Before we begin, let us pray:
Our merciful God, who is pleased to condescend to speak to us through Your Word, grant us all grace that we may not be mere hearers of Your Word, but doers also. Give us the grace of Your Holy Spirit that we may believe what will be proclaimed to us. May we bring glory and honor to Your name in all that we do, as You conform us to the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. All of this, gracious Father, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Let us continue our preaching about the decree of creation. And before we come to providence, let me highlight first the creation on the six day. We can read it from Question#10 of the Shorter Catechism. From this section, we will learn about the meaning of the term “created after the image of the God”, and their responsibility to rule over creation as God’s viceregents. We will also learn in relation to this topic the nature of man and their state prior the fall.
Decree of Creation
Q#10: How did God create man?
Answer: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
In Genesis 1, Moses wrote for us the placement of God’s creation of man on the sixth day. Clearly after creation of the beasts of the earth (verses 24-25), there is signal to a change in the way man is created. The day 1 to half of day 6, God creates everything by the power of his Word. However when God created man, he made him in his image and likeness. This requires further explanation.
What does it mean to be created after the image and likeness of God?
We need to first understand the nature of man. We know from Scripture that God created man with a body and a resonable soul. We are composed of a material (body) and immaterial substance (soul). Jesus himself made an explicit distinction between these two when he said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is the dichotomy position or the bipartite view. Based on this reading of Genesis 2:7, the breath of life (ruach) brings about the spiritual nature of man which the verse identified as nepesh or living soul. “…then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living (ψυχὴν) creature.”
So the material substance of man comes from the dust of the earth and the immaterial part of man comes from God who is a spirit. Upon man’s death, the body goes back to earth as dust but the soul since it is a spirit goes back to God in heaven (Eccel 12:7). This means the souls is immortal. We will continue to exist even after physical death and after death, we will await our resurrection of our bodies either for eternal death or eternal life. This makes man greater than all the beasts of the earth because man is appointed to an eternal destination unlike the animals which ceases to exist after creation.
At this point , we need to reflect where we came from (dust) and our appointed destination in Christ (glory). Sometimes, we get overwhelmed by all our worries or even puffed up by all our accomplished that we forget who are in Christ. Without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Being reminded we all come from the ground cures us of self-importance and knowing our destiny in Christ is assured enables us to persevere in the end.
So if God does not have any parts or composite body, what does it mean we are created after his image? James Fisher’s commentary explains:
Q#21: After whose image did God create man?
Answer: After his own image, Genesis 1:26, 27.
Q#22: Did this image of God lie in any outward shape of man’s body?
Answer: By no means: for God is a pure Spirit, without bodily parts, John 4:24.
Q#23: What then was the proper seat of it?
Answer: The soul of man was the painting table, on which this image of God was expressed and delineated, Genesis 2:7; James 3:9.
Q#24: In what did the soul of man bear a likeness to God?
Answer: In its spiritual and immortal nature; and in the faculties of the understanding and the will, with which it was endued.
Q#25: In what did the image of God, which was drawn on man’s soul, chiefly consist?
Answer: In knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24.
The likeness of God as stated in Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24 is the image restored to us by God in Christ through the Spirit. It is the state we receive when we are united to God through faith in Christ and by the indwelling of the Spirit. And theologically, we can deduce this as the same state Adam and Eve were created. Our parents were created in a state of goodness (knowledge, righteousness, holiness) but not in a permanent state. They were in probation and still capable of sinning. So after fall our parents, including us his children, are unable to not sin and our original state of innocent was replaced by total depravity. This leads to a life of sin and misery. Yet upon our resurrection we will finally reside in a consummated state of our being in Christ. We will not anymore be able to sin. Today in Christ, we are now capable of not sinning but we still capable to sin. So we look forward to the day when we will permanent become who we are in Christ perfect in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
Then lastly, we have to mention the task God gave man to accomplish. In Genesis 1:28 Scripture reads, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Our parents were originally created as God’s viceregents . Following after God, man was called to rule over all creation. Man failed to fulfill this task, of course, because he fell into sin by the temptation of Satan. Yet the task remains and continue to haunt us from generation to generation. This only find its fulfillment in Christ as the new creation. We will pick this up when we discuss the covenants.
This end our study of the decree of creation and we come to our second sermon point, the decree of providence.
Decree of Providence
Q#11: What are God’s works of providence?
Answer: God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions.
In our last sermon about the decrees of God, we heard all about God’s character reflected in his providence (holiness, wisdom, and power) so we will not focus on them here now. We also learned about God’s permitting and directing work over sinful actions so we will not discuss them here again. Instead we will spend time expounding on the preserving and governing aspect of God’s providence. What does it mean and where can we find them in Scripture?
The preserving work of God is clearly know and deduced from Scripture. In Hebrews 1:3, the preacher of Hebrews expounds, “(Christ) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Now yes, this verse refers specifically to God the Son as its subject but we know the upholding work comes from his divine nature. Christ is the exact imprint of God the Father’s nature. Therefore, the Triune God sustains all of creation. Now, the distinction between the work of creation from the work of providence, the same with his decrees, we can read from other places in Scripture with the apostle Paul. In Colossians 1:15-18, Paul wrote, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Verses 15-16 speaks of Christ as the agent of creation while verse 17 points at Christ as its sustainer after. Again, the same work and power is attributed to the Godhead and not just for God the Son. We use these verses to defend the full divinity of Christ.
We have explained in our previous preachings how this work of preserving affects all of creation. And it is God who sustains our existence, our whole being and even our actions. As what Luke recorded in Acts 17:24-25, Paul declares, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” This verses clearly points out God as the creator and sustainer of all creation.
How does he do it? God governs and directs everything. He decrees them from the eternity, and then accomplishes and applies them in his creation. The governing work of God in providence make sure everything God determines shall come to pass. In Ezekiel 12:25 Scripture reads, “For I am the Lord; I will speak the word that I will speak, and it will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, but in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it, declares the Lord God.” God does not delay. He works everything according to his wise counsel. So both the plan, even the sustenance, and now the direction the we know clearly comes from God. There is nothing that escapes him. He is ultimately in control of everything. God is not an absentee landlord. He is personally involved in all things from creation to consummation.
Knowing and understanding God’s providence require from us a certain Christian disposition and attitude in life. Living under God’s providential care and governing love results to a peaceful and humbler mindset. We learn contentment and even bring out from the fruit of patience and self-control. Learning the special providence God sets for our own conversion to faith and repentance, we become patient when everything that surrounds us appears to be out of control. We increasingly become conscious of our daily dependence on God and while prosperity comes our way, we are immediately reminded of its fleeting nature that instead of attributing our success to ourselves, we simply thank God for his faithful provisions.
ZCRC(Imus), we are created by God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. God restores us this status only by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He did so by the work of providence. Let us worship God our creator and sustainer. He alone deserves our worship and praise. Amen.