It's all in the Plan: H.C. Lord's Day 10

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 10

Q 27. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A 27. The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.

Q 28. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A 28. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love.  For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

One of the chief characteristics of God that we hold to be true is His sovereignty over all of Creation.  Essentially, this means that we believe that God has power and authority over all of what He has created, and He exercises that power and authority to bring about His will in the world.  For some, this makes God appear to be more like a dictator, especially if their experience of life has been substantially harder.  We start to ask questions like “why did God make this happen to me?” or “What did I do to deserve this.”

If God is a dictator, however, He certainly is a benign and loving one.  Perhaps, in this instance, the language that the Heidelberg Catechism uses is much better and more appropriate for the discussion.  The writers talk about God’s sovereignty in terms of “providence,” the root word of which is of course, “provide.”  This offers a much more appropriate context for God’s ruling and works in the world.  God is indeed love, and Scripture says that God is working out all things for the good of those who love Him.  We also know that God is actively working to bring restoration to the world which will culminate in Christ’s return and the setting right of all things.  In addition to this, we also know that God is patient, not wishing that any would perish, but providing ample time for people to turn to Him because of His great love for us.

The language of the questions and answers in Lord’s Day 10 can be a bit uncomfortable, though, as well; “all things come from [God’s] hand.”  All things?  Really?  Something about that makes us cringe on the inside.  It’s definitely easier to blame sin, satan, or our own foolish acts for some of the difficult times in life that we experience.  Certainly, our difficulties can come from those things, but Scripture is clear that “all things come from God’s hand,” which means that even if the difficulties we face are a result of a spiritual attack from the satan himself, it is under the direction and purview of God’s power and will.

Let’s be clear about a couple things, though, as we talk about God’s providence.  This is not an excuse to act foolishly or sinfully, only to blame the results on God.  Scripture affirms human responsibility when it comes to the results of actions in our lives, hence the need for a Savior.  The Bible is also clear that temptation to sin does not come from God, which would also allow us to blame God for sin.  But there are seemingly negative things in our lives that do find their source in God in some way.  God is sovereign over creation, over nations and rulers, over both good people and bad.  God has sent trouble and calamity, destroyed nations and people groups, and even hardens the hearts of some.  He uses all of the created order to work His will in the world and His plans cannot be thwarted.

So what does this mean for us?  Should we be scared and living in fear of a God who can do anything at any time just because it pleases Him?  No.  I don’t think so.  When we understand God in human terms, we often think of the worst case scenario.  If we give a ruler too much power, He/She can do whatever they want without any check or balance.  God is not like that.  All of God’s power is exercised in love, as a loving parent exercises loving authority over their children for their benefit.

Lord’s Day 10 is very clear about how this benefits us as well.  When things seem to be going against us, we can be patient knowing that God is working His will and that God is always working for the good of those who love Him.  Think of Joseph or even the Israelite slavery in Egypt, both seemed profoundly negative at the time.  Out of those events, however, great things came to be.  This does take a profound amount of trust, something we have and will continue to talk about here.  These are the times when our faith is tested; they are also the times when God does some of His deepest work in us.

We can also be thankful when things go well, remembering that all good and perfect gifts come from God.  How often do we stop to thank God when we’ve had a good day, a successful meeting, a positive experience with a friend, or anything else for that matter.  It is easy for us to run to God in the bad times, but do we do so in the good times as well?

Finally, we can have confidence in the future knowing that, even if all of our worries and fears come true, God will never leave us and He is always working out His perfect will.  God’s ways are higher than our ways, and He is far above all rule and authority on this earth, but He is always with us and always ready to listen.  We can face the future unafraid because we know that nothing moves except by the hand of God.



Providing Help: H.C. Question 28

How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

Job 1:21-22 – …and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart.  The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;  may the name of the Lord be praised.”  In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

James 1:3 – because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Deuteronomy 8:10 – When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Romans 5:3-5 – Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Job 1:12 – The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”  Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

Job 2:6 – The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

Proverbs 21:1 – In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him.

Acts 17:24-28 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’



Providence: H.C. Question 27

What do you understand by the providence of God?

Jeremiah 23:23-24 – “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away?  Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?”  declares the Lord.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?”  declares the Lord.

Acts 17:24-28 – “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Hebrews 1:3 – The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Jeremiah 5:24 – They do not say to themselves,  ‘Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’

Acts 14:15-17 – “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

John 9:3 – “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Proverbs 22:2 – Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.

Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Matthew 10:29 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.



Good Good Father: H.C. Lord's Day 9

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 9

Q 26: What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?
A 26: That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth and everything in them, who still upholds and rules them by his eternal counsel and providence, is my God and Father because of Christ the Son.

I trust God so much that I do not doubt he will provide whatever I need for body and soul, and will turn to my good whatever adversity he sends upon me in this sad world.

God is able to do this because he is almighty God, and desires to do this because he is a faithful Father.

It did not use to be a great thing for one to say that they “believe in God.”  In fact, most people, if approached, would say that they believe in a divine being or creative power of some sort that, at the very least, created this universe and started it on its path.  But is this enough?  Can we hold to a very basic belief in something bigger than ourselves, calling ourselves “spiritual” but not “religious,” and get along well in this world?  Sure…  Is is enough for salvation?  No.

Scripture points out that this kind of faith, a simple belief in God, is the same faith that the Satan’s demons have.  And, while this general belief in God doesn’t seem to have a great impact on most humans, the demons’ belief makes them shudder (James 2:19).

As the question and answer 26 indicate, there is so much more to know about and wonder at in God, it stretches us beyond the limits of our ability to think and conceptualize.  Much of this we know as the attributes of God, some of which God shares with us and others that are solely God’s own.

One such attribute that belongs solely to God, something we call an “incommunicable” attribute, and something that goes far beyond our ability to understand, is God’s eternal nature.  Time itself is a concept that does not apply to God.  You may have heard the phrase “I have all the time in the world…”, but God literally holds time in His hand.  There has never been a time where God wasn’t.  Before anything was a thing, God was present and in eternal, perfect, trinitarian communion.

God’s eternal nature leads us to another belief that we hold to which God as the sole source of creation.  This belief is known as Creatio ex Nihilo, or creation out of nothing.  More specifically this means that God created the whole universe out of nothing; He simply spoke it into being and did so before there was even an “it” to speak to.  While this may seem like a relatively obvious thing, but it is profoundly important.  If part of the nature of God is that God is eternal, whereas nothing else is, then we effectually deny what science would tell us about the “Big Bang” and any pre-existent matter.  While the happening of the Big Bang may be the way in which God began creation, and there certainly is evidence to show that possibility, what science cannot and has not been able to prove is what happened in the seconds and eons before that event.  What is important, however, is that we understand that nothing existed alongside God prior to creation.  If we allow for something to exist alongside the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) prior to creation, we are either elevating that thing to the same status as God or lowering God’s status to the realm of a thing; neither are true.  God is God; everything else is a creature, created by God.

Another thing that is, sadly, often forgotten when it comes to belief in God is His continual sustaining and providing action in the world.  Deism, the belief in an uninvolved divine being, has largely become the norm of belief in the world.  Many who believe in a higher being or an intelligent creator, also believe that He/She/It is no longer actively involved in the world.  Like a clockmaker who builds the clock, winds it us, and then lets it go, so too do we think God has done that with the universe and we are here just waiting for time to run its course.  That is, however, not what Christians (should) believe about God.  Scripture reveals to us a God who is loving and active, working His will in the world toward the redemption and restoration of the whole world.  We see this most vividly in the person of Jesus Christ, God incarnate.  If God were an uninvolved deity, the coming of Christ would be completely contradictory to God’s nature, arbitrarily showing up and a random point in time to bring salvation, only to disappear back into the sky with a promise (or perhaps threat) that He will come back some day as well.

All of theology moves us toward trust.  The purpose of our discussions here as we take the posture of “faith seeking understanding,” is one in which we are moving deeper and deeper toward trust in God.  Scripture reveals a loving God who is intimately aware of everything that is happening in His creation and one who is working to bring all things together under Chirst.  Paul writes that “all things work together for the good of those who love God,” and that is what we understand to be happening and what will happen when Jesus returns to set up His eternal Kingdom here and God dwells with us forever.



God the Father: H.C. Question 26 (Part 4)

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

While this particular passage is not quoted in the Heidelberg Catechism, I think it does very well at capturing at least a part of who God is.

Job 38-42:6 – Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:

“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt’?

“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges
and shake the wicked out of it?
The earth takes shape like clay under a seal;
its features stand out like those of a garment.
The wicked are denied their light,
and their upraised arm is broken.

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
or walked in the recesses of the deep?
Have the gates of death been shown to you?
Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
Tell me, if you know all this.

“What is the way to the abode of light?
And where does darkness reside?
Can you take them to their places?
Do you know the paths to their dwellings?
Surely you know, for you were already born!
You have lived so many years!

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
or seen the storehouses of the hail,
which I reserve for times of trouble,
for days of war and battle?
What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
and a path for the thunderstorm,
to water a land where no one lives,
an uninhabited desert,
to satisfy a desolate wasteland
and make it sprout with grass?
Does the rain have a father?
Who fathers the drops of dew?
From whose womb comes the ice?
Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
when the waters become hard as stone,
when the surface of the deep is frozen?

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

“Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?
Who gives the ibis wisdom
or gives the rooster understanding?
Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens
when the dust becomes hard
and the clods of earth stick together?

“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness
and satisfy the hunger of the lions
when they crouch in their dens
or lie in wait in a thicket?
Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God
and wander about for lack of food?

“Do you know when the mountain goats give birth?
Do you watch when the doe bears her fawn?
Do you count the months till they bear?
Do you know the time they give birth?
They crouch down and bring forth their young;
their labor pains are ended.
Their young thrive and grow strong in the wilds;
they leave and do not return.

“Who let the wild donkey go free?
Who untied its ropes?
I gave it the wasteland as its home,
the salt flats as its habitat.
It laughs at the commotion in the town;
it does not hear a driver’s shout.
It ranges the hills for its pasture
and searches for any green thing.

“Will the wild ox consent to serve you?
Will it stay by your manger at night?
Can you hold it to the furrow with a harness?
Will it till the valleys behind you?
Will you rely on it for its great strength?
Will you leave your heavy work to it?
Can you trust it to haul in your grain
and bring it to your threshing floor?

“The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully,
though they cannot compare
with the wings and feathers of the stork.
She lays her eggs on the ground
and lets them warm in the sand,
unmindful that a foot may crush them,
that some wild animal may trample them.
She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers;
she cares not that her labor was in vain,
for God did not endow her with wisdom
or give her a share of good sense.
Yet when she spreads her feathers to run,
she laughs at horse and rider.

“Do you give the horse its strength
or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?
Do you make it leap like a locust,
striking terror with its proud snorting?
It paws fiercely, rejoicing in its strength,
and charges into the fray.
It laughs at fear, afraid of nothing;
it does not shy away from the sword.
The quiver rattles against its side,
along with the flashing spear and lance.
In frenzied excitement it eats up the ground;
it cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.
At the blast of the trumpet it snorts, ‘Aha!’
It catches the scent of battle from afar,
the shout of commanders and the battle cry.

“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom
and spread its wings toward the south?
Does the eagle soar at your command
and build its nest on high?
It dwells on a cliff and stays there at night;
a rocky crag is its stronghold.
From there it looks for food;
its eyes detect it from afar.
Its young ones feast on blood,
and where the slain are, there it is.”

The Lord said to Job:
“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:
“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.

“Look at Behemoth,
which I made along with you
and which feeds on grass like an ox.
What strength it has in its loins,
what power in the muscles of its belly!
Its tail sways like a cedar;
the sinews of its thighs are close-knit.
Its bones are tubes of bronze,
its limbs like rods of iron.
It ranks first among the works of God,
yet its Maker can approach it with his sword.
The hills bring it their produce,
and all the wild animals play nearby.
Under the lotus plants it lies,
hidden among the reeds in the marsh.
The lotuses conceal it in their shadow;
the poplars by the stream surround it.
A raging river does not alarm it;
it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth.
Can anyone capture it by the eyes,
or trap it and pierce its nose?

“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.

“I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs,
its strength and its graceful form.
Who can strip off its outer coat?
Who can penetrate its double coat of armor?
Who dares open the doors of its mouth,
ringed about with fearsome teeth?
Its back has rows of shields
tightly sealed together;
each is so close to the next
that no air can pass between.
They are joined fast to one another;
they cling together and cannot be parted.
Its snorting throws out flashes of light;
its eyes are like the rays of dawn.
Flames stream from its mouth;
sparks of fire shoot out.
Smoke pours from its nostrils
as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.
Its breath sets coals ablaze,
and flames dart from its mouth.
Strength resides in its neck;
dismay goes before it.
The folds of its flesh are tightly joined;
they are firm and immovable.
Its chest is hard as rock,
hard as a lower millstone.
When it rises up, the mighty are terrified;
they retreat before its thrashing.
The sword that reaches it has no effect,
nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.
Iron it treats like straw
and bronze like rotten wood.
Arrows do not make it flee;
slingstones are like chaff to it.
A club seems to it but a piece of straw;
it laughs at the rattling of the lance.
Its undersides are jagged potsherds,
leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.
It makes the depths churn like a boiling caldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
Nothing on earth is its equal—
a creature without fear.
It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud.”

Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do all things;
no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.

“You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.’
My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.”



God the Father: H.C. Question 26 (Part 3)

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

Matthew 6:25-26, 30 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

Matthew 10:29 – Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

Ephesians 1:5, 11 – he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

John 1:12-13 – Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Romans 8:15-16, 28 – The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children…

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Galatians 4:4-7 – But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Psalm 55:22 – Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.

Luke 12:22-31 – Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Genesis 18:14 – Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Romans 8:31-39 – What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 7:9-11 – “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!



God the Father: H.C. Question 26 (Part 2)

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

Exodus 20:11 – For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Psalm 33:6 – By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.

Isaiah 44:24 – “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself,

Acts 4:24 – When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.

Acts 14:15 – “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.

Psalm 104 – Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
There the birds make their nests;
the stork has its home in the junipers.
The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
and the sun knows when to go down.
You bring darkness, it becomes night,
and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
The lions roar for their prey
and seek their food from God.
The sun rises, and they steal away;
they return and lie down in their dens.
Then people go out to their work,
to their labor until evening.
How many are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
as I rejoice in the Lord.
But may sinners vanish from the earth
and the wicked be no more.
Praise the Lord, my soul.
Praise the Lord.



God the Father: H.C. Question 26 (Part 1)

What do you believe when you say, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth”?

Genesis 1-2 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 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. And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 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.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.



1 Corinthians 12:12-31 "One Body"



Trinitarianism: H.C. Lord's Day 8

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 8

Q 24. How are these articles divided?
A 24. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Q 25. Since there is only one divine being, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A 25. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

In today’s world, discussions about ‘doctrine’ can often be an instant turn-off to anyone who wants to talk about matters of faith.  However, it is the doctrine of the Trinity that makes Christianity distinctly Christian.  Trinitarian theology is a foundational part of our beliefs; it is also probably one of the most confusing.  And, while certainly does not need to have a perfect understanding of the nature of the Trinity to be saved, it still is an important aspect of who we are and even how we get here.

Given it’s confusing and somewhat complicated nature, the doctrine of the Trinity has been subject to a number of false understandings and heresies over the 2,000-year existence of the Christian religion.  While that may seem to be of little consequence to you and me, the work that has been done to clarify this doctrine has a direct and very real impact on what we believe about God.

Because of this, it is important that we try to clarify what it is that we believe about the Trinity.  The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements:

  1. There is only one God
  2. The Father is God
  3. The Son is God
  4. The Holy Spirit is God
  5. The Father is not the Son
  6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit
  7. The Holy Spirit is not the Father

All of the creeds that we have read over the past week, all the theological jargon and other religious writings of Christianity have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements.  More than that, though, they must safeguard the statement without denying any one of the other six.  Some would say that this sounds like a relatively easy task, however, over the years, a number of people and groups have fallen into heresies that inadvertently or purposefully do just that.

The Athanasian Creed, which we have been a part of our reading this last week, states the Trinitarian belief structure like this:

Now this is the [universal] faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.  For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.  But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

The original translation of this Creed uses the word “essence” rather than “divine being,” indicating and affirming the single ‘Godness’ of God while also acknowledging the personhood of each member of the Trinity.  When we hear the word ‘person,’ we should think of an individual that is distinct from the others.  Again, while somewhat confusing, this is important because we worship One God (not three Gods) in three persons (one being).  Each is equally and uniquely God.

So, how has this gotten confused over the years?  Here are a number of ways and at least a few reasons why they are important.

Monarchianism – Emphasizes God as being one person.  It suggests that the Son and the Spirit subsist in the divine essence as impersonal attributes, not distinct or divine persons.  This is an attempt to better understanding the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  However, it creates other problems in faith and understanding, specifically around the cross and the atonement.  If God is one person, and God died for our sins, then God is all of the sudden not eternal, having died and been dead for three days.  In addition, if it was not God that died, but rather an attribute of God, then the divinity of Christ comes into question and the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross is either lessened or completely lost.

Modalism – Suggests that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as simply different names for the same God acting in different roles.  This is where we get the idea of the analogy of “water, vapor, and ice” as a description.  Though well intentioned, it denies the distinct persons of the Trinity and kind of labels God as a divine being that suffers from multiple personalities.  Again this is a denial of the three unique persons existing in one divine being.  If God is just one person/being and He died, it denies the eternal and infinite nature of God.  He cannot die.  This means that either God did die, making Him vulnerable, or He did not die as Christ on the cross, meaning that the atonement and salvation purchased by the blood of Christ is invalid as He was not God and therefore a human, tainted by sin like the rest of us.

Arianism – Denies the full deity of Christ.  It states that, though Jesus is the Son of God, He was created by the Father at a certain point in time, thus making Him less than the Father and subordinate to Him.  Thus Jesus is not truly God and therefore not a person of the Trinity.  This is an obvious error whose effects echo that of those above.  We believe that Jesus is both fully God (a person of the Trinity) and fully human.  He has to be both in order for His life and death to accomplish salvation.  He must be fully human to live the human life, to keep the law of God, and for His death to be in the place of humans, taking the punishment we deserve.  He must be fully God in order to live a sinless life and in order to be able to take on the punishment and wrath of God.  If Christ is not God, all of this falls apart.  Arianism also borders on the assertion that there is more than one God.

Tritheism – This is exactly like it sounds: tri (meaning three) – theism (belief in God.  This asserts that Christians actually believe in three Gods.  This is a direct contradiction of Scripture which speaks specifically to the fact that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the notion of monotheism, a foundational principle in all three major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

One other thing that may be of some consequence to this discussion is the common argument that this doesn’t matter because you will never find the word “trinity” or specific mention of this doctrine in the Bible.  While this is technically true, Scripture is repute with references to both the unity of God as well as the diversity of the persons within the divine being.  The number of references to Jesus as being God as well as those referencing God the Father as God should be enough to convince us that there is more than one person in the divine being.  The Holy Spirit is also mentioned and used interchangeably with the word “God” many times.  Many are the suggestions of the plurality of persons within the divine being as well.

In closing, a common question comes up in this discussion, “why does this matter?”  It matters for creation because, unlike the many gods of other creation mythologies, God did not need to go outside Himself to create the universe.  A single person, creating the world “out of love” doesn’t make much sense as we know and understand love within relationships.  God would have had to create the world to understand love or to receive love making Him fairly similar to the ancient gods of other cultures.  Because God exists eternally in the Trinitarian relationship, God was able to create the universe out of the overflow of love found there, not needing something from the created order for Himself (God is self-sufficient).



The Trinity: H.C. Question 25

Since there is only one divine being, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Matthew 3:16-17 – As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28:18-19 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

Isaiah 61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

John 14:26 – But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 15:26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

2 Corinthians 13:14 – May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Titus 3:5-6 – he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Athanasian Creed:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.

Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.

For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.

He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.



Content of the Creed: H.C. Question 24

How are these articles divided?

Into three parts:

God the Father;

God the Son and our deliverance;

God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

For more reading and comparison, I would encourage you to return to the post on question 23 and see how other creeds are divided up as well.



Hebrews 12:1-3 "Running Together"



What Must I Believe? H.C. Lord's Day 7

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 7

Q 20. Are all people then saved through Christ just as they were lost through Adam?
A 20. No. Only those are saved who through true faith are grafted into Christ and accept all his benefits.

Q 21. What is true faith?
A 21. True faith is not only a sure knowledge by which I hold as true all that God has revealed to us in Scripture; it is also a wholehearted trust, which the Holy Spirit creates in me by the gospel, that God has freely granted, not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation. These are gifts of sheer grace, granted solely by Christ’s merit.

Q 22. What then must a Christian believe?
A 22. All that is promised us in the gospel, a summary of which is taught us in the articles of our universal and undisputed Christian faith.

Q 23. What are these articles?
A 23. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Salvation history can be boiled down to the actions of two men: Adam and Jesus.  Adam, the first human, as a representative of the whole human race, sinned against God by disobeying Him.  In doing so, Adam plunged all humankind and the whole of creation into sin and misery.  Humans were cut off from our relationship with God and left with the total inability to repair that relationship on their own.

Jesus, whom Scripture calls the “second Adam,” also represented all humankind.  Through His life, death, and resurrection, He purchased redemption for humanity, through His blood, making it once again possible to live in relationship with God.  This too has the potential to impact all mankind.  However, unlike the actions of Adam, which had an instant effect on all humans from that time forward, the offer of salvation in Jesus Christ must be accepted by faith for salvation to be realized.  God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ is universal, extending to every man, woman, and child that ever lived, but the efficacy (the effect or intended result) is only realized when someone places their faith in Jesus Christ.

So naturally, the next question is: “what is faith?”  Question and Answer 21 take on this question and it can be boiled down, as author Kevin DeYoung points out, to two things, ‘knowledge and conviction.’  He goes on to stay, we don’t worship a ‘content-less’ Jesus and as such, knowledge is an important component.  Sadly it often feels like knowledge has been the only thing that we focus on, suggesting that we could possibly “know” our way into salvation, something that spills over into works-righteousness.

Faith also comes with and through a deep conviction.  It is a confident (not arrogant) assurance of our eternal salvation.  Faith is, as the author of Hebrews writes, “the assurance of things hoped for and the certainty of things unseen.”  When we believe the Gospel, we put our faith in Jesus Christ, knowing and being assured that He accomplished for us what we were otherwise unable to do.  He purchased redemption for us through His blood and the sacrifice of Himself that He offered once and for all on the cross that, when we believe in Him, we would be accepted by God and never forsaken by Him.