confession was intended to show the Spanish Government that the Reformed were not a radical Anabaptist sect but instead looking to reform the church. De Bres was eventually arrested for his beliefs and was tried before the Spanish Inquisition. He died a martyrs death on May 31, 1567.
Usually people consider something with a name like a confession to be long and boring but you can easily read the Belgic Confession in a relatively short amount of time. The confession breaks down the beliefs of the Christian faith into 37 different "Articles" that starts with topics such as who God is and ends with the Last Judgment. Along the way it has a lot to say regarding scripture, the Trinity, and other important Christian doctrines.
Over the course of several months we will delve into each article and look at what it teaches and how it applies to our lives today.